Recap: DrivingSales Executive Summit 2016


The DrivingSales Executive Summit just concluded, and what an event it was. From social media strategy to sales execution to leadership and human capital management, the three day conference once again delivered the knowledge and insight that attendees have come to expect from one of the largest gatherings of forward-thinking automotive retailers each year.

Day one of the conference kicked off with Dan Zarella, award-winning social media scientist and author of four books including, “The Science of Marketing.” Dan’s talk was a deep-dive into the behaviors of those who consume social media and stretched the analysis far beyond the fundamentals. It was certainly not “Social Media 101” as the audience was shown second and third derivative analysis explaining correlations between user activity and factors such as color and word choices.

After Dan, we heard from five dealerships during the “Best Idea Contest” presentations, an annual crowd-favorite that gives these innovators an opportunity to compete on stage for the best innovative idea that can be used to further dealership operations and profitability.  This year’s winner was Brad Paschal, who shared with us his idea for a Community Impact Calendar to concentrate charity efforts at dealerships.

Rounding out the first day was a keynote address delivered by John Boudreau, PhD, a world-renowned researcher who explores the bridge between superior human capital management and  sustainable competitive advantage. I, along with Candice Crane from the Hireology team, had the distinct privilege of coaching John through the nuances of the people side of retail automotive.  John’s message was as powerful as it was straightforward: by focusing on your people, you can drive superior results.

Day two opened with Jared Hamilton’s keynote address, which was 100% dedicated to the topic of human capital management in the auto industry. Jared made the important point that “success in the people side of automotive retail requires that you master both sides of the equation.” First, you have to make sure that you’re starting with the right people.  To accomplish that goal, car dealerships must necessarily focus on attracting, selecting and onboarding the right people into their stores. Second, dealership management teams must recognize that delivering career growth, training paths and professional development are critical to breaking the cycle of turnover that’s plagued the industry for decades.

After lunch, we heard from Jim Parker, former CEO of Southwest Airlines.  During Jim’s tenure as CEO, Southwest Airlines was honored as “Most Admired Airline” and was one of Fortune’s Most Admired Companies in America. Jim’s talk centered on how dedicated employees can produce both loyal customers as well as outsized profits and the speech was yet another reminder of the importance of getting the “people thing” right.

Next, I got to spend some time with attendees to speak about how leading dealers manage culture and teams. I covered how to build, manage, and keep your best possible team and we had a great discussion.

Capping day two was a keynote address from Ken Schmidt of Harley-Davidson fame, whose energetic delivery and fast-paced content made him an instant hit with the audience. Jim’s philosophy to life and to business strongly resonated with me: “Never do what’s expected, make yourself as noticeably different as possible, and have a lot more fun than you’re supposed to.”  Jim’s approach to branding and consumer engagement helped create one of the most recognizable brands on the planet.

The third and final day started off with Richard Rikess, Performance Improvement Consultant, presenting the 2016 Most Valuable Insight Award winning idea from CDK Global “The Language of Closers”. Rikess showed us which words and phrases in email marketing have been proven to get folks into the dealership and which words and phrases fall short. 

The final keynote speaker Julie Hoffman, who leads Digital Guest Experience strategy for MGM Resortsclosed out the show sharing how time is the one limited universal resource that should be the focus for all marketing leaders who want to shape positive consumer experience. Her main point was that, with a strong belief in the customer, innovation in customer experience comes from a focus on listening to their needs.

Congratulations to Jared Hamilton and the rest of the Driving Sales organization for hosting another fantastic event!