For the past 8 years most of you know I've been building software for the car industry with iMagicLab. Since we have never taken VC money and have never taken loans from anyone iML has been built from profit, stretching vendor terms and creativity. We said we'd build a company to stand the test of time based on no hype, no lies and only the best technology. Well, we did and iMagicLab is the finest CRM ever made for automobile retailers (and yes, I will do a bake-off against any company live on the web at any time :) )
So now in late 2010, having never had a real sales team, I decided to add 10 auto professionals to a sales team and see if we could extend our sales model beyond referrals and word of mouth. We went out and recruited folks that had sold websites, other crm's, training and just about every other tech products that car dealers use. I brought them all to Maryland, we schooled them night and day on our product offerings and then sent them out into the field to sell.
What a waste of energy and time.
Let's start by saying the personal quality of the people we hired were impeccable and their reputations unsoiled. These were the best, in my opinion, of the folks that work daily selling to dealers. Despite this fact and the fact that everyone really tried, the model of selling into the auto retailing market is one where the smoke and mirrors are so deep that our guys didn't stand a chance. I handcuffed them all from the start no doubt by instituting the following rules:
No talking trash about our competitors.
No lying, fibbing or saying anything to a dealer that we cannot do right now. No future, we're gonna do this or we can do this soon allowed.
No liquor, pretty girls, expensive tickets or any kind of bribe to anyone.
No buying articles that were positive in the media of the industry and no buying "testimonials" from our dealer base.
Now, faced with these rules, the team had to go out and pitch honestly and win because we were the best product on the market. Unfortunately this can't work in an industry where the "best" technology is selected by the best "relationship". Get it? A lot of dealers, because of lack of technical knowledge or insecurity, pick their technology based on a personal recommendation from someone they trust or have known. So for a newer company like us who refused to cultivate these relationships with parties or advertisements it means we have no real way to complete. A cold call from a person they don't know just doesn't win much with dealers that subscribe to the theory that their professional colleagues know what’s best for their store. In truth many of these folks have been compromised with the perks of maintaining a relationship with certain technology companies that go well beyond standard marketing efforts. It's a shame but it's reality.
So, last month I terminated most of the sales experiment we started last year and we won't do it again while I am CEO. Our business has grown every year a healthy 20-30% based on real referrals and customer success and for me, that's just fine. iML is the undisputed leader in CRM for car dealers and our singular focus on delivering rather than promising has helped give our customers a strategic advantage that will do nothing but expand in the future.
I love what I do and I owe it to dealers to repay the trust they put in me 8 years ago. It would have been very easy to throw me out of this industry based on the Microworkz.com fiasco but they didn't. The car business provided shelter and food to my family in my deepest hour of need and I made a promise that my mission in life would be to help car salesmen sell more cars and make more money. I'm not done yet and while sales are important, the 23,242 professional men and women who logged in yesterday to DealerCRM are my only concern.
Adios, got some work to do :)