Learn, Unlearn, Relearn
For generations, the fundamentals of automobile sales strategy remained pretty much the same. Cars were sold in ways that produced results, year after year. However, in an era of rapid change, it is fair to ask how long the status quo will suffice.
Futurist Alvin Toffler warns that “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those that cannot read and write, but those that cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
There are those in our industry who will survive and even thrive because they are truly willing to learn, unlearn and relearn. Or, put another way, “lather, rinse and repeat.”
Inertia, the tendency to do nothing, is a powerful force. Many won’t change until negative stimulation demands it. Individuals and businesses will finally change when their very survival is at stake. In today’s automobile marketplace, that time is fast approaching.
Times of Change
There’s evidence the traditional way of doing things is rapidly falling out of favor. There are three key reasons for this.
First, when Google surveyed North American automobile buyers, it found that 49 percent were frustrated during their dealer visits. Results were even worse among younger purchasers, with 63 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds saying they were frustrated by the process.
Second, the long-term brand loyalty that automakers once enjoyed is fading fast, and consumers are more than willing to look at new brands. In fact, 59 percent said they would consider a new brand, opening the door for a new wave of competitors.
Brand loyalty must be earned during every interaction between businesses and consumers. Today’s consumers won’t hesitate to flock to better deals and more interesting offers. They will often respond to innovation with a viral intensity unknown before the advent of social media.
Third, the consumption of transportation is rapidly shifting. In addition to radically new products, there are more transportation options, including ridesharing, flexible transportation platforms and even subscription-based services.
Where does this leave us?
Although we don’t have the financial resources of marketplace giants like Google, Walmart, Amazon, and Facebook, we can certainly learn from them. For example, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos teaches us about leveraging existing technologies to provide new levels of service to consumers.
In our industry, there’s simply too much friction damaging too many transactions. We must learn to leverage technologies from both inside and outside our industry to achieve more frictionless transactions.
Accordingly, I offer you these five recommendations:
1. Their experience, not yours
It is vital to develop innovative sales strategies that enhance your customer’s buying experience rather than your team’s selling experience. Walk in the customer’s shoes to the extent that you truly empathize with them and understand where they are coming from.
2. Stay current
Thanks in part to the power of the internet and social media, today’s consumers are more broadly educated and more aware. To keep up with them, you need to keep pace with changes inside our industry and in the world-at-large. Understand emerging trends in technology, retail and marketing. “Bundle” your emerging skill sets, and you’ll be better positioned to make new connections before your competitors do.
3. Think like a customer
Carefully listen to your customers in order to better see things from their perspective. You’ll quickly generate new ideas that will positively impact your business. Walk a mile in their shoes, and you’ll be glad you did.
4. Innovate with purpose
Don’t innovate simply to innovate. Align change with new consumer behaviors that are disrupting our industry. Embrace change, and focus your innovative efforts where they truly address the needs of today’s customer. Customers will ultimately do what’s best for them. Become the best alternative there is, and customers will seek you out.
5. Read an hour a day
Your mind is the very best tool you have. Lubricate, refine and expand your mind by reading at least an hour every day. In times of rapid change, an agile mind is priceless.
Finally, I urge you to look for other ways to follow Toffler’s advice to “learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
As you consider how your customers are disrupting the industry, disrupt your own long-held perceptions and challenge your traditional beliefs. Forge a new path into the unknown with confidence, dedication and imagination. Change always separates the also-rans from the leaders of tomorrow.