There are tools that come along that can help you be slightly more productive, and then there are those that will radically change the way you do business. When it comes to dealership sales, artificial intelligence appears to be one of those “seismic shift” tools. When fully mature, AI will change the way leads are generated, marketing is targeted, inventory is selected and how other business decisions are made.
While AI might not be something that the customers notice, it will affect your team’s day-to-day operations— and perhaps their employment at the dealership. Leaders have three options when faced with a new technology offering this kind of potential:
Ignore It and Hope It Goes Away
This strategy actually works sometimes, but more by accident than by design. Not every “latest and greatest” technology pans out. There are companies who sell “solutions looking for a problem,” and not jumping on every bandwagon that comes through town can save a lot of wasted money and time. The danger, however, is seeing your competition get a jump-start on you if they decide to go for it and the new tool works as promised. In today’s marketplace, “The Way We’ve Always Done It” isn’t a very good defense.
Go All In
Opposite of the “Ignore It” plan is to dive headlong into the pool and hope there’s water at the bottom. The advantage to this strategy is that, if the technology really is as earth-shattering as the hype, first adopters are positioned to take the best advantage of it. The risk, however, is that if it doesn’t pan out, you’ve wasted money and, worse, you’ve wasted your team’s time, energy, and trust. When the next tool comes along—one that actually would help the dealership—there will be more of a reluctance from both leadership and the employees to try to implement it.
Make a Plan
The middle option is to take a look at the new tech and do your homework. The key to making an informed decision is to:
• Research the new technology by asking for studies, reading the material, and looking at the results.
• Speak to other dealers outside of your area of competition who have made the leap—and be very wary if the tech company can’t provide some references.
• Take a dispassionate look to see if your dealership actually needs or wants it. There’s a difference between deciding “not now” and sticking your head in the sand.
With this strategy, you can also get your team into the mix early to avoid culture shock. For a new tool to be fully utilized, leaders need buy-in from those who will be using it in the course of their day. By including representatives from the department who will be using the tech, you can not only ease the team into this new future, but actually create champions who will do a lot of the work of adoption for you.
Artificial intelligence may have the ring of science fiction to it, but it’s already starting to change the way cars are sold—and some believe it will have as big an impact on the future of dealership sales as the Internet did back in the late 1990s. Many of the dealers who ignored online marketing then have been playing catch-up ever since—or have left the business. Others who rushed to use every new tool became jaded when many of these “fresh ideas” bore no fruit. Those dealers who were willing to put aside the old ways of doing things after performing their due diligence, however, found that an open mind coupled with some patience and input from their team allowed them to gain a competitive advantage in their marketplace.
The march to AI will be no different.
Dave Davis is a freelance writer and editor currently working on a book focusing on team building and leadership, due out in early 2019.