DrivingSales Executive Summit Review by Ryan Gerardi

DrivingSales Executive Summit 2015: All About the Customer Experience

by · November 4, 2015

DrivingSales Executive Summit 2015

Having attended my first DrivingSales Executive Summit last week, I am excited to be reporting on the event for the first time here on BlogPro. So many of my colleagues in this space that I have known over the years have attended DSES regularly, so although I was at this event for the first time I was still surrounded by many friends and familiar faces.

Much like with my recent DD19 experience where I was able to participate as an attendee rather than as an exhibitor, it was nice to enjoy the breakout sessions at DSES and not be tied to a booth or table, even though the expo aspect of DSES is less commanding than it is at Digital Dealer.


Email, Email, Email

Leading up to the event, it was fascinating to see the email communications coming from the different sponsors and exhibitors. As one who puts much effort into email marketing, I always like to see how companies approach their group email communications. When you are registered as a dealer you can count on a steady stream of emails from vendors both before, during, and after the event.

In addition to vendor emails, DrivingSales also sends out regular email communications throughout the event, multiple a day in fact. So be prepared once you register.


Jared’s Keynote: Competing on Customer Experience

On Day Two, after being introduced by Charlie Vogelheim, DrivingSales Founder Jared Hamilton delivered a terrific message in his keynote. I’ve seen him speak before and he’s a fast talker on stage, but his message was on point…

Auto sales are rising, but dealer profits are not. Why is this?

The reason why as Jared demonstrated is not because dealerships spend too much on marketing and advertising, not because of inventory, but because of how dealerships value human capital. If you check the #DSES on Twitter you will see two things:

  1. A big sigh of relief by all the marketing companies in the room
  2. Overwhelming support for the lack of vision in dealerships around human capital

As Glenn Garvin tweeted, “Total labor rates do NOT equal total labor costs. Employee turnover is terribly costly to bottom line.”

My favorite slide from Jared’s presentation is the one below that reveals the difference between how COSTCO and Walmart approach their human capital strategy and how it impacts their bottom lines. The real numbers are not in the numbers.


Costco vs Walmart Labor Costs


Your takeaway from this keynote was that top auto retailers today are competing on the customer experience and while there are numerous factors that go into this, your human capital strategy is one of the most important. Build a culture of trust, integrity, and authenticity with your employees so that these values can be carried through into the operation and reflected in the customer experience.


Noteworthy Breakout Sessions I Attended

Speaking of competing on the customer experience aspect among dealerships, a message I stand by wholeheartedly and even actively pursue with my dealers, two of the breakout sessions I attended which were noteworthy both spoke to the customer experience.


Kindra Hall DSES Breakout Session


Kindra Hall: Live to Tell

Kindra is a speaker, writer and consultant that specializes in the strategic use of storytelling to enhance your messaging. She is not from the auto industry but she tailored her session to how and why dealers can and should put sufficient effort into identifying, constructing, and delivering their stories.

In her session, which was energetic and lively Kindra explained

  • Why good effective storytelling works so well
  • What a story is not
  • The biggest mistake in storytelling
  • How to find your story, craft your story, and tell your story

Yes she did all this in 45 minutes and it was a terrific session with applicable tips and insights that not only dealers can implement but any business, or individual for that matter.


Dynamic Beacon DSES 2015 Breakout


Ben Koller and Justin Brun: Send Better (Responsive) Emails that Drive Results

If you read my DD19 wrap-up post you would know that I attended a session there by Justin Brun and Ben Koller of Dynamic Beacon as well. Because I was so impressed with them the first time and because they were covering a different subject in this session, i decided to attend this one as well.

Like before, Ben and Justin have a low-key and unassuming demeanor in their session, working in tandem to guide attendees along an organized path to demonstrate the effect and benefit of their topic, in this case the enhanced results your dealership will experience with effectively implemented responsive email design.

The effect is a better customer experience, compatible on whichever device a customer could be utilizing at any point in time while engaging with your dealership. The benefit of course being more sales and happy customers.

While there were numerous terrific breakout sessions to attend over the 3-day event, you can’t attend them all. Realistically you can only attend about 6 and that’s if you attend all day for each of the three days. I was able to hit a couple others, but these two really stood out for me.



Overall my experience at DSES was good. I did not spend much time in the ballroom where the expo portion was except during the receptions where I was more engaged with the folks than the vendor tables. That said, like all such events I was glad to be part of it, make new connections, and of course catch up with friends.

Producer and Host of the AutoConverse Future Mobility & Connectivity Podcast, Ryan began working in the automotive industry in 2001, establishing his roots in online vehicle merchandising before expanding into digital marketing and now multi media for Automotive B2B. You can connect with Ryan on LinkedIn.