We Adapt or We Die

What was the one thing your mother told you never to do when you were growing up?  For most of us it was, don’t ever get into a car with a stranger.  Today I use an app on my phone that calls a stranger to my house so I can get into his or her car to go someplace.  It’s amazing how different my life is today than it was 20 years ago.

Last week I received an email from a car dealer that I had spoken to earlier this year about leasing a car.  Now, the follow-up email actually impressed me.  However, I had to inform the Internet Manager that I had already ordered a car from his competition, because when I asked for a quote and told him what I wanted for my trade he came back to me with $1,000 lower on my trade than I told him I would accept and he maxed out the money factor.  I explained to him that I could not believe in this day and age stores still did this.  He was very nice and responded that I am in business so that was how I knew everything.  What a backhanded compliment.  I decided to explain where I actually got all of my information.  Google and Kelley Blue Book.  Guess what?  Your customers are doing the exact same thing.

Technology can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be.  Technology has allowed the consumer to get more information quicker than ever and allows them to know what they want and when they want it.  So, with all the technology surrounding us would you agree that consumers are purchasing differently than they did just 2 years ago?  If you don’t believe that they are, you really should just stop reading now.  The answer is that of course consumers are making purchases differently than they did 2 years ago.  So my next question is, why are we still treating them the same way we did 10 years ago?

Smoke and Mirrors

There is a word I hear overused almost daily.  The word is transparency.  Everybody loves to say that word.  Come in and buy from us, because we are going to give you the most transparent experience.  We don’t hide anything.  As soon as the customer walks in the smoke and mirrors start.  Why?  Typically it’s because, “that’s the way we have always done it.”  That’s a pretty bad answer, but the one I hear the most when I speak with the General Managers or Dealer Principals.

I was sitting with a General Manager in California a few months ago and as I listened to him I started getting more and more inspired.  He had taken over an under-performing Mazda dealer.  Because of his ability to adapt and because he is truly practicing transparency, his store is doing incredible.

I have had the honor and pleasure of meeting and working with some of the brightest General Managers and Dealer Principals from around the country.  I have also met and worked with some of the most ignorant and self-destructive ones.  The good news is that I learned from both.


A good friend of mine always used to say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.”  The customer will tell you what they want.  All you have to do is listen.  Most customers typically will pay more for a better experience.  So if price isn’t the only reason for the customer’s purchase, why do we continually fixate on it?  And why do we keep trying to play games?  There is nothing wrong with telling the customer that you are not a non-profit organization.  I used to say that every time a customer would want to keep haggling.  I always made sure to keep a good sense of humor about it, but also let them know that I wasn’t ashamed of making a living.

So here is the lesson from this article.  If you say you are transparent, then be transparent.  Don’t be afraid of making profit.  And remember, the customer that has come to your store probably knows more about the product, financing options, and warranty terms than you do.  Value over price wins 99% of the time.  Here’s a question to ponder, is the customer that is only focused on price really someone you want to do business with?  I can tell you what my CSI looked like every time I sold a car to the price shopper.  Always remember that people buy people, not products.

What are your thoughts?  Do you have any experiences that are the same, or do you have an experience that is completely different?

6 thoughts on “We Adapt or We Die

  1. Definitely agree with the transparency bit! Adapting is super important, but Kevin says setting the standard for others to adapt to is just as critical (i.e., taking a risk to do something different that has positive results leading others to then emulate). Well written, Chris!


  2. Great article, Chris. Think of the “Sewell Tax” here in Dallas. People don’t shop there for the “deals” Sewell offers, they willing pay more for the excellent service, professional treatment and respect they are given during and after the sales process.

    My Lexus is way out of warranty so there are cheaper service options, however I return to Sewell again and again because their customer experience is second to none. It’s worth it to me to pay for it. I get treated great and Mr. Sewell makes money; a transaction we are both happy with.


    1. Paul, I couldn’t agree more with you. When I was writing this article, Carl Sewell was one of the first people I thought of when I said people will pay more for a better experience. I’ve had the honor of visiting some of his stores and have always walked away impressed. Thanks for your comment!


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