Learning from Rock Stars

November 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jim Jackson - Also by this author

What a great summer of learning. I just got back from New York where I attended the National Speakers Association Annual Convention. Each year, this is my time to hang out with and learn from the best of the best in my profession. This year, I got to hang out with Kevin Cronin, the lead singer of REO Speedwagon, and Robin Creasman of Rock Star Speakers. This year’s theme was How to Stand Out Like a Rock Star.

You may ask: what does standing out like a rock star have to do with the car business? Well, I thought the same thing, as I was preparing to attend the conference. Boy, I learned quite a few things from these real-life rock stars. First, let me set the stage for what was an eye-opening experience for me, and then I’ll follow up with the points that could make you into rock stars too.

Prior to the conference, I had been asked to speak at the conference before a panel representing four of the most well-known professional speaking bureaus. I arrived at the auditorium for my presentation—it was set up just like the American Idol stage including a panel of four people. Any one of these panelists could launch big opportunities around the world for me as a keynote speaker. There were 11 other speakers and an audience of 500. Each speaker had one minute to describe him- or herself and explain why the panel should book that speaker. You knew you were successful if they asked you to send them additional information, and they were permitted to give you feedback as to why they did or did not want your information.

The first speaker presented and he was good – the entire panel asked for his information. By the way, I was number four to present. The panel was not so kind with the next two presenters, mainly because when asked they could not define their target audience and market. Then, it was my turn. I knew what I was going to say and I was prepared for their questions. I’ll admit I was a little nervous; after all, no one wants to get rejected in front of their peers. But, I was prepared and I knew who my target audience was and the benefits for them. After my presentation, I was asked by three out of the four to send information. The fourth said he liked what I had to say, but his clients were not a good fit for my keynote.

My first instinct was to try to overcome his objection. However, what I learned from watching the other presenters and from the rock stars was how imperative it is to know who your audience is. Every one of the presenters was asked this same target audience question. The speakers who responded “everyone” were not asked to send their information – they were too general. One of the panelists put it this way: “I have 16,000 speakers on my Rolodex; what makes you any different?”

Even if the speaker argued that it applies to everyone, that speaker still lacked a unique brand or a particular market that would separate him or her from the rest of the pack. My brand as a keynote speaker is, “The Harley Attitude Guy… It’s all about sales.” I speak on “The Awesome Power of the Harley Attitude,” which makes me stand out as being unique and different. To me, this is a lot like your business. You are not in the business of just selling cars, nor can you be everything to everyone. The successful dealers know their market and how to successfully promote to that niche. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t play an ACDC or Rolling Stones CD for a quiet, romantic dinner for two, just as you wouldn’t play Nora Jones music at a bikers’ bar. It is the same for you. Do you know who your customers are and how to reach them? Or do you take a shotgun approach to advertising and hope something works?

I work with several successful new car dealers, subprime dealers and buy here pay here dealers. These dealers know their markets, and when and how to say no to advertising and marketing that may be too high or low a level for their target audience. They even pick locations for their businesses that make the target customer feel comfortable, not for the comfort or convenience of the dealer.

So, what I learned from my time in New York and from these rock stars were three keys that you can apply to your business.

1. Know your audience. Play to and cater to those customers who are going to buy from you because they feel you meet their needs. Make your business location and surroundings comfortable for them.

2. What is your brand? How do you differentiate your business from all the other dealers in town? If price is all you have, you will get some business, but you will also lose some to competitive pricing. But if your brand is unique, you will stand out like a rock star and not be a one-hit wonder.

3. Train for success, and then practice. All the great speakers and rock stars who spoke at this conference said they practice and practice. Cronin from REO Speedwagon said the band sometimes practices six months to a year before they go on tour. You must practice being the best at what you do, so when it is showtime, you stand out like a rock star. Training is the key, and not just any training—seek out the best to develop your team.

Have confidence in who you are and why you are an asset to your business and your team. Confidence attracts successful people, which in turn will grow your business. If you doubt yourself, your team or the market, chances are you will become the best doubter in your market. You must believe in yourself, your people, the product and the brand. Belief is the best marketing tool I have ever seen that can grow a business. People love to work with people who believe they are the best.

Last, all this makes no difference if you do not go out and perform. You can start or reinforce your success by taking these keys and turning them into action. If you are waiting for someone else to try it first, I promise you someone else will, and you might find yourself sitting on the sidelines. Go be the best right now. Become the trendsetter. The phrase I like hearing is: “You’re so successful. What makes you different?” Confidence, belief and performance.

Vol 5, Issue 10

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