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#IS20G9 - Phoenix, Arizona - (was) September 12-14, 2016 - Greatness Happened.

My recap and impression from a mere 37 pages of notes and information I pulled in (in addition to the workbook that was given out).

It's simple. The Internet Sales 20 Group, this 9th installment of it, which is produced by Sean V. Bradley's company, Dealer Synergy, is much more than a "sales conference" or a "training session." This is an all out sensory assault on the Automotive Sales Professionals that are in attendance. Their physical stamina, energy, emotional intelligence and mental capacity are all tested over 3 days in positive manner to receive value and an... unbelievable event. There are somewhere between 150 and 200 dealerships represented, while the title is "20 Group," which would normally have around 20 dealers, this is based on the style, work, and the data that go into the event. There is a wide array of people in attendance, Dealer Principals, GM's, Internet Managers, Sales Managers, BDC People, Sales Staff, if they are in automotive... anywhere, it was worth attending. Sean and his wife, Karen, and their team, have manifested automotive greatness. This is the most well rounded event that I have attended in quite some time, let alone it's laser focused on automotive sales for today's environment.

Many relevant topics were covered - Internet, Social, SEO, SEM, Google - and... with everything that we have in the digital realm, it stressed, that now more than ever, you cannot lose the human element, it's PEOPLE. I know I said it before, but truly, it was an awesome event. Sean made a very powerful statement before kicking into the rest of the event. He said that because of Tammie LeBleau and her influence on him, he had opted to sub-title #IS20G9 "Increase You Influence - By Making Each Day Count..." That was how Tammie lived by making the days count, every one of them.

Day 1

At many events of this type, the organizer is going to get everyone up, get a mixer going, play loud music and tell the people in attendance about themselves and why their event will be awesome, then layout the schedule and off you go. At #IS20G9, Sean kicked it off, got everyone excited and within about 10 minutes paid an amazing tribute to one of the auto industry greats - Tammie LeBleu, who had recently passed on August 20, 2016. (The tribute video that was shown live at the event can be viewed HERE.) 

The (first) keynote came from Bob Lanham with Facebook. There are WAY too many statistics to throw at everyone reading this - but Bob's talk was off the charts, biggest thing I got out of it, Facebook, it's no longer social media - IT'S MEDIA. They are a media juggernaut, and anyone and everyone should be advertising on Facebook. If you are not, you are so 2008...

We got info from Sean V. Bradley, this guy sleeps, breathes and thinks of ways to make money. He has worked together with an outside company to create a product called, "Money Mind Mapp," this looks to be an extremely innovative tool. This brings the digital world of sales together with the physical world and pushes the power to your sales reps to help and break down HOW they can make money in automotive sales. Simple and effective information.

Next Up... Composites. Having been engaged in many other 20 Groups, I was curious how we would get into a "Internet Composite" after all, there are so many seeming intangibles online. This too exceeded my expectations. First they explained the metrics and composites so that the audience could understand them regardless of where in the dealership they were working. Then #IS20G9 covered them (the composites), showed who was competitive in each area and had experts who could explain the mechanics. They offered many tangible tools to measure our own websites and ideas to take home.

After lunch, and still on Day 1, they launched the "Everything Video Panel." A group of brilliant minds in the auto industry in advertising, video production, digital and traditional marketing, and a few just kick-ass sales people that are using video to drive and grow their businesses. The consensus was whether you are using OEM video, your own TV commercials, vehicle video - you don't have to strive for perfect video or outstanding effects, the key for video is to JUST GET STARTED! And... get started now. You can post from your phone or whatever floats your boat, but now is the time to go! The other suggestion from many of the panelists is to send video through text, email, whatever it takes. If a picture is worth a thousand words - a 30 second video is worth... nearly 1,000,000 words (30 x 60 fps x 1000 words). #BOOM.

The info and the magic keep flowing... At this point everyone is already overwhelmed... we are a half day into what I would say is going to become a life-changing (or at least business-changing), event!

The question gets asked, "Will the real BDC Manager please stand up?" And, here comes Toni Anne Fardette. She is the Business Development Director for the 22 rooftop, Atlantic Auto Group. This lady is an absolute powerhouse! Confidence, presentation, just everything about her is intense! Toni Anne's most prevalent point, to me, was that it is ALL about the right people. There are many BDC impostors out there and because of that, often a dealership BDC does not produce what they should.  It always comes back to the same two things, once you have the right people - BDC is about process. If you are failing, it's because one of those two is broken, people or processes. Therefore, you have to monitor both of those things diligently EVERY DAY! Monitor the people, influence their attitudes, measure the results from your process. All of this is simple, but it isn't easy, it has to be repeated over, and over, and over, and over... you get the idea.

Next there were many third party lead providers/presenters at the #IS20G. Most of the companies and people in this category were involved in presenting as well. They presented information to learn though, not to pitch their product. During the entire three days, many of the vendors engaged with the attendees and each other in a smooth and educational format. The next two presentations came from Ryan Leslie with VAST/Carstory, followed by Scott Pechstein with Autobytel. I put these two together not because the message was identical, but because they are from two totally different automotive third party lead companies and both sent several similar messages. Car buying is still a people industry, getting in contact with those people is going to be won (or lost) in the online battle arena! Over the next couple days, most vendors all agree that somewhere between 88% and 90% of consumers start online and somewhere between 65% and 90% of consumers end up buying something different, when they come into the showroom anyway. And... when a consumer hits the showroom, they are only going to visit 1.2 to 2.0 dealerships before purchasing. All in all, be engaging globally, not just online, but in text, email, phone - and certainly when the customer gets in to your showroom!

Last, but certainly not least on Day 1 is LA Williams, his workshop titled, "The Absolute Best Phone Sales Strategy," and he was awesome. This guy is an animal, a phone and BDC trainer that works for Sean with the Dealer Synergy Team. Totally laid back and comfortable when he presented, the confidence he carried himself with is amazing. LA came out of the music industry, has been in hundreds of dealerships, and trained and consulted with dealers on how to improve their phone process... and LA Williams is completely blind. Two things that stood out to me from LA - one, you have to use the mutual fund concept when it comes to third party leads! DIVERSIFY! And, second, people will definitely remember how you make them feel. Automotive is still a relationship business, so you have to exceed customer expectations and make sure the experience is as awesome on the showroom as you make it out to be online and on the phone.

NOW IF THE DAY WASN'T FULL ENOUGH YET - It's party time!

To close out day one. Sean and Karen Bradley and the Dealer Synergy Team hosted a surreal "White Party." The rules were: wear white, and preferably something that has some orange "pop" to it, oh, and have a lot of fun... but not so much fun that you won't be on time to the conference tomorrow morning. The party was two fold, partly was to let the dealers, dealership staff, salespeople, vendors and all participants unwind and decompress at the close of the first day - the other reason was because Sean wanted a stellar and memorable Birthday party - he was celebrating his 40th birthday bash! All in all this night was awesome! The white party included, first and foremost, the entrance of one of automotives favorites and all-time greats, the Alpha Dawg, Jim Zielger; decked out in an orange bow tie and down to his white shoes. The event was huge, great networking and communication between many of the attendees, and included a dance contest. LeeLee Williams sported some killer shades and busted a move or two... or three. Then, it turns out the Dealer Synergy Team including Sean and Karen have as many dance moves as they do moves in the car business. I would say the only thing missing overall was Jim Ziegler pulling off a head spin, or at least the worm.

Day 2

Kicking off round 2 (Day 2) at #IS20G, they brought in the heavyweight! Jim Zielger launched the day off and did it the right way. High energy and masterful delivery with a section titled "10 things I would Do If I Bought Your Dealership." And while I won't list each of them here (otherwise you wouldn't have to go see for yourself....), these were tangible, relevant, well thought out pinpoints that people could take into their stores to either evaluate or re-evaluate where their stores are operating right now! My big take-aways, TRAIN YOUR PEOPLE and then HAVE ACCOUNTABILITY! It isn't rocket science. With all of Jim's years in the car business, he stays rooted in the basics, because they work, yet he finds a way to study and grow and remain relevant and cutting edge.

Next up, Sean Seltzer with SocialDealer, who talked about Facebook, a lot about Facebook, almost as much as Facebook (Bob Lanham) talked about Facebook. His message created the ongoing buzz that Facebook and Social in general are no longer about just organic social and chatting with your friends. this is the new media, you need to get involved and get involved now!

Dan Moore with Vin Solutions was next to present and was another engaging personality. Dan's message was on creating a great online customer experience. There is no longer a Gen X or Gen Y, Millennials or Baby Boomers. Customers everywhere want an amazing customer experience, so don't make it a generational thing, it really is now "GENERATION E" for EVERYONE! We are not a one-size-fits-all society and therefore the experience should not be either. Every step that a consumer takes on the internet creates a little piece of the online experience. People in general want an experience that is custom to them.

I think that Greg Gifford was strategically placed next to keep everyone there keen and on their toes. Greg was introduced with a piece on "Less Grossman's Pro Tips for Local SEO." This guy was high energy, high speed, and totally non-stop. He had something like a 137-page slideshow all with movie references to demonstrate the power of SEO and how to accomplish. In short, this guy was FUCKING awesome. If you EVER get the chance to hear Greg Gifford speak, do yourself a favor and get a fucking ticket (and just a heads up, you need to be okay with the "F" word.).

While not just anyone could have followed up the Greg Gifford performance, Todd Dearborn with CarsDirect was willing to accept the challenge. Todd spoke heavily on sub-prime financing and how to attract the sub-prime consumer in a digital environment. You need a great tool to measure what you are attracting, and you MUST have a department specialized in sub-prime F&I is you want to see success.

Next we were introduced to Ken Potter, who gave us some more inspiration and a motivational moment. Ken echoed again what many others were openly talking about, it's about the people. People are always a business's biggest asset! How can you take care of your people? He posed the question, "How can you amplify the light of the people that work for you?" and "What do you want to see as a win?" Basic, but strong fundamental principles when dealing with employees!

After Lunch was the highlight of day 2 for me. EXPERT ROUNDTABLES.

The roundtables were set up where there were roughly 15 or more different topics and each attendee was able to pick 4 topics and sit with an expert for 15-20 minutes at a time and have rapid fire questions with a no-holds barred answer session. It is like automotive advertising/speed dating sessions rolled into one room. The room was absolutely electric at this point. At each table you have one automotive expert and about six or seven dealership attendees that want info - and then off you go! This was awesome! Really awesome! The four roundtables I attended were:

  1. Everything Video with Sean Bradley
  2. Franklin Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) with Karen Bradley
  3. SEO with Shaun Raines (from DealerOn)
  4. Marketing Tactics with Greg Iverson

Each of these people had amazing expertise in their respective area and I really learned a lot during this time.

The end of day two was instructed by many experts from a multitude of automotive vendors, these included Christian Jorn from Remora, information from Digital Air Strike, 12 steps for success from Chris Herman with Herman Advertising and Kerri Wise with TrueCar, each of them were phenomenal, and while I know I have said this many times, I think most could have put an entire conference together off of just the second half of day 2 from the Internet Sales 20 Group.

One of the big highlights on this afternoon came when Sean V. Bradley put together a "3rd Party Lead Super Panel" pretty much on the fly. He assembled 10 members from many 3rd party vendors and then allowed open questions to be asked. In closing he let each company have one minute to pitch their product to the attendees on why their dealerships should buy from them. Who does that? It was awesome, innovative and really kept people there fully engaged.

Day 3 

Enter - Day 3. I have attended many events, conferences, and educational seminars over the years. Often the last day is the day people are sleeping in, sneaking out, flying home, etc. That did not happen at the Internet Sales 20 Group (#IS20G). Everyone was up, alive and ready to learn and take in whatever was in store for this final day.

As we start off the first presenter today is Stephane Ferri with AutoTrader. He carried with him a strong message - Make changes while times are good. The car business in the last 10 years has endured radical change and dealers need to do the same - NOW! Stephane spoke on automotive trends and changes to the environment, ride sharing, and other things that will change and shape the auto industry to come. This guy is a visionary!

The next speaker in the lineup was from Google, Rishiraj Chowdhury. Are you kidding me right now? GOOGLE! Like THE Google, not a Google partner, not a Google wannabe, it's real people from GOOGLE. This guy knows search and what is coming on the horizon. Rishi again talked about the importance of video, and not just videos of cars. Video and mobile are the winning combination! Video results are appearing in 70% of the top 100 search results. If you are using video, ideally that video should be housed on your website - or - (shameless plug) YouTube. He mentioned that today's car buyers are technically savvy, YOU must be too! He also confirmed that regardless of where the consumer is at, they are visiting less than 2 dealerships live and in person.

CarGurus was a presenter on "Maximizing Sales to Digital Shoppers" and Martha Blue, the Senior VP of Business Development did an excellent job of explaining what online car shoppers are looking for. She confirmed with data what we in the car business believe to be true, a high percentage of car buyers are shopping online, they spend 15 or more hours doing research, so they know the car better than the sales staff, and the store visit happens at the end with purchases being made very quickly once a shopper hits the car lot live. Either way you look at it 50% of shoppers want to see the price online, which means the other 50% want additional information. That's right it NOT always about just pricing folks.

The next session was by Peter Martin and he talked about harnessing the power of video testimonials. The message was again echoed, JUST DO IT, start now, what are you waiting for? Short, sweet and to the point.

Before heading to lunch the Sean and the #IS20G team had assembled another great group of individuals for an HR/Recruiting Panel. I was fortunate to be able to participate on this panel with some really amazing individuals. On this one, Sean primarily opened up the floor to questions on hiring, training and retaining. There were many questions on pay-plans, especially for Toni Anne who fielded many, "So how do you pay your BDC," questions.

After lunch on day 3, the #IS20G was still rocking! Just like an early Saturday morning Super Sale, people were all still energized, taking notes and participating in their learning experience. Sean V. Bradley again took the reins and lit up the room with about a 45 minute Synergy Session! This was just a perfectly timed, high energy break to get everyone in check and keep each person focused and in present time. He impacted us all with, "WHY SHOULD _____ BUY FROM YOU?" Many people got put on the spot here, on why specific classes, groups or people should buy from their stores! It's not as easy a question as it sounds! Can you answer it right now? For example, why should military veterans buy from you? GO!!!

As we moved to the tail end of the day, more information was provided on Mobile by Liquidus and Paid Search (SEM) by Client Command. All of these subjects were masterfully presented by vendor experts and, for me, one of the things that was great is that this was not done in a way to pitch their product they just gave out good information and a lot of the items discussed really reinforced what had been presented throughout the event.

Before closing Day 3, the last panel for Internet Sales/Phone Sales/BDC was called to the front to wrap the day altogether with real life people from dealerships, I was humbled to be able to participate in this panel as well. There were questions on process, scripting, responses, response times, all of the juice that goes into running an automotive call center (BDC) and internet departments. One of the things I really enjoy about sitting on a panel like this is the fact that you don't just sit up front and have everyone assume you are an expert. Sean puts some tough questions up and is both willing and capable of sharing his opinion, this is truly a situation where iron sharpens iron. To me it was very informative and a lot of fun to participate. (Thanks Sean!)

In The End - One of the coolest parts of this three-day trifecta of automotive, digital and personal training event was the last hour. Sean and Karen Bradley, besides being a dynamic duo of automotive genius and all around awesome couple, are both Steven Covey Certified Trainers. So now the work begins... before everyone checked out and left, we were put into multiple groups with about 8 members each and given roughly an hour to recap our day, and then provided with a customized action strategy to go back and implement in the dealership. They want you to set up with a partner to hold you accountable to do what you say you will do and implement what you say you are going to from the conference. This is not something you will attend and then just come back to your store, say it was a great time and put the book down on a shelf somewhere. They expect you to use what you have learned to evolve your dealerships and its employees.

In short, and I could have said this all at the beginning, but if you didn't read through all of the information and awesomeness that is the Internet Sales 20 Group you might not get it... it's 5 stars all -around. If you have the chance to attend this conference, GO. Whether you have to pay your own way, your company sends you, whatever the methodology - YOU JUST NEED TO GO ATTEND THE INTERNET SALES 20 GROUP!

Thanks,

Mike Phillips

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