Living Our Mission and Vision: Practice Makes Perfect at Key Hyundai

We asked all the solution providers in the sales departments to tell us about a time when they provided a solution to a customer that made them proud to be a solution provider and not a product pusher.  I’ve gotten such a thrill from reading the stories and I want to share them with you.  Here is one from Michael Bianchi, Sales (Solutions) Manager at Key Hyundai of Manchester.   It’s very appropriate in celebration of Veteran’s Day.

We had a young married couple come in and they were looking for a fuel efficient vehicle.  They drove in to the dealership in a 2010 Ford F150, a gas guzzler.  They test drove a Sonata and loved it.  They told me they had good credit and wanted to lease.  When I looked at their credit, I discovered that the loan on their trade was showing as repossession.  I spoke to the customer and found that he the husband had just returned from deployment in Afghanistan.  He told me he had called the bank that held his auto loan before he went to Afghanistan and told them to place his loan under Active Duty Deferment.  Unfortunately, they didn’t do it.  So, I called Hyundai Motor Capital, spent 25 minutes explaining the situation to our analyst.  I told our analyst the customer’s story and how not only did he serve in Afghanistan, but that he also serves as a local police officer.  Our analyst gave us a Tier 1 approval on the lease, and we were able to give the customer the ability to build his credit back up.  They drove out that same night in their brand new Sonata and vowed that they would tell everyone that Key Hyundai was definitely the Dealer For the People.   

This is a great example of being a Solution Provider.  Most dealerships would have looked only at the customer’s credit score and rushed him out the door.  By making it our mission to help people drive nicer, newer cars, we went the extra mile and fought for our customer.  In turn, we literally changed his life.  Thanks to all of you who put your heart and soul to living within our mission and vision, “we are solution providers and not product pushers.  We believe everyone deserves to drive a nicer, newer car.  At Key Hyundai, we want to keep your car fun and safe to drive for as long as you wish to drive it”.

A big thank you to all our employees and customers who have so proudly served in the U.S. Military.

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Weekly Musings: Practice is the Key to Success|Ct Hyundai dealer

Do you ever look at someone and feel jealous about what they have? How far they’ve gotten in life? Do you ever think, “why not me?” Well, there’s an alternative to that thinking.

We all want “quick fixes”. We want to win the lottery, take a pill to lose weight, etc. I promise you, though, most people get what they want by lots and lots of practice. The success starts slowly and with more practice and more discipline comes more success.
I have friends that are great business people but terrible parents. Not surprising. They put 120% effort into business, attending seminars, reading journals, working long hours and they put very little time into parenting. The truth is, they could have both if they dedicated the practice to both. You can be successful in lots of areas of life if you just dedicate the time and energy to doing so.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Outliers,” (highly recommend) he conducted a study that showed it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master something, whether its golf, or medicine, or the guitar, or parenting. That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t have pretty darn good command of a subject with 5,000 hours or even 1,000 hours.
So, I ask you to think about it this week, what areas do you want success in? Your career? Your family life? A sport? Whatever area it is, what are you doing to practice it every single day? If you are a sales person and want to excel at it, are you watching sales videos, reading books and articles and practicing role playing with your colleagues? If you are a technician, are you taking classes, reading magazines, tackling ever tougher problems until you figure them out?

For me, one of my focus areas is leadership. I love it and I want to get better at it. So, I have committed to being a student of leadership. I am always reading a leadership book, studying a blog and looking for insight in other people I encounter.

As the great actor Will Smith says, “I’ve always considered myself to be just average talent and what I have is a ridiculous insane obsessiveness for practice and preparation.”

At Key Hyundai, we practice our mission statement every day, “we believe everyone deserves to drive a nicer, newer car.  Key Hyundai wants to keep your car fun and safe to drive for as long as you wish to drive it.

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Weekly Musings: Hope on Wheels & Key Hyundai, Kicking Pediatric Cancer’s Butt

By far, the best thing about being a Hyundai dealer is Hyundai Hope on Wheels.  With Hyundai Hope on Wheels, we donate money to fund pediatric cancer research for every car we sell and Hyundai matches it.  Hyundai and the Hyundai dealers are the single largest funders of pediatric cancer research in the United States.  In fact, the US Government designates less than 3% of its national cancer research funds towards pediatrics.  Without Hyundai, more kids would be dying.  That’s a fact.  In my book, the words kids and cancer shouldn’t go together.

Through Hyundai Hope On Wheels, we have donated a total of over $72 million to fund pediatric cancer research at institutions across the country, including Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford and Yale New Haven Hospital.  Just this week, Jeff and I were lucky enough to help donate a $250,000 at Yale to an amazing researcher studying how to improve outcomes for kids with brain cancer.  In total, over $1 million has been donated right here in Connecticut since 1998.  That’s a lot of money!!  So, to all our employees and customers, thank you!

September is pediatric cancer awareness month.  I encourage you to get involved!  Go to to learn as much as you can!  Key Hyundai has a car in each showroom (Key Hyundai in Manchester and Key Hyundai in Milford) with kid’s handprints on it.  Those are actual handprints of kids with cancer from across the country.  TELL EVERY CUSTOMER ABOUT IT!!  The more awareness we have, the more kids we’ll save.  Jeff, ,my brother and partner, went to the check ceremony at Yale New Haven and watched sick kids paint there hands and put them on a piece of paper in preparation to be next years cling on for the car handprints.  It is incredibly moving.  I’ve been to these ceremonies a dozen times and they never get any easier.

So, if you are ever looking for inspiration or looking for the “why” in what we do everyday, look no further than saving kid’s lives.  Please, go to the website and get involved.  It’s easy.  As a mom of young kids, I can’t imagine what these kids and parents go through.  We have to continue on with our mission to eradicate pediatric cancer.

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Looking for a freelance copywriter to grow your business? Kate Mayer is your lady. Act now, because she only has 10 hours a week available….

Copywriter, marketer extraordinaire

Copywriter, marketer extraordinaire

This is the first, and probably only time I’ll ever use this blog to recommend a person for a job.  Through cosmic karma, Kate Mayer came into my life over two years ago.  I was looking for copywriting and marketing help, she was looking to get back into the work force after raising kids.  I posted an ad on Craigslist.  She answered.  It was like an amazing first date.  And, two years later, the love affair is still going strong.  As Kate’s second child heads off to college and my copywriting/marketing needs have declined a bit, she finds herself with a few extra hours available.  And, if you are one of the first to respond ( ) you may be lucky enough to be able to have her work for you too.  Honestly, if you are interested, reach out to her now.  No marketing scarcity junk to push you here, just the hard cold facts.  Her available will be gone by the end of the month.  She’s that good.  She is smart as a whip, creative and efficient.  She has references galore and tons of work product for you to look at.

Here is my formal recommendation of Kate:

Kate is the perfect go-to writer for any marketing project. Hired to build our social media presence and build targeted content, she quickly shared bigger and better ideas with the skill to execute them successfully. Her conscientious approach to branding, project management, direct mail campaigns and social media is incomparable, and her ability to write effectively and connect with the customer is innate. By effectively partnering with community organizations, Kate is instrumental in growing our business while supporting local non-profits and giving back.  She adds a creative edge and attention to detail to every project she tackles, and frankly, her enthusiasm is infectious.

Additional small business/automotive specific:

Kate was the copywriter, creative director and production liaison for Key Hyundai’s successful customer appreciation campaign: a thank you gift and series of 5 follow-up direct mail letters to encourage satisfaction and communication post-sale.

The Key Cash Customer Loyalty Program was written and produced by Kate as she exclusively managed all elements of the project from idea to fulfillment: letters, explanation, Key Cash, fulfillment, communication. She created not one, but two successful customer referral programs: MORE Money and Key Cash, both proven successful.

Kate successfully manages customer complaints, media inquires, and legal concerns with advocacy and patience, quickly informing owners and identifying and diffusing volatile situations easily and effectively so satisfaction and relationships are preserved.

Kate successfully wrote and managed a multi-faceted customer direct mail campaign designed to keep customers informed, involved, and encouraged to shop, service and visit during a massive 9-month re-construction of our dealership.

Kate was the copywriter and creative director for the Key Hyundai Mission & Vision Handbook. She successfully took my rough-cut ideas and composed a direct, fun-to-read, persuasive mission and vision guide for employees, customers, vendors, community leaders, and small businesses to emulate.

Kate effectively increased Hyundai exposure and the Jill Merriam Key Hyundai brand by negotiating and securing prime retail space at our largest area mall to create leverage over competing car dealerships with our desired demographic.

Kate directed sponsorship partnerships with maximum exposure and minimum expense, and created special events that brought the brick & mortar business on the road to the community: Connecticut Beardsley Zoo; Save-a-Suit; Milford Oyster Fest; Milford Public Schools Pays-for-As; Vernon Bookmobile; CT MORE READING book drive; etc.

Kate increased our Facebook presence from 575 fans (April 2011) to 981 active, local, engaged – no SPAMBOTS – real live customer fans (August 2013) by creating locally relevant, customer related content and not pushing product.

Kate created a unified brand, voice and tone to relaunch the Drive Worry Free program consisting of a customer brochure, insert, window decals and windshield banner with consistent message to support staff, engage customers, while meeting all legal and corporate recommendations.

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Key Hyundai of Milford’s Own Larry Plunkett

Employee Spotlight time!  Introducing….Larry Plunkett!

Larry, a 9 1/2 year employee of Key Hyundai of Milford

Larry, a 9 1/2 year employee of Key Hyundai of Milford

Larry provides solutions as a Service Advisor at Key Hyundai of Milford.  Larry has been in the automotive business for 27 years!  It’s hard to believe because he looks so young.  Larry stays fit by running and working out.  He ran the Hartford Marathon in 2009 and he’s currently training for a 1/2 marathon in New Haven on Labor Day.

Larry was an employee of the Milford dealership when Jeff and I bought it from our father in 2009.  He’s worked for Key Hyundai for 9 years. We are grateful that he has stayed on with us.  He loves his job because of all the customer and employee contact he has.

Larry spent 9 ½ years in the Navy and has traveled many places, including France, China, Amsterdam and Italy.  Larry would love to have the opportunity to learn to speak Mandarin Chinese someday.  When asked if he could be anything in the world, he commented, “a college graduate.”  I say, go for it!  It’s never too late.  He would also love to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and go on a safari.  He loves active vacations in strange lands.

Larry’s true pride and joy are his family.  His daughter is 20 and a senior at St. Lawrence University in New York.  She is a Political Science major.  His son, is 17, and just started his freshman year at the University of Notre Dame.  He is an Engineering major and just got chosen to be part of the marching band.  Sports are huge at Notre Dame so that is a big deal!  Larry has been married to his wife for 22 years.  When you talk to Larry about his family, you can see the pride and love that he has for them.  It’s very refreshing nowadays!

Larry is truly a great guy!  If you get a chance, stop into the Milford service department and say hello.


Jill Merriam, Dealer For the People R 

PS:  Thank you for continuing to live our mission statement, “we are solution providers and not product pushers and we believe everyone wants to drive a nicer, newer car. And, we want to keep you car fun and safe to drive for as long as you wish to drive it.”

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Weekly Musings: A Customer Wrote a Poem about Key Hyundai – Wow!

August 8, 2013

Dear Solution Providers.

I am thrilled to show you this poem that a customer wrote about Key Hyundai of Manchester.  That’s right, a poem!  This is a first for all of us.  Congratulations to Erin, Angela, the two Chris’ in service, John Gardner, Mohammad, and Jon Buttero for living our mission and vision.

“We are solution providers and not product pushers.  We believe everyone deserves to drive a nicer, newer car.  At Key Hyundai, we want to keep your car fun and safe to drive for as long as you wish to drive it.”

Wow!  A poem about Key Hyundai of Manchester!

Wow! A poem about Key Hyundai of Manchester!

I don’t know about you, but it is very rare when I send a positive customer service message to someone, let alone a poem!  Can you imagine the earth-shattering experience this customer must have had to take the time to create this poem?   I hope you find this as amazing as I do.

And, almost as good, Joe Mirow, General Sales Manager wrote back:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
That poem rocked and so did you!

Folks, this is one for the record book.  Thank you for living true to our values, mission and vision every single day.


Jill Merriam

Dealer For the People ®

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Weekly Musings: Selling is Not Hard. Listen WAY More than you Talk.

Art of selling is all about listening.  Listen and ask probing questions.  Selling is all about providing a solution to the customer at a price that works for them.

Art of selling is all about listening. Listen and ask probing questions. Selling is all about providing a solution to the customer at a price that works for them.

I’ve had to interact with a lot of sales people recently.  We’re investing in a sales training system for the Key Hyundai sales force so I’ve talked to a lot of automotive vendors.   Let me tell you, selling is definitely a lost art.  Everyone I’ve encountered made the exact same mistake.  They haven’t taken even five minutes to get to know me and what I’m looking for.  They have just forced information down my throat and then gone in to try to close the sale on price.  Do I really care about how great their product is if it doesn’t work for me?  If I’m turned off on how they sell me, why would I want to invest in their sales training?

We’ve all had it happen to us.  We walk into a furniture store, for example, and start looking around.  The salesperson comes up and says, “Can I help you?”  You say, “We are looking for a tan couch”.  They start talking and talking, selling you the benefits of a certain couch and you can’t get a word in edgewise.  Finally, you spit out, “it has to be a sleeper sofa.”  Now, they’ve ticked you off, wasted your time and haven’t gotten a sale.  What if instead, when you said you are looking for a tan couch, they followed it up with additional probing questions, like:  where are you going to use it, does it need to be a sleeper sofa, does it need to be a certain size, do you prefer leather or clothe, what’s your budget, what kind of wear will it get, are you looking for formal or informal, etc.

Selling is so simple.

Seek to understand the customer before you seek to be understood.  In other words, ask questions, listen and don’t talk.

No one is doing it.

If you do it, you will succeed.

Have a great weekend!


Jill Merriam

Dealer For the People R

PS:  Thanks, as always for living our mission statement, “we are solution providers and not product pushers.  We believe everyone deserves to drive at nicer, newer car.  Key Hyundai wants to keep your car fun and safe to drive for as long as you wish to drive it.”

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