Author Archives | Rick

The Seat Behind You!

The Seat Behind You!

Mohamed Sanu is a wide receiver for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and one of their most celebrated stars. After sitting in coach during a recent airline flight, he was handed a note as he was departing the plane. The family sitting behind him had recognized him but did not bother him for autographs or a story to share with their friends. They just watched! Here is what the handwritten note said, as posted on his Twitter page:

“Hi, you don’t know us, but we wanted to thank you. Our son sat behind you on this flight and watched you. He saw you studying your plays, watched you make healthy choices with your snacks, food and drink. He watched how polite you were to everyone. He is only 10, but just made an elite hockey team and we are on our way to training in [Connecticut]. You are an inspiration to children and for that you should be proud! Thank you and best of luck.”

You Never Know Who Is Watching!

It is always refreshing to hear such a heartwarming story about a public figure, particularly in light of the current political climate. Being in the car business, I too have witnessed some behavior from my “back seat.” I have traveled the country for over a decade, working in dealerships and working hand-in-hand with independent agents to grow the skills and income levels of their F&I departments. On many occasions, I have become privy to supposedly “secret” actions, which in reality are a regular part of how they do business.

Independent agents are called on regularly to do things that have nothing to do directly with making a profit for your agencies. I have known of many agents who have driven hours out of their way in an attempt to help a small dealership, which will never be able to provide much profit to them personally, simply because a dealer asked them to help a friend. More times than I can count, I have watched them become an HR consultant when someone needs a job or someone needs an employee. I have seen significant financial contributions made to charities that an employee is personally connected to with the caveat that the donation remain anonymous.

Succeed by Making a Difference!

I know every independent agent reading this is in business to make a profit and to enhance their financial situation. However, having worked with many of you, it is obvious that the driving force behind your long days is to make a difference! The financial benefits are the reward you receive for helping as many people as you can as often as you can. It is no mistake that those who focus on making a difference are usually the most financially successful.

I have been sitting in the “seat behind you,” watching your efforts, and it has created in me the highest respect for many that fill this role in the automotive business. This is my note to you to say “Thank you!” The note that Mohamed Sanu received that day accomplished one thing: It made him more determined to continue the behavior that was secretly observed because it is simply who he is. So continue your efforts and know that many are watching and noticing your efforts, even if you don’t see them.

I look forward to seeing you on my next post! Visit www.go-reahard.com to learn more about how we can help you help more customers. Also feel free to contact me. Exchanging ideas with agents and F&I professionals is my passion!

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The Great Equalizer!

The Great Equalizer!

In the second half of the 19th century, the new frontier west of the Mississippi was affectionately called “The Wild West.” During this time, most referred to a six-shooter as the “great equalizer.” It enabled a small man to chop a much larger one down to size.

With all of the fast-paced changes and challenges we face daily in our business, we also have a great equalizer: It’s called “desire.” Desire drives many to seek and attain what others deem impossible, unattainable or beyond reasonable expectation. Those that are driven by a strong desire to perform at levels not previously seen have brought us some of the most profitable and life-changing products and performances of our day. Let’s look at two principles of desire that can move us to create that level of performance as well.

1. Remove the Word ‘Impossible’ from Your Vocabulary!

Henry Ford, who had little formal education, was not a financial success until after he was 40 years old. Once the assembly line marvel had set the entire industry ablaze, Henry called all of his engineers together and said, “Build me a V-8 engine.” These brilliant men with degrees in physics and mathematics knew this was “impossible.” But they humored him and gave it a shot.

On three different occasions, they came back with the same conclusion: This is impossible. After multiple attempts, Ford demanded one more time, “Gentlemen, I must have a V-8 engine and you’re going to build it for me. Now go do it.” And the age of the V-8 engine was born.

If you’re not trying to do the impossible, you’re simply not trying hard enough.

Desire moves us to strive for levels of production and customer satisfaction that have yet to be attained. As independent agents, you must not only demand this of yourselves, you must be an agent of the impossible to the dealerships you serve. This enables us to turn F&I “caretakers” into F&I “risk takers,” and the results border on the impossible.

2. Obstacles are the Stepping Stones to Progress, Not Roadblocks to Success.

An insatiable desire for success will cause you to look at obstacles differently than others. Elvis was told he couldn’t sing, Michael Jordan was told he was not good enough for his high school basketball team, and Steve Jobs was told the iPhone was impossible. The fact that each of these renowned individuals faced obstacles is not the issue. It’s how they viewed the obstacles. They saw them as a distortion of the truth and a stepping stone to get to their destination. And they did get there!

We have all heard the many reasons for failure and, at times, said them ourselves. I know I have! It’s the economy, the weather or others around me holding me back. And the trump card of them all: My customers are different!

All of these may truly be factors that challenge the ability to succeed. However, those that have the “great equalizer” see them as intruders on their journey and fight through them. This enables those who may have less education, talent, charisma and opportunity to far outproduce those with more natural skills and seemingly endless opportunities. Don’t always bet on the most talented to win. Bet on the one with the most desire. It plays out every day in F&I offices around the country. I have seen it many times and it is fun to watch!

I look forward to seeing you on my next post! Visit www.go-reahard.com to learn more about how we can help you help more customers. Also feel free to contact me. Exchanging ideas with agents and F&I professionals is my passion!

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What the Grateful Dead Taught Me About Customer Service

What the Grateful Dead Taught Me About Customer Service

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the Grateful Dead No. 57 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” The Grateful Dead were considered the greatest touring band in history. They performed more than 2,300 concerts. In their early career, the band also dedicated their time and talents to their community, the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, making available free food, lodging, music, and health care to all. It has been said the band performed “more free concerts than any band in the history of music.”

While the multitudes followed them mainly for their music, two other characteristics endeared their fans to them. Duplicating their principles will enable us to create relationships that will be just as enduring.

1. They Focused on Giving Their Customers What They Needed and Wanted.

All the technology being developed today to enhance the F&I process in dealerships will only be effective if it enables us to give customers more of what they want. Surveys galore tell us they want a process that respects their time and provides valuable information in an interactive format, uniquely tailored to their needs.

As general agents, we must provide great products as well as a great process to our dealer partners. Customers want an F&I manager who listens more than they have to, smiles more than they have to and cares more about their needs than they have to. They usually reward us by listening to us more than they planned to, buying more than they planned to and most importantly leaving the dealership happier and more “grateful” that they ever planned to. That will create some fans that will never buy anywhere else!

When an agent’s time spent working in a dealership or an F&I Managers time spent with a customer produces memorable moments, it is no coincidence that they usually turn into profitable efforts.

2. They Never Played the Same Concert Twice.

The Grateful Dead only knew the first song they were going to play before going onstage, and then let the energy of the audience and the flow of the show take it from there. Every dealer (the agent’s customer) and every car buyer (the F&I manager’s customer) has unique needs and situations. Our time spent with them allows us the opportunity to learn about them.

That requires the conversation be about them, not us. Discovering each person’s needs is a means to an end. The result is we must be able to recommend and customize a solution to the potential problems we discovered through our conversation.

Every time you offer a customized solution to a customer, it demonstrates you care about them. Fans of the Grateful Dead knew every time they were with the band it was going to be a great experience. What would make customers look forward to the interaction in a dealership instead of dreading parts of the negotiation? Simply, we must change the customer experience. Do our actions say we do the same thing with every one of our customers or do they communicate a desire to match what we do and offer based on what we have learned about them? Words such as “You told me earlier” or “Based on what we have learned together” make customers aware it is all about them. Almost makes you feel like you are at a Grateful Dead concert getting what you want — not what the band (F&I manager) wants!

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Stealing … From Yourself!

Stealing … From Yourself!

Emmanuel Ninger was arrested for counterfeiting in 1887 after he handed a clerk, whose hands were wet, a $20 bill and the ink started smearing. A search of his attic found that he was hand-painting each bill! They also found three paintings he had created which, after his arrest, were sold at auction for a total of $16,000.

Amazingly, it took Ninger almost the same amount of time to create a fake $20 bill as a $5,000 portrait. He was a thief, but the person he stole most from was himself. Let’s look at two thieves we need to uncover and banish from our selling efforts.

1. The Talent Thief

I believe the most prevalent thief today steals our perception of the level of abilities we are capable of developing and the natural gifts we were born with, enabling us to reach our full potential.

I rarely see a top performer who is operating solely on natural talent. Top performers regularly practice their skills with coworkers; embrace any learning opportunity and research what has made others successful. Their mantra is every time I learn something new it reminds me I still have more to learn.

I have discovered many professionals who have let a thief into their “professional house.” They play small, hide behind excuses and act like a victim of their circumstances. This leads to judgments that only make things worse. Thoughts like, “Why should I spend time working on my skills? In this economy and with the way deals are worked here, it’s not going to make any difference.”

The end result is a professional that has stopped working on their skills and no longer are growing but stagnant. There’s a thief in the house!

2. The Impostor

Selling a product by building value and showing how it will solve a problem or prevent a future one is the real thing. Using pressure, incorrect or exaggerated information or anything close to a noncompliant process is counterfeit.

Counterfeit selling is evidence of a much deeper problem. That individual believes taking shortcuts to get the sale is the best place to invest their focus and energy. This person will exert more energy to reach a desired result in a less acceptable way than it would take to develop a more acceptable manner that would get even better results. We have ample examples in the automotive world. Volkswagen’s diesel emissions issue led to dealerships on either coast cited for unacceptable selling practices. They not only stole from customers, they stole from themselves.

Wherever you place your focus is where all of your energy and creativity goes. Individuals that succumb to the idea of selling in any other way than a customer-focused value building process have let another thief in. It takes determination and commitment to consistently develop a process that builds value and creates a win-win for everyone involved.

The rewards are customers more satisfied with the process and more likely to return to buy again in the future. Selling any other way will lead to customers that feel they were mistreated or, even worse, a personal exposure of counterfeit efforts. Do the right thing, the right way and the results and rewards will come.

General agents are on the front lines of selling. Providing training opportunities to create value building sales efforts in the dealerships we work in is a critical part of our offering. Challenging individuals to consistently grow their skills using a customer focused process will help eliminate counterfeit selling. Your efforts on the front line are helping us shape our industry to be more compliant and more appreciated by our customers. Thank you and sell on!

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Duck Dynasty Determination!

Duck Dynasty Determination!

Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame was raised in abject poverty. His boyhood home had no electricity, toilet or bathtub. Food was anything they grew in their garden and whatever meat they could hunt. Nevertheless, he said they were always “happy, happy, happy.”

Despite his limited beginnings, Phil went on to acquire a master’s degree in education owing to his football playing skills. At Louisiana Tech, he played first-string quarterback for the Bulldogs, ahead of Pro Football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw. Most thought Robertson was a natural for the NFL. However, his love of hunting overshadowed his love of football, and he went on to get a patent on his design of a better duck caller. The rest, as they say, is history.

Terry Bradshaw and Phil Robertson are very different personalities with two principles in common:

  1. The Secret of Success Is Doing What You Love!

As an independent agent, you spend many hours driving from one dealership to the next. On any given day, you may be called on to craft reinsurance strategies, develop training plans for F&I, vet products, and provide the motivation to make everyone successful. Not all of these tasks are always our favorites, but they allow us to do the thing we love the most.

Help dealers and their people reach new levels of success and profits. It’s like the duck call to Phil or the call of the crowd to Terry. They have spent their careers doing the thing they love the most, and that’s why they are both champions in their field.

Phil once cleverly said “Terry went for the bucks, and I chased after the ducks.” They both pursued what they loved. Just remember that, even during those long days, the reward of having made a tangible difference with your dealer is worth the effort. And that’s what you love to do!

  1. Developing the Team Around You Is as Important as Developing Your Own Abilities.

At last count, there were 23 Robertson family members working to manufacture, sell and deliver their products. The one foundational principal Phil Robertson developed in his family was the work ethic he learned as a child. “Duck Dynasty” episodes are filled with family members bucking the system while Phil reinforces the demand for a strong work ethic, often times in hilarious ways. The success in his company can be traced to his consistent effort to develop his family’s abilities to shadow his vision on how to provide the best duck call ever invented.

And what would Terry Bradshaw be without world-class players around him like Lynn Swann, Franco Harris and “Mean” Joe Greene. Bradshaw was not responsible for their world-class talent. However, he was responsible for molding them together as a team, and he did. The result? Four Super Bowl wins.

Duck Dynasty determination is doing what you love and developing those around you. It creates great duck calls, quarterbacks and independent agency teams! I love this business and I know you do as well. That’s why we do what we do. So keep up the great work and we all will be happy, happy, happy!

I look forward to seeing you on my next post! Please feel free to contact me. Exchanging ideas with F&I professionals is what I love!

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Master the Art of Communication!

Master the Art of Communication!

I just finished a very frustrating phone conversation with the company that provides my phone and internet service. The word “communication” is in their company name, and the reason I am frustrated is the person I was dealing with had no idea how to communicate effectively. The conversation made me feel as if my business was not appreciated and my perspective was not important — only the perspective of the person on the other end of the line.

After patting myself on the back for being a great communicator, I realized that, at times, I need to be reminded of the art of communication and how I am making my customer feel on the other end of the conversation. While I would like to think I get it right every time, I realize I must constantly remind myself and those I work with of three basic principles of communication:

  1. The Most Important Part of Communication Is Listening.

Good listeners gain insight while others just gain information. Insight, information beyond the obvious, is what enables us to truly help customers make good decisions. Many times, I find myself listening while the other person is talking, but in reality, I am thinking about what I am going to say next. I am not truly hearing what they are saying. Most importantly, I miss what lays beneath the surface, and that is often the key to helping the person.

Every customer has a sign around their neck that says “Listen to me.” When we seek to understand their point of view, their situation and needs, then they know they have been heard. When you show respect by listening to the customer, they’re more likely to reciprocate. They’re also more likely to continue to share their thoughts, which increases the likelihood of success.

  1. Never Interrupt!

My frustration with my “communication” company was the other person constantly interrupted me when I was talking. That immediately made me feel as though what I had to say was unimportant.

We provide solutions all day and our mind is full of information that can help our customers. So it is only natural to be anxious to share that information. I find myself at times interrupting with a solution to what I think the problem is. Only to find out a little later in the conversation that I had jumped the gun and now my credibility is gone. Interrupting not only discourages the other person from sharing any further, we lose credibility and the opportunity to truly help.

  1. If You Can Repeat It, You Win!

Nothing shows a higher level of genuine interest in what the other person is saying than your ability to repeat to them a point they made or an objection they raised. It’s not of primary importance that they understand you. It is essential that they know you have understood them.

People love to hear their ideas, thoughts and input. And the person who listens intently — even to the point of taking notes as they listen — will always win. Whether we are attempting to get a member of our team to embrace an idea or sell a product to a customer, the one who shows genuine interest in others wins. If they know you are interested in what they have to say, they will be interested in what you have to say.

I needed those reminders and I trust they helped you as well. Great communicators create great success. After giving it some thought, I called my “communication” company and shared with them that, while I had a bad experience, it served as a reminder I need to always be focused on the art of communication myself!

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