In the Aug. 31, 1972, East Coast edition of Rolling Stone magazine, an unknown musician named Peter Criscuola ran an ad that read: “Drummer: willing to do anything to make it.” Two guys looking to create a band, Stanley Eisen and Gene Klein, called Peter to explore his seriousness. “Would you wear a dress on stage?” they asked. “Would you wear high heels on stage?” “Would you wear … makeup?”
And the rest, as they say, is KISS-story.
Peter Criscuola became Peter Criss; Stanley Eisen became Paul Stanley and Gene KIein became Gene Simmons. The trio quickly added guitarist Ace Frehley, and the rock band KISS eventually wound up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Perhaps this story of the band’s origins is apocryphal. But if it didn’t happen, it should have.
I’m not suggesting you dress like your favorite member of KISS on casual Fridays, but those guys were willing to go beyond the norm and define new parameters for rock music and performance in the face of early ridicule.
Now, more than 40 years later, you must ask yourself two questions:
1. What am I willing to do to make it?
2. And how will I know when I have?
Let’s begin with the end in mind. What follows are seven key indicators of dealership rock stardom.
1. You know your key year-to-date metrics cold.
The greatest dealership contributors are a little like Dustin Hoffman’s character in the classic movie Rain Man. At any given time, you can recite your key performance metrics. Whether it be appointments kept, closing ratios, gross margin, finance acceptance, inventory turns or GMROI, you know where you are at all times.
One of the greatest aspects of dealership life today is that your DMS calculates a lot of your key metrics for you. And one of the biggest drawbacks is that your DMS calculates your key metrics for you. Yep. In the old days, people often had to enter (or write down!) key metrics and then do the calculations. It created an intimate familiarity with your own performance. I’m not suggesting you go back to using an abacus (feel free to look that one up, Generation Z), but I am suggesting you know your numbers.
2.You attend and contribute to management meetings.
You can’t effect change if you’re not in leadership. And you can’t lead if you’re not contributing. Being a part of the group of people leading your dealership is a key indicator that you’re doing well. And you don’t necessarily have to be in management to attend and contribute to management meetings. You do, however, need to be someone who improves life at your dealership. Being a problem solver, an innovator, energetic, insightful and evidence-based in your comments are characteristics that will get you noticed.
3. Your dealer principal and general manager regularly ask for your input.
When you see your dealership, your customers and your position in new and different ways, you become an object of interest to your managers; when you’re an object of interest, you receive more frequent and varied opportunities. And when that happens, you grow. So do your contribution to your dealership. Creative perspective is a learnable skill. But like a muscle, it has to be used. See things from up to down, left to right. What if your event wasn’t at a burger joint, but rather an upscale restaurant? What if you didn’t get customers to try and come to you, but rather you went to them? What if your e-newsletters weren’t promotional, but rather informational? What if you didn’t try to be the lowest price, but you tried to provide the most service? What if your marketing wasn’t tactical (Saturday Sale!) but strategic (Unique Experience!)? What if instead of top-down management decisions you held a store debate?
Regardless of your answers to the above questions, when the dealer principal and general manager seek your input, you know you’re doing something right.
4. You help set dealership department policies and practices.
Whether you’re helping create talking points for handling incoming phone prospects or for a new product, or you’re developing the dealership’s procedures regarding monthly payment guidance, when you help shape the customer message, you know you’re on top of your game. Here are some general guidelines for setting policies and practices:
- They must always fit the strategic direction of the dealership. You can’t say you want to be the premier dealership in town at staff meetings and then practice “every deal, every dollar” negotiation on the floor.
- Your policies and practices must comply with all federal and state regulations.
- They must be repeatable and effective. They don’t have to fit every situation or win every battle, but they should most of the time.
5. You develop other.
If you really want to learn something, teach others how to do it. That is sage advice that will help you develop your strengths and share them with others. When doing so, keep these ideas in mind:
- Give advice and guidance only when asked. Forcing yourself on others will make you a pariah. If no one ever asks for your advice, you’ve got other issues.
- Remember, it takes time and practice to acquire a new skill or embrace a new idea. Give the other person time and space for both.
- Always check performance and provide feedback. When I practice a guitar part in front of the TV, I almost always get the timing wrong because I’m doing it from memory. Then I have to relearn the lick. Not fun.
6. You provide cross-functional input.
When people from other departments ask for your input and you improve their condition, that’s success. Marketing shouldn’t operate in a vacuum, your BDC isn’t a silo and your online group should interact with live customers. When you can help bridge disparate groups, you’ll be heading up the charts.
7. You are the expert in your area.
“The” is a small word with big implications. Not to go all English-teacher on you, but it’s called the definite article. So start thinking of yourself as the dealership expert in your area. You are the expert in touring bikes, you are the expert in finance, you are the expert in customization. When you start to see yourself as the expert, you’ll start to comport yourself to make certain you are. How do you become an expert?
- Set up Google Alerts for keywords in your areas of desired expertise and spend 15 minutes a day reading the latest news and information.
- Become a student of the game. Ask customers and coworkers for their opinions and insights. I promise you that it will broaden your perspective.
- Find extreme users and explore their viewpoints: That guy who puts on 50,000 miles per year, that customer who drops big bucks on customization or that dude who can never get enough horsepower.
Whether your career winds up relegated to the cutout bin or in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame depends on what actions you take today. Immerse yourself in the above ideas. Your dealer principal, your customers and you will be glad you did.
Editor’s note: Learn more about persuasion and selling in Dealernews columnist Mark Rodgers’ book Persuasion Equation: The subtle science of getting your way. The American Management Association is offering a free digital download. Here’s a link to that special offer: Grab your free digital copy of “Persuasion Equation” (a $14.95 value) for a limited time only: http://response.amanet.org/freegift