The Dealer Playbook
The Dealer Playbook

Episode 479 · 5 months ago

Durran Cage: Your Dealership's Future Success Depends On It


Durran Cage has spent over 19 years in the retail automotive industry serving in various capacities, including OEM District Sales Manager, High-Performance Internet Director and GSM, and Digital Retail Consultant. Today he's focused on helping dealers improve their online customer experience through his company Cage Automotive, which is deep ly rooted in dealers fostering healthy employee experiences first. 

What we discuss in this episode:

  • Durran shares that there were signs leading up to both the crash of 08/09, and if we look, there were signs leading up to the pandemic and its economic impact in 2019 - 2022. 
  • When times are good, dealerships (all businesses for that matter) get complacent and are ok losing a few dollars here and there, but when things get tight, we are caused to pay closer attention. 
  • Car Dealers are getting really creative during these uncommon times. They are becoming more intentional about where they spend their money and monitoring the results. 
  • The pandemic has highlighted the importance of anticipating and providing an intentional customer experience for car shoppers.
  • Durran explains that It's not just the consumer experience, but it's also the employee experience. Consumer's can feel an unhealthy employee atmosphere. 
  • It can be frustrating as a dealership employee if you're not fired up and ready to provide a high-level customer experience. Right now it's really important to make sure employees are having a good experience. 
  • For an industry that talks so much about "conversions," we tend not to focus very much on converting our people. If our people have not converted to the organization and its leaders, how can we ever expect that they would ever want to convert an internet lead into an appointment?
  • Moving into 2022 and beyond, it will be incredibly difficult to compete if your employees are not bought-in, fired up, and motivated to succeed. An income is not enough to keep people wanting to show up and give their best. 
  • As long as people are on this planet, they will always be the most important piece of the puzzle to achieving success. People matter!
  • Should Michael and Durran write a book?!? 
  • So how can you find great people? Durran shares the best way is through your existing people. Imagine how poweful it would be if your existing people are excited to refer others into the organization!
  • Having a thorough employee onboarding is critical to fostering a healthy employee environment; one in which the organization as a whole and the individuals whithin can thrive. 
  • The first 2-3 weeks of an employee onboarding is vital! If they enjoy it and are jacked up, they will want to talk about it with others and attract others to the business.
  • Listen to the full episode for even more insights!    

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Thanks, Durran Cage!

If you enjoyed this conversation with Durran Cage, please let him know by clicking on the links below and sending him a message.

...the car business is rapidly changing and modern car dealers are meeting the demand. I'm Michael Cirillo and together we're going to explore what it takes to create a thriving dealership and life in the retail automotive industry join me each week for inspiring conversations with subject matter experts that are designed to help you grow. This is the dealer playbook, Yeah. Mm hmm. Mhm. Mhm. Aside from having one of the coolest sounding names I've heard in a while, Duran Cage is a 19 year veteran of the car business, he is the founder of Cage automotive where he and his team impact the employee and customer experience on all levels. Duran, welcome to the dealer playbook podcast. Mm hmm. Thank you so much for having me here, Michael and I will be taking you on tour to do my intros moving forward. That was awesome. Shucks. Now you're making me blush. I'm really intrigued about this, right? Anybody that's been in the industry at that kind of 20 year interval intrigued me because now not only have you experienced this global crisis, this pandemic and all of its intricacies and nuances, but that means you've also experienced the economic crisis of oh eight and oh nine and how that was very transformative for the industry. So I wanna, I wanna maybe kick off with this question Over the last 19 years. I mean, you've worked on the, on the sales floor, but you've also worked at the O E. M level as a district sales manager and I'm I'm wondering, Did you see signs leading up to 08 and the impact that 0809 would have on the industry and similarly as you look back maybe in in hindsight or retrospect, did you see signs between that period of time and today that have led us to where we are now? 100%. That you could see when 0009 came that there was gonna be a shift in the digital and really, 0708 was when I was preaching a lot about the digital presence because that's when google was really starting to take off and people were talking about search engine marketing and really talking about traditional B D. C. S online departments. And so I would go into dealerships when I was working with Fc A at the time, I think it was just Chrysler. But when I would go in to talk to dealerships, I wasn't really talking about the O E. M stuff as much as I was talking about their digital footprint. You know, what does it look like? What is your presence? Um, your website, you know, like websites back then, believe it or not in oh eight, remember dealerships have websites that really looked like a filter. So if you remember, it was like, you go to their website and it would just be new or used, you know, it was like, really, it was funny, it was really simple, but it was super bland. And so I would just consult with them on that. And then when yes, when 0809 happened. And I joined the story that I went back into retail with, you know, eight. It was scary because it wasn't just so much that it was about digital. It's just like the whole market was down. But it taught everybody to then start working. Really, really smart. And I think that's what's happening right now with Covid is just being really, really smart. And when I say by that is where you're spending your money. How do you monitor the results? Is it actually working? Do we have the right people in place? Because when times are good, it seems that a lot of us we get, you know, we get complacent. We need to get lazy and we're okay with losing a few dollars here or there because we're not paying attention. But then once things get tight as we're seeing, even right now now, everybody's got their eyes got to tease cross and making sure that everything that they're doing makes sense. So, it's it's very interesting. And I love that question because yeah, it's it's almost like it's it's cycled back around to where dealers are getting really, really creative. You know, it's one of the things that I...

...think is important right now, they're getting creative and they're being smart and being intentional about where they're investing their their money and then making sure that they inspect the results from it. Mm hmm. Yeah. I love that. It brings kind of into focus. One of the things that you're focused on is is the customer experience. And I know we have a lot of conversations on the show about customer experience. However, it is more important now perhaps than ever you had mentioned, um as you were speaking, you had mentioned about the importance of kind of inspecting and seeing where the holes are essentially. And now more than ever where our industry is back on this, this cycle, so to speak, where there's consolidations, there's dealerships perhaps closing operations. There's a whole slew of things that really brings into the spotlight how important it is to focus and meet your customers predicated upon the demands that they have and what kind of experience that they're looking for. And I'll add one to it. It's it's one thing that I've been leaning in a lot lately is that it's it's not just the consumer experience. It also is that employee experience as well. Because I feel like the consumers feel a lot of that, you know? So in times of right now, what's going on when you're seeing, you know, literally just before I called you, I was talking to one of the the internet department managers and they were talking about lead conversion and you know, the O E M's are putting a lot of pressure, you know, to make sure that everything is tight, you know, with you better convert those leads, convert those leads. And I was like, how many new cars do you have on the ground right now? Nine. So we're talking about lead conversion where they're purchasing a bunch of, you know, and so I talk about that because it can be frustrating right now as an employee to make sure that your employees are, that they're fired up and ready to deliver, ready to deliver on that customer experience that we want to give you a lot of times we focus a lot so much on this customer experience and how important that is. But I would say right now it's really important to make sure that your employees are having a good experience, like hearing them out because it's got to be frustrating for some people when you're coming into a lot sometimes and you see it half empty to keep motivated and being inspired to, to know that that first phone call that you talk with a customer that they might not have exactly. But being fired up as an employee, you find solutions for your customers, which leads to a really good experience. But if that employee is either frustrated or they're just sick and tired of of what's going on right now, the customers sometimes it can be hard to turn on that I'm not that happy with what's going on and then as soon as I get on the phone, I'm giving Michael my best. So I try to make sure that when, when talking to to dealerships that they make sure that they give just as much focus on that employee experience side as they give to their their customers on the customer experience side, if that makes sense. Yeah. And you know what comes to my mind, as you said the word a couple of times a conversion, I don't know why this has never dawned on me, but what you're saying resonates with me on a deep level for an industry, for an industry that talks so much about conversion, by the way conversion, i. E. The process of transforming something that doesn't exist into something that exists, a non existent business opportunity into a business opportunity for an industry that speaks so much about the process of conversion, what you're saying resonates with me because it underscores the importance of converting our people. If our people have not had a conversion to us as an organization, leadership buy in, etcetera, then how can we ever ever ever expect that they would care enough... convert a lead or a prospect into a business opportunity. Yeah, you went deep, that was that was deep. Well I was just thinking about it because look man, you know, there's there have been times for example, we just celebrated the the eight year anniversary of one of our team members and I can think about periods throughout his journey where um you know where there was a lot of patients required on my part as the leader, but then I can only anticipate that there was probably a lot of patients required on his part. Yet there was something along the way that remained consistent where he's like, I'm a lifer and I haven't just heard that from one or two of my team members. I've heard that pretty much from the lot of them that they've experienced something working in my company that they haven't experienced working elsewhere and I don't bring that up to Toot my horn outside of what you're saying resonates with me because it it hasn't really dawned on me to the level of at which you've kind of triggered these thoughts in me, in that these people are converted. There is a transformation that has happened and I can only imagine as you're encouraging dealers, what would happen, what would they experience, um, what kind of culture would they have and then what kind of experience would they be able to then convey to their community if they were more focused on people conversion over lead conversion? Well, I mean you're, I mean you're, you're spot on think about it this, you mean you could, you could talk, I mean we can even think of our own friends, right and family members, we know that they work for a company where they either have been converted or they're just an employee. You know what I mean? Because when you can, when you're converted, you know, as an employee, you naturally are talking about what you do with a big grin on your face or whatever your personality is, whether you're at a basketball game, your church, no matter where you're at, it just naturally just comes to you. But if you're an employee, if you're just somebody that's just you're showing up because of one reason and that's to make sure that you get an income, then your your your talk at the dinner table with your family goes something like how was work, dad? Oh, it was good. You know, I put in the work and you know, I'm here, that's how we get food on the table versus converters. Like you would not believe what happened. I was able to help a family and their Children not just get a vehicle, but get two vehicles today, one for their daughter, one for their mother and they left extremely happy. I mean it was it was great the experience that they like, you know what I mean? You're, you're really your almost telling stories because you're so enthused at that time and that's that's what it's all about man. Like the dealers, the people that I consult with, the ones that are winning right now, you can just see it through their people and the ones that struggle, you can see it through their people. You know, it's it's exact same thing. So, but I love because this, this employee conversion, that's a book, I'm not gonna write it, but that's that's deep. I love that because you're right. The industry has been so focused right on conversions, closing percentages and everything like that. But when it comes to our employee conversion and what our, you know, our overall uh conversion rate whiz with our own employees, like how many are truly ambassadors of our company? Um, that that's a whole another topic and discussion that could be happened amongst many organizations to really have a good look in the mirror for themselves. You know, I think, I think we just need to throw it out there. My beloved DP began you heard it here first If you want Duran Cage and Michael Cirillo to co author a book on employee conversion because make no mistake about it. Yeah, you could be...

...worried about all the tech incumbents and we're going to talk about that in a minute that are coming to take over the industry. But there's a reason why the DPB started as a predominantly marketing and sales podcast and quickly over the, you know, I would say over the course of time, rapidly found its place is talking about what some might call psychobabble in the, in the form of culture, leadership people. And it's because as long as people still exist on this planet, they will and will always be the most important piece of the puzzle. Um so let me know, Michael at the dealer playbook dot com. We'll put a link in the show notes over at the dealer playbook dot com forward slash Duran cage. But let me know maybe we should do that. I don't know man. I think you heard it here first. We, we got to do that because there's not been, there's not been much out there because again, most of it, you know, the things that are out there book wise digital is about how can we convert more people? You know, and that's why when I work with people with work with clients, they're like, oh you're a trainer. Huh? I was like, please don't use that word. Like please don't like if if I'm working with you and at the end of the day you view me as a trainer, I failed you. You know what I mean? Like it it needs to be, I'm somebody that comes into your business and just and just influences and encourages and impacts people within that organization because like you just said, Michael, like if it's the same thing for what you do and for what I do, it does not work without the internal people in the infrastructure. And I say that all the time in my first couple of sentences when I'm talking to somebody like, hey, if this thing works, please understand that it's going to be because of you, the leaders within this company doing all the right things when I'm not talking to you guys be a zoom or I'm in place face to face and the same thing with, with marketing? It doesn't matter what agency you are. Nobody can really take full credit because it's the people at the end of the day and you said it cultured leadership and people, if those three things are tight, everything else that's done on the outside is just things that just keep that fire getting hotter and hotter, if that makes sense. So, um, but I love it. I mean you're so spot on. No, well you're spot on because you triggered the thought and I'm really hoping that that same thought is triggered throughout the listenership. It leads me to this question. I would love to get your take on this. I know a lot of dealers. I mean we're facing a lot of interesting challenges. I dare not use the word unprecedented again because I'm so sick of hearing it. But let's just look up the synonyms and we will replace unprecedented with something else. But we're facing a lot of interesting challenges. There's employee shortages, there's chip shortages, there's tech, incoming companies cut your big, big tech players coming into our space and there's uh, consolidation, right? We just saw that Asbury automotive group, but Larry H Miller for 3.2 ba ba ba billion, right? And there's a lot of worries happening at the same time. But from your perspective, even though let's talk about the employee challenge right now. I mean what's your, what's what advice do you have for helping dealers both find and retain employees who are converted through your people would be my simple answer to that is through your people, I think you, you get your best people through your own people and that can be done a few different ways. That could be, you know, having a meeting like, hey guys, we would love to get more people on our team that are similar. They don't need to be exactly like you obviously because we want to keep it as diverse and have different personalities as possible. But who can you guys think of that would believe in our mission? You know, because you have to have a good mission, right? So whatever that that company's mission...

...statement, whatever that is, then the people that are there, if they're bought in, it's more like we want more people to help us on this mission to help as many people as we can serve as many people as we can get engaged and get involved in the community. And in other ways it could be through, you know, if they are shy or they're not big into, you know, going out there to do that. You can do it through employee testimonials because I think we, we live in a really review driven world, right, where a lot of people before we even buy anything on amazon or something, we're looking at what's this rating? What's the review? So when people hear other people talking about what it's like to work for your organization and it's, it's authentic and it's true, it's not something that's scripted I'm talking about. This is something turn the lights on, turn the camera on. Why do you work here? And what gets you up every day to come into this place? And telling that story is what I feel attracts a lot of people. And I tell dealerships to, you know, if your, if the, if the experience that you gave your customers was so great, you should be able to recruit through them as well. Like I've seen some of the best employees that worked at dealerships are the ones that bought a car and had a phenomenal experience and left a good job that they had to come and do the same thing at the dealership that they just went through an experience. And like I see I, I enjoyed purchasing so much that I want to help other people and give them the same level of experience. So that, that's what I would say towards that is just go through your people to get better people is the easiest way rather than spending a ton of money trying to market to gather other people. It's no different than regular advertising spend, right? If you pour money through your own people to get more people, you'll get better people if you spend a bunch just trying to attract a bunch of new business, new business. Typically you're gonna go through some struggles there because you're trying to get that trust factor accomplished first versus a lot of your trust will be Either 50% or 75% will be there because it's coming through good people. Mhm. That's really interesting. I love the way that you framed that um it's, it's working your power base, right? Like these people already work here, and if there are already having a good experience, then they will be more likely to recommend you as a place of work to their network and on and on it goes and guess what? Oh, so miraculously happened without social media and all of the other tools that you think you absolutely 100% unequivocally need in order to be successful these days. It's, it's tremendous how much business actually happens offline. Yes, and I would, and, and the other little carried out throughout there is because one thing that I see is missing at most dealerships is that you need to have a really, really thorough employee onboarding, you know, so I love asking this question, hey, what is your employee onboarding look like? So if you hired me today, walk me through the process and it's like this glaze comes over the dealer's face, because now they'll have stuff written down like a playbook or something, but it's not like, who's doing that? There's not like a straight, there's not a person that's like, I'm your concierge to make sure that you have a thorough experience onboarding and you can ask me for any questions. Like most dealerships don't have that, that, but I would say make sure that they have a really good employee onboarding program because I think that first two weeks to three weeks is important because if somebody is having a really good experience joining your team, like they can't wait to get out there and serve at the store, then they're gonna attract a bunch more people too because I'm like, dude, Michael, you won't believe I've been here for a week and I've done this, I've learned this, I've done this and the other thing is having a career path laid out. So a lot of companies, I don't see the dealerships, I should say, but they don't have like this career path, like what is it that you want to do? Like what's your skill set? So what if somebody really wants to get into leadership? What if somebody is more hands on and maybe should get into the service department in the future? But I think having that clear path and make sure that there's...

...clarity in that would be another thing that's just like, it's going to keep people coming after Coming after your organization because they actually see that there's a journey and that they're not in a place that they're just gonna be selling cars for the next 20 or 30 years that there's actually a way that you can grow within the, within the organization. Mm love it. This brings to my mind a follow up question. I would love your take or does this mean that I guess this is a two parter? The first part of the question is, does this mean then that you believe dealerships will in some way, shape or form exists in the way that they currently do with on the floor, salespeople, BDC's, etcetera in the next 357, 10 years. And if so, how do you convey that to dealers and perhaps employees, potential employees who only see the impending doom of our industry and changes in consolidation? Yeah, no, for sure. It will have to adjust. Um, in the future because here's how I look at it. I'm, I'm a nerd, right? I love data. And if I was allowed to pull up a Crm, you know, and I could just kind of, and just not share my screen or anything like that. But when you look at how many people come through the online experience, like how many people are either doing a form field or doing a chat or something like that where they're like, they've raised a hand and how many people call into the store, meaning that hey, I'm interested versus the people that just walked in through the front doors. It's a scary number because those first two numbers, the online and the phone is going to be somewhere between the 3 to 10 times or even greater number depending on the location marketing efforts. But what's interesting. So I'll give you an example store has 1500 leads, 400 phone ups And 250 true walk ins yet will staff a department With four people to handle those 1500 and also take on most of those phone ups. But then we'll have a sales floor with 20 sales professionals in it to take care of those 2 50 that are going to be walking in. Now of course there's some people that came in online that are gonna walk in but that's what I used to tell dealerships like does that make sense to you and every time they're like no I said exactly. So why would you not convert and put everybody in this in this show? Like there's a way that it doesn't have to just fall on a B. D. C. Or an online experience team and it doesn't just have to fall on a cradle to grave. There are systems that you can put in place to make sure that everybody is working together as a team because that goes back to putting the customer experience first because there's nothing worse if you purchased the vehicle when you're talking to three or four or five different people or you can talk to those three or 4 to 5 different people. But if their communication isn't tight between those 3 to 4 or five different people, it can be very frustrating. So that's how I can, how I convey it is, I use data. So then it's not like this is what Duran's saying, but then I also make them put on the consumer hat. Like if you're a consumer think about this, you guys, like if you're a consumer, would you be happy with the experience that we're given right now? Because a lot of us that are in the industry when we buy a car, we don't buy the car, how, you know how we're trying to teach people to sell them. Sometimes it's like we do our research, we want to reach out and we want to get information quickly, you know, let's get our information confirmed what I've been looking for and let's go ahead and start this process. But sometimes we treat customers the complete opposite. Where we don't give them enough information. We play the shell games and we want to just quote unquote, get them in and that doesn't even match how we, in the dealership world, if we are working at the dealership or those in the industry, we would not buy a car, just showing up.

Not everybody, I know there's exceptions, There are people like, oh, I'm gonna walk in and look around, but the most of us because of time are going to be very particular with how we're going to move forward throughout that process. So I hope that kind of handsome but definitely 10 years every stories at least I'd imagine it's gonna have some kind of integration where it's either a full Online team or something like that. I just can't see it 10 years from now having separate different departments in silos and it financially making sense to compete with some of the big, the big people. I'm not going to shout out names but to compete with some of the bigger ones that are out there to be, uh, financially in a good place and to put your customers in a good place and your employees in a good space. That that's what I would say. I've got one final question for you on, on the back of this, this answer that you've just given because I think it's tremendous. I can only anticipate that those within the sound of your voice are now thinking about promoting their top salesperson as a BDC director. But in my opinion, I think there's probably a special set of skills required. You can't just say, oh no experience as a BBC director. Let's make them a BBC director curious on your take and perhaps maybe the top actions that you could recommend a dealer take today to properly find vet and hire someone to start with this transformation man. Well I, I can, what I would say is you have to look for the, their skill set and what they enjoy doing. So I'll put it this way, if somebody has a 25 or 30 car car person, I would want to look at how they sell those 25 or 30 cars, right? Because there's a lot of different ways you can do that. So if somebody is selling 30 cars and they're just either just doing it through a lot or they're doing it through a little bit of social media, like they have their own secret sauce as to how they're doing it, then that person might not be the greatest fit because you have somebody that's actually generating some, some business for you. They're converting at a high rate when it comes to customers and purchasing. So it might not make the most sense. But if you have somebody that's really particular with the crm, they're really organized, they take care of their customers, they're really good with generating referrals. Um, they have a good understanding of e commerce and online, then that's somebody that I would look into because the thing is that, as a BBC director and obviously they have a love of love for people because the best BDC directors or BDC managers, whatever you wanna call them have a genuine love for for people like the people on their team and they understand the process with customers because every customer is not gonna want to experience the same process. So it has to be somebody that's really innovative. They're, they're always looking at uh consistently either making changes or tweaks, they need to be somebody that loves data and, and it looks at some, some analytics and not just the website stuff and that stuff, but you have to dial in on the numbers of your team just like you would, if you were a coach. But that's what I would say. It's just look into their heart, make sure it's somebody that cares about the people because this goes back full circle. Right? When we first talked, we started going in on employee conversion. So whoever your leader is just needs to be somebody that's really big on winning their employees, like their employees that work for them in that department. No, that, that leader has their back and is there to help them along the journey and that's really all that you need. It doesn't have to be some 50 car person or 20 car person needs to be somebody that knows how to lead and bring the best out of their people and to serve and that will, that will take care of just because everything else can be taught, you know? But some of those things we just talked about like that love and that, that trust and that servants, you know, that servant leadership, that's the stuff that's very difficult to teach. Dude, I can't talk about this forever with you. Um, thank you so much for joining me. How can those listening get in touch with you and learn more about cage automotive. Yeah. So um, they could just search cage automotive on... on facebook and instagram youtube places like that. But if you do Duran cage just know it's with two Rs and um, if you google you'll, you'll find me there. There's not too many other Duran cages out there, just like there's not many Cirillo's that I've known out there. So, um, but I'm so thankful Michael again, I'm a huge fan. Uh this, I never would have guessed a few years ago listening to this one day I would get a chance to speak with you. So I'm with you. I could have talked to you probably till probably for the next few hours. I know you've got life as well and I got a business but I'm so thankful and I certainly hope we get to talk again in the future. Mm hmm, mm hmm. Yeah. Mm hmm. I'm Michel Cirillo and you've been listening to the dealer Playbook podcast. If you haven't yet, please click the subscribe button wherever you're listening right now. Leave a rating or review and share it with a colleague. Thanks for listening. Mhm mm hmm, mm hmm.

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