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THE changing structure of the auto retailing sector and the way consumers use the internet has reshaped how dealerships operate, putting increased emphasis on the performance of middle management and the sales team.

Dealers will get some insight into how these trends are affecting their outlets when they attend the annual Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) national dealer convention in Melbourne in September. And they may walk away $5000 richer.

Sales people, in the main, get no training,” said convention organiser and past interim chief of the AADA, Patrick Tessier.

I don’t care what dealers say. In the main, they don’t get any training.”

Which is why it is so important they be brought up to speed with the changing sales environment, Mr Tessier said. The convention will be staged on September 6 to 8.

He said it was important that dealers bring a cross-section of their staff because there are more and more sessions aimed at employees from all levels of the dealership.

On Tuesday night we will have a night session from 7 to 10pm and I’ve aimed that at foot soldiers, the sales staff on the showroom floor, the service advisors who greet you are the service counter.”

Show time: This year’s AADA dealer convention, held in Melbourne, will feature 83 exhibits on the show floor.

Show time: This year’s AADA dealer convention, held in Melbourne, will feature 83 exhibits on the show floor.

These are the people who deal directly with customers and where the dealership interacts with the community.

I’ve got very high profile, very professional speakers to talk about how the sales and service staff can improve how they go about what they do.”

In what’s termed a “team event”, this session will hear from two prominent speakers, Paul Cummings and Lloyd Schiller.

Mr Cummings will focus on how sales staff can be more effective while Mr Schiller will explain how to boost earnings from the service and parts areas of the dealership.

The sales staff will also get valuable input from Google, which is building its presence in the auto retail sector through data analysis, especially the behaviour of customers before and during their car buying campaign.

Richard Wolstenholme from Google’s automotive team will describe the increasing influence of online shopping and how changing trends and technologies are affecting dealerships and their sales opportunities.

The way we go about looking at cars is very different now. In the old days, we used to go from dealer to dealers, Holden, Ford, Toyota, Mazda, that’s how we chose a car.AADA_JohnMellor

Now we do all that on the internet before we walk into a dealership. When we walk into a dealership, we already know we are going to buy a Ford or whatever. And the dealer has only a limited time to impress you. It ‘s a very changed industry.”

This will be backed up by a presentation on Thursday in which Dimitri Kotov will explain how to use social media to build a reputation and reach more people.

More light will be shone on this aspect by the automotive services group JD Power, which has distilled many years of customer surveys into a presentation entitled What Exactly Delights and Frustrates the Customer.

What I love about this presentation is I think it will be enlightening to every dealer to find out what their customers like and what they don’t like,” Mr Tessier said.

I’ve seen a bit of it. Every dealer will be sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, gosh, I do that’.”

That’s a special presentation on the pre-day, the Tuesday.”

AADA Convention sign-up - Click here

AADA Convention sign-up – Click here

Mr Tessier said dealer principals will gain a lot from a workshop on one of the crucial, but low profile, aspects of a dealership, the manufacturer’s warranty audit.

This is really about surviving a warranty audit. That’s a pretty big deal for a dealership because those warranty audits can be complex and it’s very important they comply with Australian Consumer Law.

Manufacturers come in and do a warranty audit. They have to make certain the dealer gets paid for every hour used on warranty work – and no more – and that’s what the audit is about,” Mr Tessier said.

But a dealer also has to think about how to comply with Australian Consumer Law. This is a case study and it’s a very interesting workshop.”

Mr Tessier said dealer principals may also be interested in another workshop about how to hire and retain female sales staff given the large proportion of vehicles sold to women.

I am really looking forward to this workshop. Yvonne Bowyer will present it.AADA_Lower

In dealerships, it is a very rare event that a lady looks after you. Very, very rare event. She specialises in recruiting in the auto space, car retailing, and that will be a great workshop.”

The last event on the program will be Thursday evening’s Manheim live auction, in which 25 cars will go under the hammer.

Any delegate present at the auction, and who has visited at least 10 of the 83 exhibits on the convention floor, will be eligible to win a $5000 cash prize.

The proceeds from some of the auction lots will be directed to the charity Kids Under Cover, which generates much of its funds from receiving old cars from donors and selling them to wreckers.

By Ian Porter

AADA Convention sign-up - Click here

AADA Convention sign-up – Click here