Millennials have been getting a bad wrap since the day we started calling them millennials. They have been labeled lazy, entitled, self obsessed and so involved with social media that they hardly look up from their smartphones to see what’s going on in the real world around them. Now I know plenty of millennials that fit that description (and to be honest I know a lot of people like that who aren’t millennials) but they are also an extremely innovative and industrious workforce and whether you like it or not, they are changing just about every industry out there – even the automotive world.
They are finding new and highly profitable ways to use social media, their demand for transparency is creating a more “open door” culture, they are using their tech savvy to push for new and better in-car technology and because they have been raised in an age of convenience like we’ve never seen before they are making the car buying experience easier and more direct. I’m sure I’m beginning to sound like a broken record at this point but if you are not open to these new changes and rethinking the way you sell cars then you will find it extremely difficult to stay relevant in the coming years as car sales start to dip.
One of the most interesting ways and I think the most impactful ways that millennials are changing things across all industries is the introduction of online shopping and direct delivery. You can now have groceries, prescriptions, dinner and almost anything else you can imagine delivered directly to your doorstep. A recent article on Auto News talks about this very trend in the automotive industry. Every year they release a top 100 list of the highest selling used car retailers across the country and this year a new name made the list – Carvana. Not only did Carvana get on the list but they were ranked #8! They sold 94,108 used vehicles in 2018 – more than double their 2017 sales. And the company’s CEO, Ernie Garcia, is predicting sales in the 2 million-unit range.
So what is this brand new company doing to bolster their sales miles ahead of veteran dealerships? It is all online. And in some markets, they even offer next day delivery. You can search for a car on their website, apply for financing, trade in or sell your old car and they even offer a 7-day “test own” when you’re car is delivered to make sure it’s the right fit for you. Their slogan is “Because car buying shouldn’t suck. That’s why our process is 100% online. We give you the power to control how you by a car. Not the dealership.” Wow. Is that really how this smart, tech savvy generation thinks about car dealerships? And if so, what can we do to change that? In a world where brick and mortar shops are being replaced by online retailers, we have to focus on customer service and giving our clients a reason to come in to our sales rooms and service drives.
To help understand how millennials think and how we can adjust as an industry to stay relevant and profitable, I had Glenn Lundy on Service Drive Revolution. He has been incredibly successful in the auto industry and is known as the “millennial whisperer.” After a series of very unfortunate events (tune in to hear his whole story, trust me its good) he found himself selling cars in Paris, Kentucky. But while he was working there he really began to hate the culture and fought to create an environment that was great for the employee as well as the customer. By implementing his new philosophy, he took their sales from 120 cars a month to almost 1000 in a town with a population of only 9600. He became the face of the dealership because he knew how to capitalize on social media and branding online. He also understood that the current culture demands transparency and by letting the customer in “behind the scenes” at the dealership he was able to build trust. He started hiring millenials and would mine the local bars and restaurants for people he saw potential in. He figured out how to work with the younger generation (and he’s not that old himself) and says it was best move he ever made for the company.
Glenn is not only a deep well of car sales know how but he has amazing street smarts and knows how to connect with people which is crucial. During our conversation, he said something that I have never heard before that hit me hard. When I asked him what we should be doing as an industry to stay ahead of the curve, he said we need to stop following the golden rule. What? As a missionary kid who grew up on an orphanage in Mexico, this was a hard one to wrap my mind around. This was the ONE RULE everyone is supposed to follow, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s what makes the world a happy place…what happens when we throw it out the window?
Well Glenn doesn’t just throw it out the window, he reinvents it. He says that in order to win customers and keep them coming back you have to “treat others the way that THEY WANT to be treated.” We no longer live in a world where everyone wants to be treated the same way. How I want to be treated is very different than the way a single mom would want to be treated or a 16 year old buying their first car. And in a world where social media has become a part of our daily life, being recognized and appreciated for what makes you different is more important than ever. In addition to treating your customers well by catering to their individual needs, you have to make the car buying experience easy and convenient. Millennials demand transparency and the old strategies of talking to your advisor behind closed doors to get them a better deal doesn’t work. Whether or not you run the most honest dealership around, customers now come in thinking you’re going to try and pull the wool over their eyes and hit them with a deal that’s only good for you and the bank. And with Google at their finger tips, your customer can search for a better deal while they wait on the salesroom floor so you have to be upfront and honest. Make your customer feel like they are a part of the process, that they have power in the decision.
What I learned from Glenn is if you want to keep up with how millennials are changing our industry then you have to start thinking the way that they do. You have to think outside of the box and push your team to connect with customers on a deeper level. Hire millennials and give them the platform to influence what happens on your sales floor. We really in our industry are stuck on skills and things have moved to ideas. And so we're stuck on the skill of sales, the skill of putting a car deal together, the skill of the mechanic fixing the car, and the younger kids are fascinated by ideas. And so you have to think about that, you have to figure out a way to start telling stories instead of selling cars and if you hire millennials, they can help you do that.
And with the doom and gloom predictions of massive drops in car sales expected in the next few years, it is more important than ever to build trust and relationships with your customers because even if they aren’t buying cars, they are still driving cars and they will need to be serviced. Train your service team to make every single customer feel special, to be honest and transparent with your customer and to make him or her feel like they are a part of the process.
I want to leave you with one last nugget of advice from Glenn. As someone who works closely with millennials, he’s seen the negative effects that social media and online convenience can have on all of us and in response to what he’s seen, he has come up with a great 5 step morning routine to help anyone get started on the right foot. As a morning person myself, I totally resonated with what he said and wanted to share it with you here. From Glenn Lundy’s “Change Your Life With These 5 Morning Routines.”
- Don’t press the snooze button – just get up and get after it
- Stay away from your phone – no matter how busy you are, you can give yourself one hour in the morning before stressing out about an email that came in over night
- Write a gratitude list and your goals
- Attack the physical and get active – whatever gets you going go do it, walk around the block, go for a run, stretch, just move!
- Send someone an encouraging message – in a world where we hardly stop to sit down and eat lunch it can be easy to forget about how important it is to connect with our friends and family so send someone a nice text or email – call your mom!