Recently, I asked several dealers this question and you can ask yourself; “What percentage of data accuracy do you feel you are receiving in your CRM system?” All too often when I ask this question I get a laugh or a “probably 60%.” Why is that Mr. Dealer? “Well, as you know, we are dependent upon “people” to input the correct customer information and in the case of sales people, they forget or lose information or are just too lazy to input the customer data.” How do you think that affects your business? “We are most likely losing deals and not building good relationships because we don’t have the data to professionally follow up with customers.” Do you think not having the correct data information affects other areas as well? “Absolutely, it touches lots of areas.”
One of my favorite quotes comes from Ben Franklin:
Half of knowledge is knowing where to find it! — Benjamin Franklin
It all comes down to this. How you obtain and then use data will in fact determine your success or failure. I know what many are thinking, so much data that oftentimes it makes it hard to think straight. Too much data, numbers, colors, percentages, variables, and charts…conversations in dealerships are starting to sound more like a NASA shuttle launch instead of a dealership plan. So, does this mean you need to be a rocket scientist to turn data into dollars? Thankfully, no. The good news is that plain old common sense is your best guide through the truck loads of data at your fingertips.
What is Data anyway? The experts define data as;
From the Latin datum, meaning what is given (this is important – is it given correctly or incorrectly?). What is known, and upon which conclusions can be drawn (here is where we react or not). Factual information in a form that can be input to, created by, processed by, stored in, and outputted by a computer (or, smart device). Data can take the form of characters such as letters, numbers, facts, figures, information, evidence, reports, details, specifics, matters of direct observation, known facts, information base, statistics, measurements, numbers, results, findings, circumstances, experiments, knowledge and/or proof.
Note: data is the plural form of the Latin datum, although data is used conversationally to represent both singular and plural which is originally a Latin noun meaning “something given.” Today, DATA is used in English both as a plural noun meaning “facts or pieces of information” and as a singular mass noun meaning “information;” Not much data is available on the number of customers we spoke with last week.
Ok, so that was a lot of stuff to consider and most likely boring to some yet when the question arises; How do you make money or save money by utilizing data then becomes an interesting topic for consideration to most. I feel it boils down to this key phrase constructed from the abovementioned definitions above;
Factual information upon which conclusions can be drawn.
Key word here obviously needs to be Factual. Garbage in / garbage out comes to mind. Once it becomes factual our leadership and vision has to draw conclusions and then ACT (very important notion) upon it. I see two problems here; first, factual does not mean “I think we handled around 20 incoming telephone inquiries yesterday and sold a couple that came in on an appointment.” What factual should consistently represent or imply is; “We handled 23 incoming telephone inquiries yesterday and converted 14 of those into appointments of which eight showed and four of those were turned into deliveries and we are following up on the six no-shows in an attempt to reschedule an appointment as well the four who did not purchase and we have a solid follow up strategy regarding four of the 23 inquiries that held potential for a future appointment.”
The first statement has no act or action process associated with it. However, the second is in possession of a rock-solid business initiative which provides clear and precise information and how it is being acted upon. We could camp out here for a couple of days discussing methodologies of what constitutes good follow-up and phone skills because we, in this industry, do lose a lot of business due to untrained employees when it comes to phone skills. And, yes it does require a different selling skill set and fundamental processes.
Here is the formula for data success:
AD + T + A = C or Accurate Data + Thought + Action = CASH.
Accuracy and action however are the key components for any success. You can look at data all day long and have nothing to show for it unless you develop a proactive action plan towards using it. The question is how to implement the action to put things in motion? I have found an answer towards the end of this article.
So, back to the data thing. I am asked most frequently by dealer/principals; “where the heck do I start with all this confusing data?” As any good rocket scientist would tell you, you start at the end. What do you want to know and about what? A real good follow-up question would be; why do you want to know this and how will you use it? But the best question and one that does not get asked enough; what actions will you commit to undertaking once you find the answers? If you cannot specifically define what you want to know and why, and then commit to take action, don’t waste time dabbling with your data. As we all know that is called analysis paralysis. And that is exactly where most people will hang out day after day without any planned initiative.
Important safety tip: The enemy of fact is assumption.
Data does not work well with big broad questions. A broad non-specific and bad data-driven question could be how can I sell more cars? Data works very well with specific questions such as what type of consumers are purchasing trucks or specifically F-150s in the three zip codes around my dealership? This is a good data-driven question as is; does my CSI rating vary depending upon the day of the week or month? Like the proverbial 10-day month crunch where everyone is out of their skin to get deals booked. Or, what were the top 10 selling used vehicles by make, model, year and sold price we booked over the past 90 days?
Good data can help you make sound buying decisions when you consider taking in a particular trade or going to the auction. Of course one can argue that we now have succumbed to assumption in making decisions revolving around what will sell in the future but when you use the factual side of information for the primary inclinations of what might be a good course of action it is ok and frankly the crystal ball is still not working. Your basic premise is based on “factual” data and certainly helps in diminishment of total guesswork. (See Chart 1)
Wow, this is a pretty impressive data information-gathering solution to manage any business. But hear this; this is exactly what big data looks like and it is happening right now in many vertical markets and is soon to approach the automotive vertical. Better be ready for it because this is the future for the automotive field.
If you shoot me an email requesting “big data” I would be happy to send you my investigative research so you can be prepared to understand what is forthcoming in the new data technology and how to get it before your competitors do.
As a business owner or manager you are not looking for data, you are seeking accurate data, live intelligence and knowledge. With knowledge comes the power and confidence to make better decisions than your competitor across the street, which then equals more money in your pocket. The good news is as a business owner you don’t really care about all that data, you care about results. Results move the profit needle. But you have to have timely correct data in order to empower your people to make decisions, talk about data things in manager and sales meetings, openly requesting ideas and strategies.
Most Fortune companies do it this way and do ok with it. Some will refuse to bust through their paradigms of secrecy but I will tell you that a consensus style of management will beat any old-school bureaucratic style hands down most days of the week. Again, Ben Franklin said “half of knowledge is knowing where to find it.” Your people have good information so go about getting it in an open conversation meeting or two. The other half of knowledge is doing something with it.
Author: Chuck Barker
CHUCK BARKER is President & Founder of Impact Marketing & Consulting Group, located in Virginia. He has assisted Dealers & Corporations across the country in Sales & Service Development training programs, Management Leadership Workshops and Business Improvement/Analysis Consulting. He is a pioneer in BDC, CRM, Best Processes and Team Member Development since the early ‘90’s. Chuck has held Automobile, Corporate and International Executive positions for over 27 years. Chuck has been a monthly author/contributor for Dealer Magazine for over 11 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.