Selling in Your Town – A Car Dealer’s Perspective

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Doug Meyer from the Meyer Auto Group joins the How To Sell More Cars Mastermind to discuss how local retailers can exert their competitive advantage against the online and big-box interlopers. #howtosellmorecars

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TRANSCRIPT

Terry Lancaster
Hey, everybody Welcome to the How to sell more cars mastermind group. I'm Terry Lancaster. We got a guest today Doug Meyer from the Meijer Auto Group they've got they got car dealerships in Nebraska and Missouri and he is the author of the book selling in your town available on Amazon and I picked this up because one of the things I was talking about is is the human relationship and making the car business and every business human again and I got started in the car business and the back end was just talking to Doug before we got started. I got started in the car business because I was selling radio advertising in small towns in Tennessee, and Mississippi and my best clients were the guardians. Of course, obviously they spent tons of money at that time on radio, then I'll always be confused that car dealers and car salespeople have this negative rap they get this bad rap and even you know even the the third party lead providers and all they, they they're you know they take advantage of that by by playing into this negative stereotype of car dealers. And I've never found that to be the case because especially in small town America, the car dealer is the backbone of the local business community and it anytime anyone needs a donation anytime any football team needs a sponsor, anytime anybody needs anyone. The first place they're gonna go is the local car dealership and The Guardian involved in everything rocket not everybody is not going on tour and I was I was reading the book this weekend from dead and he had he had a comment about same thing he said that everybody comes to the coordinator looking for donations and they are the backbone of the community. But I was so impressed because Doug, not only joking what what is what in business is not just hard to lose, but every business not only to participate in the donations that they were doing, but to actually use that as a selling tool. So let's start there. How many people knock on your door every week? Looking for donations?

Doug Meyer
It's definitely a little more at the end of the school year and at the beginning of the school year so as the Proms start coming around and all that that's when you see a bunch of them and then as summer comes all the different summer we're gonna see like we see a lot that but I mean right now.

We've got three dealerships. All in small towns, anywhere from a power of about 3500 to what I was just telling you, this sounds a lot 20,000 that we're in that I'm sitting in right now with students and you know, just yet involved in it. It seems like we come everybody just given us a chance. And it's hard to sell a car, but once we've been there for a while, they just want to buy from us. That makes it so much easier. Okay, that's the nice thing too, because a lot of the longest haul down dealers have been that families own the dealership for 100 years but you guys aren't you are your source for do which is you know, under 1020 years. Yeah, yeah, our first dealership was only 2004 Second one or 2,003rd game. This one in 2015. And I will say the one in Maryville was the hardest. The previous owner was 75 ish when he sold and probably quit carrying her bag when he's got 60. So there was kind of a black cloud over this dealership and so it took a little while to get people to trust the local dealer again. And you did that by being the local dealer shaking hands kissing. Oh, yeah, yeah. Going through all the different organizations. At this as I was exalted ruler, president of the Alps, at the exact same time was also president of Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and trying to run the dealership. So one thing I noticed that in the book, you were talking about the organization that you participate in and and how getting involved in that is a benefit to the benefit to the store, but there were three specific organizations. You said the small business people in small town should avoid joining and participating in for business reasons. Wow. Tell us about that. I still say the same thing. City council, school board and your local country club or golf play. So whatever that is, city council and school board is really about the same reason. We all know how politics run and no matter which side you're on, you're going to upset 50% of the people so you get that now you're making a decision on your town's well being and your kids well being. You make a decision and upsets half of or you can just guarantee they're not going to come in your business anymore. Now, I'm all behind anybody that's on city council or school boards and I have someone call and ask me for advice or what would you do and I do some one on one conversations. And I just kind of stay out of that and the country clubs kind of a Baldwin all the people in town that seems to have money or the country club and that's another one that everybody's all finicky about. You make a bad decision there. Then you got the whole country club mad again and then you got all the people with money to download it and that doesn't work out.

And I'm not gonna be surprised where you get one or two today, you know,

Terry Lancaster
one or two a day. So how do you turn How do you turn somebody, somebody coming in with their handout, turned that into human?

Doug Meyer
So I just tried to treat them all nice and abstract. I know a lot of things people go to other places and cashiers. I just sent them in and talk to them and run out of it. I usually always try to donate all of them and I spend a little tougher because of the pandemic and other Carver's is going now but in the past we've we've never turned anybody down. So we all only donate usually to groups which don't donate like the individuals because then you'll have every individual coming in making up their own deal or whatever but you don't have to donate a lot. They usually are very happy if you just donate a little bit you know, 50 or 100 bucks or whatever. Now definitely for an organization's that I really get behind we donate more money to so it just kind of depends on what it is, who it is and what's the group all supports.

Terry Lancaster
So that's the book the book is called selling in your town and it is your guide to running your small business in small towns and participating involved in community and you said you can donate more to organizations that you're involved in. And that doesn't their retirements because you're involved in pretty much

Doug Meyer
I've been President of a lot of organizations

Terry Lancaster
assaulted ruler of the grand royal

Doug Meyer
the exalted ruler of the Elves, the benevolent protective order belts involving their own organizations has been around for about 155 years I believe. A lot of the bigger accounts have been helped in it and they just donate money back community for big things about youth and veterans and every time that said it helps we got a lot of them. I failed every chair of the Elks has global organizations including exalted ruler, which is like the president

Terry Lancaster
and and that comes

Doug Meyer
when I found out he is in his organization organizations, you support them, they'll support us. So once I get involved in these elements, you know, and help them them and help them do different things and they just want to return the favor and come down and see us and buy a car.

Terry Lancaster
Old rich guys take a golfer he's serious. So that mean, that brings me around. He talked about the politics and one of the things I do when I'm training salespeople on how to build their own brand and create their own little community is I tell him just that to avoid talking about politics. for exactly that reason that I'm what everybody's done. Not not just half the money, but you talk in the books too, about social media, about using social media. How is social media helping your dealership in the small town? And how's it changed things for you in the last few years since you guys started? Yeah,

Doug Meyer
I mean, definitely. That's came out about you know, last 10 years or so, um, you know, we tell all of our salespeople and all of us we don't post anything on our personal Facebook pages that can be upset somebody one way or the other. So we try to stay on the politics and all that. We're in a college town and we're in a rural town. So I mean, you know, you're about 50% Republican, this half a cent Democrat, you know, you don't want to take the chance of upsetting inside so now. There's a part in my book and I want to say it's one of the last chapters it says getting to know your customers. And once you get to know somebody that you can relate to them and how they are, you know, maybe some of those things you can talk about in private but until then you want to, you know, stay away from all those things.

Terry Lancaster
Well, everybody's going. That's a private conversation. Anyway, there's three things you don't want to talk about sex, politics and money. That's right. You're gonna have a conversation that needs to be, you know, away from everybody else who's gonna have in front of other folks. That's exactly right. I think that's pretty good. So tell us tell us about the book done selling in your town. How'd that come? About? And what's the purpose of it and what's what's the message?

Doug Meyer
So when we bought our first dealership in 2004, I had been in the car business seven years and my dad his first day in the car business was as an owner's so we bought the dealership he sold out of his truck business spot that years later, we bought this dealership in Shenandoah, Iowa. And the goal at that point was is my dad was going to retire my brother was gonna get the dealership and Auburn and I was gonna get the dealership and Shenandoah only came to Shenandoah the dealer was kind of dormant not doing a whole lot and we turn it around really fast and kind of the business leaders in town and the guy in the chamber economic development committees came to me and says will you get on our chamber board? Let us know how you're doing all this. So we went to some meetings and he kept asking me cash you got to write some of this down. So as thanks for coming in. I would just kind of piping out one day I went in. I said here. Here's kind of everything piped out to everybody. And he says you got to try to make this into a book and one thing led to the next. Here we

Terry Lancaster
are. There you go. Well, I

Doug Meyer
really just wrote it to help people I didn't write it. Make a doll or to do anything. I've I've given away more books probably than I've sold. So

Terry Lancaster
as a fellow there I can tell you that's gonna be the way it's gonna be. Yeah, the book was on there. You talk about all the different components of the business. You know? I like the fact especially first of all town. You talked about when Walmart comes to town, and I've been in I've been been working in small towns, I still have advertising in small towns where the Walmart comes to town in it. It can clear out a downtown area fast because especially back in the day in the 80s and 90s when Walmart was just a bulldozer and then coming down and every day, they would just, you know, they would lower the prices and blow everybody out of business. And I was looking at that and thinking about it. That when Walmart comes well first of all, tell it tell us how we can do and this is a discarding this book is written for small town retailers, but from from a car dealers perspective. But how does a small town retailer retailer, especially a car dealership, how do they compete with Walmart when they come to town and my thinking was when Walmart was coming to town coming to a small town is pretty much the same as Carvanha and cars.com and Edmunds and TrueCar and all these people who are coming in and invading, invading the car dealer space today.

Doug Meyer
Yeah, that's probably the most controversial chapter. It's more raised eyebrows and all that. But what I've noticed because I've been on different chamber boards to different things. I mean, when the Walmart comes to town, everybody always like oh my gosh, they're gonna put everybody out business. And what I've really seen is I mean, you know, your people that, you know, maybe didn't have jobs didn't have the types, you know, it fills a void of jobs for one in the community, which is good. And it's a draw to the community, because it's bringing people now in from all the other surrounding smaller towns and all that. And if you have a business and you're doing everything right a lot of things like I said in the book, you're doing good customer service, all those things. There's going to come to town buy from Walmart, they're probably going to buy from you too. And, you know, and I think be prepared parvana You know, all the online deals, you know, you're never talking to the same person every time and you don't have somebody to go to to get any help. Same thing with Walmart, you can go to Walmart and go buy a TV and you'll be lucky if they'll just say the TVs are in the back and they don't know anything about it. But you know if you've got a local TV shop more likely you know everything about your TVs and how many pixels and you know, all these different things they can answer and especially with all the smart screen stuff and all that you know, Daniel provide better customer service, I make that sale and so I think it's a draw, especially with Walmart to draw the entity. But as long as you're doing everything right, you can capitalize on

Terry Lancaster
it. Well, and I think that is completely analogous to the to the car situation because all of these third party lead providers, these third party listing sites, that's a draw. Everyone's gonna go to that to see what what cars are available and what the pricing is. But you're still always going to have the advantage as long as you're a decent human being treating other human beings like yours. Yeah. And but but the biggest thing and you talked about this, not even from the from internet perspective about price transparency. You guys, you guys guaranteed, you know, lowest price within 100 miles. So you can do all of this stuff. And you can be involved in the community and you can donate money and you can flip pancakes and you can do all of that. But at the end of the day, you got to have the right product at the right price where it's for it's all for naught.

Terry Lancaster
Yeah. And one of the chapters in the book is who are you and who are you selling to? And a lot of that steps on all those things you're talking about. I've met in the car business, a lot of people got a lot of big egos and that just will not work in a small town and I have yet to see a dealership in the big town that it does work out very well you know so you know, everybody wants to deal with the good ol boy where it's kind of counted you know you need to try to be humble and try to be the good ol boy not thank you know your veterinarian buddy and part of it. It says in their shoes. You know a lot of it's how you dress I mean if everybody coming in as factory workers and you're dressed in a suit and tie and shining shoes, that guy is gonna be a little intimidated. So I mean, you kind of got to dress you know, accordingly look accordingly but always want to be you know, clean shave well groomed, you know, dress nice but they always I always shirt dress you know maybe about one step. nicer, customer. Very bill we dress a little nicer than our other two dealerships. Auburn and Shannon and all the guys wear jeans, polos in the summers and whatnot shirts in the winter. And over here we kind of do a mix of jeans and slacks and you know sport coats because we just got a little different clientele we're a little bit bigger count. So

Terry Lancaster
I think you're right I think you definitely don't want to look like you're making a bunch of money you you make you know, you don't want to be in $1,000 suit selling to factory workers. You know, they need for that.

Doug Meyer
Yeah, you could go buy all my clothes at Kohl's. I know for that.

Terry Lancaster
So you talk to you. Of course I'm a marketing guy. So I'm always looking at the marketing and in the book, you talk about marketing in small town, and you're one of the few people honestly, that I've ever heard. Ever heard get it quite right. Because it's never been so good ADA. Five years ago, I guess. Five or six years ago I spoke about in a DA about the death of traditional media has been has been exaggerated. And specifically I've mentioned in small towns and for the same reasons that same reason that you put the book because in a small town, your local radio station, your local newspaper, that's your only news source and if you want to hear about your kids football game, that's where you go.

Doug Meyer
Yeah, I've heard more of my commercials walking through my shop from the mechanics. Having that on that radio station all day. And all over town. That's where they hear they're at work, the radio plays all day. And they hear my ads. I always do most of my ads with my son and they everybody knows my son's name and everything they like is young, cute voice and some of the things we've come up with for him. But yeah, radio has been good. I mean, we're not doing some of that stuff. Now because of the hat and all the inventory and stuff but radio newspapers always good for us.

Terry Lancaster
Yeah. And radio to me and I've said this, that it's the original social media because the because the radio is about the personalities about the personalities of people on the air. If people doing exactly what you do, you're putting your voice and your son's voice on the radio. And you know, the guy who runs the Carmax probably can't do that because he's only going to be there for six months. The guy running the Walmart they can't do that because you run the local hardware store. You can become a fixture of celebrity in the community, on social media, and on regular medium, but doing the exact same thing putting your face

Doug Meyer
on that's funny you say that because I had a competitor. I felt like it was copy and every ad I was doing. I'd come up with an ad they'd come up the exact same ad and I said well watch this. I'll put my son on I live in town. I work in town. My wife works at the school. My kids go to school here and he couldn't say any of those things. And I changed the game there a little bit.

Terry Lancaster
All right, it's about we got about 2025 minutes in I'm trying to keep this really short. We got a couple of folks in here if anyone has any questions or comments for Doug, anything that you want to add to the conversation or ask before we start trying to wrap it up. Now now would be the time to chime in. While we're waiting because I've seen anybody raise their hands don't i One things I like to ask whenever whenever I'm interviewing anyone is you know knowledge without action is just entertainment. And there's a lot of people a lot of authors who like to run their mouth and they come up with great ideas. But if you're never putting if you if you buy the book all day long, you can buy any book but unless you're putting it into action, it doesn't change anything. It's not gonna happen. by osmosis. So always ask anyone I'm interviewing for one action step that someone listening to the show or watching the show one thing that they can start doing tomorrow, one little thing not huge, one little thing that they start doing tomorrow do on a regular basis, that might end up changing the business. For me, I'd say the biggest

Doug Meyer
thing is getting to know your customers. The dealership in Shenandoah, Iowa, which I hadn't visited much lately that we've been focusing on this one and now I'm going to and if there's a customer second, the service lobby I just got to sit with them about I mean I don't have anything better to do and they're there with me. So I got me in to talk to them. And you know, I did work every day in that dealership. So a lot of them I do know, but you know just reconnecting with them. You know, they just I think people really do have to know who they're giving their money to. So you know, an absentee business owner I don't think works and a business like ours now that might work on scooters or McDonald's or Burger King or something like that. But in our business where they're putting in quite a money for the money on one thing or service in that one thing. I think they'd like to know where they're getting them running to. They'd like to know that you care

Terry Lancaster
that they're there too. Yeah, well, my buddy Bob Berg says people, all things being equal people would prefer to do business with people that they know like and trust and that there is a chance to get get get a foot in the door. You said you said you wrote some notes earlier today did that. Was there anything you put in your notes that you thought we might talk about that we didn't get around to talk about?

Doug Meyer
I thank you pretty much at all. I mean, if you know the only other one I put big exclamation points is attitude. I mean if you don't come to work with a good attitude, you might want to go in your office and shut the door rethink and start over. attitude. And it's everything. You know, I mean, you got to be happy to be there and happy you're doing. You're not happy to do and you need to find something else to do. It's not going to work for it.

Terry Lancaster
Yeah. And so that'll that'll give me give me give us our last talking point is the attitude is everything and it does. It does it does affect you it affects your home life not only your business life but I'm a firm believer in attitude affects your your life in the morning when your head is Hello at night. When the first thing in the morning affects every aspect of your life. But so it's easy not easy for you but you're the business owner your names on the door you're the member of all the organizations you you have your your ingrained and guilty in. So that that is that is in your junior DNA in your blood now, all the things we're talking about how do you build a culture where your employees take that same attitude?

Doug Meyer
You know, it's funny you bring that up. I was just thinking the other day of the last time I had anybody quit. It's worked for me and I honestly I can't think of one. I've had to get rid of some people but I mean rarely have I had anybody ever quit work for me and I just treat everybody? Well, I think I mean, I went to the Shenandoah store in the previous general manager there laughs and really wasn't working out for him. He went back to businesses and before and all the employees a handful the employees out there said we just appreciate you come around talk to us. You know, I guess the dealership I go through and I I talk to every single employee every single day. Whether it's here there wherever you know when I'm there I I saw him say hi to everybody and I think the employees appreciate that.

Terry Lancaster
I took a couple of business classes in colleges and college and I had an accurate acronym for that he was management a BW a management, manage by walking around. Just just just walk around and the same thing get it get to know it's not rocket science. You have to treat everybody good. And you can't you can't have your your employees you can't tell your employees they have to treat your customers like gold and like valuable as they are if you're treating your employees like like the, you know, bubble gum on the bottom of your shoe. Yeah,

Doug Meyer
I think they're just going to treat people however you treat them so I think you nailed it.

Terry Lancaster
We appreciate you popping in with Baron John Hall Chuck. I appreciate you guys. You guys tuning in and listening. The book is selling in your town by Doug Meyer left the edge on the general managers of the Meijer Auto Group, they got three stores in Nebraska and Missouri vote you can get a copy of the book there and if you have a degree in Maryville, Missouri and you find yourself in need of an automobile. All right. Thanks, everybody. Have a great night. Bye everyone have a good Day.


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Who the $#@%! is Terry Lancaster?

Terry Lancaster writer and storyteller

I help automotive dealerships sell more cars, make more money, get more reviews, more referrals, and more repeat business by building deeper, stronger, more authentic customer relationships.

I’ve worked with thousands of dealer principals, managers, and salespeople providing proven strategies for making the cash register ring.

My #1 best selling books have received glowing reviews from around the world thanking me for the actionable, life-changing ideas they present.

I’ve been featured in Automotive News, Dealer Marketing Magazine and Forbes, spoken from the TedX stage and at the NADA national convention, and I came in second place at my Eighth Grade debate championship.

In my personal life, I've survived Cancer... twice. I've had a gun held to my head and a knife held to my throat. I've been inside a building that was hit by a tornado, onboard a boat that sank and a plane that dropped a mile out of the sky in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. 

I lived through three teenage daughters and I've been married over 30 years... in a row!

When I'm not battling for truth, justice and the American Way, I spend most of my free time, like every other middle-aged, overweight, native southerner, at the ice rink playing hockey.


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automotive sales training
Radio & television ads fro car dealers
How to sell more cars with better customer retention
direct mail for car dealers
sell more cars with better content