Professional Networking as a Competitive Advantage for Car Dealers
About a month ago I had the honor and privilege of speaking at the Automotive Leadership Roundtable in Miami Beach, Florida. As each of the previous ALR events have been, the venue was superb and the dealers who attended were among the nation’s most successful and each of them true leaders within our industry.
One of my favorite General Managers, Mr.Richard Bustillo of Rick Case Honda was a featured speaker at this year’s Automotive Leadership Roundtable and tells me that one of the most productive uses of his time is the contacts and networking connections he makes at this premier industry event.
Another more recently acquired friend of mine who is a dealer, Neil Amaral had accepted my nomination to attend the ALR event as one of the top independent car dealers in America. His “Amaral Auto Sales” dealership in New Jersey puts many franchised points to shame in all measurements of dealership operating criteria, including units sold, customer satisfaction and retention.. During and shortly after the ALR event, Neil opened my eyes up to an opportunity for car dealers that translates into sales and profits which I am sure too many dealers fail to take advantage of… The power or networking in the Auto Industry.
Although I am going to use an example specific to Amaral Motors, it is merely one of many examples I have witnessed or participated in over the years… Profiting from a network of professional contacts. Previous to this year’s ALR event I had several conversations with Mike Timmons and Ken Potter at TrueCar regarding a Used Car Affinity Sales Program for TrueCar dealers.While at ALR I took the opportunity to Introduce Neil Amaral to both Mike and Ken from TrueCar. Before the end of the event, they had worked out a deal for Amaral Motors to be an exclusive TrueCar Used Vehicle Center for their area of New Jersey. As Neil pointed out when he thanked me, had he not listened to my description of the ALR event and trusted me as part of his professional network, he would not have secured his deal for the TrueCar Used Car Program at Amaral Motors.
As difficult as it may seem at first glance to be able to predict such “six degrees of separation” type of connections, it is actually a lot simpler than most dealers realize. Let me explain, because of social and professional networks online, today’s automotive professional and his or her networks of business connections are more readily available and visible than ever before. Take a look at my profile onLinkedIn.com/in/RPaglia and you will see that there are over 200 auto industry professionals who have written recommendations of some sort… It does not take a clairvoyant to predict the potential for referrals and introductions.
Neil Amaral is a lot like several very successful dealers and General Managers I have known over the years, he sees the opportunity to leverage relationships for the benefit of his dealership’s marketing, sales and operational efficiencies, then focuses on developing those relationships. In many cases, the dealers who are the most effective at getting more value than other dealers spending similar amounts of money on the same auto industry suppliers are the ones who focus on their relationships with key people working or running those supplier companies and business, while creating the desire within that supplier organization to deliver above and beyond what the dealership is actually paying for.
This begs the question… Do the dealers who focus on developing relationships with key marketing resources, thought leaders and suppliers get more for their dollar than the dealers who maintain arm’s length relationships and focus on negotiating price points? Do dealers who belong to online networks and professional communities such as the Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community establish relationship networks on a more efficient basis than those dealers who do not become active members of such networks?
There are many professional managers who believe in the “Purchasing Department” approach of grinding for the lowest cost deal… But it appears that in recent years there are also a growing number of highly successful dealers who have become advanced “relationship management practitioners” from the marketing supply side perspective…
…Are you one of those dealers?