Skippy’s Tip: Learn From the Industry’s Wise Men and Women

Simon ‘Skippy’ Bowkett is a respected adviser and trainer to some of the most prestigious dealer groups and manufacturers, but even he acknowledges that there are people in this industry who can teach him a thing or two. 

One such person is Florida-based Tommy Gibbs.  Tommy not only offers simple but effective advice about improving used car sales, he has lived the experience.  He got into training only after he sold his Toyota dealership. 

So when Skippy interviewed Tommy for a recent podcast ( Podcast – Symco Training ) the result was gold dust.

“Tommy is known across the international automotive industry for his no-nonsense coaching,” enthuses Skippy.  “So when I interviewed him I wanted to learn for myself as well as for my listeners.  And boy did we learn!”

Three key principles underpinned the first part of the interview: apply discipline to your working life; treat people fairly; and be creative in managing your used car stock.

Discipline is a key to success.

“Tommy is an early riser, a former Marine and has a background playing a variety of sports,” says Skippy.  “I admire the way he applies the discipline learned in his past life to how he works now.  As he says, he has worked in some bad franchises and had to survive on income from used cars, which taught him valuable lessons.  If you’re a good used car operator it feeds all the other departments in the franchise.”

Tommy revealed to Skippy that he advises the dealers who come to him for advice to treat people with respect, to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” which Tommy sees as a golden rule.

“It makes perfect sense,” says Skippy.  “If you treat people correctly they will respect you and enjoy dealing with you, whether they’re colleagues or customers.”

None of this might seem to be specific to selling used cars, but it all feeds into a philosophy of doing the right thing.

“It won’t surprise anyone to hear that Tommy sees every single employee in a dealership as equally important,” explains Skippy.  “As he says ‘from the lowest guy who makes the least amount of money to the top dog.’ I can relate to that.  If one person is letting the business down you can guarantee that the customer will notice.”

But the real nugget about selling used cars more profitably came when Tommy talked about pushing the average price of stock down.

“Dealers hang on to problem cars for too long,” says Tommy.  “Why would you keep a car past 60 days old? I’m not saying take a loss, I’m saying that if you had priced it correctly a long time ago you would have sold it already.

“You should know, every day, what the average cost per unit is for your stock inventory.  We print it out every day and circulate it so we focus on that number. The more I can press my average cost for used car stock down the more I can get into the used car business and out of the ‘newsed’ car business.”

‘Newsed’ is the term Tommy coined for when the cost of your used car stock creeps up and up and gets too close to your new car pricing.

He continues: “There are a couple of ways to get that average cost down.  Force yourself to keep some of that cheaper stuff you normally get rid of.  Every dealer should have a ‘budget centre’ section as that will help bring the average down,” says Tommy.

“The next thing is to make sure you attack your top ten most expensive units in stock.  Print out a list every day and make sure the management team have a copy and make sure we get an opportunity to work a deal on one of those cars to move it out in a hurry.  The faster you can sell your more expensive cars the better off you are going to be and that will help drive your average costs down which makes you a much better used car dealer.”

As you can tell, Tommy talks sense and he has a lot more to teach.  Skippy is certainly a fan.

Listening to them talk together is really enjoyable.  Give it a listen and learn a thing or two.