04 Feb 6 Takeaways from NADA
The National Auto Dealer Association, or NADA, has been helping advance the mission for auto dealers for over 100 years. Their annual flagship event brings together industry leaders, auto dealers and vendors as a place where dealers can learn about the latest and greatest technology, services and trends through educational sessions and product demonstrations.
We attended this year’s event in San Francisco to walk the floor, explore what’s new in the industry and speak to as many dealers as possible, after all, we’re in the business of helping them succeed. We were excited to hit the ground running in the Moscone Center in San Francisco and make ourselves known, while learning as much as we could on the latest trends to hit the market.
The amount of vendors far exceeded the amount of dealers, therefore getting their attention was not easy. Dealers walked the show floor with their eyes averted while vendors tried to lure them in to see what they have to offer. No doubt it’s an overwhelming experience for dealers but nonetheless a show that can still provide value if they can navigate it correctly.
Here’s what we suggest for dealers to do while at the event:
- Go to the Educational Sessions
The show offers 54 workshops for nearly everyone in your dealership whether you’re an executive, work in fixed ops, human resources or even marketing. These workshops allow for valuable peer-to-peer learning experiences that can help you develop strategies for comp plans, hiring processes and dealing with the dynamics of working in a family based business.
The distinguished speaker series were a compilation of non-industry thought leaders including entrepreneurs, a F-14 fighter pilot and even a comedian! While they don’t necessarily deal with the same issues, they share an understanding of what it takes to succeed in competitive environments.
- Attend Dealer Franchise Meetings
The show also brings together executives from the various OEMs to create a forum to discuss challenges and opportunities directly with the manufacturer representative. While we don’t have access to these areas, we can’t help but think this is an invaluable experience for franchised dealers to get a better understanding of the OEMs priorities, new products coming down the pipeline and to get resources to help their dealership succeed.
- Check Out the Awards Ceremony
Since 1970 Time Magazine has hosted the “TIME Dealer of the Year Award” to recognize and honor new car dealers who have exceptional performance and have in their core fabric the pillars of community service. This year’s winner of the Time Dealer of the Year was John Alfirevich of Apple Chevrolet of Tinley Park in Illinois. The dealership was recognized for their support of local communities and their donations to 100 charities this past year. Even if you’re not a nominee, being in the presence of the dealers who exemplify the top echelon is inspiring and hopefully something that you can emulate.
- Make a Plan Before You Enter the Expo Floor
This can easily be a place of sensory overload. The exhibitors are varied and range from construction resources, marketing companies, social media providers, website developers, artificial intelligence solutions to swag vendors. The floor is filled with people trying to get the attention of the dealers, if only for a minute and collecting as many names and numbers seems to be the name of the game. The show floor can be very overwhelming and a lot to cover over a few days. We recommend that you make a list of the different types of services you may consider and make a game plan to prioritize the most important ones for your business first. You just may be surprised however to learn about new offerings along the way. If nothing else, you’ll walk away with loads of pens, bouncy balls and candy to bring home to the kids!
- Network, Network, Network!
The importance of networking can not be understated – you will be surprised at how many benefits can be gained from speaking to other dealers who share your pain points. It also is a valuable way to expand your knowledge base and learn from the success (or failures) of your fellow dealers. You can also leverage them to test out new ideas that you have and see how it resonates with like-minded individuals. Building a strong and active business network can help you flourish and the more that you expand your network the more resources you have at your fingertips to help you when you’re faced with challenges. Also, don’t discount the importance of connecting with current partners to help deepen their engagement and be open to meeting new partners that can further advance your dealership. Finally, don’t forget to connect with people after the event whether you follow up by phone, email or on LinkedIn.
- Don’t Forget About the Parties
From up and coming soul bands, to getting on a boat with Vanilla Ice and Quiet Riot, dealers were invited to parties throughout the city. Looking back, this is likely the reason we didn’t see people on the show floor until after 10am most days.
Overall, these events seem to be worthwhile but their effectiveness may be waning.
Based on our discussions with the vendors on the expo floor, there was a feeling that the expo attendance was down by 40-60% as they question the ROI of exhibiting. It was clear that at 3pm the show floor was losing the attention of the dealers and the predominance of yellow expo badges filled the halls.
Dealers we spoke with before the event didn’t necessarily feel the need to attend each year. After all, the exhibitor list is very similar this year over last year. More so, the overall sentiment that we heard from the dealers is their fear in the economy and an anticipation that sales will be flat in 2019. This is understandable – there is a lot of uncertainty in the market. It’s always interesting to us that the first cost dealerships cut when the fear sets in is marketing and training, the two most important things that need to be ramped up in a down economy. The old adage, you need to spend money to make money could not be more important in times like this.
Marketing and bringing customers in the door is critical and we have heard time and time again that the marketing works to get the phones ringing but they’re just not converting those leads into showroom visits. This is where the training is such a critical element – the difference between getting someone in the door and losing them to a competitor is knowing what to say. What’s more, what is a better use of time when your showroom is empty then to leverage your existing database of sold customers, orphan owners or those customers that you know are coming in for service. Your people should be busiest during the down times, working on getting people through the door.
While industry events have a place in the market nothing can replace a live training event that is necessary for your management. Let’s face it, how many managers have had real management training? Most likely it’s very few – instead we take our best sales people and make them our managers with little or no training. However, that’s often a recipe for disaster since each position requires vastly different skill sets.
We would encourage dealer principals, general managers, general sales managers and managers to come and join us for a 2-day event that is real management training and guaranteed to help drive more traffic into the showroom. Join us March 12-13 in Phoenix, Arizona for our two-day training event that will drive your dealership ahead of the competition.