Tag Archives: Auto Dealer Sales Process

Small Changes For Better Morale And Profit

 

Over the last few years, I have been away from writing my usual opinions about processes at car dealers. Of course, we all know that I have been a champion for dealers to practice over the top customer service. It was the topic of several of my speaking engagements at various events and I would like to thank those of you who attended those events to listen to me rant. Several new buzz words have emerged over this time from the flood of new automotive consultants and vendors. I thank them for making my previous points about customer satisfaction and employee retention valid.

 

It seems the more things change, the necessary adaptation by dealer principals, general managers and fixed operation managers is getting better. We really had no choice; every single entity who listed our inventory, labor time guides, and overall manufacturer information, listed it with everything available they could get their hands on. It was also advertised on those manufacturer sites, social, and every available PPC slot money could buy. There is nothing wrong with that because once the consumer got a sample of how they thought us dirty car dealers and sales people were stealing from them, they starved for it. Thinking about this is what tossed me back into the world of voicing my opinion. Those of you who know me know how much I love pointing at sugar coating and snake oil. In a bit of a twist, I decided to land on our customers for a change in a paragraph just this once.

 

This kills me and we have all heard it; you have other invoices (although it is printed on the sheet they arrived with,) the internet says my car is worth another $2000.00 (we lie if we explain, even though it is like new, we have to inspect it to sell it.) The dealer across town offered me a better deal, on and on. Fine; if the customer does the math for just a mini deal paying sales $200.00 minimum and with the special rates finance gets $200.00 without products. A 10 car month yields the salesperson a whopping $2000.00 plus any bonuses. Wow, we are really taking advantage aren’t we? Sure, there are dealer incentives and management driven spiffs but not enough to raise wages to the next tax bracket for a sales person or perhaps even management. Most people who are complaining about this would never work for the money they are demanding we settle for. That brings me to the title of this post about small changes.

 

Money motivates people, even small amounts. Just put up a $10.00 spiff for verified appointments that show and see what happens to traffic. If we work the formula at the dealer principal and general manager level, we can determine how many extra cars we need to sell above our average to offset any amount of payroll increase. If we do this in small increments over time and adjust to the trends we do more than spend money. Our sales go up and overall morale right along with it. Good morale translates to better customer service which translates to more word of mouth and increased sales storewide. More sales, more profit, more money = better morale for everyone involved. On the other side of this coin, if I am a general sales manager, GM or used car manager there is no way I am sharing my income with the asshats that just wait all day on something. Fire their ass, quit hiring people that can’t type or at least spell check. Make your veteran salespeople train the ones you need to keep to earn the extra cake. If they do not take to the training or the Pro’s do not want to teach, do not give them incentives. Make it mandatory! Process and policy are nothing without consequence, good or bad. They are just more words that pass right through their head. I feel these small changes will improve the overall status of your store. 

 

KC

Social Media Policy

Here is another post from archives in November 2009 and it is more relevant than ever. If you have read it, read it again or close the post. It was obviously from someone begging to learn and succeed. She knows who she is!!

What’s the best way to develope a social media policy for employees without sounding like “big brother” or defeating the purpose of an “open conversation”?

Julie,
I find that it is best to research and find specific negative social content and then allow them to see the damage potential it can have personally. This will help demonstrate how that will affect them professionally. Then, have a special day for the creaton of the process and policy of the company in regard to social media. Invite, in fact “make it mandatory” that everyone attends to help create the process, policy and the “consequence” for breaking the rules. Make it fun, have lunch brought in or have a day away so they feel involved. Then you can moderate and get their thinking channeled to the severity of the consequence. This will let them understand you feel the need for a policy but want their input to write it and that you are serious without the big brother approach.
People usually live better by the rules they help create. They also tend to monitor it better themselves if you give them the power of pride.
From there, have a monthly review day to get their input and check progress. Also make sure every new emloyee understands and ask them for ideas they may have. Be sure to include the company e-commerce and social marketing review day in your employee pack.
Empower them to make the rules, then require them to adhere to those rules or suffer the consequqence you all created together..
In my opinion, this works best.
KC

Digital Marketing For Car Sales

I had to bring this forward from the original 2011 post. Some of you  who actually sold cars for a living will recognize and remember these days. Funny thing is, a lot of this is still very relevant – enjoy!!!
Quite a few years ago, I remember working in my secluded office at the local Toyota dealership. I had chosen that office specifically because it had a private entrance and was once the “alternative finance office”. At that time in e-commerce it was the best place to control the entrance of the internet shoppers because we felt that they had to be handled differently and we were right. I know lots of you out there remember different articles and posts on the early blogosphere about it. Some of them were funny, some terrible, most were really good because the guys writing them were selling cars. We shared what worked and what didn’t because it was a new frontier and you did not want to be the outcast.
For those of you who aren’t as old as some of us, we had a word track to keep customers away from the showroom before you greeted them. Mine was, “Remember to pull in on the service entrance side when you arrive. If I am not waiting for you, walk to the service desk and say I need to see Kim”. That way, they would avoid being mugged by the vulture crew on the floor. And believe me, there was no limit to what I would do for those service writers. Lunch, keep their computers clean, whatever. As long as they pointed at the door right behind them, they had me in their corner. This was part of our early internet training because there were no internet departments yet, just guys who knew how to follow up and wanted to be part of what we thought was inevitable. Then there were those who were the only ones that could work with windows, and they were told to “just handle it”. We got paid for selling cars and just like most everybody else, straight commission. The early days were bad for a lot of great sales people because once the growth started and personal computers became more popular for the entire dealership, they had to deal with all the problems. Remember no pay plans, only commission, and now their workload was increasing. Since they depended on leads and repeat or referral business their pay was decreasing because they were changing ink cartridges or chasing network cable for vendors. I wonder how many truly awesome sales professionals departed automotive because of it.

Early on, if a person had a computer and sent a request it was platinum. Computers cost 3-5k and only people with money or credit owned one. There were very few e-mail providers so you knew if it was a company address to ask permission before you just called. We learned early on the importance of what we now call lead deconstruction.
There have been several different thoughts on this but if a request said e-mail only I did not call until we answered all of their questions and got permission. A lot of very good trainers have always said “if there is a number, call it.” Would you want a call if you asked for an e-mail response only? What about calling someone at work that is not supposed to be on the computer or phone and they do not answer, but their supervisor does. Oh yeah, we are selling two cars now right? Nope, they got reprimanded and your prospect is gone. Here is where it gets funny, the follow up call keeps showing up on a fancy to do list and you keep calling. The company employs 1000 people and has 200 delivery drivers in 3 surrounding states. They have their vehicles replaced every 24 months and they use your brand. How is your reputation about now? Just calling the number if it is there does not seem like the best decision to me.

This is the sickness that we deal with every day.
Let me say what I truly believe again: Dealers are responsible for their own reputation!
The GM, GSM, F&I, Parts and Service managers are trusted to make sure it is managed by the people who interact with prospects and customers daily. I know a lot of you out there have always taken the necessary steps to train employees and keep training them. Your repeat and referral numbers show it too. However, there are still far too many revolving doors at these stores. One of the 15 year professionals I spoke with the other day said it was like a war zone. He did not even want to know their name until they had been there 6 months. What can this possibly do to help dealer image in the community? How can a reputation management company change this?
They can’t.

I only use the term reputation management because of SEO. If you do not have it in your keywords, all of the people who read about it every day will not see you. They have been convinced that reputation management is a must have process that is new and somehow different. Selling cars is the same thing it has always been. In this age, internet requests are cherry picked because everybody has a computer. They carry them around in their hands and since they have been taught to read every single thing they can about automobile purchasing; the reputation management, rating and review statements are read by whom?  It is like we are feeding piranhas for our favorite fishing hole, then throwing them in with our fish. We fish and all we catch after while are those piranhas.

Would you agree what we really need is reputation maintenance? Something that says, “Hey, here is a problem that needs addressed.” Then you let everybody see you acknowledged it. If it was a problem you handle it, make the customer happy, and show that too. It is called an “honest exchange.” The other side of this is useful when the customer is not being truthful or reasonable, show that too. Invite them to engage and be transparent because they have been taught to study automotive before they make a decision. The good thing is showing you make mistakes. It touches human emotion, is realistic, and believable.

There are a lot of opinions about reputation management.
Here is mine: If your dealership is doing the right thing, you are managing your dealers’ reputation and you should be. If not, you need to find another place to work because nobody can change the damage bad habits do to grass roots marketing. If a reputation management company tells you to get rid of dead weight and who it is, I am cool with that. If they are hiding customer remarks online and delaying the response for you to do better, how are they keeping them from talking at the barber, beauty shop, the mall, or when someone asks them; where did you get your new car?
They aren’t.
Then they are stealing your money.

I had a BDC manager tell me the other day” We just tell people to go to Google and write a good review about us.
Who tells them, who is we? The sales people might, but they may make follow up calls too. F&I? When they are tracking 40k and it is the 3rd week of the month, yeah right. The BDC? If there is a problem, how do you know? Who caused it? What day? Is it fixed? They are trying to develop business by maintaining reputation?

This is what happens: Go to Google at your convenience, and give us a good review please. For 2 weeks every day in an email until it gets dropped. If they have a problem that is when you will get most reviews in this scenario. That is because you follow up and ask “Did you go to Google and review me?”  I think there are customers who will brag about a great experience even without being asked.

Which do you think is more likely?  

Sell Well,
KC

 

 

 

Selling Cars Still Requires Professional Selling

I have been pretty much silent in the realm of automotive digital chatter lately. Perhaps it is because I needed to learn more or discover what has changed on a real sales floor. Since July 2013, I have been back at Carl Cannon Chevrolet in Jasper, Alabama discovering first hand again what challenges lie ahead for professionals in this field.

This is where the digital journey began for me with GM Buy Power and Autobytel in the last century. I know we all realize what has transpired since then with technology. What I have found that has not changed is; The fact that without professional sales people who have been properly trained to greet, speak, listen, and evaluate, fewer cars get sold. Whether online or in person the big numbers just do not happen. It truly seems that the more we learn, the less we do and that is the reverse of what is necessary to get to the top. This is just a quick “hell yes I am still here” shout out. Those of you who get after it all day, every day, are winning and deserve it. Those of you who are taking shortcuts and using technology to cherry pick your prospects need to find another job because your success is temporary. Stop wasting your dealers time and money and get dedicated.
If it were easy, everyone would do it!

Sell well,

KC

More About Kim Clouse and I Auto Consultants

Kim is managing owner of I Auto Consultants and is always evaluating solutions that set standards for truly assisting car dealers.  He only works with select strategic alliance professionals who are quantifiable and share the vision of bringing about true change at the dealer level.

Clouse states that helping the dealer control cost while avoiding the Snake Oil in this industry is paramount for i Auto Consultants.  I have been fortunate to learn from exceptional people for over 2 decades. When teaching dealers and their personnel took a back seat to creating new ways of fleecing, I hit eject. I returned to the sales floor for a blessing in disguise  5 more years. At this point in my career I am returning to stop the fleecing of dealers and share what I have learned.

Kim Clouse has been a member of Southeast Toyota Pro’s – Master Level, GM Mark of Excellence for multiple years, Cadillac e-certified and Honda i certified. His training and experience works across all makes and he has extensive experience in marketing and advertising in his background.

If you want to succeed pay attention!!!
It is time to cut the waste and the BS.

Kim Clouse

Managers, Are You Leading or Just Passing Through?

Every dealership I have visited lately has the phone calls tracked or not, going to the switchboard or BDC. Then they round robin to sales staff if the BDC is busy “We know that never happens;” The problem is either the GM, GSM, or phone king still will not make it mandatory that the BDC or salespeople have inventory, incentives, and information open on their desktop all day.  We have to sell the appointment! Please, how ridiculous.
They all have computers but they refuse to use the data or, the login to pertinent data is top secret. I knew it, gotta have an appointment then a 4 square right? I call BS and in 2018, we are still doing this on the sales floor at many dealerships..

Managers who keep information from sales staff are practitioners of Bovine Skitology period.
We know all of our customers are online. We know the manufacturers and everyone else who can gives them data that is, for the most part correct. Below is what I hear when I listen to calls. But are all of the walk in customers immune to the data flow we are feeding to the universe?  It is simply impossible.
Be ready or stay away from customers, period!

Thank you for calling ABC motors: ” Yes new car sales please” one moment: “new car sales this is Joe Bob,”
“kelp ye?” (Yes seaweed) ” I am calling about the 2017 Camry you have listed on whatever .com, gold with tan leather, is it still available?”
“Yep sure is” ” can you tell me anything about it?” “I think it has been marked down to $21699 but I can beat that a ton” “Really, online it says must go $14650.00 out the door” That’s a typo. Oh, okay do you know what it should actually be?” ” Naw, but I can git with the manager and call you right back, whats that number?”   click:

Now, they tell everyone about this highly professional individual at XYZ dealership.
The other thing is “get this now,”  we have started slipping away from the basics again. I know it is hard to believe, not us. Now that people are selling cars we are right back to the shortcuts. If you are always looking for the easy way out, get out of the car business. You are the reason we we have obstacles with our customers and they have a hard time respecting us, this is our problem. Get rid of the dead weight and start practicing customer service.

Either way you loose the deal.

Does anyone else see this? If you are doing this, do you need to be at Burger King saying, “would you like some fries with that?” When phone prospects buy over 85% of the time, why screw it up? If you do not know what you are doing or you do not feel comfortable, stay away from the phone, pay attention and learn.
Managers, do not lose focus on the fact that you are responsible for taking up slack. In a store the other day I watched in amazement as a lady who had lost her 2 of the family vehicles in recent storms call back 3 times to get to someone. Instead of just taking the call, the managers had to find a sales specialist to do it. Yep, five more minutes observing fault instead of contributing to leadership. I would have fired their ass if I had the authority.

I’m just sayin!

Sell Cars, Have Fun. It is still possible.

Kim Clouse