In the last two articles, we shared the business case for diversity and outlined three reasons why it matters. We talked about the changing growth dynamics in rural areas. Including the numerous financial and growth business benefits for your dealerships, and the driving force and the undeniable influence of the next generation of Millennial and Gen Z customers. Let's now discuss the three benefits your business will receive from diversity and inclusion to help move the needle forward.
Number one is innovation. I think you've heard of this quote before, "The definition of insanity is looking for new results, by still using the same old processes." If you acknowledge and understand what got you here will not get you there, then there is no question why business leaders never cease to look for innovations to improve their products and services to delight their customers. This is why creativity and innovation are the benefits of having a more diverse and inclusive team.
Research shows that diverse and inclusive teams are far more open, more engaged, and creative. They're not afraid to ask for help, which has a positive impact on collaboration and productivity. With diversity comes multiple perspectives. When team members bring a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences, they are more likely to solve and provide more innovative solutions than those that are non-diverse.
This is why I'd like to share with you a personal story of how diversity and inclusion helped drive innovation at a company that I worked for. Our executive team assigned two teams to assess, recommend, and implement turnaround growth strategies for two tractor series that were suffering and being challenged in the marketplace.
Team One was comprised of internal experts from within the company. They had a high level of experience within the industry, however, this team did not include any company outside expertise. Their cross-functional expertise was limited to sales and manufacturing segments of the company and there was little variation between age and gender in the group.
Team Two, which I was part of, was comprised of both internal and external experts. We also did something non-traditional and brought in people from outside of our industry to share best practices. We did not have as much experience as Team One, as our experience was low to mid-level and our team was diverse in gender and life stage. Lastly, we had a tremendous amount of cross-functional expertise that was more extensive than Team One, which included sales, finance, accounting, product development, and manufacturing.
As both teams worked hard to address turning around the business with their respective tractor lines, let me share the results of our efforts which were starkly different.
Team One struggled to increase the profitability and market share growth for its product line. They also continued to experience declining dealer and customer satisfaction, as the team also experienced decreased morale and increased dysfunction within its culture.
However, with the more inclusive and diverse group of Team Two, our results were dramatically different. We not only increased market share, but we also delivered record revenue, profitability, new product and market innovations to support the sales of our product line. We became the benchmark model of how to turn around a business. We also increased customer satisfaction and dealer satisfaction.
Improving Your Sales Expertise
That is a real-life example of innovation at work, which brings me to the second benefit of diversity and inclusion. It will also help improve your sales expertise, which is a by-product of actively listening and applying solutions based on listening to your customer's needs. As I often tell dealers, you're in the sales business vs. the show business. It's easy to show a product, but it’s more difficult to sell one.
Selling is a skill and it's a skill that is learned. It is a skill of expertise that makes a difference in your store and will help you stay a step ahead of the competition. The benefit of this expertise also will be felt across all corners of the dealership — from parts, product support, and service. As the quote says, "Listening is the most important part of a salesperson’s job and embracing diversity and inclusion will enhance this critical skill set."
By listening, you're more likely to learn about the concerns and preferences of new and various population segments when you listen. This allows you to adjust your products and services to make them more enticing to these groups. It also leads to increasing the number of customers coming into your stores. Research from McKinsey & Co. shows brands and companies with high diversity and inclusion rates have an 83% higher consumer preference vs. their non-diverse competitors.
There are also two additional vital skills that diversity and inclusion training will provide to your organization and dealership beyond improved listening skills. These are the same set of skills your organization needs to provide an exceptional, consistent, stellar customer experience to set yourself apart from non-diverse companies.
The skills are empathy and advocacy and these skills will enhance your diversity and inclusion journey. As research shows, people who listen and empathize are more likely to connect and take action that is appropriate with your customers. And when your customers see that you have taken into account their needs by taking action, they will more likely be motivated to tell others about your business. This allows customers to become more than someone you have sold to, but someone who sells for you by becoming an advocate of your business. I think any dealer would agree with me that these are skills their business will need to take in more business vs. turning away potential business.
Reasons & Benefits to Bring D&I into Your Dealership
Attracting new customers is really difficult unless you understand who you're targeting. When you understand who you're targeting, you are able to segment the market, anticipate and meet their needs. The more your employees reflect the diversity of the customer base and the consumers you serve, the more your organization will be able to understand and integrate the diverse needs.
It's important to remember that your dealership's culture is a reflection of your brand. People want to do business with organizations that align with their values. Diversity and inclusion is something that customers care deeply about. Companies need to show that they also care as much as their customers do, as outlined in this checklist below.
When you're looking at and assessing your ability to go after a more diverse base, review your demographics. Make sure there are no gaps in your targeting. Review your targeting and advertising and communications to make sure they're more inclusive of new customer segments. Check and validate internally within your store by speaking to your team, or to experts outside of the store to make sure you're doing the things that are going to resonate with this new customer segment.
This is another personal business story that further accentuates the points of attracting new customers. I strategized with a dealer who consistently delivered high market share and double-digit sales growth, but I challenged him. I said, "There's more market opportunity in your AOR that you may be unaware of."
After several discussions, we decided to test a new business concept at the time of advertising extended hours for 2 weeknights and Saturdays to promote his business with parts, service, merchandise and consumer product specials.
He began advertising for a couple of weeks before his first extended night and his first promotion had customers flooding the phones at the dealerships. With questions like, "Hey, where are you located?" "How much parking space do you have?" "Do you have shopping carts available?"
He asked me, "Cleo, who are these people? What are these questions they're asking me?" I told him, "These customers are new and potential customers in your market who were not aware of you. But, because of your new extended hours and advertising promotion, they are now aware of you, and better yet, you can sell to them."
The result? He doubled his parts and service business and he tripled his merchandise business. He also set records for his lawn and garden business and sold a few small tractors. All because of his transition from business to customer hours to attract new customers,
Diversity and inclusion are not easy. It is hard. But, it is also an opportunity you can build your business on, and for this to happen, it will require commitment. It also requires discussions initiating hard and new discussions that may be tough. These discussions may be uncomfortable, but these real discussions will turn around your business if you are open to having them. You cannot avoid them, because diversity and inclusion is not just the right thing to do, it is the thing to do.
In addition, there are going to be barriers because it's going to really bring about change in your organization … and with change comes resistance. So be prepared to be challenged, while you are challenging.
A barrier could be the lack of communication or the need for more clarity on your diversity and inclusion strategy.
If you're trying to understand more about diversity and inclusion, you can't do it without the lack of support tools and training. It has to be a priority. The graphic below shows the barriers, but I can tell you, there's a game plan to turn those barriers into opportunities.
Embrace change by making sure that you communicate your strategy down the line, across the line, with clarity. Represent diversity & inclusion in all your business aspects. Take off those limited vision goggles and become more open to cultural, generational, and gender points of view and perspectives. Invest in committing to support tools and training to understand and learn more about diversity inclusion. More importantly, make it a strategic priority.
We talked about what diversity and inclusion is and we talked about what it isn't. We also talked about why it matters and discussed the numerous positive and financial benefits for your dealership. However, there is one last point and that is, whose job is it in the organization to help me get my business to the next level and begin this diversity and inclusion journey.
Well, let me tell you a story about 'that's my job.' It's about a story of four people, named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.
There was an important job to do, and Everybody was asked to do it. However, Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. So, Somebody got angry, because it was Everybody's job because Everybody thought Anybody would do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.
The result? It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
The moral of this story is that diversity and inclusion begin at the top. This is where the commitment begins with initiating discussion, having dialogue, and providing support, training, and tools for your team. And, once everyone sees the commitment, then it becomes everyone's job.
In summary, implementing diversity and inclusion within your business is hard. But it can be done no matter where your dealership or business resides. In every community there is diversity and it is defined by many things. However, it takes work, effort, and time to pursue, and once implemented, the benefits derived will be in abundance for you, your employees, customers and communities.