While sitting here thinking about what to write for my next blog, I was taken back in time to a wonderful visit to a quaint little resort near Ocho Rios in Jamaica. Blissfully relaxing, looking at the sunset over the ocean, I recognized how blessed I am.
This was unlike any other trip. The entire resort was taken over by automotive industry professionals; an eclectic mixture of both vendors and dealership employees. Why was I feeling blessed? Because this group included me. It’s one thing to “wine and dine” clients, and quite another to be included as part of the auto industry’s family. As the sun set over the ocean, what made this particular moment with automotive industry people so special?
Being in this industry, one thing I have always prided myself for is that I ensure I know each and every one of my dealership clients on a much deeper level than where my paycheck comes from. My clients are so much more than a transaction. For many vendors, dealership clients are simply reoccurring income or an invoice to the employer whom they happen to work for.
I have always followed the philosophy that my clients are like family. I genuinely believe this is a much better way to do business. Just like my personal family, I know clients’ birthdays, anniversaries, often their spouses and children’s names, etc. I don’t do this because I think it will bring me more income, I do this because I care. I care not only about them on a personal level, I care about the success of their businesses. And, because of that, dealer clients – and even dealers who aren’t clients – consider me a friend.
Treating people as if you are an integral part of their success, sincerely doing whatever you can to help them achieve it, is the quintessential definition of a friend. I honestly want to get to know people, and if I believe my service can help them, I will tell them how. If they choose not to go with my company or me, we are still friends.
Sadly, our industry is one that can best be described as a revolving door. At each conference I attend I meet friendly faces who, sometimes to my surprise, have switched jobs to a different company. If I’m surprised, you can only imagine how their now ex-clients feel.
The simple fact is that people prefer to do business with people they like and feel they can trust. However, with this revolving door in our industry, sometimes relationships die before they ever have a chance to flourish. Dealers don’t want just another vendor coming into their dealerships spouting promises of ROI and increased sales. That’s what everyone does. What they want is someone that cares about them and their business… and they can tell the difference in the same way anyone in the world can tell if they are merely getting a sales pitch, rather than real help and support.
In this industry, relationships not only dictate whether a dealer trusts a vendor, but also whether they thrive under that vendor. Will that vendor embrace them and help them figure out this giant puzzle of services that many, frankly, don’t have time to put together and understand?
It is similar to the relationship between a dealership and a car buyer. Both require effort. Both require interest, and in the end, both require caring about the needs of the other and being truly honest in your communication.
At the point when those relationships are built, trust is established. Those co-workers, peers, customers and soon-to-be customers, will become the one thing that is stronger than a contract: Family.
I am certainly proud to be a part of my automotive family!