Thought Leader Series: Five Questions with Mike Burgiss

Mike Burgiss is, at heart, an entrepreneur. He’s the kind of guy who looks at a process or experience and asks not what it is or how to use it, but how it can be made better – and what’s coming next. Then he rallies teams to define and build that big idea or transformative approach. It’s the spirit behind his work as Founder and General Manager of MakeMyDeal, and the energy he continues to bring to his role as Vice President of Digital Retailing at Cox Automotive. For 20 years, Mike’s focus has stayed consistently trained on providing dealers with the online tools necessary to stay in control, to win in their retail businesses, and to drive new business growth. Given his experience and insights, we asked Mike to talk about his passion for the business, and to weigh in on the emerging trends and changes taking place in automotive retail. Here’s what he had to say:

Q. What makes you passionate about this business? 
A. The entrepreneurial spirit of the car dealer. That’s a powerful source that drives some of the most inspirational success stories. Dealerships represent the American Dream; they’re one of the last businesses in the country that hasn’t been completely institutionalized.

Q. What do you think is the greatest opportunity for dealerships?
A. It’s directly tied to the dealer’s motivation and ability to evolve their business and create the best online car buying experience their customers have ever had. It’s right there; the dealers who have adopted these practices are seeing far greater sales efficiency.

Q. What are the three must-dos when it comes to Digital Retailing, and adopting a better online to in-store customer experience?

1. Embrace the evolution to a digitally-enabled sales process. Believe that the retail experience is moving online.  But even more importantly…believe in your dealership’s ability to provide the ultimate digitally-enabled buying experience.

2. Focus on a smooth transition from online to in-store.  Use the online deal start as the direct transition into the store to match the vehicle, the payments, financing terms, trade-in valuation that the customer started with online, to transition into the store.

3. Work car deals online and engage the shopper, don’t just work the lead.  If you sell the lead, you’ll lose the customer.  If you work the car deal, you’ll sell the car.

Q. What’s the one thing dealers must stop doing right away?
A. Don’t just focus on more leads or better leads. Consumers expect to start the car buying process online. Working the car deal online provides the experience they want while building trust in the relationship, increasing sales closing ratios and profitability, and improving customer satisfaction.

Q. Look into your crystal ball for a moment. What do you think are the emerging trends and topics of interest for dealers and their teams coming out of NADA?
A. This year will mark the first year that significant numbers of dealers are starting on their journey to Digital Retailing. Dealers will begin putting realistic monthly payments on their online inventory web pages; those who have the courage and ability to craft their own destiny will be working car deals online, getting customers to ‘Yes’ online, and transforming their retail operation for reignited profitability. It’s a drastically more efficient sales process when customers arrive for a test drive, and there’s a smooth transition from the work they’ve already done online.

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