Article

One Extraordinary Act Per Day

September 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Ryan Linnehan - Also by this author

Sometimes I think I need an “Avalanche Warning” sign at my office—but it’s not because I live near a steep, snow-covered mountainside. Rather, what concerns me is this huge pile of books that is ominously teetering on the corner of my desk. I call it my “Reading” Pile, but it would be more accurate to call it my “Sitting On My Desk Waiting For A Free Moment That Will Very Likely Never Come” Pile.

Every now and then, just when that pile has reached critical mass, I am able to make a small dent in it, as I did on a recent flight when I was able to finish a book that I had started quite a while ago. This particular book was given to me by my friend Roy Carlson, who is an excellent buy here pay here (BHPH) dealer from Texas.

The name of the book is “The Fred Factor” by Mark Sanborn. It tells the story of a mail carrier named Fred, whose passion and commitment to providing value to his “customers” transformed what could’ve been a routine, unremarkable job into a position of influence that impacted the lives of all those with whom he came into contact. The book is an easy read, and it would be worthwhile to obtain a copy. To tide you over until you’ve had a chance to run out and get a copy, though, let me share some of the applications I saw to the BHPH business that I personally took away from reading it.

Continually Create Value
This is one of the key points the book emphasized as fundamental to what made Fred special. There are many ways to create value, and we have talked in the past about some ideas that could be included in a “Value Package” that would be presented to our customers in an attempt to explain what makes us unique from the next BHPH dealer down the street. Some of these ideas are including a warranty with every purchase, offering a money-back guarantee or providing a CarFax report with every vehicle.

The best part about Fred was that he was able to create value without incurring any expense. Oftentimes, going the extra mile to help a customer when it has no direct benefit to us builds more value than all the warranties and guarantees in the world. If we can convey to our customers that we are absolutely committed to meeting all their transportation needs, whether or not it leads to an immediate sale, we will be well on our way to having customers for life.

I recently had such an experience from the other perspective when I had to call the dealership where I recently purchased my wife’s van and tell the dealer that it had gotten sideswiped in the parking lot. This particular dealership doesn’t have a body shop, but he went the extra mile by taking my call and empathizing about our new vehicle getting dinged up. He even recommended a couple of shops they have had success with in the area. Now, he didn’t immediately earn any more money for the dealership or himself with that phone call, but he certainly increased the perceived value I felt from dealing with him.

Let’s face it—due to the nature of our business, price is never going to be one of our best selling points. I would argue that in BHPH, it is absolutely critical to build as much value as possible into our dealings with customers in order to generate sales now, as well as continue to earn that referral and repeat business from those customers in the future. We need to do everything we can to show why we are better than the competition.

That’s Entertainment
One of the common attributes among most successful salespeople I’ve seen is that they are entertaining. They keep the customer engaged, smiling and laughing, and they make the entire buying process fun. Those who have seen the TV show “King of Cars,” about “Chopper” and his crew at Towbin Dodge in Las Vegas, have witnessed a prime illustration of this point. There is a genuine energy that customers recognize when visiting that dealership. The entertainment factor is obviously very high there, and that makes it a place people want to be.

The book is clear in pointing out that it is just human nature for people to pay better attention, be more apt to make a connection and learn faster when they are entertained. Learn some magic tricks to keep the kids (and adults) entertained. Build a repertoire of short, clean jokes. Watch for cues about what each customer finds humorous. The sooner you can get a customer laughing, the sooner you will have them buying.

Change the World
To me, this was probably the most poignant attribute that we can learn from Fred. We may not be able to change the whole world, but we can change the world of each person we make contact with each day. And, usually, it doesn’t take a major investment on our part to change that person’s world for the better—a thoughtful remark, an unexpected act of kindness, an exceptional performance. Sometimes, all it takes is eye contact and a genuine smile.

The book encourages everyone to not feel pressure to change the whole world at once, but rather to focus on starting with just one extraordinary act per day. If nothing else, you will make a difference in the life of that customer, co-worker, family member, etc. who was the direct beneficiary of your act, but more than likely, that act will snowball to have an even bigger impact. Just imagine the impact we would see in our dealerships if we all adopted a similar philosophy! It makes me think of the passage in the Bible where the early disciples were accused of “turning the world upside down” for Christ. That would be a cool reputation to have, wouldn’t it?!

So, I’d encourage you to get your hands on a copy of “The Fred Factor” and find out how we can encourage our dealership to become a team of “Freds.” I think, after learning about how a simple mail carrier can have such a deep impact on so many people, you will think differently when you hear the phrase ”going postal.” And finally, in the true spirit of “Fred-ness,” let me encourage you to choose this minute to make this month extraordinary!

Vol 5, Issue 8

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