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Times of chaos provide ripe opportunities to positively change your organization.  

Whether the disruption is within your business or an external force, chaotic seasons are an opportunity to execute changes within your business. While this seems counter-intuitive, it’s because people are more receptive to trying new things when change is already forced on them. If you don’t believe me, believe Winston Churchill who famously said, 

“Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Right now, the lack of inventory in automotive presents a ripe opportunity for the change-focused auto dealer to implement positive changes to create a better buying experience and position the dealership to fend off market disruption.  

Coming so soon on the heels of COVID, there are some clear lessons in change management that leaders should remember before diving in. Key among these is: Define the desired state before landing on the solution. War-time leadership encourages rapid decision making that can focus on tactics without challenging the underlying assumptions.   

For example, when COVID first hit, automakers and dealers rushed to implement digital retailing solutions. Strategic leaders saw this as an opportunity to think through the problems leading to low customer satisfaction and considered how digital retailing could be used as a tool to upgrade their experience. But many dealerships rushed to the “AHHH COVID” solution that simply mirrored their bad customer experience online, creating a redesigned lead form. Ultimately, this infective change invites disruption into the dealership model. 

Transformative change management considers the customer experience and the relationship between seller and customer. The challenge in automotive is the dealer model is currently a lead generation and cost per transaction business. I call this “The Glengarry Sales Process”:

→ Get the lead

→ Work the lead

→ Sell to a minority 

→ Make money 

This mindset is reinforced by the OEM’s who need to push their inventory and also over-value the sale over the relationship. 

Contrast this with a successful online retailer who looks at the Lifetime Value (LTV) of every name and purchaser in their ecosystem. In an LTV relationship, one would consider where the customer is in the buying cycle and how to incrementally nudge and add value to that specific phase of the customer journey.  

In a cost per transaction model, you send an email asking, “Are you still in the market for my product?”

In a lifetime value model, you send an email with personally relevant information, based on your interests and engagement. 

Nothing I am saying is controversial. Most auto dealers see the importance of maintaining a relationship with their buyers, but at the end of the day, they are still a leads business trying to act like a lifetime value business. It does not feel authentic.  

I believe for auto dealers to fend off disruption they need to transition to an LTV model and that starts at the lead level.

  1. A leads/transaction business is built around the 10-15% of leads you sell to vs. an LTV business builds around the leads you don’t sell to.  
  2. In a leads business, the majority of resources are allocated to the transaction vs. an LTV business allocates resources to communicating to each stage of the buyer journey and accepting inputs from the customer (either direct or indirect). 

This is why I believe this moment—when dealers have more leads than inventory—is absolutely ripe for strategic change management. 


I am a strong believer in incrementality and here are the incremental steps to take:

  • Deliver more personalized communications. A large percentage of today’s shoppers are going to pause their purchase or change their search criteria. Make sure your sales follow up is set up to be delivered in the long-term and can shift to align with each buyer’s most current searches and behaviors. 
  • Improve your relevancy. Be sure your team is talking to buyers about what they are interested in (inventory) and not what you're interested in (the next step in the sales process). Arm your BDMs and salespeople with relevant information and suggested talking points related to each shopper’s inventory interests.  
  • Get a handle on your 1st party data. Making changes for the long-run always requires having the data. Start now to be sure you have what you need when you inevitably try to enrich your consumer understanding and determine the source of problems with data.

None of these things have to be hard. It takes having the right partners and right tools. It takes changing what you measure and how you incentivize. If you need help implementing changes like these in your organization, get in touch. I can hook you up with a free trial that can help you get started. 

All dealerships are making money today. The real winners will be the dealers who have nurtured today’s “sideline buyers” and clean up when the inventory challenge is removed. I hope that’s you.