We have all heard the phrase, “think outside the box.” This is usually a call to be innovative in how you approach a problem that needs a solution or perhaps in creating a new process to replace one that isn’t working. In just about every dealership in the country there are technologies, resources, and processes to address problems and provide innovative solutions to those problems. Digital or electronic Menus, CRMs, Dealer Management Systems, lender approval tools, hiring practices, and so on.
When a problem arises, we have grown accustomed to seeking a solution that is the new, or latest thing. We do the same thing with personnel. If someone isn’t performing as expected, we want to make a change and move in a different direction. Sound familiar?
I want to suggest a different approach. Instead of thinking “outside the box,” I want to challenge you to “think inside the box,” before you add another resource or add another employee.
What I am suggesting is to take some time to determine if what you already have, might be the solution to what you think you need.
Technology is a great example. Are you utilizing the full capability of the technology resources at your dealership? There is a funny thing about technology companies and how we look at them ... When presented with a new system, software, or platform, we agree to pay the monthly fees because in the demo we see the potential of the technology to improve our business and believe it provides everything we need to do so.
Take your CRM for example. I would assume that when most dealers signed the contract with the CRM provider, they were excited about all the capabilities of the system and what it could do for their business. Unfortunately, after a year or so working with the new CRM, it isn’t uncommon to realize that the dealership is only using about 30% of the capability of the CRM while paying for 100%.
The usual solution? Think outside the box and look for a more innovative CRM. But before you do, why not see if the innovation you are looking for might be in the 80% of the program you aren’t using?
The same principle applies to people. When business is good many dealerships add employees, part-time and full-time. Thinking inside the box might result in combining two part-time positions into one fulltime position, offering benefits and stability which could lead to lower turnover. Or, adding responsibilities to that full-time employee – who like your CRM, might not be at full capacity. This means looking for efficiency and ingenuity before looking to innovation.
How can we apply the inside the box mentality to F&I and sales? First, look at your processes and determine if they could be more time efficient and if they are customer centered or dealership centered. Do you have an implied sales process and F&I process or a real one? If your processes aren’t working, inside the box thinking encourages an examination of the level of accountability brought to the processes you currently have before you think about changing to a new one.
Next, look at your key resources, your people and technology. Is the technology being used as designed and to its fullest capability? Ask yourself, if not, why not? What are the possibilities if it were? When associates from various dealerships interact in training environments, processes and systems inevitably come up in conversation. What menu do you use? What DMS? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? As often as these conversations arise, revelations about system capabilities happen as well. “Really?” “I didn’t know it could do that!” “Can you show me how?”
Find the salesperson or F&I manager who has embraced the technology and is using it to the fullest, and convince them to help you increase the adoption throughout the dealership.
Consider all the associates in sales and F&I at your dealership, are they at full capacity? For those not reaching their fullest potential, invest the time to train and develop before you replace.
Lastly, thinking inside the box is good business. Instead of focusing on where you are under-resourced and thinking outside the box for a solution, think inside the box and focus on how to effectively utilize the valuable resources you already have.