Author Archives | Rick

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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Speak With the Loudest Voice!

Speak With the Loudest Voice!

I looked into the face of a top-performing F&I professional and said, “Your potential is furious with your performance!”

After the initial shock, he realized it was a valuable challenge. As independent agents, we meet regularly with great F&I managers who are producing at the best levels they have seen in their career. A simple request to keep improving performance sounds hollow unless it is shared in contrast to potential.

Here are two principals that can enable us to become the “screaming potential voice” to the managers with whom we work:

1. People Will Rise or Fall Based on Your Expectations.

As independent agents, we have tremendous power simply by being in a position of authority; as a result, we can use our words to influence how others view themselves. Expressing belief in your team of F&I professionals and focusing on setting high — but achievable — standards for them will have real repercussions.

Instead of praising employees’ talents or brains, praise the efforts and strategies that got them to where they are. When we track effort, we are putting importance in the very thing that creates results. Expect every F&I manager to practice their skills. Expect every F&I manager to grow their knowledge.

Results always follow intentional effort! When we communicate to an employee, we too often leave out the potential we see in them to be even more successful.

2. Every F&I Professional Must Occasionally Be Pushed Out of Their Complacency.

There’s a natural tendency for people to gravitate toward what they’re good at doing. Then they get stuck there and the “comfort zone” lulls their motivation for improvement to sleep. Good leaders push people to try things they have potential for and give them the opportunity to take a risk. They actively look for ways their employees can practice the exact thing they need to do but might be uncomfortable trying.

Why would a top-performing F&I professional aspire to even higher levels of production and customer satisfaction? Because the loud voice of potential is calling them. It drowns out over-confidence, shortens the length of time spent in the comfort zone and makes even the best better.

Be the voice of potential and watch those you have influence over reach record levels in the days ahead. Be an agent of potential!

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Adopt the Manning Mindset!

Adopt the Manning Mindset!

Archie Manning, an NFL quarterback in his own right, raised two sons who have made an even greater impact on the league. The Manning clan attributes their success more to the mindset they were taught than to the talent they were born with and developed. Recently retired, Peyton Manning often shared two principles that enabled him to set records year after year during the course of his career.

1. After You Feel You Have Reached Your Best, Get Better!

Peyton set a total of 21 records in the NFL. He underwent four neck surgeries in 2010, and retiring would have been the easiest option. However, he refused to be satisfied with great. He knew there were levels he still could reach. Peyton aimed for levels no other quarterback had reached. He set his final five records after his “career-ending” surgeries, validating his decision to keep growing and pursue higher levels of accomplishment.

As independent agents, one of the most valuable products you bring to the dealership is the ability to motivate even the best performers to continue to grow.

While the products we offer can, to some degree, differentiate between us and our competitors, dealers are looking for more. Dealers want their agents to have the ability to make even the most successful business manager better. They need someone who can develop their team and motivate them to commit to the disciplines that will ensure consistent improvement. Growing those that represent your agency must be a priority, so they can in turn grow those they touch each month.

2. Review Your Performance Relentlessly Until You Can See What Others Don’t! 

Peyton’s coaches, from college to the NFL, say they have never seen anyone more committed to watching the films of previous games. Peyton was relentless in his pursuit to see things that others had missed.

The most effective way to know how a customer may react to a presentation, product or effort to overcome an objection is to know how they have done so in the past.

With numerous options available to have transactions recorded in the dealership, it is more compelling than ever to have the F&I team review the “films” of past deliveries. F&I managers who regularly review past delivery videos can see things that others miss. Film study can accelerate their growth and can help spot a counter-productive habit.

3. Outprepare Your Competitors!

Manning was neither the most athletic quarterback nor the strongest; he certainly was not the fastest. But no one can debate he was the most prepared. As independent agents, what differentiates us from others is the most important intangible product we offer: the ability to grow the dealership’s F&I team! Those that do it well will take their dealer partners to record levels!

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

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Sales Up, Guard Down!

Sales Up, Guard Down!

The car business exists in a constant state of flux. As independent agents, we have to step back and evaluate the business during the good and the bad times. Consistently growing the skills and knowledge level of all our team members is as critical when the money is flowing as it is in an economic downturn. It is simply human nature when things are going well to spend the money, take the business we have for granted and neglect the need to always be ahead of the competition. This leads to a “sales up, guard down” mindset.

The list of companies that let their guard down is filled with those that are trying to catch up in markets they used to lead. Names like Blockbuster, Kodak and Motorola strike immediate perceptions of companies that took their success for granted. At the height of their success, no one could imagine anyone challenging their domination of the market. Yet they were all surpassed by those who consistently worked to improve. I am more convinced than ever that perseverance plays the largest part of success.

Here are two things we can learn from those companies so we do not duplicate their mistakes:

1. Bad habits are developed during good times and have a way of revealing their consequences long after they have taken root. You must constantly be looking for ways to improve your products and services and stay one step ahead of your clients. Good companies don’t succeed by playing it safe and sticking to what they know; they’re always experimenting with new angles, new services and more efficient approaches. These efforts can seem unnecessary, or at least back burners in priority, when we have plenty of business and are growing year after year. However, the consequences of the lack of focus will eventually show up when the market slows down. The time to grow the skills of your team and fine-tune your processes to maximize profits is always; good times and bad!

2. It is critical to build a resilient, flexible business that is ready to take advantage of opportunities and respond to challenges in the market in days, not months. When the CEO of Blockbuster was told in 2008 that both Netflix and Redbox posed a threat to their dominance of the market, he responded with a defiant attitude.

“Neither Redbox nor Netflix are even on the radar screen in terms of competition,” he said. “It’s more Walmart and Apple.”

Blockbuster could not change because they would not change. They felt invincible! We all have been lulled to sleep by the sound of success; however, it must never silence the call for improvement. As independent agents, we are counted on to make dealers aware of changes in the market and how to address them. We must not be so engrossed in our current success that we lose the desire to help each dealership grow and change in order to stay out front of their competition. We help them grow when we grow.

Companies often develop good habits in bad times and bad habits in good times. Times are good now. Independent agents who find a way to grow in the good times will both survive and thrive during the inevitable downturns. But for now, make 2017 a record year and adjust and grow all the way through!

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

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