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FEATURES

11 Going Green Dealerships With Ali Reda 38 Flowing Ali Reda, Sales and Leasing Consultant Les Stanford Chevrolet Cadillac

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24 From Coast to...Midwest!

Terry Miller, Partner and Executive Vice President at Gary Crossley Ford 4

MODERNDEALERSHIP

ITB

COVER FEATURE

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Jessica Charris, Auto Advisor Russ Darrow Chrysler Dodge Jeep and Ram

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CONTENTS VOLUME 3 • ISSUE 4 • DEC 2019

DEPARTMENTS MODERN SALES

6 30 16 19 42 8 36 46

The Potential of Dealership Commissions It’s Still All About the Manager Cory Mosley, CSP, Company Principal at Mosley Automotive

MODERN OPERATIONS CX Is the Future–Is Your Dealership Ready?

Julian Johnston, Vice President of Innovation and Platform Philosophy at AutoAlert

How Dealerships Can Compete In a Changing Market Micah Burgess, Vice President of Sales at Conversica

MODERN FIXED OPS Toyota Dealership’s Program Fighting Recidivism Priority Toyota Chesapeake

MODERN COMMUNICATION Skip the Flip–The RIGHT Way To Create Vertical Videos Avoiding Armageddon Glenn Lundy, Sales Professional at Dan Cummins Chevrolet, and creator of #RiseAndGrind on YouTube

OFF THE LOT

Amy Boehm, Bryan Armstrong, Brian Huth

FROM THE EDITOR:

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Modern Dealership: VISION 2020 This issue concludes three years that Modern Dealership has been contributing to the landscape of the automotive industry. Though it’s been an absolute pleasure, there have been some learning curves along the way. Without challenges, and without examination of those challenges, growth would not take place. We pride ourselves on growth and progression, much like automotive dealerships do. The quality of our first issue compared to our 12th issue should not be the same. We are excited to close out our third volume with a look ahead, as we always have done, but also included are throwbacks of insights that are evergreen. IN THIS ISSUE you will find the incomparable Terry Miller, who is also gracing our cover. This #1 Ford car salesman talks about his move to Kansas City and the enthusiasm he brings to Gary Crossley Ford (p.24). Ali Reda, another record-breaking car salesman, enlightens us on how getting into the flow helped him break a world record (p.38 ). If you’re wondering how to make positive changes within your operations for the next decade, our article on “Going Green Dealerships” might provide a few starting places (p.11 ). If you ask Cory Mosley, it’s all about the Manager (p.30). Don’t forget to #RiseAndGrind and transform with Glenn Lundy (p.36), and be sure to go “In The Box” with Jessica Charris (p.32).


The Potential of Dealership Sales Commissions When you want to move specific vehicles at your dealership, do you have a go-to mode? Customer discounts? SPIFFs?

A study completed this summer by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of British Columbia shows that commissions for sales representatives not only are a great motivator, but also provide a great opportunity for generating the most profits when applied strategically.

Increase commissions, or drop the price? The study, “A Salesforce-Driven Model of Consumer Choice,” is one of the first to look at how commissions affect not just how much sales reps sell, but also which products are sold. It sheds light on how sales reps have the ability to sway consumers’ purchasing decisions, which changes the way that businesses – in this case, dealers – set up incentives. Researchers used data from a large car dealership in Japan, combined with comprehensive and global literature research. U.S. dealership data can be difficult to obtain, they said, but they strongly believe that the study results apply to the U.S. and other markets.

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One question the researchers set out to answer was, Should businesses be using rebates, in terms of reduced prices, or should they be using commission-based approaches? With this particular dealer, data supported that increasing commissions as a way to sell off extra cars would be a better approach than dropping the price.


It also factored in times when reducing commissions was the profit-maker. “If the product is selling really well, you might want to ask yourself: Is it selling well because of the push by the sales representatives? Or is it selling well because it’s really meeting customers’ needs very well and they’re just asking for the product?” says Raphael Thomadsen, Associate Professor of Marketing at Washington University in St. Louis and co-author of the report. “And if you think it’s the latter, then in those cases you want to reduce the commission.” In another example, if the customer was just going to substitute a different car at the same dealership, then lowering commissions would be beneficial, since the dealer would reap profit anyway. If the customer was going to leave the dealership, and not substitute the product, then raising commissions was the strategy.

“Is it selling well because of the push by the sales representatives? Or is it selling well because it’s really meeting customers’ needs very well and they’re just asking for the product?” Raphael Thomadsen, Associate Professor of Marketing at Washington University in St. Louis

“You might not know on any one sale, but you might have a good idea if, for example, people who look at these certain cars end up buying any of your cars. Or do they end up switching to a competitor’s car?” Thomadsen adds. “Are [you] overpaying for the commission on this one vehicle that makes a lot of profit, if all that’s going to

happen if they don’t buy this vehicle is that they’re going to buy another vehicle from you? One that also makes a similar profit margin?”

Holding onto your salespeople Customer preferences, of course, always have to be carefully considered and factored in. Yes, you want to move a specific car, but only if it meets the customer’s needs. Some customers can be matched to several different cars. The best salespeople are well educated on the features of all of the cars they sell, and can find a few cars that these customers will like, based on features. Researchers found that sales reps who had been on the job for a while did better with commissions as incentives than those who were newer to the job. “The sales representative can try to push certain cars,” says Thomadsen, “but at the end of the day, the sale that you got is going to be a combination of the customer’s preferences and how the sales representatives are incentivized.” Although not the first time this type of commission-based research has been completed, it is the first time huge amounts of data calculations supported it. “Our research showed us that not only do consumers have certain product preferences, but sales representatives and their incentivization through commissions has a powerful impact on sales performance,” the authors of the report say. “Our findings shed some light on how companies can strike the right balance to optimize sales.” The study was backed by INFORMS, an international association for operations research and analytics professionals, and was published last month in its journal, Marketing Science. What do you think? Have you tried increasing the commission on a certain product to move that product, rather than offering it at a discount to consumers? Write us at media@ moderndealership.com.


SKIP THE

FLIP

HOW TO CREATE VERTICAL VIDEOS FOR YOUR DEALERSHIP Smartphones have infiltrated every aspect of how we absorb information. From the way we use letters (LOL) to how much time we spend scrolling through feeds. These minor shifts in user perspective and preferences keep us all on our toes when it comes to marketing. So, how does this affect dealerships and the way they attract potential customers? Here’s the breakdown. Video is still the king. But today, he skips the flip and captures moments in portrait. Yup. You heard right. Gone are the days of only shooting horizontally or in a 16:9 format. “But it looks most natural and everything else on my HDTV is that way”, you argue. After all, you taped holiday gatherings with the family camcorder in landscape! Well, you didn’t really have another choice because it

was ergonomically impossible to shoot any other way. There are several reasons for this. One being that smartphones are getting bigger. Cell phone companies are focusing on camera technology that make high-end DSLRs jealous. With that comes the limitations of handling the phone. Just managing the sheer size and weight of the device vertically is a challenge. So, unless you’ve got sticky Spiderman hands, shooting horizontally one-handed is downright dangerous. But the most important reason, and the one you need to pay attention to, is how people use their phones. They text, surf, and watch while holding their phones vertically. Viewers are consuming content at a rapid rate. By the time they turn their device sideways, wait for the


operating system to recognize the new orientation and load the video, you’ve lost their attention. In short, they’re watching videos the way they ingest all other content on their phone, by simply keeping it vertical. So now what? Glad you asked. No need to scrap the way you do videos. Horizontal shots are still very important for experience on desktops and TVs. But if you’re planning on reaching people where they are on social media

platforms, begin with a mobile-first strategy. This way you’ve planned the shots specifically for a vertical presentation. Otherwise, you may be forced to crop and adjust a 16:9 shot to a 9:16, which won’t have the same visual impact. To get started, here are a few tweaks to your sales videos that will get you feeling more comfortable with this new norm and ensure that the quality matches that of your horizontal videos.

1. ADD TO YOUR VIDEO EQUIPMENT

2. PLAN AND FRAME YOUR SHOTS

If you’re looking for a nice steady, vertical shot with a DSLR, look for a ball-head tripod that allows for a 90-degree tilt. Make sure the weight is evenly distributed to avoid a tipping tripod.

It might take some getting used to but there are some interesting ways to create a strong composition by using those handy gridlines that appear on your video screen. When framing a person, capture their torso and avoid too much space above the head. Also, gone are the days for pressed shirts and wrinkled pants for video interviews. Ask the interviewee to prepare for full body shots.

For smartphone tripods, this is much easier since most allow for all kinds of crazy angles. Don’t forget to make sure your shots are level!

3. SLOW THINGS DOWN Since the shots will be tight horizontally, avoid fast pans and rapid movement across the frame. This can be jarring for the audience. If you’re shooting a moving car, get far enough away to give more space in the frame. Also, play with the angle in which the car is moving so that it is in the frame longer. For example, a car can enter the frame from the upper left and travel through the shot, turning out of the frame at the bottom right.

You already spend a lot of time thinking about your customers and how they interact with your dealership. Shifting from horizontal videos to vertical ones is just another way to deliver an experience that suits them and keeps them coming back for more.

BONUS TIPS! Ever watch a beautiful video with horrific audio? Probably not because within seconds you moved on to the next video. Here are three quick tips to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to your videos: 1. Invest in a decent external microphone to avoid capturing ambient sounds.

2. Position your mics as close to the audio source as possible.

3. Shoot when background noise is low.

M O D E R N D E A L E R S H I P. C O M

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GOING GREEN DEALERSHIPS M O D E R N D E A L E R S H I P. C O M

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SOLAR POWER & DEALERSHIPS: A NATURAL MATCH There are many ways to approach running a business sustainably, but when we hear the phrase “going green”, solar panels are often top-of-mind. While dealerships seem to be perhaps a little late to the party when it comes to widespread use of solar energy, that may be changing: Freedom Solar Power has installed panels at eight dealerships in their home state of Texas, many in the last two years. According to CFO Kyle Frazier, investment in solar makes such economic sense that the environmental benefits are almost an afterthought, and dealerships are prime candidates to take advantage of solar power: “Going green” is nothing new. Some OEMs and dealers have been engaged in environment-minded efforts for some time. In a year when EVs outsold manual transmissions for the first time (Q3 of 2019, by nearly two to one), the trend toward dealerships making novel and clever strides toward sustainability might be seen as a sign of the times, the beginning of a paradigm shift towards a more efficient “new normal”. While reducing contribution to climate change is a fairly mainstream notion these days, the American automotive industry has generally not been seen as leaders in the green movement. As more consumers make purchasing decisions based on beliefs, a number of dealerships are changing those perceptions with intelligent initiatives to reduce their footprints. These dealerships are finding ways to reduce expenses and improve customer experience while cleaning up their environmental act. Going green as a dealership has progressed far beyond keeping a hybrid or two in stock, sometimes to a surprising level of detail: do you use recycled wood name tags?

“Auto dealers offer the ideal circumstances. Car lots are almost always owner-occupied real estate with plenty of roof space to accommodate a meaningful amount of energy. More owners are realizing that going solar has less to do with generating renewable energy and more to do with generating attractive returns on their cash. Clean energy is the positive byproduct of investing in solar. Solar happens to be an investment that generates cash in a very real sense. It produces kWh which is no different than pulling oil out of the ground. It’s this ongoing annuity that allows them to fuel future investments. The average cost savings for our clients is several hundred thousand dollars with a typical payback of 4-6 years.” Given the climate of the region, some dealers are using solar panels to improve the customer experience by using solar to help beat the Laredo heat for consumers browsing the lot. “Another trend we’re seeing is an interest in solar carports, and Sames Automotive is one of the dealerships leading the way. Carport structures with solar solve two problems at once for Texas dealerships given our long, hot summers,” Frazier said.


SUSTAINABILITY BEYOND ENERGY According to Frazier, “Several of our clients have ambitious sustainability goals beyond solar power, including Lost Pines Toyota, which is the only LEED Gold-certified dealership in the Austin area, and Austin Subaru.” “LED lighting has been a big trend in automotive,” Frazier continues. “Due to the lot requirements for presenting inventory and security, there is considerable energy demand in lighting. We’ve heard positive results from LED retrofits. Other sustainability initiatives we’ve seen dealers implement include programs for energy efficiency (smart thermostats and large fans in the service department); water conservation (car wash water recycling); and waste reduction (paper and plastic elimination and recycling).” Lost Pines Toyota of Bastrop, Texas is one dealership that has committed to a broad range of eco-friendly measures to make their dealership sustainable. “We started our green initiative when we first opened the store back in 2012. Part of the construction included reducing noise pollution by eliminating the need for an overhead PA system, installing a rainwater collection cistern which in turn irrigates the native

landscaping, and an automated energy management system to adjust the HVAC and lighting for optimal performance,” Lost Pines’ Cody McCormick tells MD. Reducing, reusing and recycling, as well as using iPads in the service department, help Lost Pines toward a goal of going completely paperless. This dealership has taken a commitment to “going green” to a truly impressive level– they even wear recycled wood nametags instead of plastic. “‘Going Green’ is slow to be adopted in our industry, however it is spreading as it has such benefits not only for the environment, but in some cases the entire area’s power grid. Besides the solar initiative, dealerships can make the most impact going ecofriendly, solely based off the amount of paper that can be consumed, service facilities’ oil and chemicals used, and personnel uniforms. Having recycled name tags is just one thing that helps cut even the smallest bit of plastic usage down. We all have a responsibility to preserve our own environment,” McCormick says. According to McCormick, Lost Pines’ customers seem to appreciate the dealership’s investment as part of a green community. “They are proud to be a part of the community we share, and are excited to see a car dealership take such initiatives to protect the community in such a unique and eco-friendly way.”

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TAKING THE FIRST STEP Maybe your dealership isn’t quite ready to go all in just yet when it comes to going green, but that shouldn’t be a reason to not take steps in that direction. Incremental movement can build forward momentum, and a first simple step could be the start of a longer journey toward sustainability. Reducing your footprint on the surrounding environment goes hand in glove with the long tradition of dealership involvement in making communities better, and often as not makes long-term fiscal sense as well: these days, a commitment to being green means saving green, too. What could be a better win-win than making the world a little bit better and saving money doing it? The ROI on green initiatives isn’t just in cost saving, though. The public, including customers, is more concerned with the environment than ever, and those customers want to align with brands and business that reflect their values. There are many options for where to start, and what measures will have the most impact vary based on location and other factors. It can be daunting to know

how to get the ball rolling, but you may not have to go it alone. Many OEMs have green initiative programs in place for franchised dealers- and many of these programs have been around for some time. Ford launched the Go Green Program for dealers in February of 2010, which includes comprehensive energy assessments and review as well as technical support and preferential pricing. GM’s Green Dealer program began in 2014, providing resources to assist dealers in meeting certification standards. Subaru operates an EcoFriendly Retailer program for its dealers. These are just a few examples of OEM programs to help dealers go green; contact yours to inquire about what might be offered to assist a sustainability initiative for your dealership. Whatever steps you’re ready take toward a more sustainable dealership, every little bit will help your environment, your eco-minded customers’ experience, and your bottom line. What more compelling reasons do you need to “go green”?


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CX IS THE FUTURE

IS YOUR DEALERSHIP READY? By Julian Johnston AutoAlert’s Vice President of Innovation and Platform Philosophy

In all retail environments, you will find a constant flip-flop shift in the power between buyers and sellers – hence the terms buyers’ market and sellers’ market – which is oftentimes dictated by supply and demand. It is no different in the automotive retail space. However, inventory isn’t our only concern here; we must also consider information. Buyers are entering our dealerships armed with more knowledge than ever before. With so much information available so quickly online, buyers have a new perspective, an advantage. All the information they want, right at their fingertips. This might seem like a disadvantage to dealerships, who were used to holding the cards when it came to information of interest to the car-buyer, like pricing and trade-in value.

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But it isn’t a disadvantage; in fact, it gives sellers an opportunity to stand out to their customers, better meet their needs, and build stronger relationships. It’s a shift in focus to a different use of information, in a way that contributes to the customer experience (CX).

A Closer Look at the Information Opportunity for Dealerships In order to make this critical change, there also needs to be a shift in the mindset of dealers when it comes to the information (data) they now have. This equates to a shift in the technology they use to engage their customers, particularly one of the pillars of their dealership: the CRM. CRMs first hit scale in automotive in the early to mid-2000s, and quite frankly served their purpose, which was to automate the process of following up with customers – they did a great job at it. The issue is, technology has allowed for a more personalized, data-backed approach that can be scaled to a greater customer base.

More and more, customers want the companies they do business with to know them and to provide stellar, seamless experiences. For this, big data analysis is crucial, personalization is crucial, and timely communication is crucial. While they are great at many things, CRMs’ time-based follow-up approach simply won’t cut it. We are already seeing this.

What CRM Lacks There was a time – a good run if there ever was one – when the stored customer purchase data of a wellengineered CRM was the state of the art in software tools for dealerships. That data is of course still important, but these days it takes more than purchase histories to provide the experience customers expect. Consumer data beyond the transactional must be gathered, stored, analyzed, and most importantly be made actionable in ways that are real-time, dynamic, and intelligent, and that accurately predict customer wants and behaviors. CRMs were – and are – great for what they were designed for, but in


today’s increasingly competitive markets, they’re not such as AI and geolocation, CXM can actively enough. These days, customers expect a seamless, provide greater insight into just how to provide the personalized, and truly useful experience, something best possible customer experience in real time. a CRM is too limited to deliver alone. This includes accurately predicting what The CXM Solution consumers want and delivering relevant offers – something that’s highly valuable to shoppers Enter customer experience management. In some today. In fact, a recent McKinsey study revealed ways, a CXM platform can be thought of as a the number one thing customers want from CRM-plus. CRM is essentially a well-organized set personalization: “Relevant recommendations I of historical customer records. CXM includes this wouldn’t have thought of myself.” valuable data along with more actively gathered customer information as part of a bigger, dynamic, Marketing using data-mining and behaviorproactive real-time guidance of the customer journey. predicting software tools allows your dealership to communicate timely, personalized offers to CRMs are great for recalling what your customer consumers in the ways they prefer to be reached. did yesterday, but they don’t track what your This translates to a much easier, much more customers are doing right now, making accurate enjoyable experience for them. predictions of what they want, need, or do next to impossible, at best. The centralized storage of CRM Keeping in Step With Customers is limited to static information hastily entered by distracted representatives trying to balance data CRM was one of the first efforts to build entry and making the sale. Using smart technology relationships with customers using technology. Its focus on time-based events (anniversary of purchase, customer birthdays, etc.) limited its USING SMART ability to tell you when a customer will be back in-market to buy. It was a dabble into the power of TECHNOLOGY SUCH AS AI data and technology, and a good first step.

AND GEOLOCATION, CXM CAN ACTIVELY PROVIDE GREATER INSIGHT INTO JUST HOW TO PROVIDE THE BEST POSSIBLE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IN REAL TIME.

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As technology has improved, the amount of customer information available to businesses has exploded. It’s not too late to put that information to good use by shifting to a CXM-focused approach and deliver timely, relevant messages only to your customers. Which is exactly what they want – and expect.


HOW AUTO DEALERSHIPS CAN COMPETE IN A CHANGING MARKET Micah Burgess

VP of Sales, Conversica

The challenges facing auto dealerships today are driven largely by changes in consumer habits. Rather than visiting showrooms on weekends, more prospective buyers are beginning their customer journey online. Furthermore, urban-based Millennials and members of Generation Z are postponing their first car purchase, which is a major expenditure, until later in life, preferring to rely on public transportation and ride-hailing services.


Of course, shifting consumer trends aren’t the only catalyst for change. The automotive industry is undergoing a consolidation of smaller dealerships within larger dealership groups. Single point stores and family-owned dealerships have found themselves under greater competitive pressure with traditional ad dollars and marketing spend unable to keep pace with the buying power of dealership groups. While these challenges aren’t trifling matters, they aren’t insurmountable either. Every dealership, big and small, needs to look at doing business differently to engage with potential customers where and when they prefer to connect. Let’s examine each of these challenges and see what this pivotal industry shift means for auto dealers. Along the way, we’ll share a few tips and tools to assist dealerships of any size during this transitional period for the industry.

CHANGES IN CONSUMER HABITS According to Hedges & Company, an automotive digital marketing and research agency, the average age of a new auto buyer has increased over the past decade, hovering around 53 years of age. This trend is exacerbated by financial and lifestyle realities facings Millennials and members of Generation Z. The 16- to 39-yearold demographic, historically a reliable source of income for auto sellers, has been diluted due to hefty student loan obligations. These age groups also tend to gravitate towards urban areas for work where ride-hailing services and public transportation are prevalent. That being said, the statistical delay in car purchases shouldn’t be misunderstood as an indefinite hiatus. Nor does this trend extend nationwide. There are many areas of the country where having a car is an absolute necessity in order to get from location to location. Rural and suburban areas often lack public transportation and access to ride-hailing services when compared to urban areas.

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THE RISE OF DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER ONLINE AUTO SELLERS The direct-to-consumer online auto sales model is still relatively new in the industry. But it plays on two key assumptions. The first, that auto buyers take most of their pre-purchase activities online; second, that consumers are becoming more comfortable with making big-ticket purchases over the Internet. Do these assumptions match the facts though? Research finds that 59 percent of car buyers spend time doing online research before ever stepping into a dealership. This means that car buyers are more educated about car costs, features and models by the time they reach a salesperson. This is not to say that consumer decisions are a done deal, however. Freckle IoT finds that six in 10 shoppers are undecided on a specific vehicle when they enter a dealership. Thus, the opportunity to close a deal with prospective buyers still lands on salespeople. The most obvious disadvantage to this purchasing model is that consumers cannot test drive a car they’re eyeing when shopping exclusively online. While the market may be moving in the direction of a more Internet-friendly shopping experience, there is still plenty of space for brick-and-mortar dealerships to thrive.

CONSOLIDATION OF DEALERSHIP GROUPS The aforementioned challenges face big dealers and small dealers alike, but big dealers have more resources to take advantage of during this market disruption. As large dealer groups acquire more single-point stores, family-owned dealerships become an exception rather than a rule. Smaller groups also occupy this ecosystem, controlling somewhere between three and 20 single-point stores. Even small-to-midsize dealership groups are joining the


ranks of auto-retail giants and investment firms, however. This trend is expected to accelerate in the near future. This isn’t the only fundamental change hitting the industry. There is also a shift in the way dealers operate their businesses. As the auto industry moves away from mom-and-pop stores to largescale groups controlling dozens of individual dealerships across several regions, these mega dealers are beginning to look and behave more like Fortune 500 companies. One reason for this shift is that auto-retail giants are no longer exclusively made up of “car guys” with decades of experience in automotive. Rather, these consolidated dealers are bringing on technology experts, bankers, and CEOs from the business world. This diverse and collective experience gives these dealerships a competitive edge. Not to mention that large dealerships have more marketing spend, can spread their influence across different regions, and enjoy heftier spends on new technologies.

THE WAY FORWARD: TECHNOLOGY & CLIENT SERVICE With all the above information, it’s easy to assume that the deck is stacked against small dealers. But it’s important to note that the top five auto dealer groups combined only control about six percent of annual car sales. So, while the challenge for small dealerships is real, so is the opportunity. And the path to success runs straight through technology and customer service. Curiously, the auto industry is often the last hold out for digital transformation which means there’s a lot of room for growth and innovation. Yes, the auto industry has embraced Dealer Management Systems (DMS) to automate daily tasks including sales, financing and service operations. But the question is, what can singlepoint stores and dealer groups do to go beyond these technologies in order to compete in today’s evolving market?

THESE CHALLENGES AREN’T INSURMOUNTABLE. THE OPPORTUNITY TO CLOSE A DEAL WITH PROSPECTIVE BUYERS STILL LANDS ON SALESPEOPLE. M O D E R N D E A L E R S H I P. C O M

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Believe it or not, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is within reach of every dealership, no matter their size. One such example is the Automotive AI Sales Assistant from Conversica which autonomously connects with every lead. This is especially helpful for small dealerships who do not have the time, resources, or personnel to follow up with every customer who requests information online. Technologies like these are a perfect fit for auto sellers looking to match consumers’ habits. Through email and text conversations with the lead, the AI Assistant determines whether the prospective customer is ready to speak with a salesperson or if they need to be nurtured until they are ready to buy, all without human involvement. Even if the lead doesn’t respond during the first, second, or even third contact, the autonomous Intelligent Virtual Assistant will continue to be polite and persistent until the customer’s buying intent is determined. In this way, AI Assistants cost-effectively augment teams of people by following up with and nurturing leads. They then pass prospects along when they express interest in speaking with a salesperson or booking an appointment to come in for a test drive. Another tech-enabled strategy is to employ digital retailing. As more of the car-buying process happens online, some vendors are pushing for clickable “buy now” buttons to get potential trade-in vehicles appraised and obtain pre-approved credit without requiring customers

to come into the dealership. Of course, the majority of consumers will still visit dealerships in person for test drives and to sign paperwork. But for some dealers, it’s safe to assume that consumers will become more comfortable with online transactions in the near future. While technology can automate many routine tasks including lead follow up and trade-in appraisals, dealerships small and large can boost the value their businesses provide by treating customers more like clients. While enticing a customer might result in a single sale, dealerships that shift operations to reflect when a customer becomes a client do better at keeping them coming back to the same dealership for service and maintenance and their next vehicle purchase. To keep auto buyers in this loop, it helps to nurture your relationship with them through various channels including emails, text messages, marketing materials, customer satisfaction surveys and the like. AI technologies can aid this process by managing customer success outreach and auto service reminders. Thus, marrying together stellar customer relations with technology. That way, when a past buyer considers their next car purchase for a family member or to get a tune-up, they’ll already have a positive association and relationship with your dealership. The reality is that the auto landscape is changing. Dealers of all sizes need to embrace innovative solutions and adapt their strategies in the face of new challenges.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) IS WITHIN REACH OF EVERY DEALERSHIP, NO MATTER THEIR SIZE.


Brings 30+ Years’ Experience at Top Ford Dealer to the Midwest

Los geles An X We were thrilled to get the chance recently to interview Terry Miller, whom you may know from his decades of experience in the Ford world at the nation’s number-one Ford store, Galpin Ford in the LA area. Terry recently left his position as General Manager and has become a Partner and Executive Vice President of 24 MODERNDEALERSHIP Gary Crossley Ford in Liberty, Mo., a suburb of Kansas City.


MD: So, Terry, first of all it is so great to finally have you on our cover and to get to talk to you about your success in the Automotive Retail space. But let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way: You really moved from Los Angeles to Kansas City? What was the decision-making process there?

MD: After getting to know everyone, what was your next step?

TM: I’ve actually been asked that quite often lately. It was a very difficult decision, as I grew up in Simi Valley near the Los Angeles area and have lived there my entire life. To move to the Midwest was a decision that I did not take lightly, and one that I certainly did not make on my own. It was a family decision, because a move like that impacts all of our lives.

MD: How did you accomplish that?

Kansas City is not a destination that we had been contemplating, but when an opportunity for me to become a partner at Gary Crossley Ford became available, we decided to fly out here and visit some very good friends of ours and check it out. What we discovered on our trip was a great city, down-to-earth people, and a place that we thought our children would really embrace. We have been here for three months now and have loved every minute of it! MD: So after you made the decision, what was your first “first day on the job” in 32 years like? Was it a little strange? TM: Well, it was a strange feeling because I had just left an organization [Galpin Ford] that was more than just work to me. It was a huge part of my life, and the people I worked with were like family to me, and still are. To answer your question, my first day on the job was the minute I said yes to this opportunity. I started researching Gary Crossley Ford so that I could get an understanding of how it became a pillar of the community and understand the driving force of the Dealer Principal, Todd Crossley. Todd was very accommodating to my questions and gave me a crash course in the culture that both he and his father, Gary, had taken decades to build. So my first day was getting to know the dealership staff and what their expectations were of me. My first day was actually my first week. A week I would suggest all new managers make time for.

TM: My next objective was to get everyone to understand that we have one common goal and vision and that success is guaranteed as long as we are all going the same direction.

TM: We gathered each team by department and listed the things that we wanted to accomplish and what our pain points were. I used all of the feedback to create the Vision. It was important to me that it was their plan, not mine. Our idea was to hit the reset button and implement a plan and a Vision that would carry us through the end of the year. It is a 120-day plan that we wrote together along with the daily, weekly and monthly goals that it would take to get there. Once this was completed, we invited every employee and their spouse to a town hall meeting and dinner to present the Vision. I shared a PowerPoint presentation outlining our Vision and how we were going to get there. We had a huge turn-out and everyone had a great time. MD: We have talked to hundreds of dealers and have never heard of a meeting like this, that included the spouses – was having them there impactful? TM: Yes, it was! I have learned that having disengaged spouses has a negative impact not only on the employees, but on the dealership as well. It is helpful to keep them as involved as possible, so they understand why their partner is working as hard as they do every day. We also wanted them to know that we appreciate them. The bottom line is that employees and their families are important to all of us at Gary Crossley Ford. MD: While researching for this article, I saw a change in Gary Crossley Ford’s advertising. I see on your website, TV, and print ads that you are going to sell 1,000 vehicles from September through the end of the year (120 days). Your ads say, “No Customer Left Behind.” Are you willing to share with the readers how you decided on this campaign and why you think it will be successful?

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TM: Actually, this is a campaign that I have used before in California when I was with Galpin. I love this campaign because it applies to every department in the dealership. It’s our common goal that binds us all together and gives the entire team focus. We all focus on our most valuable asset, our internal and external customers! We don’t want any employee or customer to feel like they are not important. This is a rally cry! It requires the entire team to work smarter, while at the same time continuing to do what Gary Crossley Ford has always done – treat our employees and customers with respect and understand that their wants and needs always come first. It is clear to our organization that keeping our employees and customers engaged and keeping Gary Crossley Ford top of mind is our ultimate goal, and this includes our advertising. I have been involved in marketing campaigns a good part of my career, but this one especially took a lot of thought.  One of the major differences between California and Kansas City is that California is a strong lease market and Kansas City is primarily a retail market, (I am going to do my best to change that). When I was in California we managed dealership loyalty very well as we understood that when a lease expires customers would need a new vehicle. We obviously wanted them to continue to do business with the originating dealership, so our advertising centered around that message. The Kansas City market is primarily retail driven so we developed a marketing plan to ensure that our customers will come back to Gary Crossley Ford for their next purchase. This campaign points out why and how you can trade your vehicle and enjoy the benefits of newer models versus the model that a customer is currently driving. Todd and I had several conversations about a campaign that the entire dealership could get behind and is easy to explain. A message we could share in any department that would resonate with our customers and have a daily impact on its success throughout the dealership. That’s why we continued with the “No Customer Left Behind” campaign. MD: How are you ensuring that no customer is left behind?

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TM: By having a servant’s mindset and a positive attitude. Always! I joke with the employees that it is rainbows and unicorns at Gary Crossley Ford. We live to serve the customer and make their day whether they are purchasing or servicing their vehicle with us. We are also using every tool we have available to its fullest potential. Luckily, I have a lot of great relationships in this industry that I can rely on for guidance and direction. One of the first things we did was reach out to all of our banks and enhance our working relationships with them to ensure that all of our customers, regardless of their situation, can finance a vehicle. Next is the experience. When a customer shops at our dealership online or in the showroom we want to answer their questions and offer them all of the information they need to make a decision, either that day or in the future. My belief is that when you make it clear to the customer that there will be no pressure applied, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say, which then helps with their decision-making process. We worked with the sales staff on the presentation of this information with proper word tracks. I also wanted to make sure that when it came down to presenting numbers it was crystal clear to the customer what we were offering them. We were using a CRM-integrated desking solution that simply could not accomplish the things I thought were important. So I reached out to a longtime friend of mine at First Pencil and installed a new desking and presentation program that makes it easy for the customer and the salesperson to understand. Full disclosure and transparency is another way of making a customer feel like they are not being left behind. In service, “No Customer Left Behind” means that we greet the customer with a smile, listen to their concerns, document the concerns correctly and provide an explanation of what is being done to their vehicle. We understand how important it is to communicate with our customers and always keep them up to date on the status of their vehicle. A customer should never have to call the dealership to receive an


Todd Crossley, Owner & Dealer Principal at Gary Crossley Ford

“what separates us from the dealer down the street is the experience and the feeling they get when they are at our dealership.� M O D E R N D E A L E R S H I P. C O M

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Josey Moore, Sales Manager at Gary Crossley Ford

update on their vehicle while it is in service. We have implemented processes and procedures to make sure that all of these things are getting done, which in turn drives customer loyalty. MD: So, 90 days into your new position at a stand-alone Ford store, what are some of the things that are different at a store this size? TM: One of them is the speed at which I can make changes. Based on the structure of the dealership and the number of employees we have, when I see something that can be done in a better way I can make that change almost instantly. MD: Can you give one example of making a change quickly? TM: Absolutely. One thing we all look at is how we expect our staff to follow-up with our customers. I can remember when I first started in the business, I kept customer contact information in a tickler file on my desk and did my best to follow-up with my customers via phone or thank-you cards. This was an effective 28

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way to keep in touch and sell those people additional vehicles. The problem was I didn’t always have the time, so many opportunities fell through the cracks. Then we moved to CRMs. CRMs could follow-up in a consistent manner and remind staff to make daily calls and automatically send letters and emails when we prescheduled them to go. That worked great for a decade. But times have obviously changed. Many years ago, it seemed the phone calls became a chore for many. In fact, it was almost as though we were punishing salespeople by expecting them to make these calls. Emails are now blocked or sent to junk files. Mail that is printed on letterhead and mailed in an envelope doesn’t even make it into the customer’s home because they put it in the trash. Many times the communication timelines that we created were delivering the wrong message at the wrong time.  Once again, I called on a friend of mine who pioneered the modern CRM and now runs a Kansas City company called AutoAlert. Over the last few years we have discussed millennials and Generation Z who are now


the majority of our employees and a greater number of our customers. I realized I was asking our employees who hate making phone calls to call our customers who hate getting phone calls! The worst part was when we reviewed the reasons we were calling, we discovered that the message was generally irrelevant. If we actually made contact, we were using the standard “your vehicle is due for service” pitch, followed up by saying “we really want your trade.” That leads to a high percentage of “Left Message” notes in the customer history.  Why were we calling people at 11 a.m. at home anyway? We know people work and are very busy during the day. Our CRC was making calls because our pay-plan drove that behavior. So we adjusted the pay-plan, increased the training in concert with AutoAlert’s on-demand training, and let the mass of data that all dealers can access determine who should be called, when they should be called, and what our message should be. It takes management at the store to make these changes – to be involved in these changes but, most importantly, stand behind the changes – every day.   At the end of the day, AutoAlert has shown me how using our data, combined with their data and algorithms, could change the way we approach customers, right down to what we say when we contact them using any method we choose. There is a better way! The decision was made to invest in the future of the dealership and the satisfaction of our customers. A change like that can happen immediately. MD: So you have made these changes in communication that you determined were needed. How is the new direction going? TM: It’s going great! We have increased our vehicle sales in three months by over 20% and have seen a significant increase in selling to our service customers. Our communication plan to consumers in sales and service has vastly improved, taking our CVP scores to an alltime high. These changes have allowed us to focus on calls that need to be made, calls with a purpose. Our CRC department is on board and our customers enjoy the conversations because we are communicating with them about something that is relevant to their current

situation. I have learned that data used the right way is very powerful. MD: If you could give all of our readers one piece of advice to make their dealerships more successful, what would it be? TM: Make sure you take the time to get to know your employees. Walk around the dealership and visit each department just to say “hello”. Set clear expectations and minimum standards of all your departments and build reports to measure them with. Communicate the results daily, weekly and monthly to all the employees. It keeps them engaged, focused, and holds them accountable. Remind your employees that “what separates us from the dealer down the street is the experience and the feeling they get when they are at our dealership”. Employees that have a common goal and vision will feel like they are a part of something great, in turn, they will do great things. “NO CUSTOMER LEFT BEHIND” MD: Thank you, Terry, for your time today. We look forward to following both Gary Crossley Ford and you in the future! TM: You bet. Thank you!

X Kansas City

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No Matter the Decade, It’s Still All About the Manager

Cory Mosley, CSP, is an award-winning business growth strategist, trainer, and company principal of Mosley Automotive. During the past 15 years, Cory has helped dealers and manufacturers become more progressive and profitable by focusing on the areas of human capital, sales process, and optimal partnerships. Cory can be reached at cory@mosleyautomotive.com or 804-414-8051. Visit mosleyautomotive.com for more information.

Looking back at 20 years in the auto industry, I can’t help but think about the moments that most shaped my philosophy, belief system, mindset, and overall attitude when it comes to the business. Similar to how parents shape a child’s personality and beliefs, a retail sales professional, no matter the brand, location, or technology available to them, will overwhelmingly be influenced by his or her manager. During my retail career, I’ve had the opportunity to experience (which is probably the best word for it) multiple styles of management that served as an opportunity to perform “a” and “b” testing. One of my early managers was rough and gruff, and by today’s standards would be considered old school to the point where he might even be unemployable in the market.

Despite his demeanor, he did have lessons to share. I also think about one of my early GMs, who taught me that you don’t have to be loud or rule by fear to be respected and listened to. One of the things I believe to be most unique to our industry is that becoming a manager is almost akin to becoming a member of the Supreme Court, in that it’s a title that you keep forever. The measurements of great, good, or so-so managers don’t apply in the traditional sense, because we all can think of someone right now who probably has no business being a manager of anyone, yet may be in their first, second, or third decade as one. It’s a well-known saying that employees don’t leave a job; they leave a manager. And when you think about the IPI (impact per


knew how. Inside our industry, most managers admit that they manage today very similarly to the way they were managed. And for dealerships struggling with how to manage the millennial workforce, I share in my live presentation, Create the Team Your Customers Deserve, that a focus on mentorship, not management, will be the key to unlocking the potential of younger generations.

individual), no one affects as many people at one time as the manager inside the dealership. • The dealer gets a new superadvanced CRM, but the manager noticeably hates it. Guess what? So do the salespeople. • The dealership launches a new marketing campaign targeting special finance customers, but the manager thinks, “Those people are so difficult to deal with.” Guess what? So do the salespeople. • The manager is frequently late or is regularly handling personal stuff on his cell phone. Guess what? It then becomes impossible to set expectations of being on time or “coming to work to work.”

• The manager comes out of a negative meeting with her boss and then proceeds to browbeat those under her management. Guess what? The tone to take things out on your team has been set. No matter what the software, hardware, app, process, product, or marketing tactic, the wild success or abysmal failure of an organization will come down not just to its people individually, but more directly to those that manage the organization. In a corporate study recently conducted, it was determined that while more than 89% of employees desired ongoing coaching at their jobs, only 32% felt their managers

The truth is that the vast majority of dealership managers receive no formal, organized, or behavioral science-backed training on how to successfully execute the position of manager beyond the taskoriented aspects of the job. Many depend on natural skills or learned disciplines, but most fall short in the areas of leadership, coaching, and mentorship. Equipping managers with specific skills in those three areas will help significantly close the gap on the turnover, culture, and morale issues that currently plague the industry. Highly effective managers create high-performing teams, and those teams create record-breaking sales, deliver an outstanding customer experience, and cultivate customers who become raving fans for the dealerships they buy from. Yes, train your salespeople on the latest techniques. Yes, update your technology. Yes, refresh your processes. Yes, renovate your facility and serve better coffee. Yes, commit to wowing your customers. Just remember, great managers aren’t born – they’re trained!

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Follow Jessica on Facebook: facebook.com/rdcdjsp Instagram: jessica_sellscars


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AVOIDING ARMAGEDDON It was the winter of 1999, and the world was counting down the days to Armageddon, as Y2K was going to strike every piece of technology worldwide and destroy humanity’s entire infrastructure.

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By Glenn Lundy Sales Professional at Dan Cummins Chevrolet and Creator of #RiseAndGrind on YouTube

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Midnight on December 31st was the deadline. At that very moment, the world as we knew it was going to end. People were scrambling to store water, canned foods, and other survival items. Hunkering down to prepare for years of underground habitation. It was quite the fiasco, and then, midnight came … and nothing happened. Like a far-off hurricane that never reaches land, Y2K came and went, and the world simply kept moving along. It’s funny how little we really knew about modern technology back then. I was working at a Nissan Subaru store in Flagstaff, Ariz., at the time as a finance manager, and my days were spent faxing paperwork back and forth with banks across the country. That was always followed by phone calls, rehashes, and the occasional customer coming into my office every other hour or so. I came in at 7 a.m., so as to get my funding delays handled promptly, considering I only had four days to get a deal funded (per the owner of the store). Every minute was of the essence. I then stayed late to contract the last deal of the day. 9:30 p.m., 10 p.m., 11:05 p.m. It didn’t matter. It was TODAY, or NO WAY, is what I had been taught. Signing them tomorrow was NOT an option. Fast forward 20 years and I still see young men and women across the country working this same schedule. But why?! Nowadays we have things like instant approvals, deals can be funded in literally seconds, rehashes are done with a few strokes of the keyboard, and a customer can buy a car online whenever the heck they want. So why is it the technology around us has changed, and yet our habits and structures have not? It’s like 1999 again. We know very little about the technology we have around us. I mean, don’t get me wrong; we know it’s there. We test, and we trial, and we apply, and we use, but what we don’t do is we don’t allow it to change who we are as an industry. We use it as a tool instead of what it was designed for, which is transformation. In order for us to truly move this industry forward we need to take a look at our past. When we do, we will realize we are doing the exact same things we’ve always done – it just looks a little different.

THE WORLD HAS COMPLETELY CHANGED AROUND US, AND THE SECOND-LARGEST INDUSTRY GLOBALLY IS STUCK IN THE DARK AGES. We are still teaching the same old “road to the sale,” we are still treating our people like slaves with ridiculous hours and very little (if any) training, we are still trying to manipulate customers, we are still putting customers in bad situations (96 months?! Are you kidding me!), and still popping popcorn in the showrooms, and blowing up balloons. It’s sad, really. The world has completely changed around us, and the second-largest industry globally is stuck in the Dark Ages. But all hope is not lost. We still have time! The Carvana hurricane is still off shore and may or may not reach land, so instead of stocking up on water and snacks for our service lounge, let’s start taking a look at our welldocumented history, and use it to give us a clear picture of what we need to do moving forward. Ask yourself this: What do I hate about the car business? As an employee? As a customer? Then make a list of each item – long hours, unprofessional salespeople, the time it takes to do a deal, the Saturday morning bullying session, etc. List out everything you personally despise and then begin to find ways to do the opposite. The key to our future is to learn from our mistakes, not to dress them up to make them look pretty. Changing the way you teach the road to the sale doesn’t make it any better. Giving people a day off during the week and then making them feel guilty for taking it doesn’t help. Offering customers information online and then still keeping them in your showroom for four hours doesn’t cut it. You must stop using technology as a tool, and instead start using it to create real transformation.


The #1 Car Salesman in the World Shares What He Loves About His Work

In a tough business where so many talented people seem to flounder or give up (turnover for car salespeople is about 80%*), Ali Reda has blown all sorts of expectations and standards out of the water. You might have heard how he sold 1,582 cars in one year – that’s about 132 cars per month – breaking a 44-year-standing record. Or how he once sold 31 cars in a day, or 202 in a month (December 2018). You might have heard how he gives his cell phone number to all of his customers, how he sends a tow truck immediately to have customers’ flat tires changed, how he schedules their service appointments, and even sometimes attends their weddings.

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However, it’s what he doesn’t do that might surprise you the most. He doesn’t hustle. He doesn’t think (much) about the numbers. Instead, he focuses on helping people and the numbers take care of themselves. “I’m taking care of people, and I’ve been successful at that,” Reda says. “What I’m doing career-wise doesn’t really matter. It could be anything – it happens to be car sales.” Which he does with humility. Over and over again, you’ll hear Reda say that he still has plenty to learn. He gives a lot of credit to his coach, Damian Boudreaux, and recommends everyone look into getting one. Check out what else Reda shared with us …


What has been the highlight of your career so far? What makes it so?

involved and giving back. Much more so than it is about marketing or selling, it’s about taking care of people.

The highlight was breaking the 44-year record for selling cars. It was set in 1973. Ironically, that was the year that I was born. It wasn’t just a one-year achievement. It was building to that point. Every year, you grow in your efforts, your abilities, and you grow in your community. And that’s really what it’s all about. Being

The year I broke the record, I sold 1,582 cars. I sold 1,325 cars the previous year, and 1,280 cars the year before that. I sold 1,362 cars the year

You can only sprint so long before you burn out. M O D E R N D E A L E R S H I P. C O M M O D E R N D E A L E R S H I P. C O M

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after I broke the record. It’s a tough record to break. That’s why it stood for so long. What you really need is 12 consecutive recordbreaking months. For that kind of consistency, you have to be focused. And then there are all

You have to do the work – nobody is going to do it for you. the things that you can’t control that can throw you off: Do you have the inventory? Are the banks on your side? Is the economy doing well? It’s always a constant flow. I would say that about sales in general. We talk a lot about the hustle, this sort of aggressive thing, but it really is more about flow. You can only sprint so long before you burn out. I look at sales as having literally no beginning and no end. And that kind of thinking goes against the general setup of the industry, with our 30-day increments, which the manufacturers have, and the dealers have. As individuals, we don’t just have 30-day goals. New bills keep coming every month. It’s not a sprint to pay them, or it shouldn’t be. If you’re sprinting to sell cars for those 30 days, you’re not going to have any energy left for the next 60.

This is a career, not a one-night stand.

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What can you share about setting and achieving goals? You have to do the work – nobody is going to do it for you. You can go to school, you can learn all there is to learn, take all sorts of classes, but still nobody is going to do the work except you, regardless of your training or where you come from. Work ethic is a big part of being successful. You know, I have a mother who loves me dearly, but she isn’t going to do the work for me! It’s hard work, day in and day out. That’s why you really have to love what you’re doing. If you don’t, you’re going to carry that negativity, that weight. For me there’s no greater feeling than helping people. My work is all about people. If you don’t care about people and making them a priority, then this is not the business for you. You’re going to burn out. People want somebody they trust, they want somebody they like who cares about where they come from, where they are, where they’re going in the future. I really dive in personally. That’s why I like to think of myself as an advisor rather than a salesman. I’m solving problems for people, not creating new ones! This is a career, not a one-night stand.


How can people in the business like yourself, who really want to help people, better achieve this goal? One of the most important things you can do is to go in every day with a clear intention. You genuinely have to want to help somebody so that they can leave better than when they came in. Our mindset should be more on focusing on excellent customer service, not just numbers. But there’s a lot of pressure to hit goals, and unfortunately sometimes this gets lost. That’s why it’s very important to start building community relationships early in your career so you’re not worried about scarcity. You will always receive love and support from those you show it to. I’m not thinking about when the next person is coming in. There’s going to be a steady flow, and I focus on supporting and nurturing each person to the best of my ability. No better feeling than making a positive difference in someone’s life.

No better feeling than making a positive difference in someone’s life.

Looking ahead to 2020, what are some of your short-term goals? My goal is to keep growing. Always, to keep growing. I have a lot of potential for more. I have more energy to do more things and help more people. One way I’m growing right now, I have two staff people who handle everything behind the scenes, and I’m looking to hire a third person. I’m not in this as a sprint; I’m not sprinting toward some random finish line. I see it as being in the flow, and I’m young enough and energetic enough to keep going. I also see the whole stigma around car salespeople changing. There are more and more professional people entering the industry who are putting positive energy in, and I see that continuing. There are a lot of guys like me shining light on the good things about the industry. And a lot of people who want to work with integrity, honesty, and not have to change who they are. You can be who you are and be successful in this business. Like anything in life, you just have to believe it’s possible! *Source: NADA 2017 Workforce Study

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dealership’s program fighting recidivism wins national toyota community award wins all around at priority toyota chesapeake Today’s world might be increasingly digital, but we all still have neighbors, and our favorite grocery stores and restaurants. We still have our local sports teams and our museums, parks, and schools. We still have community – something that helps shape who we are and helps determine our purpose. And something that dealerships have long been a cornerstone of, through their support of various local organizations and causes. Since opening over 20 years ago, Priority Toyota in Virginia has taken its commitment to community very seriously. The 21-store auto group is a huge supporter of a variety of local organizations, including Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Virginia, Virginia Beach SPCA, Edmarc Hospice for Children, Old Dominion Scholarship Fund, and many others. Its annual Charity Celebrity Bowl alone raised over $400,000 for local children’s groups last year. “I just feel like it’s the right thing to do, to give back to the community that you live in, that you grew up in,” says Priority

Automotive Owner and President Dennis Ellmer. Priority’s reach is wide and far in its communities. This September, Priority Toyota Chesapeake won Toyota Motor Corporation’s prestigious “Best in Town” community award for 2019 for a unique program that it helped shape and build from the ground up: the Priority Inmate Technician Training Program. Given to just one U.S. dealership each year, the award was presented to Ellmer and team in person by Toyota President Akio Toyoda. Peer Toyota dealers picked Priority as the winner during their National Dealer Meeting in September. “To be the only Toyota dealership in the nation selected to receive this award is truly a great honor,” said Ellmer. “Our company is proud of these men, and proud of this program’s ability to help them make a difference in their lives. This award is a win for them, too, along with our entire community.”


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Courage to Make a New Start Recidivism is a person’s relapse into criminal behavior, often following imprisonment or some other intervention for a previous crime. It’s also a core criminal justice concern, according to the National Institute of Justice. A recent study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics tracked a large sample of state prisoners (401,288) released in 2005. “Overall, 68 percent of released state prisoners were arrested within three years, 79 percent within six years, and 83 percent within nine years,” the study states. Priority’s Inmate Technician Training Program aims to fight this complex social issue locally. The idea came to Ellmer when he met a tour guide who had previously been in prison. The tour guide told Ellmer that he was given the opportunity to complete a training program while in prison to become a tour guide upon his release. That chance meeting kicked off three years of efforts, led by Ellmer, to build a training program locally that would give inmates a real opportunity for success after their release. It would also help his team fill a need for qualified service technicians – a need felt by dealers all around the U.S. The support and involvement of the Norfolk Sheriff’s Department and Tidewater Community College (TCC) were critical. Launched last year, the program trains nonviolent Norfolk City Jail inmates as auto technicians while they are still incarcerated. After completing the rigorous two-semester program, the trainees are hired as full-time Priority technicians with full benefits. Norfolk Sheriff Joe Baron says that while the program was a collaborative effort, Ellmer deserves a lot of credit. “When we were getting the program off the ground, we couldn’t find a location where the inmates could do on-the-job training. Nobody wanted them on their property,” Baron says. “So Dennis built a 16-bay facility, with all the tools they’d need, and a classroom. He’s been all-in from day one.” One of the Sheriff’s Department’s roles was to identify inmates who would be a good fit for the program. Baron says that this included, as a minimum requirement, having their GED. One inmate was especially enthusiastic about the program – he had family who had been mechanics. However, because he didn’t have his GED, he was ineligible. Baron says

the inmate vowed that he’d pass the test if he could be given GED study books. “He passed his first time,” says Baron. “He got into the program, graduated, has a great job, and is one of their top performers. And now we have a self-study GED program that’s been popular, so more inmates are getting their GED. This is just one of the residual effects.” Of the 15 inmates enrolled in the program, 14 graduated and were hired on by Priority, with a starting salary of $32,000. “They’ve worked really hard to get here. They’re the ones who did it,” says Priority Toyota Chesapeake GM Nick Mumejian. “The TCC professors told us they were really impressed by their attention and focus. They’d even come to class prepared with questions. We’re seeing that same dedication here. Three of the techs already have moved to flat-rate, which gives them an opportunity to make even more money. The rest are eager to make it happen.”

Bright Futures Ahead All involved in developing the Inmate Technician Training Program believe that by helping the inmates re-enter society with tangible trade skills, they can help reduce chronic jail recidivism while helping Priority meet a critical need for highly trained automotive technicians. “If we have a couple successful years in a row, I think that we’ll have identified a template to use in other locations,” says Baron. “A lot of people who end up in jail or prison don’t have hope. This program is exciting because it takes them out of survival mode and helps them get to a place where they’re thriving.” Studies have shown that prisoners who are supported following their release are way less likely to return to crime. For example, created in 2014, a program in Colorado called Work and Gain Education and Employment Skills (WAGEES) has been very successful in stemming the tide of recidivism. A report in 2018 shows that only 2.5% of WAGEES participants returned to prison for committing new crimes. “I want to emphasize that this was a total team effort by many people including Governor Ralph Northam, Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander, Sheriff Joe Baron, and the incredible staff at Tidewater Community College,” Ellmer said. “This was not just a Priority Toyota program but a community-wide effort.”


An insider’s look at you, the readers of MD! We asked …

What has been your favorite day at work? “One of my favorite days at work occurred when I had been working on a large marketing project for our ‘Why Buy’ statements and it finally came to completion and was live on our websites and other marketing materials. I felt so fulfilled and accomplished, being able to share all the reasons our community members should choose KAR Auto!” – Amy Boehm, Marketing Manager, KAR Auto Group

“There are many days that stand out, however just recently something happened while I wasn’t at the dealership that impacted me greatly. You see, I spend much of my time training our employees and many times it’s hard to know if you really had an impact on them at all. I was down in Houston at our new locations and I received a random text from a past employee from our Lee’s Summit store that read: I was thinking about you today. I want to say thanks again for everything you taught me. Thanks for pushing me to the extreme even though I was a pain to work with sometimes. From making me memorize scripts, to picking on me to truly learn from you was the best. I have everything I want in life because of you. You always wanted me to have a farm with a lot of room for my dog to run. Well … I don’t have a farm, but it’s just as good. I have room for my dogs, a lake to relax my head at, and a great husband. Whenever you’re ever back in town I’d love to have dinner with you. Thanks again. Also I hope your wife is doing amazing along with your million kids. Your love for them really came through your heart. I want to be a great parent like you are one day. I appreciate you so much. I wouldn’t be half of what I am without all the time you put into me. Now I know that the fire and determination of this young lady’s success was 100% fueled by her, but it was awesome to have helped in her journey.” – Bryan Armstrong, Executive e-Commerce Director, VW Southtowne, VW Lee’s Summit, VW Cypress, VW Clear Lake

“Monday, after a week of selling we get to rewind our business plan, celebrate our success, and fix the misses!” – Brian Huth, General Manager, Sam Pack’s Five Star Ford

Be a part of Off The Lot. Send your paragraph answer to the question below – along with your name and title – to media@moderndealership.com for a chance to appear here next time! 46 ODERNDEALERSHIP Who is Myour favorite customer of all time?


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N A DA 2 0 2 0 BOOTH 3365C LAS VEGAS CONVENTION CENTER FEBRUARY 15 – 17

Profile for Modern Dealership

Modern Dealership - December 2019  

Modern Dealership - December 2019  

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