DrivingSales Executive Summit shares new ideas, challenges old ones

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LAS VEGAS, NEV. – It’s 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning in Las Vegas and a group of 40 or so Canadians from dealerships across Canada have forsaken hearth, home and turkey to attend the Canada Day Breakout Session of the DrivingSales Executive Summit session at the Bellagio Hotel.

There is no time to be homesick this Thanksgiving. The agenda won’t permit it.

Held annually in Las Vegas, DSES is where organizers say the most progressive dealers gather to collaborate on the most innovative trends and formulate their business plans for the following year.

This year was no different as a solid turnout of Canadian dealers had Jared Hamilton, the driving force behind DSES telling Canadian AutoWorld it could spark plans for a Canadian version of DSES.

This particular Sunday, Oct. 12, John Currado and Jeremy Wyant of SCI MarketView were driving home the idea, among others, that responding to an email lead with a price quote is not the first step on a race to the bottom but a reasonable approach aimed at turning the shopper into a buyer.

Robert Karbaum of Weins Canada challenged the notion that social media is a nice, friendly and cost-free place where dealers can turn “likes” into customers with tales of the charitable exploits of their dealership and its staff.  

“We were sold a bill of goods,” he argued.

And Grant Gooley of the Zanchin Automotive Group challenged his audience with a number of practical ideas to help them increase retail sales by 30 per cent.

Tips included showing each and every car in the dealer’s inventory online, not with stock shots, but with real photos. Or as Gooley put it, if dealers can afford to hire someone to work the lot shuttling cars and washing them, they can afford to pay someone to take photos of them and post them online.

Those Canadians then joined dealers and staff from dealerships across the U.S. They packed the Bellagio ballroom and the session rooms to be challenged by speakers who taught them how to come to grips with texting as a valid tool for communicating with customers. They learned encountered hyper-targeting or geo-fencing customers and how to use the smart phone in the purchase game. And they listened to a spirited defense of Facebook.

There was also a session of best digital practices culled from NADA’s Internet 20 Group. The room was packed.

Attendees also watched the DSES Best Idea Competition, which is designed to give attendees five real programs in use in dealership presented by the staffers who developed them. They included Free Gas Friday, the Vehicle XChange Program, designed to encourage service department customers to trade-in their car and YouTube Postal Service, a more personal way to communicate with customers.

After a five-minute presentation, a three-person panel of experts challenged the presenters.

“At DSES, we won’t allow sponsors or vendors to dictate the agendas. In fact, dealers selected the breakout topics,” said Hamilton.