The caricatures are many: greased-back hair, moustache, an old suit and a gold pinky ring. The used car salesman is among the most disparaged professions. They're always trying to put one over on the customer, trying to sell a lemon at lemonade prices. But it doesn't have to be this way.

YPO member Cody Green started his career as a car salesman, but he doesn't fit any of the stereotypes. He's young, with a genuine smile and nice-guy Canadian demeanor. Green saw firsthand the discomfort of a customer picking out the perfect car, only to be told they couldn't get financing. That's why Green founded Canada Drives, a fintech company that connects customers to dealers based on their credit profile. Customers fill out basic information online to learn what they can afford before they ever step onto a lot. Then, they're contacted by a pre-vetted dealership that already understands their credit situation.

It's a win-win scenario for all involved, so it's no surprise that Green and Canada Drives have racked up the awards. Canada Drives has been named multiple times to the Deloitte Fast 50 list and the Deloitte North America Fast 500 list. It was also the #1 company on the 2016 PROFIT 500 list of Canadian Business Magazine. Green has been included on multiple 40 under 40 lists, including Canada's Top 40 Under 40 and Business in Vancouver's Forty Under 40. Green was also an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Here's how Green infused trust back into the car buying process:

1. Understand the Customer

The first step towards trust is understanding. Green says, "You need to understand the customer's needs before you can be credible in presenting options to win their business." He believes understanding starts at the first interaction with the customer. "When I started out selling cars, after every introduction my first goal was to understand what the customer was currently driving and what they did and didn't like about their current vehicle," Green shares. Even now that he's no longer working on a car lot, Canada Drives' interactions with customers still starts in much the same way. He explains, "Today the first questions we ask a potential customer when they come to our website have to do with what they need in a vehicle, payment requirements, credit situation, and whether they're looking to trade in a vehicle." Green understands that he can't help the shopper or the dealer if he doesn't fully comprehend their needs.

2. Challenge the Old Ways

Green found success at the dealership by allowing customers to enter financial information online before they arrived. He realized that the internet could revolutionize the business, but he needed to figure out how to scale it. He explains, "The greatest limiting factors when selling cars in the dealership was the amount of customers that may or may not walk onto the lot on a given day. From early on I recognized the potential power of the internet for selling vehicles. It started with one simple ad on Craigslist, and with that a new influx of customers kept my day full of appointments." Green knew he couldn't scale if he was diving his time between the financial information and the people at the dealership, and it inspired him to found Canada Drives. "Through our dealership network today, we are able to provide a digital buying experience to our customers and can service customers coast-to-coast without the need for our own physical footprint and the thousands of employees that go with it," Green describes. Here again, Green facilitated the win-win, improving the experience for the buyer and seller by being unafraid to break from the way things were.

3. Feed the Need for Speed

When he started in the industry, Green found the car sales industry lagged behind in customer experience. He shares, "I believed people didn't want to spend multiple weekends shopping for a car. I knew if I did my job properly, the vast majority of people would be willing to make a decision today. From early on I strived for an efficient shopping experience, making sure to have all necessary information so customers can decide." This dedication to efficiency continues today at Canada Drives. "As we've grown, we've paid extremely close attention to how long it takes to onboard a customer through our website and how long it takes for us to respond back through different channels. We are always optimizing to provide a fast, seamless customer experience that ultimately ends with us winning their business," Green says. By gathering information first, customers don't need to hurry up and wait at the dealership.

4. Deliver on Your Promises

In his dealership days, Green witnessed many uncomfortable customers. "I witnessed again and again customers who would delay or not buy a vehicle because they ultimately didn't trust the person or dealership they were working with," Green laments. So Green dedicated himself to follow-through, explaining, "Every small commitment I made to a customer, from the very first interaction, was a test of whether I would deliver on my promises and whether they could ultimately trust me. It could be as simple as promising to call them at a certain time, or ensuring that if I provided them information it was accurate and complete." Green has found it even more important when he took his business online. "In the online world," he shares, "any trust or mistrust is amplified. If you do a great job, you can get an online brand advocate. But a sub par experience where trust was lost can leave you with nasty reviews." Bad news travels fast on the internet, and your reputation can suffer great harm in practically no time at all.

Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.

Published on: Oct 12, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.