Young managers such as Pickett and this year's other 40 under 40 honorees are leading cultural change in dealerships driven, they say, by tech-savvy consumers who want a fast, transparent buying experience.
Fred Anderson Toyota sits on the edge of North Carolina's famous Research Triangle Park. Its customers not only do their homework on prices and specials but also tend to be interested in the technology on the vehicles, Pickett says.
Since being appointed head of the store's business development center in 2007, Pickett, a former TV show host and producer in the area, has held frequent product forums for employees, he says.
All hires to the on-floor sales staff or BDC go through the program because customers expect salespeople to be knowledgeable about car technology, he says. The research park is home to major facilities for IBM, Cisco Systems, Glaxo Wellcome and other companies.
When the program launched, he got some push-back from longtime employees who thought they had mastered the art of selling. But they received no quarter. They had to come back for a refresher if they didn't pass a test on the technology the first time, he says.
Pickett says it worked because he had the backing of senior management. And Pickett, himself, was selling nearly 30 cars a month before switching to the BDC.
Of the business processes Pickett revamped, Anderson Automotive Group President Michael Anderson said: "We just had to tee him up."
Bobbie Herron, digital sales and marketing director for the 14-store Garber Automotive Group in Saginaw, Mich., says young employees are changing store culture by the way they relate to technology and customers.