Monday, June 30, 2008

He Died In 1919. What Does That Have To Do With Today?

Andrew Carnegie. Stated to be one of the richest man in the world in 1901 when he sold his steel business to United States Steel Corporation. He died in 1919. If you aren't familiar with him, here is a link to Wikipedia: Andrew Carnegie.

I've read a few books about him including his autobiography. It has been some years since I have read it, yet much of what I read stays with me. It is coming to the surface again with the current economic events. One might ask, "What does he have to do with today? This is 2008 and that was almost 90 years ago. Times were different then."

Well, here are some of the things I learned that stay fresh with me today.

  • Andrew got his first job at 13 years old in 1848, by 1851, he was on a plan of growing in business and knowledge. He was a reader. (Knowledge has an accumulating factor! The more you add to it, the more is there to borrow from when needed today)
  • He had a vision of his life's work. He didn't see each thing clearly, but he had an overall goal: His goal was to become wealthy and then spend the rest of his life giving it away. This is exactly what he did. (Good to have a strong vision of where you want to get to, even though and perhaps especially if you cannot now see the road to it)
  • He invested in many different enterprises, seeing the value of accumulating assets in the form of stock in other people's companies, stock in his own companies, assets that in combination with other's become more powerful. (There are opportunities all around us all the time. Invest in the opportunities, including your own business)
  • Because of his investments, he was able to take advantage of economic downturns to expand his plants, install new equipment, test new theories, work out details. When the economy became for fruitful, his company was so far out front, no one could catch him. (What can I do now to improve my operations so that when things improve, I will be further ahead?)
  • He surrounded himself with talented people. He always had business partners. He brought people in and encouraged them to become owners. Charles M Schwab was one of them and he was the one who ended up brokering the deal to buy Andrew Carnegie out with Pierpont Morgan. (Two or twenty heads are better than one in so many ways!)
  • He had a keen eye for detail. He wanted to know. He was always looking to make a thing work better, more smoothly, more profitably, more effectively. (What can I do today in my business that will make us more effective? Good questions for inquisitive minds)
  • He had a huge heart to share. Carnegie Libraries. He commissioned Napoleon Hill to interview 500 of the most successful people leading to one of the greatest, most popular books ever written, Think and Grow Rich. This just names a very few. He became a man of huge influence. (It's not what you achieve, it is what you become by what you achieve. Giving is more powerful and fulfilling than getting)
  • He had a higher purpose. He had lots of reasons to succeed. He was focused. His focus was not on himself. it was on the future and on others. (There is something so powerful about looking at the horizon when you are walking. When you look at the cracks in the sidewalk, you forget where you are going. What can I do for my customer today? What can I do for my employees today? How can I help them?)

This is just a few recollections from reading the Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie. I think there are quite a number of things to learn today from the man who died in 1919--things that apply to the problems and situations we face in 2008. A valuable read.

See also the rare book about Charles M Schwab, Steel Titan. His life turned out much different and there are lessons there as well.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Two More Hilarious Car Sales Ads

Two more of these hilarious Johnson Automotive Group commercials. Enjoy!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Claiming Or Blaming? The Proof Is In The Results, Pt 3

We'll finish up this week with more ideas on moving old commercial truck inventory and expand on a few already presented. Head 'em up, move 'em out!
  • Change your commission schedule on the old unit. Offer a somewhat higher commission rate to motivate a hungry sales person.
  • Offer a flat commission like $250, $500, etc. This motivates some because now price is not an issue. If the house accepts the deal regardless of the gross or lack of it, the sales person gets a flat $500 commission. I know several this has motivated in my past.
  • Other internal incentives could be a big screen TV, home theatre system, or other such gift for moving the truck at or above a selected price. The options are endless here.
  • Transfer the body from one truck to another. One way to sell an old truck might be to dramatically lower the cost without lowering the value at all. You would do this if, let's say, the truck has an 11' service body and you swap it out with a standard flatbed. Now you can drop the price probably at least $5,000 because the flatbed is so cheap in comparison. I've used this and many others have with great success.
  • If you have a service body or similar truck left and you really need to move it, send it through detail and spit polish it to perfection. Make it look like brand new. Go to your favorite hardware outlet and buy a pile of tools and fill the service body compartments up. If you have a showroom area and your commercial trucks are normally way outside, bring it up and put it right in front. If you have an inside showroom, put it in there. During the day, leave the compartments open showing all the tools. The person who buys it gets the tools. $1,500 will buy a serious stash of tools and it will be a bargain for you and a bonus for the buyer! Don't want to spend the cash? Work a deal with the vendor! Put their name prominently on display and make it a win-win-win!
  • Give away gas cards.
  • Throw in free maintenance for three years, or an extended service contract, or other services that are of value to the buyers.
  • Here's a fun one: Take a single rear wheel service body and have the truck lowered and put some radical wheels and low pro tires on it. A slammed commercial truck will get some serious attention. You can always restore it.
  • Take a contractor body and put some nice 10 gallon or larger palms or other trees on the bed along with many bags of compost mix, buckets, wheelbarrow and miscellaneous similar items to make a great display. I've seen a lot of landscapers use contractor bodies. Get it near the showroom area or out front on the pad.
  • You Ford dealers, try to get an autographed Toby Keith guitar or similar kind of item to give away with a sale, along with concert ticket to his next event and a fuel card to get there and back.
  • Hold a charity event in which donations from each sale are made to benefit the charity.
  • Contact the local radio station and trade the truck as a give away for 2-3 times ad value and then promote the deal together.
  • Take a truck you want to move to a construction site when the food coach is about to arrive. When it does, buy for all the workers and show off your truck while they are there. Fair trade. They get to see a great truck, you get their attention. Better yet, work a deal with the food coach in advance and follow them to each job site doing this at each site!
  • Make the first 3-6 months of payments for the customer. This can be powerful for some.
  • Start a rental department and buy some old units for your first rental fleet.
  • Buy two commercial trucks and get a small starter car free. This is great for someone who has a son or daughter about to turn 16. The trucks are written off in the business, the car is a total bonus and makes heroes of the parents.
  • Register one to the dealership as a long term demonstrator that you can loan once in a while.
  • Have an old van body? Donate it to a local church or homeless shelter or other worthy cause. They are always looking for help in this way. Do a good deed, get a super write-off (not that you need any more) and get some free publicity in the interim.
  • Hold an auction at the dealership. Advertise it heavily, get an auctioneer and have some fun. They do this with condo's, why not trucks?
  • Have a commercial truck day once in a while where all the retail vehicles go out where the commercial trucks were and the commercial trucks come up front for the day! It could happen.
  • Put something really strange on the back of a long flatbed. Here's an idea: Helicopter! Here's another: Let's say the truck has a capacity of 5,000 lbs. Get some plywood and 2x4's for a frame and have a box made that is large. Make it look like a big steel weight, paint it black and in white letters, paint 5,000 lbs. Any other attention getter can be helpful.
  • Get one of the contractor organizations you are members of to hold a meeting at your dealership. If they help sell your truck, give 10% or so to the organization or the charity of their choice.
  • Network with your current clients. They don't need a truck right now, but they might know or run into someone who does. Give them a flyer or DVD.
  • I discussed this idea on Wednesday: Make a DVD. This is a very powerful idea and it is fairly easy to do. Get a video camera and make a presentation on the truck while someone films it. You can get someone who has some experience to help and the do the editing. Have fun with it. Keep it short, but interesting. Sell the truck. Get the video out. Open a YouTube account and upload it to YouTube. Send emails out with a link to the video. Burn some DVDs and get them out to people you think are good prospects for the truck. Do this with every old truck you have. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Get the local college involved where people are studying how to do video well. They may help for free just to get the experience. Let them have a copy so they can show what they accomplished. Put the video in your bi-monthly newsletter. Post it on your commercial truck website. Pretty soon it will be everywhere. You could be the next Cal Worthington! Better yet, you can move your trucks.
  • Websites. I look at lots of them. I see a lot of dealer websites and I ask, where is the commercial truck website? If there was ever a real need for a website at the dealership, it is the commercial truck department. Why? It is a regional market. If you could have everyone come into the dealership, great, but many will not go that distance unless they are already sold. My commercial truck operations were in Northern California, and we regularly sold units into Southern California, Nevada and other locations. I am sure we would have sold many more of them with a good website. If you are advertising in a publication like the Truck Trader, you will get calls from 500 or more miles away. How powerful is it to have your photograph on your website, so they can see who they are talking with? Photos of the truck from different angles and they can click on it and enlarge the photo to see it better? A film clip of a presentation on the truck? Other information about the dealership, services, testimonials, directions, length of time in business, other businesses, etc.? You can talk a thousand words and your website will say more in one minute than you can in an hour (assuming they give you that). I recommend a separate website that can be updated in a few minutes with links to the main dealership website. We can help with this: Upward Trend. There's a commercial. We have the commercial truck experience to know what you need. All you need do is reallocate your current advertising budget slightly and it is done without any additional expense. Whether it is us or someone else, this is the most powerful tool you will have.

Keep brainstorming more ideas. They are endless. Challenges like this current market can be a great catalyst for growth and improvement. Accept it as a challenge and the proof will be in the results!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Claiming Or Blaming? The Proof Is In The Results, Pt 2

Some people really like yesterday's post with ideas of moving old inventory. As I thought more about it, I remembered something that happened that will illustrate how attitude is the most important thing.

I've learned this truism, because I have seen it over and over again in action: Once an employee leaves a place, he or she can do no right. They could have been the best ever, but once they leave, they never did anything right. Interesting thing, don't you think?

I left my first commercial truck dealership to go to another opportunity. At the new location, I started a new commercial truck department. I maintained communication with the people at the old place and developed trading relations and sharing of inventory reports. The manager that took over used to "joke" with me on the phone about all the "minion-mobiles" that I left him holding the bag with and how he just couldn't seem to get rid of them. I thought that was strange since I ordered them on purpose and I thought they were awesome trucks. Well, I heard this a few more times and finally I said, "okay. I will buy every one of them from you right now." I don't remember the exact number, but it was somewhere between 8 and 12 as I recall. Nonetheless, I bought them all and got them to the new store, cleaned them up and sold every last one of them with great profit too.

I used to have fun with people's ideas of what is "sale proof." I remember one manager I used to trade with and he would only take a 4x4 White Extended Cab PU with Gray interior as a trade. Another would say, "Brown, brown, stays around. I don't want no brown trucks." It's really comical to me to hear that stuff. My first two years in the car business, I was at a Chevy dealer and it was the end of the model year. Back then, when the factory would run out of a color of interior, they might just put in one that wasn't previously available. So, I ordered this nice yellow Chevy Nova with black interior and it came in with medium blue plaid cloth interior. You would almost laugh at it when you would look at it. I thought, "this thing is sale-proof!" Well, I learned quickly and early in the game because it sold in a week and the customer just loved it! Everything sells.

I had fun one day with a dealer. He wanted a really hard to get convertible from me and didn't have one to trade back right away. Most would have said, "forget it." I said, "okay, when yours comes in, we will trade you something reasonable for it and right now I will trade you the convertible and I'll tell you what I want right now." He said, "okay, sounds great! I appreciate the help." I said, "no problem. Here's what I want. I want the morphidite that is on your lot that you just can't figure out how to sell. I want the ugliest, most sale-proof vehicle you have. I don't care what it is." He got a kick out of that and was laughing. I said, "I'm serious. Send me that thing you can't wait to unload." He said, "okay. I'll give you this 3/4 ton pickup with the V-6 and the 5-speed manual with A/C and nothing else." I thought that was for sure a problem vehicle, but I said, "no problem. I'll take it." He just thought I was nuts, but was so happy to get rid of the truck. By the way it was brown.

So, I get the truck and at the sales meeting the next day, I told the staff that I had a challenge for them. I said that this dealer had a vehicle they said nobody could sell, and I said that we could, so I took it from them. I want you to get to know this truck and I want to see you show them they are wrong! I want you to show them who the sales people really are! Guess what? It sold in less than three weeks at a profit! I couldn't wait to tell the other dealer that news! It's all attitude.

When you are trading old unit for old unit with another dealer, it is good to not be very concerned about what you get back. The stranger the better in some ways because it will challenge you to think a little bit outside the box that you are used to thinking in. Sometimes I would just tell a dealer to surprise me. Everything sells. You might just get that solid gold piece that was tarnished on their lot and after you polish it up, you see the golden shine and maybe even your best profit.

Beware of comfort zones. A lot of dealers are so timid when it comes to unusual things, but I tell you those are where the gross is. The standard things--the safe things--are all around and bring no premium. The rare things are much more valuable in gross and in display value, demonstrating value, etc. I've created my own bodies by mixing and matching and I tell you that is just plain fun--and profitable. Two questions I learned to ask myself: 1. What am I really afraid of? and, 2. What's the worst thing that could happen? Better to have some fun and take things a little less seriously. Everything sells. I've struggled a bit with a couple, but they all go eventually.

Your idea of the ways things should be is good. Your prejudices are okay. If you want to grow, it is good to allow other ideas in and let them mingle with yours for a while. You might find some new ways that will make all the difference. As Zig Ziglar used to say, "your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your altitude."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Claiming Or Blaming? The Proof Is In The Results

Lately, I am seeing a good deal of old commercial truck inventory on lots. There are many who are blaming circumstances for this fact like the slower economy, less buyers, sales are down, gas prices, and many other things that are far out of their control. I understand. I've done it. It is a self-preservation response to a lack of results.

Since I have done it, I won't spend any more time about the blamers. I would rather focus on the claimers. Those who claim responsibility for the results, or for the lack of them. Claimers make it happen, or at least they give it their best shot and keep on doing. So, in thinking of all commercial truck dealers as claimers, here are some things that can be done about old inventory.
  • Accept responsibility for it. You probably ordered them. It's okay. It wasn't a bad idea. Accepting responsibility is the first and necessary step to liberating your lot of old stuff.
  • Accept that they are good. I've seen some very strange pieces in my time, but I have learned this: there are no bad commercial trucks. Everything sells. I've seen the strangest things sell first and some of the nicest things sell last. Your attitude about it is everything.
  • Now that the foundational things are done, next is to look at your marketing plan. What is your plan to market these trucks? Have you developed a plan? What have you tried and what is or is not producing any results? Let's lay it all out.
  • While you're sorting the marketing out, it's time to get a team working with you. You need some partners. If you don't already have a team of dealers you work with, get on the phone. Chances are good they have some old inventory too, so let's do some trading and that will get some fresh stuff on your lot and theirs as well. Many times this is enough to move a few. Work that angle every month and refresh your lot.
  • Got your marketing plan now? Where have you been marketing? Truck Trader? Lot display? Consider expanding your market. If you have a really specialized piece, you might want to find a way to market it nationwide or at least a larger section of the country. Contact the supplier for suggestions as to the market and possibilities they see. If you're not in the Truck Trader or similar publications, they are regional publications and they will expand your market area. Your budget will determine your possibilities here.
  • Price. Try to avoid cutting the price until it sells. That is not a good strategy in general. Price is rarely the thing that makes the sale. Think incentives instead of discounts when you are working on marketing.
  • Get them ready for sale. Clean them up and make sure they are showroom ready. The longer something sits around, the worse they look. Make it look like it just came off the truck.
  • Accessorize. Add some aluminum wheels, or other dress up accessory. Consider adding a generator and/or compressor to a Contractor Body for example. Make it more useful. Add value. Drill a few holes. What's the worst thing that can happen?
  • Take that stakebed and go get a load of straw or hay and fill it up. Put that on display right out front. Let people see it in action.
  • I'll never forget the time we took a black car that had been around for a time and we had bright red, yellow, orange flames painted on it and stuck it right out front. It sold in a week! That's pretty bold, but it worked.
  • If you have a van body or a WorkMaster or that kind of body, give away free signs for the customer who buys it. That's great extra value!
  • I've done this twice: sell it to your parts department for deliveries. There's no profit in that, but it moves the truck!
  • This is strange, but I have done it. Hire some drivers and do a caravan around town. Take 10-15 commercial units with signs on them and just drive them around town in a caravan for a couple of hours. It's amazing the attention that gets.
  • Do off site displays. In the mall, at The Home Depot, Lowe's, 84 Lumber, ACE hardware, or anywhere else that might make sense for the people you want to see the truck. If they aren't coming in, go to them. County fairs are great as well. Do drawings, get names and information for follow up.
  • This is key to me: Make it a priority to move the truck! Be determined and focused. Keep at it and keep doing different things until it goes.
  • It's only old to you and your staff. The customer probably does not know that you've had that truck for 297 days (unless it looks like it!). So forget how old it is when it comes to the customer.
  • Park a bright colored car on the back of the flatbed! Do bold displays. They get attention!
  • Do a broadcast fax to every dealer you can get a fax number for. Let them know you have some great pieces available. You might even be so bold as to package something with something else.
  • Send an email to all your customer base marketing just a couple each time. Target your vehicles to the most likely customer. This costs almost nothing. If you don't have the emails, send a one page simple, inexpensive flyer.
  • Get your suppliers to give you some marketing assistance or in other ways have them help you to move these pieces. Maybe they need some sprucing up like some paintwork or other things to make them saleable. They could help you with this. Consider them partners and get them involved. Truly, they are happy to assist you in any reasonable way.
  • Have a show at your store and invite your customers. Do a barbecue or serve hot dogs and soda. You need to plan very well for this to work properly. Here's an article I wrote on that subject that will be helpful: Event Strategies.
  • Take your units out prospecting! Go show them to potential clients. This is a great strategy.
  • Do some partner marketing. Get some local businesses to share in marketing your products. Get a backhoe and trailer attached to your truck. Put that on your lot or on theirs. Make sure there are signs depicting where it came from with business cards available, etc. Go to the boat dealer and hook up a boat and bring it to your lot and vise versa. Do some cross marketing. It does several things: 1. It brings attention to the display. 2. It helps market the truck. 3. It helps market the trailer and what's on it. 4. It's win-win-win. One of the things that is so hot in today's market is those dual axle 10k-12k GVWR dumping trailers. Work a deal with the vendor if the truck sells as a result of the partnership and vise versa. This is a powerful tool!
  • Market the truck with a video and put in on DVD and send that out to potential clients. Make a video and post it on YouTube. Do it funny. Do it extremely serious. Do it different. Bring attention and demonstrate value at the same time. Email the video!
  • Sell it on eBay or other marketing sites. eBay passed selling 1 million vehicles just last year. Over 200 million people buy and sell on ebay today. 200 million!
  • Get a blog going. Then stick with it.
  • Develop your own commercial truck website! The marketing possibilities are huge here! Call us on this and we can help!

I could go on. I was just getting warmed up. There are so many different things that you can do with some focus and enthusiasm. Do some brainstorming with your team. Move those old things and create a whole new way of marketing for the future in the bargain! It's like a cloud with a silver lining.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What Can I Do When Business Is Slow?

This is a great question! Just by asking it, the mind begins to work on a solution. Acknowledging that you want it changed is a great foundation. A downturn in business can have a dramatically positive effect because it can lead a person or business to change for the better. Here are some ideas toward the answer of What Can I Do When Business Is Slow:
  • This is a perfect time to look at the plans. The overall plan and the individual plans. How is it all working? Do you have a plan? Are the individual plans still connecting with the overall plan? If you don't have a plan, now is a perfect time to write one. How do you want things to be? How will that be executed? Many times when business is good and things are happening all around, the plan is lost in the shuffle. An example in sales is that when business is good, there is no time for follow up, prospecting, let alone database work because you're so busy closing deals. Maybe you had a good plan of action when you started and then it just faded away. Now would be a great time to take a good look at your plans and make some decisions about them. This is one of the best things about slower times because you can get refocused and reenergized by putting a good plan together or renewing your original plans. That is powerful change.
  • Get focused on what you want instead of what you don't want. Call it the Law of Attraction, or whatever you like, but a huge portion of the population is constantly thinking of things they don't want and they are likely to keep getting them as a result. Start turning that around by thinking about what you want and how you want things to be. Make a conscious choice. If you're a news junkie as I was at one time, let it go for a while and see what happens. The reports are almost all negative as you already know. You know how it makes you feel, then you end up carrying that with you all day. There's that old adage about when a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound? They fall all the time but you didn't know it, so did you miss it? The same is true of the news. To become positive and have a positive outlook in good times or lesser good times, you need positive input. The news will not help you here. Focus on what you want. Keep that in your mind.
  • Believe in yourself and/or your company. If you need to learn something new, just know that you can if you want to. There is no substitute for believing in yourself. Give yourself encouragement. Stop putting yourself down. You are valuable and special and unique. You have the capacity to do whatever you set your mind to do. Ever had a dream and then the dream faded away? Go back and get it. Hold on tightly. Dreams have great power when you hold them tight. They can transform your life. Don't listen to others, listen to your own heart; your own inner voice. Read a classic: The Magic of Believing by Claude Bristol. Read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. You can also get these as audiobooks for you long commuters and those who don't read much. They will help to have you believing in yourself in no time at all.
  • Surround yourself with uplifting people. When you start talking positive, you will be amazed that the negative people that used to hang around you no longer want to be around you. Misery loves company. When you're positive, you will attract more positive people. At the very least, you will not listen to that negative talk anymore. Positive loves company too, but not with the miserable. Just watch what happens when you get it going! It is magical. Get a team. When you are feeling like you need a positive friend to hear their uplifting voice, give them a call and say, "I just needed to hear your uplifting voice!" It is amazing how powerful a team like this can be. Surround yourself with uplifting people.
  • Study success. A better way to say that is to study personal development. My mentor, Jim Rohn says, "work harder on yourself than you do on your job." He says that it is what you become that is the best part of a worthy goal. Get some mentors. They are all around you. I've never met Jim Rohn in person, and I have had the distinct privilege of having him as my personal mentor for 25 years. I've read his books, listened to his tapes many times and each time I am uplifted and encouraged and more than I was before. Here's a really great inexpensive way to have a number of mentors in one location and be able to see them on video, not just audio or in books. Sign up for TSTN, The Success Training Network. I just recently found it myself and for $29.95 a month you can watch a lot of mentors and get huge benefits. I have received a great deal from Anthony Robbins. I went to a weekend event with him and did the Firewalk Experience the first night. What an awesome experience that was! It was over the edge spectacular! The whole weekend was a total gift to me. I've also read his books and I cannot recommend enough his book, Awaken the Giant Within. I have given away many copies of this powerful book. Find some mentors; people who uplift you and support you and encourage you. If you can be with them in person, all the better, if not, there are lots of them available in the media.
  • ACT. The only way to change anything is through action. Take action. Make things happen. If you've never done it before, great. That just means that you are going to grow and become more! Wayne Gretzky is quoted as saying "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Remember Yoda saying "Do or do not. There is no try." Be bold and act even when you don't really know what you're doing. If you wait around to learn it all, you will never act. I love this quote: "A good plan vigorously executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week." - General George Patton. Get moving, the rest will come. Jack Canfield says that "you can drive from California to New York at night with your headlights only showing you the next 200 feet." Powerful thoughts. Another Wayne Gretzky quote: "Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy." Give it your best shot. Your best shot right now. Your shot will undoubtedly improve as you move forward.
  • Last and also first is to become grateful. Not just when things work out, but all the time. Most of us are not taught this. We must learn it. I began becoming grateful many years ago and it has increased continually. Now, I am thankful all the time for everything in my life regardless of how I might have interpreted it in years gone by or how others might interpret it right now. This one thing has changed my life more than anything. I am continually giving thanks. There is no requirement to be unhappy about certain circumstances and happy of others. You get to choose. You are choosing most likely based on your upbringing and from the responses and reactions of people around you. Still, you get to choose and you can choose to be thankful or not. I know this: when you choose to be thankful, more things will happen in your life for you to be thankful for until that is all that happens. There are no rules. You get to choose. I choose gratitude!

What can you do when business is slow? You can choose to grow. Look at this as an opportunity! There are many things to do to improve. Since I love great quotes for their inspirational value, I will leave you with this one from Michael Jordan: "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling!

Generally I avoid the news, but lately I am trying to see what is going on in the automotive sector. I was referred by Google to an article by Justin Hyde in the Detroit Free Press published Sunday, June 22, 2008. The title is "Month of Economic Troubles Has U.S. Automakers On Edge - Another Jolt Could Tear Them Asunder, Analysts Say." Just in case you want to read this piece, here is the link: Article.

This article is not meant to lift you up; however, he does have a small "positive" angle in a section sub-titled, "Hints of Hope." Hints is a good description. It's not his fault. He is doing his job and he is rewarded for focusing on what is wrong. He must have been overcome and thought seeing a bright side might help. Here is a great sentence that is under that Hints of Hope heading: "A stampede of customers shunning big trucks for small cars has left dealers with too few popular sedans to sell and too many unpopular SUVs and pickups clogging lots." A stampede of customers shunning. . . interesting phrase. I'm sure a stampede of customers should be doing something. I'm sure any dealer in the world would love to have a stampede of customers shunning or otherwise.

Nonetheless, the next two sentences say the opposite (still under the Hints of Hope heading): "Russ Shelton, owner of Shelton Pontiac-Buick-GMC in Rochester Hills, said incentives had done little to draw buyers into the showroom. "There's no floor traffic, there's no one calling in," said Shelton, a 30-year veteran. "This is probably the worst I've seen it, and I lived through the oil embargo of the '80s." Now, I thought this was interesting. I was selling cars during the oil embargo in 1973-4, which is close to the '80s, and my take was that this was a completely different thing. It wasn't gas prices, it was a shortage of gas. There is no shortage now. I can buy all I want. In 1973-4 I could not. But, I'll go with Shelton: it sucks. No, that's not it. It really sucks.

Under the next heading, A Troubling Month, we find this: "Outside of oil prices topping $130 a barrel, other economic indicators haven't reprised the worst of the 1980s, when soaring inflation and widespread unemployment triggered the worst recession since the Great Depression and nearly put Chrysler into bankruptcy." My that is a mouthful. You have to take a deep breath to get that all out. Soaring inflation. I kind of like that one, being a pilot and all. Soaring does sound kind of nice and free and exciting--as does inflation, I suppose--depending on what is being inflated. Then, we do always have to compare things to the Great Depression as if depressions can be great, capitalized and all. Having been in the car business since 1972, I know that the second greatest depression of the 1980s (has a nice ring to it, you think?) didn't almost cause Chrysler to go bankrupt. . . nearly. It was the crap they were building as I recall. But that was before Mr Mustang took over. I'm so glad that outside of current oil prices, things are not so bad in Detroit. The Big Three should feel much better now.

Then we get this line: "GM had $23.6 billion (that's BILLION--23,600 million!) in cash on hand at the end of the first quarter, which ended in March, along with another $7 billion (7,000 million) in credit available." Doesn't every business in the world want those kind of cash reserves. It does tend to give them time to respond or react or whatever.

It gets better. Here is the last couple of sentences: "Detroit "has to be able to transition to a business of not only producing cars and crossovers, but convincing customers to pay up for them," Clark said. "You have to have a fundamental sea change in the underpinnings of the business." Sure. Easy for you to say.

The first line in the story sets the tone: "Every sign of economic health--jobs, oil prices, credit, housing--suggests a calamity on the horizon as bad as Detroit's keystone industry has ever faced." Whew! It's always these pesky circumstances and changing seas that gets those Detroit Three into a calamity with the horizon. They do a great job of reacting to it all without anyone's help. Like this line: "GM President Fritz Henderson said last month that 18 of GM's next 19 new models in the United States would be cars or crossovers, while Ford pledged Friday to speed the transition of its more efficient European cars to American versions." You go GM and Ford. You go. That's the way to react to all this negative stuff coming down from the world. Great followership. Gas goes from $2.50 to $5 a gallon and they are planning on building smaller cars and importing more efficient European cars. . . nice! I'm wiggling in my seat as we speak. No wonder GM needs 23.6 billion stashed away. Gag me. Who was it that killed the electric car?

I had a great time laughing throughout this article. I hope you did too. To take it seriously is only for the insane and depressed.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cheshire Commercial Truck Run 1996

Here's a great look at commercial trucks in Great Britain. Nothing like the United States, but they get the job done. Such a wide variety to see in this video.

If you have trouble playing this video, here is the direct link: Cheshire Trucks

Great Dodge Commercial Truck Video

Here is a great piece on Dodge Commercial Trucks!

If you have trouble playing this video, here is the direct link: Dodge

The Success Training Network - A Great Tool

I have found a gem in The Success Training Network or TSTN.com. For a modest monthly subscription, you have access to a wealth of video seminars, and other training tools from a wide variety of trainers and speakers such as Bob Proctor, Jim Rohn, Don Hutson, Chris Widener, Vic Johnson, Denis Waitley, George Walther, just to name a few.

I have been a fan of this kind of content in audio programs since the 1970's and to have them available on video on demand is an awesome tool. I can pause and restart with the click of the mouse. Plus I am finding people I was not familiar with before that are full of great ideas and excellent presentations. The videos are downloadable if desired as well, so you can watch them (with a downloadable player) offline.

Here is a sample video piece that will give you an idea of this great source. Enjoy!

This video is a sample of Bob Proctor's Paradigm Shift on TSTN. Go to www.tstn.com to see more clips and you can sign up for a free tour then subscribe. Great stuff.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Consultant Week, Vol 5 of 5 - The Eyes Have It

The last issue in our Consultant Week theme. The eyes have it. Four eyes are better than two. Let us focus on the future.

The boaters have finally got their boats on the trailers and have gone home for the day. I have a few questions for them. Did they learn anything about that issue of getting the boat on the trailer? Did they learn anything about how they solved the perceived problem? Will they repeat a similar scenario the next time? What will the future hold for their boating and docking maneuvers? Do they care?

The great benefit of being outside and looking in is that I have a perspective that the person on the inside would be hard pressed to see. I have seen much of the island of Kauai, Hawaii. It is a beautiful island, but about 90% of the island has no roads. I took an hour long helicopter ride and my did that open my eyes to the beauty of Kauai. I thought it was beautiful in Princeville, but seeing it from a bird's eye view is just incredible. We hovered down inside an ancient volcano shaft. That was a perspective you could never get any other way. It was a unique experience.

It's a great idea to give your company a good check up from time to time. In up economies and down. The whole idea of business is growth. There are so many ways to grow. Even if sales aren't growing, there are a lot of other ways a company can grow. In the car and truck business, vehicle sales may be down, but maintenance should be up (or could be. . .). A good question to ask periodically is what can we do to grow our business? The very first thing is to acknowledge that is a desirable thing. We actually have met many businesses who do not think that way. Once, you have the idea that you want your business to grow, the next step is to visualize what that growth would look like if it were the reality right now. See the task already completed. Next, you can ask, how do we do that? If you have all the answers, go for it and get it done. Chances are, you can do step one and two really well, but step three could use some assistance especially because you are so close to your business. This is the time to ask for assistance. We would love nothing better than to have an owner want their business to grow, and can see what it might look like if it were already done and then call us. We get really excited about this challenge and we can get some synergy going with this wonderful foundation.

The economy doesn't dictate the success of your business. It is the thinking of the person(s) running the company that dictates the success. We see some businesses growing in this economy, and we see many who are not. If it were the economy, they would all be in decline. Every time the thought comes in that it is an external event that is causing a problem, that should be a strong clue to acknowledge that is probably a symptom, but not the problem. It's not the gas prices, that is a symptom. The media will have a field day with your mind if you let them. It seems that everything is a crisis anymore.

A really good question to ask when you see what you think is a problem, is "What's good about this?" Okay, it sucks. Maybe all you can think about is what a problem this problem is. Then try a different approach: Ask, "If there could be something good about this, what might it be?" You might already know that strength comes from adversity. Instead of looking at a problem as a negative thing, consider it a blessing or an opportunity and how it will help you grow, your business grow, help you adapt to change. "Winning is not the only thing. . . attitude is.

Look around at how people you know and businesses you know who are reacting to this economy. Look at them or their business and think of yourself as a consultant to them. See what you see as the real problem and what you think the solutions might be. It is so much easier to see these things in other people and in other people's businesses than it is to see them in you or your business. This is another value of a consultant. By trying to be one yourself, you can see the value of having one for yourself or your business. I have a list of mentors and helpers for myself and for my businesses. I want as many ideas as I can get!

If you had an electrical problem, you would hire an electrical contractor probably. Frustrated with the space you are in, you would hire a design consultant. Expanding your building or adding on? You would hire a general contractor. Need help increasing your sales effectiveness? You need a sales/marketing consultant. Of these, I can tell you which I think will have the most impact on your business: Increasing your sales effectiveness. With that, your business will flourish, and you can afford the other contractors to deal with your physical issues.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Consultant Week, Vol 4 of 5 - Implement Solutions

Final two days of Consultant Week. Today we'll discuss implementing solutions.

If I were to be hired by the boaters as a consultant, I would have to be talking to the person in charge. There is always someone that is in charge, though it may not always look that way. I need to be hired by this person, then communicate with this person what the problem is and what the solutions are and then it is up the the leader to implement the solutions. If the leader wants my help in doing this, I am available, but it is their team, not mine. I stand ready, but I need the leader to start the ball rolling.

If we want to build a website or do consulting or marketing with a business, we need to talk to the person or persons in charge. Many times it is the owner, sometimes it is not. We need a decision maker. We will need information, photographs, bio's, logos, database information and more.

This reminds me of my partner going into a business while prospecting and asking if the company had a website and the clerk at the register said, "we don't need a website." So Ryan says, "do you have a website?" The girl says, "no we don't, but we don't need a website." The problem is that this person is not the owner or a decision maker for the business, but just a clerk and yet, she is making key decisions for the company it would seem. Wow. I wonder what she based that opinion on? Do you think the owner gave her that authority? Perhaps, but unlikely--at least, we hope it is unlikely.

Once we have the key decision maker, we can move forward. Anything we want to get implemented is going to require the key person to give us the authority and/or the support to get the work done. There is usually a team and we need the team to be together on the solutions or they will just fall apart after we leave. The key person is the only person that can hold this all together by giving what we are doing the importance and authority it deserves.

When it comes to the websites, marketing, newsletter campaigns, training, or whatever we are doing for the company, we have to have the support and follow through of the key person. We cannot and should not do it on our own. I have seen a number of times where we cannot implement solutions because the key person is not following through giving it the importance it deserves by supplying the key ingredients we need to complete the job. We are a tool, not a magician.

Sometimes there may be resistance from others on the team. Some people resist change, no matter what it is. If we do not have the support of the key leader in dealing with the resistors, we cannot effectively implement the solutions. It would be a waste of time to even start. We all have to be together. This may require meetings, discussions, training, reviews, etc. We stand ready to help, with the key support.

Consulting is a tool to put in your tool chest. It needs to be sharp and ready so that when you need it, you can get the job done more effectively. It's good business.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Consultant Week, Vol 3 of 5 - Solutions Thinking

Continuing the Consultant Week theme, we now move on to solutions.

Back to our boaters. I saw the real problem while they kept dealing with the symptoms. The symptom is they were trying to bring a boat in to a dock when the wind is strong and at a right angle to the dock which when holding on to the rope on the bow will swing the aft of the boat away from the dock. The real problem is their thinking. They only have a rope tied to the bow of the boat. This is a real problem in that wind. But the wind isn't the problem, the boat isn't the problem, the dock isn't the problem (read: economy, sales are slow, traffic is off, the boss won't let me, there's a strike going on, etc., etc.). The problem is not external. Those are symptoms. The boaters kept dealing with the symptoms, not the problem. I saw the solution in a second. They need a rope attached to the bow and the aft, so they can control the boat in the wind and bring it alongside the dock (read: do some marketing, make some sales calls, get positive, get excited, study, learn some new stuff, get a website, do some merchandising, change your display, put things out on the sidewalk, have a popcorn machine out on the sidewalk, get some balloons, do something! Do anything except talk about the symptoms!). Really, folks. It was that easy. I know most of you already got it, but neither boat group got it all the way through getting the boat on the trailer.

I'm looking at the water while I'm out there and I see the tide coming in and going out. It happens every day. You can time it accurately. It is very regular. The tide comes in and the the tide goes out. When the tide goes out, we are not really surprised, are we? No. We know that the tide goes out every day. The economy is like the tide. The economy is up and the economy is down, it is up and it is down and it is always moving one way or the other never really standing still just like the tide. Yet, when the economy goes down, we are surprised and amazed! But the economy is not the problem, it is a symptom. If it were our health, we might say we need a doctor with these symptoms. We might need a check up. We know there is a problem underneath the symptom, so we call the doctor (consultant) to find it. We don't know what the problem really is, we just know the symptoms.

If we don't plan for the tide going out, it is not the tides fault, it is our own. A consultant should be able to see the real problem and help you find effective solutions that overcome and counteract the problem as well as more properly prepare for the changing tide. That can be very valuable to your business.

In our business, we are sales consultants, sales trainers, sales merchandising and marketing skilled. We know sales. Most businesses are based on making sales. So, you would think they would study sales. They don't. You would think they would hire a sales trainer, a sales coach, but they don't. Business is down, so we can't spend any money on the real problem, we are so busy focusing on the symptoms and reacting to them (baton down the hatches, cut the costs, stop the bleeding), that we have no time, money or energy left to deal with the problem. They say, "You understand that, don't you?" We say, "No, sorry, but we do not understand that. It makes no sense to us."

You say sales are slow, but you don't need a website? Do you need a telephone? Then you need a website! You say sales are slow, but you can't afford sales training? Is your business selling things? Then you need sales training! You say sales are slow, but you don't need any marketing? Does your business deal with clients or customers? Then you need marketing! You say sales are slow, but merchandising is not necessary? Do you sell products in a store environment? Then you need merchandising! You say sales are slow and you have no money for a sales consultant? Does your business rely on sales to make money? Then a consultant can help you make more money! Deal with the problem, not the symptoms. It is generally not an external thing causing the real problem, it is an internal way of thinking. The boaters real problem was their thinking. It wasn't any of the external things. The symptoms will change when you invest in solutions to the real problem.

We see some companies spend thousands per month on newspaper advertising, not even knowing if they are getting any return on that expense (we're not against newspaper advertising, but we are shocked when people say they do not know if an ad is working or not). Stop that one month and hire a consultant with that money which means you are spending no new money and watch the results! A fresh outside-in perspective is very valuable. The boaters saw the symptoms, I saw the problem. The boaters tried the strangest things to solve the problem, and I saw the perfect solution. You don't need a consultant for life, but occasionally, it is just the thing to turn your thinking around and thereby turn your sales and your business around--in any economy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Consultant Week, Vol 2 of 5 - The Problem

Continuing the Consultant Week theme, let us continue to see the boaters in their trials and tribulations at docking the boat.

The boaters kept seeing the problem without effective solutions and in one case there were two people docking the boat and the other case there were four people. These were some of my observations:

The boat with two people had an easier time of it, though they appeared as if that was the first time they had ever gone boating, put a trailer down the ramp and mounted the boat on the trailer. I thought I was watching a slapstick comedy show. Maybe it was true. Maybe they borrowed a boat and had never done this before. It sure appeared that way, but more likely they have done this before, and the thought of that made it more funny. Communication between the two was minimal. In this case, I think that helped. In the case of the boat with four people, two men and two women, the communication was continuous. Not one of them spoke a word of English, but it is obvious what things they were talking about. In case anyone on that boat were to forget, someone would remind them of the problem. I'm sure there were potential solutions shouted as well, but since the problem kept reoccurring, they kept talking about the problem.

Does any of that sound familiar in your company or in your home? It does to me. I've seen this scenario played over and over in various companies I have worked for and even participated in it. We have an objective that is an agreed objective, but we keep looking at the problem and making the same old suggestions, or trying the same old things. We think it is brainstorming but the brains are doing something else. We're just too close to it.

Take this slowdown of the economy that we are experiencing right now. My partner and I see lots of businesses and we see many of them just like these boaters. They keep talking about the problem (the economy, sales are slow, no traffic, incomes dropping, layoffs, cutbacks, the boss doesn't want to spend any money, gas prices are over $5 a gallon, did you hear about?, did you know that?, isn't it awful that?, the government should. . .) over and over from every angle they can. It brings a certain satisfaction to state the problem and then state it from a different angle, quote sources, statistics, etc. It is a powerful thing for us but all of it reinforces the problem. Yep! It's a problem all right! Ain't that just the way things go. . . you're doing well and then there comes this. . . problem. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. No rest for the weary. More affirmations about the problem of course.

Then we decide that we have to fight the problem. Attack it. We have to fight to keep costs under control, attack the problem head-on, weed out the culprits, baton down the hatches, alert the media, stop the bleeding, control expenses. More problem. Though we may be seeking solutions, really we are just restating the problem. It sort of becomes an excuse for the solutions. "Oh, we can't do that because of the. . ." "Whenever this has happened before, we. . ." "It's just going to happen again. . ." "Management should. . ." and "I don't see why we have to. . ." It's a wonder any solutions can be implemented.

The problem always has external causes. It is never internal. It is the economy, the weather, the boss, the company, the supplier, the delivery people, whatever. It is always something or someone external. Do you think there might be some internal causes that create all or a good part of the effect? Is it possible? People say sales are slow. We see them doing nothing about it. We suggest a thing or two and they tell us all the problems with that, but that problem is not what the problem really is. The real problem is not seeing the real problem. Its not what happens to us that matters, but how we deal with it. The visible problem may only be a symptom of the real problem.

So, the first step to solutions is stating the problem and then getting someone on the outside (consultant) to look at it and give an opinion of what they think the real problem is, while refraining from restating the problem (symptoms) over and over. Wouldn't it be interesting if we find it is not externally caused, but that is just a symptom of the real problem? Let us all understand the real problem, and then we will move to potential solutions in the next issue tomorrow.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Consultant Week, Vol 1 of 5 - Revelation

Consultants. There was a time that I thought little of them as a group (not knowing any of them personally, of course. . .) and didn't see the need for them. I do not know where that came from but I must have heard it from a source I trusted or experienced it firsthand. That was before I became one. Even then, I would wonder a bit about the consulting part of what I do. No more.

Yesterday, I drove out to a boat launching area in the delta which is part of the San Pablo and San Francisco Bay. It's a very short distance from my house and it is a wonderful place to just go and unwind a bit, listen to the water lapping against the shore, watch the boats come and go. It was a glorious day and I had been there about an hour or so, when I watched two boats about 15 minutes apart come to the dock to get ready to put the boat on the trailer. It was a very breezy, warm day. It was during the watching of these two boats and the trials they experienced in trying to dock and then get the boat on the trailer that I saw so clearly the value of consultants. I'll explain.

Both boats and crew had a similar experience trying to dock and control the boat in the wind. The wind was strong enough that they had to go head on into the dock, have one get off and try to get the boat secured and under control. Normally the boat would come along side the dock, but the wind was blowing it away from the dock. This makes it very hard to get it on the trailer which is alongside the dock when the boat is at a right angle to the trailer. How they tried, even desperately tried to get the boat to cooperate was laughable at times and very curious. It was curious because I--with very little boating experience, never having owned a boat, driven one only a few times a long time ago, could not fathom myself a boat docking expert, or even a boat docking consultant worth hiring--I could see so clearly how to resolve the situation very smoothly and quickly and to every one's benefit. I thought, "my goodness! It is clear as day! Now I really see the value of a consultant!" In this situation--assuming of course, they would be willing to hire a consultant for this job--I could have saved them time, frustration, expense of fuel burned trying again and again to have the boat dock correctly.

Because I have so little experience in the field of boating has almost nothing to do with my value as a consultant. My value as a consultant is my accumulated experience and my perspective. Basically, that is all that is needed. I think that might have been one reason I didn't think much of consultants before I became one because I felt that I had much more experience at the task than they did. I was probably right, but it matters not. It is the perspective of the consultant of being on the outside looking in as I was watching the boaters that allows the problems to be entirely visible a more easily solved. I saw the problem very clearly in the boating scenarios.

The accumulated experience of the consultant allows him or her to see solutions based on agreed objectives (in this case, the objective is docking the boat properly and getting in on the trailer in a timely manner). I saw the solutions so clearly and I could see that the boaters didn't seem to have a clue (although, they finally did dock and get the boat on the trailer eventually). I thought that was so interesting and curious that they did not see the solutions that seemed so obvious to me. They did continue to see the problem over and over again and tried a number of very ineffective things, but the easy, effective solutions evaded them. That is curious, don't you think? But it showed me like a revelation how valuable a consultant can be and how much time, energy, frustration, money they can save in solving problems and implementing solutions. What a fabulous day this was for me. I am so thankful to the boaters for putting on that free show. It was a powerful learning experience for me.

More on this theme tomorrow.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Follow Up, Vol 3 - A Plan

Staying on this theme of Follow Up, and presenting two excerpts from the book Accepting the Sales Challenge, I remembered a sales record I listened to at the start of my sales career back in 1973. On the record was a traveling salesman who stated that he had bought 33 cars in his life and they were purchased from 33 different sales people. Then--you know how thoughts go--that led me to another similar thought in that I have bought several homes and not one of the sales people have ever followed up past the first month or less. This is also true of many, many other items that I have purchased. I am sure I am not alone.

Where auto sales are concerned, once the sale is made, there might be a mandatory call to see how things are going with the new car, but that is usually about it, if that happens at all. Then, they are back on to the next "up" on the lot. I teach otherwise, but this is about the norm at most dealerships in the country. When it comes to cars, the average person owns a lot of different cars. I remember selling one of my customers 13 vehicles over a period of 25 years. He only liked keeping them about 2 years or so.

Here are opportunities for additional sales. They won't be today, but they will add up over time. It is not just the repeat sale which is a small picture, but it is referral sales (a larger picture), additional sales like to other family members, changing needs sales (they were newlyweds, now they have a family and the coupe has got to go. . .). Then of course, this is just the vehicle sales. What about all the service opportunities like oil changes, tires, batteries, repairs, body work, replacement parts, accessories. Each one of those is additional business. Then the kids become 16 and need a car and then they get married and then they are on their 4th car and on and on. It is just a huge network! At least it is for those who might see this larger picture of the one sale.

Where are all the customers? They are right here, ready, and even eager for the attention and care. All you need now is a plan. How will you develop this strategy? How will you follow up regularly? How will you secure referrals? How will you continue to grow with the families? You will need to keep good records. You will need to follow up regularly and in different ways. You have so much business, you will need some help. Isn't that interesting?

Want a plan? You are smart. You can make one yourself, but if you are missing it, you can go to Joe Verde's website. You can start your own database with some contact software like ACT or Maximizer both of which I have used, or go to Google and type in "contact software." They all work. Joe Verde's is specifically about auto sales, but you can make the others the way you want to.

Next write out a plan on paper of who you want to follow up with, how you want to follow up with them, how often, how you want to categorize them so that it is easier to use. You can group your contacts into groups like prospects, owners, referrals, etc. I recommend you have a field for how you got the prospect as well.

Last, if you need help with it, don't get frustrated, get help! Find someone who understands this stuff and if you have to pay them, it will save you countless hours of frustration to have them help you through the first part. After that, you won't even remember it was hard and you will look back and think, "this was the best thing I ever did for myself!" Congratulations are in order!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Life = Risk. You Can Do It Too!

Follow Up, Vol 2 - Seeing a Larger Picture

On the same theme as the last entry (Follow up), here is another excerpt from the book, Accepting the Sales Challenge:

Seeing a larger picture will help a salesman spend his time wisely, by learning who to talk to and when, rather than going every which way with no thought or vision of where or when. I use an example of this often in teaching auto sales. Most auto salesmen think of the person they are selling in terms of this one sale. They see too small a picture. I try to teach them to see a larger picture by concentrating on who that person knows or can affect.

Everyone knows 250 people according to the world's greatest car salesman, Joe Girard. Thinking that one is making only one sale is a very short-sighted vision when selling one car. Since the person you are selling knows at least 250 other people, selling one car could turn into hundreds. In theory, 250 times 250 equals 62,500 people. Even if only 1% bought from you, that would equal 625 sales, not one.

I took Joe's 250 theory and modified it to be easier to understand because of our terrible recall. Now the memory knows 250 people easily, but recalling them would take days, perhaps weeks and a reasonable amount of searching for records, not to mention a major commitment on the part of your prospect. So I divided his number by ten and came up with 25. Now, I figure that everyone could recall at least 25 people and they are probably close enough to that customer or prospect to at least be influential to a small degree.

So, if a salesman has sold 100 cars since he's been in the business and each of them knows 25 people, we now have 2500 prospects instead of 100. Notice the multiplication factor. One hundred became twenty-five hundred. Now even if we deduct for those who have moved out of the area or switched to a different product or were unhappy for some reason, this still leaves us with a whopping number of possibilities here. And we haven't even taken into consideration the 25 people that each of those prospects know. That would send the numbers into outer space! But, you have to see a larger picture in order to understand this as being important.

Now this doesn't just apply to owners, does it? Every prospect would have the same potential (remember that it takes many prospects to create one sale). Mining for gold is fruitful if you know where the possibility of gold being is. Only then can you mine it effectively. The big picture will help you to see the obvious with a different feeling than before. One person's obvious is another person's hidden, one person's vision is another person's blindness. Sometimes the obvious escapes us. I've missed it for a long time, but I see more each day. Jim Rohn says that everyone should take Obvious 1 and Obvious 2. Understanding that there is a larger picture will be all the help you need to begin seeing it and then adding to it until you see it with clarity.

Big Picture thinking will improve your attitude. In an airplane, attitude is your plane's position relative to the horizon. I think that people's attitudes are like that. They are relative to the horizon of the picture we see individually. As one expands the picture, one's attitude must change in relation to it. It seems cause and effectual to me. One who sees a larger picture, a clearer vision, will have a better attitude in relation to others who do not.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Follow Up, Vol 1 - Recordkeeping

I was thinking of keeping track and following up with customers and remembered this excerpt from a book I wrote in 1990 called Accepting the Sales Challenge:

Next is recordkeeping. This is part of the numbers game. Understanding numbers and their importance and value. We need to keep good records. Can you imagine a bank not keeping good records of each transaction. It would get out of control in a hurry. It's not much different for a salesman, yet so few keep good records even though they may understand the reasoning behind it. Although, I don't know if I agree with the statement I just made. If they really and truly understood the reasoning for good, solid recordkeeping, I think that they would not do without it. Still, few do so.

What kind of record-keeping? All kinds. If you talk to a prospect and don't record their name, address, phone number, interests, special needs, etc., how in the world could you ever hope to follow through with them for a future possible sale? This is one kind of record-keeping. Who are you talking to and is it worth recording?

Along the same lines, your owners. Those who have purchased from you. Do you want them to purchase again at some future time? Do you think it is worth recording as much information about your sale and your owner as possible in order to give you the advantage of perfect recall in the future? Leave it to the secretaries? You better find a damn good one and pay her well and have a back up ready. Help is great, but don't leave the really important stuff to someone else.

Follow up opportunities come from good records. In his book, "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," Harvey MacKay talks about his "MacKay 66", an in depth report on valuable prospects that is kept on their important clients. And it really goes into depth. It requires a lot more work, but the rewards have made his business succeed where others have failed. Selling is a people to people affair, and the more you know about your prospect, the better your chances of selling them and re-selling them and building a great business relationship with them. Your mind will remember all the data, no computer can match it, but it is not very good at recall, so the records are necessary if you want to do well in sales.

Gather as much information as you can and find a way to store it in a way that you can put your hands on it when you need it. This is very important. Don't be worried about gathering too much information. Too much is better than not enough. You can always buy another file cabinet or hire another secretary, but without the records you cannot afford either.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Overloading Concerns vs Body Type










After being in the car business only a year, I took the TMI Medium Duty Training Course because I wanted to learn more about trucks and how to help customers buy the right truck. We didn't stock commercial trucks. It is a home study course and if you study, it is easy to get a good score and pass the course. Shortly after passing the course, I got to work with a local business to give them a quote on a medium duty beverage truck to deliver beer or soda. With my new found knowledge, I chose the right GVWR, the specially hardened frame because I wanted to make sure that we got the right truck and that it wouldn't be overloaded.

After presenting the owner with my estimate and findings, he just laughed at me! I was devastated. When he stopped laughing, he told me that it was way too much truck. He didn't need all that because he had a constantly decreasing load. He said that they load it up in the morning and it is dropping stuff off at every stop, so even though it may be overloaded first thing out, it is under the rating in short order. Choosing the lower GVWR truck would allow him to save several thousand dollars and he has been doing this same thing for many years. That lesson has stayed with me for all these years and I think about it whenever someone wants to overload their truck.

There are three pictures in this article. One is a flatbed, the other is a van body and last is a service body with some extra compartments. I tell people that if you want to overload a truck, choose the flatbed or van body but not the service body. The reason is that the flatbed and van body are essentially delivery vehicles. They pick things up, take them somewhere and drop them off. They are generally not loaded all the time. The service body is the exception. It is loaded 100% of the time and considering the number and depth of compartments (I like to call them closets), there is a lot of stuff that can go in there and it rarely comes out and when it does, it is a brief exit. The service body is also generally a heavy tool carrier, so it is carrying heavy items in those closets. I have seen a lot of overloaded trucks, but I hate seeing an overloaded service body because it can be very dangerous. The fact that it is loaded all the time is the key. In addition to that, the back end is loaded up some more.

Another thing to consider is that generally speaking the truck chassis is not normally designed to run at 100% GVWR 100% of the time. Yet another consideration is the added stress and stability of the tires, brakes and other essential components that support and stabilize the truck. Considering the overloaded trucks I have seen over the years, I tend to be a stickler about the service body and overloading. Of course, I cannot prevent it, but I can express concern, try my best to steer the customer to the right vehicle, get the disclosure signed, and try and stock the right truck for the body type. So, for the service body shown here with the extra compartments on top, I would prefer it being on the F450 or F550 rather than the F350. I wouldn't turn a sale down on the F350 depending on what they intended to carry, but I probably would not have that in stock.

The flatbed shown is on an F350 and in round numbers will carry about 4,500 lbs., so if someone said they wanted to carry 6,000 lbs., this is not the right truck. They would need the F450 flatbed. Even though the flatbed might be overloaded a bit on occasion, to overload it that much would not do at all. Then, if they say they will carry 6,000 lbs., I am thinking it might be more like 7,000 lbs. so I want to ensure that the right truck is pointed out clearly and why. Since van bodies and flatbeds are very similar in how they are used, all of this logic will apply to the van body the same way.

Think about the kind of body the customer needs, the kind of load they typically carry and how that vehicle is generally used. The service body and those type of vehicles that will be loaded 100% of the time should be the biggest concern. What you know and how you apply that knowledge can make a major difference.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Overloading Concerns versus Overkill


In the previous article, I talked about the dangers of overloading and that I have been more concerned than many when it comes to the capacity of a commercial truck. This is all true. At the same time, I want to caution that many sales are missed by trying to force people into a larger truck than they need.

Let's look at the above photo examples. The photo on the left is an F650 with a 5-6 yard Steel Dump body (about 26,000 GVWR), the center is an F550 with a 3-4 yard Steel Dump body (19,000 GVWR) and the one on the right is an F350 with a Landscaper Dump body (13,000 GVWR). The difference in initial cost between the F650 and the F550 is strong, but an even bigger reason to not oversell is the operating costs and maintenance costs. Brakes, tires, and other replacement items cost dramatically more on the larger vehicles. The same is true when you compare the F550 with the F350. Of course if the lighter vehicle is loaded to heavily, it will wear out these items very quickly in comparison with the heavier GVWR vehicle. Notice also the capacities of the bodies. The F650 is 5-6 yards, the F550 is 3-4 yards and the F350 is not measured that way, but exceeds the F650 if you were to measure it that way. The difference is what they typically carry. The Landscaper is not designed to load it up with dirt or gravel or rocks. The sides are not strong enough, let alone the truck. The steel dump is designed to carry that kind of material and it is built strong enough to do it for a long period of time.

So how do you know what to do? By asking a lot of questions and understanding what your customer is needing or wanting the truck to do. With that information you can guide them to the best truck for their needs. Now, you might think that the Landscaper with its much larger body capacity (in volume) should be on the heaviest truck, but Landscapers typically load this truck with grass clippings, branch clippings and other types of gardening or landscaping needs. They could very well carry some dirt, or other landscaping materials such as bark, etc., but it would be in smaller amounts typically. They are not generally working construction sites. Now, of course, there are Landscaping Contractors who do and who need larger capacity trucks, so that is why you ask questions. But if you stocked the majority of your Landscaper bodies in F550 and F650, you would make a lot less sales and your competitors down the street would get them.

The same holds true with other bodies. The most common scenario I see is focusing on the F450 and F550 with a Contractor Body rather than focusing that body on the F350 with a few in the larger capacity. This is a common body and is essentially a flatbed with some tool boxes on top and underneath the bed. If you look in your travels of these vehicles actually being used, you will find that the majority of them on the road are the 1-ton (F350 type). They carry a few tools, but more than that, they carry other items in the boxes. The bed area typically has larger tools such as wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes, buckets. They may also carry a few bags of cement, other bags of different materials, perhaps a 1/2 yard of sand depending on what kind of work they do. The F350 has a typical cargo capacity of about 4,000 lbs. Considering the bed area, the kind of thing the typical Contractor Body carries, it is very difficult to put that much weight on the truck. Of course, there are those contractors who carry very heavy items such as stone masons; however, these are the exception, not the rule. If all you stocked were F450/550 Contractor Bodies, you would miss at least 70% of the market! You might get a few to pay the premium for the larger model, but many will just buy the one down the street.

My GVWR concerns are mainly focused on things like this: A customer wants a 5 yard steel dump on a F450. I say "no way." The reason is the steel dump is designed and expected to carry heavy material and 5 yards of dry plain dirt weighs about 2,000 lbs. per yard, so that is 10,000 lbs. just in the load. I will have to let this person go elsewhere to buy. I don't want the liability and neither does my dealer. Another example is putting a service body on a Ranger or other small style pickup. I say "no way." That truck is not designed for that kind of job whether it is rated at "1-ton" or not. I don't want the liability and neither does my dealer. Is it done? Sure, but I let the guy down the street accept the liability and the dinky gross.

It may look like a fine line to make the decision on the larger capacity vehicle or the smaller capacity vehicle, but its really pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Be concerned about how they use the truck, what they carry, how much is a typical load, how often do they load more than that and when they do, how much more is it? What kind of future use do they see? What is their budget? Will they be involved with heavier items down the road? Pick the vehicle that will do the job well with a bit of fudge room for safety, but don't oversell it or you will lose many sales. Let's get every sale we can!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Overloaded Trucks Are A Problem . . .



Before I got into the car business in 1972 and even prior to being an auto mechanic, I was a truck driver for a landscaping company. I did many jobs around there from digging trenches (with a shovel), greasing trucks laying on drain rock with a hand pump grease gun, loading trucks with a skip loader, driving dump trucks (2-3 yard and mostly 5-7 yard), and other things. There were two jobs I liked: using the skip loader and driving dump trucks. So, long prior to getting involved with commercial upfitted trucks, I experienced them first hand. This was between 1966 and 1968.

Part of my experience with these trucks was being overloaded. My title is Overloaded Trucks Are A Problem . . . and they very much are--but, even more so, they can be deadly. Since becoming involved in upfitted commercial trucks, I have always been more concerned than most about GVWR, GAWR, cargo capacity disclosures, taking care of equipment and so on. I'm sure it was from these experiences that I do this today in my training classes.

A couple of short recollections. One, I was driving an old International truck with a 2-3 yard steel dump bed. The truck was not in the best of shape and it was build in the 1950s, but the boss had me use it from time to time. This time I was carrying 3 or more yards (stacked as high as it would go) of drain rock, a common filler and used in crushed form for dirt roads, etc. I remember the truck feeling very overloaded (I'm 16 years old by the way) and I'm on a 4 lane separated road wanting to turn left in the left turn lane coming to the lane at about 40-50 miles an hour slowing to get into the lane which is filled with cars. It was at this point that the left rear leaf spring broke and my load shifted and I couldn't stop in time. I was about to plow into a long line of cars. Luckily, I quickly checked the right mirror and saw an opening to get back in the other lane and just in time drove past the cars in the turn lane. Far too close. Totally the responsibility of the driver to not allow a load to exceed the capacity of the truck. I was inexperienced and they were uncaring. It opened my eyes wide.

The second experience was in the 1965 International 5-7 yard steel dump. I was working in an other city hired out as a sub contracted truck for a crushed rock company. My boss didn't like wasting a load, so he always had me bring a load of drain rock or something like that home for stock. My boss didn't think the new smog equipment was a good thing, so he plugged up the smog equipment to get better performance. Little did he know that all day long that act was causing the engine to spit out oil and it was landing in the right front brake drum. So, by the end of the day, I'm almost home and going with a full load at about 50 miles an hour coming to a major 2 way stop with the majority of traffic without a stop crossing the road I am on. I begin applying the brakes with plenty of time and nothing is happening. I begin pushing harder and harder and it is just barely slowing. I have no way to go right or left, only straight and straight I went right through the intersection. I lucked out again and did not hit anyone. When I got back to the yard, we saw what the problem was. That was a very scary experience.

Both times, the trucks were overloaded putting added stress on the components like brakes, frame, springs, tires, axles, wheels. Both times the equipment was not being maintained well. Sometimes overloading is obvious, like the photo above, much of the time is isn't nearly this obvious. As a seller, I want to do my best to educate enough to have people buy a truck that is right for the job. I try to make sure they have plenty of fudge room, but not excessive. I provide a disclosure that clearly states the cargo capacity and the customer signs it. It will be clear and in writing what the truck is designed to do. The rest is on the truck owner and driver and they do have a huge responsibility because overloaded trucks are a problem. . .


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Spiffs, Contests, Internal Incentives, Vol 1

Spiffs, contests and internal incentives can be very helpful, slightly helpful or a waste of time and money. What motivates one may not motivate another. It seems logical that the goal should be to motivate everyone if possible, or as many as possible. But, motivate them to what? Generally, the motivation is aimed at some kind of behavioral change, even if temporary to achieve a specific objective. Cash spiffs, contests and internal incentives can be great tools to help achieve a behavioral change. For volume one, I will focus on contests.

Contests can be fun and rewarding and they can also be demotivating. I have seen both through countless contests over the years. How the contest is structured will determine much of the outcome. Here's an example: Salesman of the month is a common monthly contest in a dealership. There is one winner and is generally the person who sells the most units. Wonderful. We are motivating one person pretty much, perhaps a couple. For the rest of the staff, this contest has almost no value. So, I might ask, "What is the purpose of this contest?" or "What would you like to achieve with this incentive?" A contest that only motivates one or a very few people seems ineffective. If the goal is to encourage mid number sellers to move their thinking upward, it might have some effect, but unless they can see themselves getting to the higher level, it will prove to be the opposite of the desired and be a demotivator. For the lower end of the number of sales spectrum, it is a worthless contest that has zero meaning. There's a better way.

A better way might be to try to motivate everyone every month to win. If you have a salesman of the month, that would mean only one can win. Why not have a sales person of the month for anyone who qualifies for an objective? Why couldn't all of the staff win it? If you think that the top person will be demotivated, that would be wrong. Everyone should be equally motivated because everyone has an equal chance to win. Why? Because you would make a separate objective that is within reach but just beyond each person's own comfort zone based on your own sales statistics. Now, you have a contest that everyone can win if they want to. The only fair and effective opponent is yourself. Having low and mid guys competing with top gals is ineffective. Increasing your entire sales staff 5-10% is a huge success compared with moving the top guy 25%.

Here's two approaches to a familiar theme: You might have a contest over a period of time to achieve a certain overall objective of the store or department. Maybe you want to move some specific units or generate a certain level of gross or just move a certain number of units. Approach one is you find out (and always be on the lookout) what you think motivates each individual on the staff. Some people respond really well to recognition; others respond to trips; to others it is money, and others it is things. It could be anything. I used to respond to trips. I won a lot of trips. Find out what fires up each person and tie a prize like that to a specific objective to them. You might tie that to an overall objective.

The second approach would be to reward specific behaviors instead of a prize at the end. So, for example, you want sales and that requires prospecting, talking to prospects, demonstrating product, giving presentations, writing up offers or proposals, and other things. Reward those behaviors individually. You know that generally so many demonstrations will yield so many write-up, will yield so many sales, so reward the demonstrations and then reward the write-ups. You can keep a count score toward a certain objective or you can pay out a small amount per item, but the whole idea is to get them doing what you know works to create the results meeting or exceeding the objective you have.

Another idea is to make it all a group contest so that if the objective is attained, everyone wins regardless of their contribution to the whole. When I was a young sales manager, I suggested a contest and the dealer thought it was a great idea, so he set the objective of a number of sales for the month and if we hit it, he would take the entire sales staff and their spouses to The Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar at the famed Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco about 50 miles away. The objective was stiff, but I did my best to get everyone excited about winning it. We won it and the dealer came through. He rented a bus, had cocktails on the way down, had an awesome time at the Tonga Room with dancing. The atmosphere was spectacular. This was the mid-1970s. I've forgotten many contests with money, but I remember every trip I've been on. That trip was over 30 years ago and I still remember how much fun it was. The trip was fun, hitting the objective as a fresh, young sales manager was fun. How the dealer put it together and the quality of how he did it was fun. It was a group effort and a group reward.

Contests can be very effective. They deserve a good deal of thought about the objective, how it will be achieved, who it motivates, how it will be dealt with if won and more. They can also be very memorable and a lot of fun. I wish this for all of your contests!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Pricing Strategies & Advertising Fun, Volume 3

Pricing and aging inventory. One strategy is to keep dropping the price until it goes away. This can be an effective strategy, but generally it then becomes a matter of how much of a loss you are willing to take.

Since 1982, manufacturers have been offering dealer cash incentives and customer rebates non-stop. It's the kind of thing that once you're in there, how do you get out? It's the competition game. Because of these rebates, when the model year changes, strange things sometimes happen where the new model has rebates and the old one does not, or they both have and there is no advantage for the customer to buy the old one. In these situations, I can only recommend that you move quickly and make it leave your lot prior to these kind of problems. I remember one vehicle we took a $10,000 loss to finally move it due to the new model having financing incentives and the old one having only a rebate. This made the new one much more appealing. It was our fault for not being more proactive. We let too much time get past us and felt compelled to drop the price until it went away.

I hate losing money on a vehicle, so I am going to offer some other strategies to give you some ideas of ways to stay profitable and keep your aging inventory moving. Aging inventory is a problem for every dealer; however, some are just more proactive about dealing with it. Any dealer who never has aging inventory is not taking enough risk and is losing a good deal of business. It's not the aging inventory, it's how it is dealt with that makes the difference.

When it comes to commercial upfitted trucks, one year doesn't make much difference over another. It is not a status symbol, it is a work truck, hired to do a job. If it is new, it is new. It doesn't matter what year it is. Most car dealers, are very concerned about what year it is and their general goal is to have the prior year models gone when the new ones come out, although this is not a good strategy in my mind. Having them gone within 3 or 4 months of the new model introduction would be a better strategy. The old models are an opportunity when the new models come out, but after 3-4 months, that opportunity wanes. When I was at dealerships, the new models would come out in early September generally and the goal was to have the prior year models gone by January 1st. We set March 1st as a do or die line. That strategy provided substantially greater profits because October was typically our best month with a good selection of prior models and newer ones at the same time. The old closeout sale. I would be more flexible on the do or die date with the commercial trucks, but generally the goal was the same. This worked very well over a lot of years experience.

If the theory is being challenged by some units that just don't want to find a home, there are some things to try before losing money. The really cool thing about an upfitted truck is that the body is not a permanent part of the truck. It can be changed. So, when it comes to older inventory, sometimes low price can make it move quicker. My first thought would be to trade it with one of my other dealer friends where we trade old inventory with each other. What is old on their lot, becomes new on your lot and vice-versa. This works extremely well all around. I used to do it every month by trading a couple of old units with other dealers and try something that I might not have tried before.

If I had an 11' service body or combo body on a F450 or something like that as a past year model hanging around, my second thought would be to pop the body off and put a cheap flatbed on it which will drop the price about $6-8,000. I used to have anywhere between 1 and 5 bodies on the ground at any one time; however, I kept good track of them, made sure they were installed as quickly as possible and had other tracking methods so that everyone involved knew what was being done. It is always better to swap bodies so that none are on the ground if you can do that. In this case, I might move the service body to a newer model and the flatbed from the new model onto the older model. Make sure all the paper trails are covered, stickers changed, lending institutions notified, etc. Make sure that the cost of the changes are charged to the appropriate vehicles. In this case, the cost of the transfers should go to the old unit. If it were sold, it would be charged to the sale and not the stock. Even though you need to keep records and keep track, this strategy will keep you profitable and help move the old inventory effectively.

Here's some even less expensive strategies that have paid off in the past: Take the old unit and run it through detail and get it sparkling. Chances are it is a bit dingy from being on the lot a while. Put it up front. I might even spend some more money on it and put some aluminum wheels on it or something like that to give it a different appeal. Make it look like the freshest piece on your lot. Keep it right up front so you can show it to the most people. Get your body company to help you get it in prime shape. Believe me, they want you to sell it so they can sell you another one, so they will help you or you might think about that when choosing your next body company. If they aren't supporting your marketing needs at a time like this, they are not worthy of your business in my mind. Maybe it needs some touch up painting. Maybe you need to add a rack to it. It's all merchandising. Make it saleable.

Here's some more ideas:
  1. Take it out and show prospects when you are prospecting.
  2. Put a great display together to bring attention to it. Create a theme display.
  3. Sell it to your parts department for a delivery vehicle. (I did this once or twice. . .)
  4. Send out a target flyer to the best potential buyers.
  5. Expand your marketing area on this vehicle.
  6. Combine it with another vehicle for a package deal.
  7. Try some other marketing incentives like including a dumping trailer in the deal or season tickets to the popular football or baseball team, or a gas card, or a trip somewhere.
  8. Do a deal with a radio or TV station to give away the truck by trading it for advertising and get 3-4 times value.

My main point is there are a long list of things that can be done to move aged inventory. I encourage you to try some of these and if you find better ideas, please let me know. I'm always on the hunt as I hope you are. Good hunting.