LOS ANGELES – Ken Rotondo says skeptical dealers may ask him, “What is a dog doctor going to tell me about selling cars?”

The one-time practicing veterinarian returned to college, got a business degree and became a co-founder of iNovum, a market-research firm that offers “mind genomics” as a way for dealerships and other businesses to get into customers’ heads.

“It allows people in an organization to know what to say and, more importantly, what not to say to customers,” Rotondo says here at the Automotive Customer Centricity Summit hosted by Thought Leadership Summits.

“Mind genomics ignores the bell curve and looks at people’s variances,” he says. “Imagine people coming into a dealership and, after a few questions, you understand them.”

But first they fill out an online 36-question survey on their automotive buying preferences. iNovum’s dealer clients provide names of existing customers who receive the questionnaire on the dealership’s behalf. A chance to win something is provided as an incentive for filling out the forms. 

A car-buying section asks respondents their concerns about issues such as price, fuel economy, safety and certified used vehicles.

A section on finance and insurance poses questions on driving habits as well as interest level for products such as extended warranties, credit disability insurance and paint and fabric protection.

iNovum uses the answers to craft personality profiles the firm provides to clients. So if and when someone who completes the survey visits a dealership, salespeople “know what products and experiences resonate with that person,” Rotondo says.

“It eliminates a lot of guesswork. It allows you to know their comfort zone and take a toned-down approach.”

Mind genomics is an advanced form of predictive analytics, but showroom salesmanship still plays a vital role, Rotondo tells conference attendees. “You guys know what to say. We’re just telling you who is standing in front of you so you can say this or not say that.

“For example, if someone is interested in going directly to a test drive after doing lots of research, don’t go to the 6-step selling process. On the other hand, if someone wants a detailed product presentation, give it to them.”