Opinions & Advice

What Are You Doing to Make Technology Easier For Salespeople?

When Jeff asked me “When are you going to write a blogpost for DealerRefresh?” lots of thoughts ran through my head…. along with feeling flattered and a little nervous the biggest question I had was “What does the Refresh community want to hear from me?” Then I put my ego aside and decided this isn’t about me, it’s about us. So, I decided we’d all be better off if I wrote this as “What do I want to know about you?”

So here goes… As the title states my question to the ever growing, award winning DealerRefresh community is “What are you doing to make technology easier for the Salespeople we rely on either directly or indirectly for our incomes?” Not more complicated or feature heavy… easier.

If you are a Technology Vendor, are you really designing with a car salesman in mind?

Or are you adding more and more cool features or reports that in reality are only taken advantage of by a few select stores or more often, select people? Are you living up to the promises made when you sold a dealer your product?

Or are you hoping they will just pay the bill and never really take you on as a true partner in their success?

Are you providing ongoing training, not only to 1 or 2 people in your dealers but real value add training either in stores or online to the actual salespeople our success rides on? Non-interactive video training doesn’t count. Think Grant Cardone’s Virtual Training that is monitored and tested on if you want to claim you have an online training piece.

If you are an Internet Sales Manager, Are you passing down information and really working with your salespeople to make sure they understand all those shiny technology tools that all seem to easy to pay $299 – $2999 per month for? Are you really thinking about the ease and reality of use for the salespeople that sometime get written off or complained about for not wanting to change or “get it”?

If you’re not in a leadership role in your dealership, do you realize you need to be and are you taking the steps, reading the books, listening to leadership training and acquiring the mentors that will grow you into the true leader your salespeople need you to be? Or are you hiding information, passwords, access to vendors, shortcuts and techniques needed to maximize the technology you have?

Are you allowing, coaching and training your staff on how to be part of your digital culture? Or are you complaining how “old dogs just don’t get it” and recruiting more tech savvy people for their jobs?

If you are a GSM, GM or Owner, are you leading your digital revolution? Or are you standing back in denial or watching as “the kid with the laptop” AKA your “Internet Manager” spends your money on technology your people don’t use or know how to use, or worse you can’t use yourself? Are you helping your less tech savvy people get the education that is your job to help provide them? Or are you waiting for them to get on board on their own? Tip… you can provide them video computer skills training with a subscription to Lynda.com for $25 per month, if you’re looking for a good place to start.

If you’re a Salesperson, are you really committed to growing your career through the use of technology? Or are you waiting for the “good old days of car sales” that I’ve been hearing about since I started almost 20 years ago to come back around? Hint… it doesn’t get any easier if you don’t do anything progressive to change it. Are you developing positive customer reviews online to help grow your own career, self-esteem and Digital Footprint? Or are you not asking because “you don’t get paid for that” or “those reviews only help the dealer, not the salesperson”?

We all know that ease of use and time involved are the 2 biggest factors in getting the salespeople that put in the hard work and long hours that give people like me the time to write blogposts as well as the income to provide for my family, but do we all think about their time and money when we design or add new tech for their “productivity”? I think most of us know we could improve greatly.

Finally… Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

Or are you reading this and wondering “Who is this kid and what’s with all the questions?”

  • A
    Andrew Wright
  • October 24, 2010
Great post Craig. You are spot on in your questions and assessments. I hope that vendors are taking note of this because in most cases, post sales follow up training and support has left a lot to be desired on the part of many vendors. But all the training in the world will not be effective if its not part of a larger plan that includes a curriculum and accountability mechanisms on the part of the dealership. Well done...
Great job Craig! There are many "bells and whistles" available in our market, but there are few that are very simple and user friendly, ensuring that our folks will actually use what we pay for. Keep it simple to use, and with a simple goal in mind - selling more cars and service for the dealer.
Craig - glad to see you writing something man. Good job too!

I agree with everything you're saying but I want to point out one thing this article reminded me of. Now that I'm on the vendor side I have realized there are an amazing amount of shiny widgets out there, but a good bunch of them actually have some thought and/or requests behind them. When I was technically a dealer (I will always be a dealer) I used to get upset with some of my vendors for adding new features which meant nothing to me. Now I see where those features are coming from.

Every dealer is different even though we all do the same things. You know what dealers like to do the most? Reinvent the wheel every day.

If we all just took to heart what you posted here, we would all be much better off. Car dealerships aren't rocket science; they're actually incredibly simple things. The problem is that our attention span is at most 31 days.
"Every dealer is different even though we all do the same things. You know what dealers like to do the most? Reinvent the wheel every day.

If we all just took to heart what you posted here, we would all be much better off. Car dealerships aren’t rocket science; they’re actually incredibly simple things. The problem is that our attention span is at most 31 days."


This is a phenomenon I like to refer to as "2 week motors" where we pick something to focus on 2 weeks at a time and never really build consistency into our process. It's amazing to me how many dealers want to focus on "accountability" without ever really committing to consistency in their process.

Thanks for the comment and at least you got to go work for one of the great ones in the space.
You nailed it Craig, I'm in your camp on this one! I want to bend our vendors ears.

All Technology Vendors need to build their platforms from the dealership up, not the platform down.

My favorite clusterf* is CRM. If our sales reps don't understand it, they start pushing buttons to "shut it up".

CRM Vendors, If training a noob on your CRM takes more than 30-60 minutes, then you have a UI/design problem.

CRM Vendors, if your reports can't help a sales manager find holes in his daily work-flow, then you have a UI/Design problem. If 5% of your subscribers use your reports then you have a UI/Design problem. If the 5% of report users only use 20% of your reports, then you have a UI/Design problem.

Oh Oh! if your answer to this is "they don't get it" then you REALLY have a UI/Design problem.

CRM Vendors, do you test your designs? Have you scored yourself on your platforms ability to supply RESULTS?

Idea: Create a test for sales reps that covers all the CRM basics. Make it task based. Create tasks like: log a phone up, find a customers phone#, switch stock#s after a deal# is created, create a personal email campaign to the reps unsold prospects, create a personal email campaign to the reps prior customers,etc. Create tasks and label them from easy to complex. Do the same for sales managers, then RECORD the actual results using: <a href="http://silverbackapp.com/" rel="nofollow">http://silverbackapp.com/</a>

No cheating! You have to ask good questions, real life questions! Be careful, it&#039;s easy to shape questions to confirm your beliefs, you&#039;re doing this to challenge your decisions, you need to truly validate your plan! Avoid questions that create favorable outcomes!

Back to the sales reps UI.
If you don&#039;t create an intuitive experience for the sales reps, the input they make creates distorted reporting and our decision makers create flawed decisions made from junk input data.

IMO, CRM Product Developers should hire UI gurus like <a href="http://37signals.com/" rel="nofollow">http://37signals.com/</a>.

Next, the CRM Product Developers need to shape the UI (User Interface) to the needs of the login (Sales Reps, Sales Managers, GMs, etc).

This CRM rant is not fair and balanced. It&#039;s time for some balance. After my visit to DD9, I have discovered there is no CRM vendor that is universally liked. All CRM vendors are evolving as are the dealers they serve. I think of the difficulty to design &quot;CRM for all&quot; when each dealer is unique. From my seat, if I can&#039;t get the reps to master it easily, then everything else is junk.

CRM design is VERY difficult, we&#039;ve got all the reporting horsepower needed, now we&#039;ve got to improve the user experiences and realize that better data is more important than more data.

Sorry for the Uncle Joe rant. I return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast.
If someone can figure out how to use Reynolds DMS, then using a CRM tool should be a breeze...
&quot;CRM design is VERY difficult, we&rsquo;ve got all the reporting horsepower needed, now we&rsquo;ve got to improve the user experiences and realize that better data is more important than more data.

Sorry for the Uncle Joe rant. I return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast.&quot;

Uncle Joe.......you are the man, thanks for so rantingly bashing CRM vendors as a whole and I concur that it seems to me like nobody is completely satisfied in this area.

Kevin and Andrew.....thanks for reading, it&#039;s nice to have your support.
Congrats on your first article! Well done! Now keep writing, somebody needs to steal the trophy from Alex next year.
Great 1st post Craig!

Introducing shiny new stuff without preparation, training and even testing among a small sample of your users usually just creates drama:

4 people love it; 8 people are just confused by it; 3 people had something shinier at their previous job, 2 guys are MIA &amp; of course, 1 guy hates it because he has a better idea.

I&#039;m seeing more of the newest &amp; youngest guys/girls taking the initiative to truly learn the big-picture process to understand how these tools can help...everyone.

If they didn&#039;t, I honestly don&#039;t know if the managers could successfully handle a new technology roll-out on their own.

@Joe - great comments as usual.
&quot;Introducing shiny new stuff without preparation, training and even testing among a small sample of your users usually just creates drama:

4 people love it; 8 people are just confused by it; 3 people had something shinier at their previous job, 2 guys are MIA &amp; of course, 1 guy hates it because he has a better idea.&quot;


Thanks for your comments.....we are beta testing a new addition to our showroom process right now and elected to solicit volunteers from our veterans to be the test pilots. You guessed it, 1 guy who hates everything....no wait 2 guys who hate everything, 2 guys that have made big strides in their technology game and 1 who&#039;s more &quot;up to give it a try&quot; always.

Tough to get anything rolling in big ways and without salespeople and middle management on board nothing flies.
Great post Craig and as the Northeast Regional manager for Automotive Computer Services, and former dealer kid (well always a dealer kid, graduate of the NADA academy, grew up living Joe Verde until Dad sold the store).

You (and Joe P.) are spot on with a dealer designed, not platform down design system to make technology easier. Automotive Computer Services has always been a Windows based DMS solution which as the industry has migrated beyond green screens, has become a much more embraced platform. We are a small company with approximately 400 dealers on our system. We typically replace Reynolds and ADP systems and we are privately owned with the one goal in mind of customer satisfaction. Many of our staff have dealership experience but many are also programmers and thus our best ideas come from dealers to make things more simple to use. Indexed help embedded in the ACS system, 100 support staff in our headquarters, free web training scheduled each month and available on demand, on site training available with low cost, and we continually improve. Over the past 3 years we&#039;ve rewritten three core modules and provided about 900 dealer requested enhancements because they were things that would make their lives easier. Are we perfect? Not yet... we&#039;re finishing up our Toyota DCS integration for next year... then we&#039;ll be closer ;) but as a small technology vendor we really do our best to keep it simple stupid. Point and click, real english statements, full MS Office integration, a built in CRM that while simple, it has horsepower, easy to learn.. and yes I&#039;m self promoting too much; but as I once sat on your side of the desk with ADP and Arkona as our DMS&#039; during my time with Dad, it took a special company for me to work for. Automotive Computer Services is that company. <a href="http://www.acsaccess.com" rel="nofollow">www.acsaccess.com</a> Thanks again for the post.

Wow, thanks for the pitch....well not really sorry.

I guess although I agree with Uncle Joe on the CRM rant, I wasn&#039;t really looking for new vendors or trying to pick on any one item CRM,DMS or otherwise. For me this was about the blame on salespeople that goes down for not &quot;getting it&quot; while all the while they are the first connection to the customers that pay most of our bills either directly or indirectly and that they are often the last people consulted in adding technology or features to technology for selling cars.

Speaking of rants.....I didn&#039;t write this and Jeff didn&#039;t include my Linkedin link so I could be bombarded with generic request from vendors claiming to be my &quot;friend&quot;.....sorry if I didn&#039;t add you, maybe next time hit me with a why we should be connected....please :)
Check. I agree our front line people (sales, cashiers, advisers) take the brunt of the blame when something doesn&#039;t work (i.e. sales training seminar, new CRM, getting them all hooked up with blackberries etc..). Again. Sorry for the prior pitch. I would like to throw out a thought; Sales people, cashiers, and advisers (sometimes) have the least amount of shelf life in many stores. While the &quot;green pea&quot; at my dad&#039;s store had been with us 5 years and is still there today, there are many stores with the revolving door. Probably the biggest reason they often are not included in technology decisions. We can do everything we can to train, support, re-train, and provide requested enhancements... but if vendors are having to train new staff each and every time, where do we start? If dealers do their best in keeping their face to face staff, there would certainly be more valuable input for technology advances and time for said staff to have the opportunity to learn it.
You know I think you are one of kind in your position. I never met a GSM on your level in the digital aspect of the business.
  • S
    Shawn Morse
  • December 6, 2010
Craig I like the post. Having been on both the dealership and vendor side I really believe that ongoing training is vital to the success of the sales team at any dealership. The market changes so quickly and the technology that is developed to support the automotive retail industry (CRM, ILM, Websites, Inventory Management, etc..)changes every day.

I believe that every vendor needs to ask their customers what they need to do in order to make the systems they sell better and easier to use. The best companies in this arena base updates and improvements on customer input, after all it is the people in the dealerships that know what they need to operate more effectively and efficiently and it is our job as vendors to supply an end product (UI) that helps accomplish those results.

It is equally important to have interactive training, be it in-store or web based, accessible and available to dealership staff. What good are updates to a CRM if the end users don&#039;t know how to take advantage of them?

The timing of this post is interesting as I have several dealers that I work with that have recently made it mandatory for everyone in the organization to take a certain amount of training and testing on the systems they have in place in order to become &quot;certified&quot;. While these dealerships have just recently implemented these requirements the early results are very encouraging. There has been an increase in overall usage, data input is much more accurate, and time spent using the system to prospect has increased.