CHARLES CHILD

Are car salespeople, journalists all that different?

Charles Child is news editor for Automotive News.Charles Child is news editor for Automotive News.
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ORLANDO -- A strange thing happened to me here at the Digital Dealer Conference. I've concluded I could be a car salesman.

Let me tell you why that's surprising. Anyone who knows me realizes that working a car lot would be a seriously poor career choice. I'm an introvert. Alas, I lack the salesman's tools: instant rapport, banter and a quick head for figures.

But in Orlando I've learned that I could be a plausible Internet car salesman. Here's why: Internet shoppers are intensely seeking information, about auto features, prices, loans, you name it. And what do I do for a living? Provide information. For me, dishing out info to shoppers would be a breeze.

"The way to win is to be useful," said Jay Baer, author and digital marketing consultant, in Tuesday's keynote address. Promotion is out, utility is in.

But it goes deeper. Good Internet salespeople do more than answer questions. The best ones write blogs about autos and services provided by their dealerships. For instance, they might provide tips on the best car seat. They also create videos, say, about cool features of a certain new car. Or they use Facebook and Twitter to strike up conversations.

It's all about engaging potential customers with entertaining and useful information -- in short, what reporters do.

But here's the other side of this coin. You car salesman out there, you are becoming ... journalists!

Years ago you'd attend a Rotary Club meeting to respectfully engage potential customers in person. Now, you are doing the same thing with media, such as Web sites, blogs, videos, Twitter and Facebook. To do your job well, you must master the media skills of a journalist.

So to help you out, I'll do two things. First, I promise not to quit my day job and enter the fray. Second, I'll pass on the best piece of advice about writing that I received in college: Say anything you want, just don't be boring.

Good luck, my fellow journalists.

You can reach Charles Child at cchild@crain.com.

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