An Interview with Gordon Grant, Global Sales Director, to Unleash His Golden Rules in Building the CitNOW Smart Video Platform All Over the World
Gordon, you have been working in the automotive industry over the past four decades. Could you tell us a bit about your career path?
Sure. I am Scottish, to be exact I am from Glasgow in Scotland. This year will mark my 40th year in the automotive industry. I am in my 5th year in CitNOW as Global Sales Director to engage OEMs and dealers with CitNOW products and services. Prior to all of that, I started as an apprentice in a garage at the age of 16. Vehicle refinish was probably the more technical term. Grown from an apprentice to a qualified painter, then Bodyshop Manager, Aftersales Manager, at 1999 I joined a large automotive consultancy business and stayed there for 10 years. When I left, I was the business unit director for the collision repair sector, managing all the vehicle manufacturer programmes. That’s why I have a very good relationship with the OEMs.
In 2006, I met Alistair Horsburgh, who worked as Commercial Director with a large accident management company. I joined the same company as Sales Director. Alistair left that company in 2008 and after a couple of years working as an Independent Automotive Consultant, he was introduced to Andrew Howells, the Founder of CitNOW. CitNOW, at that time, was a new concept with only 2 members of staff working with around 10 dealers. Alistair recognized the potential and joined in 2011. I joined in 2013 as the business started to grow.
What made you join CitNOW and where lies in your focus?
When Alistair first introduced me to CitNOW, he recorded a video and sent it to me. I clicked on the video and watched it very quickly. It was something that I hadn’t seen before. Not a generic video that is recorded and published on the website. It’s a link with a customized and personal video sent by the sales person who you just talked with to take all you need and See It Now. That sheer personalization is what makes it really powerful and engaging.
CitNOW totally fitted my understanding of the automotive sector. It made sense to me to help CitNOW to grow in the market. Basically the next couple of years after I joined, CitNOW was growing the business and also establishing offices in other markets. Today being operated in 42 countries, we have offices across most of the European markets and distributer partners in South Africa, in Australia, in America, in Canada etc. In China and Japan, we have our strategic partner MCON.
All the automotive partners I’ve worked with, no matter which OEM in which country, not particular for any of them, have four core objectives in common: 1) to sell more products whether that’s cars or parts, 2) to run on a profitable basis, 3) to have happy customers and retain happy customers, 4) and to ensure they have a strong respected brand. CitNOW delivers value through all of these four principles.
What is your strategy for winning a global client?
The initial engagement was with British OEMs by a top-down approach. Let me use an example. In 2012, CitNOW was approved by BMW UK. Then we were introduced to the BMW UK dealer network. Once we were within the BMW dealers, the strategy changed from a vertical implementation to a horizontal one. To paint a picture for you, a lot of dealers are part of a dealer group which operates on a multi-brand way. An example is that with Inchcape. We introduced CitNOW to Inchcape BMW dealers, and once Inchcape can see the benefit, then we were further recommended to VW dealers, Mercedes-Benz dealers, Jaguar dealers, horizontally across Inchcape group. After getting their approvals on CitNOW, we go vertically again to other OEM brands.
Starting with BMW, into the dealer groups, and then to the other brands, we just kept on reproducing that model. The next part to that, we start leveraging that relationship to other markets outside of UK. Again we make it reproductive.
What was the main challenge amid this global expansion?
I would say the main challenge is change. You can always expect some resistance from OEMs or dealers to change. My mission, therefore, is to help them understand and fully capture the benefit with using CitNOW.
To start, I would schedule a meeting with them to discuss what’s the performance, what’s the pressure points, and introduce CitNOW as a solution to that challenge.
When setting up and training a Porsche dealer, we did a video of Porsche Panamera and sent it to the customer who later on bought the car. Can you imagine buying a car without venturing inside a showroom? That was really important to our client. We call it the turning point. Usually it comes pretty quick. In some rare cases, CitNOW takes effect 3 months after implementation. As soon as a purchase behavior is identified with the customer claiming that he bought that car because dealer sent him a video or he would like to go ahead with tyres or maintenance because he saw the video, CitNOW’s value starts to emerge. The benefit is down to the individuals in dealerships. What I am always happy to see is the growing speed of adoption by OEM or dealer year after year along my path in CitNOW.
What drives forward the speed of adoption of CitNOW?
That’s probably one of my golden rules. I don’t consider myself as a sales person. I am just enthusiastic for the product and service that can be offered. People buy into that rather than necessarily the product itself, and therefore when I am talking about something with passion, that belief becomes infectious.
How will other clients benefit from CitNOW offerings?
We are continually developing the product and offer. Recently we launched a product set called video relationship marketing. It is a range of apps we developed that deliver value around key milestone of a customer journey. Thinking about buying or trading-in a car, the whole purchasing experience related to collection or handover of the car, and then to the ownership cycle, can be visualized to customer. We put video in every possible touchpoint with the end customer to enhance the customer journey. Having crunched data from the millions of CitNOW videos sent all over the world, we can measure success and help our auto clients identity untapped opportunities to reach its customer base better. I am very optimistic 2018 will again be a great year for us.