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AutoSuccess Magazine is published monthly at 3834 Taylorsville Rd., Building A, Ste. 1B Louisville, KY 40220; 502.588.3155, fax 502.588.3170. Direct all subscription and customer service inquiries to 877.818.6620 or Subscription rate is $69 per year. AutoSuccess welcomes unsolicited editorials and graphics (not responsible for their return). All submitted editorials and graphics are subject to editing for grammar, content and page length. AutoSuccess provides its contributing writers latitude in expressing advice and solutions; views expressed are not necessarily those of AutoSuccess and by no means reflect any guarantees. AutoSuccess accepts no liability in respect of the content of any third party material appearing in this magazine or in respect of the content of any other magazine to which this magazine may be linked from time to time. Always confer with legal counsel before implementing changes in procedures.© All contents copyrighted by AutoSuccess Magazine, a Division of Systems Marketing, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part is prohibited without express written consent from AutoSuccess. AutoSuccess may occasionally make readers’ names available to other companies whose products and/or services may be of interest; readers may request that names be removed by calling 877.818.6620. Printed in the USA. Postmaster: Send address changes to AutoSuccess Magazine, 3834 Taylorsville Rd., Building A, Ste. 1B Louisville, KY 40220.

How doug sold 40 cars in his first two months in the auto business



10 14 18

an albatross around the neck of the dealer

what are people looking for when looking at your site?

Susie Horne, Account Manager John Warner, Sales-Improvement Strategist

marketing solution

how hillside honda is staying ahead

the search game has changed:

The Lowdown on the New “Google Places”

Brian Ankney, Account Manager

sales & training solution

Dave Davis, Editor & Creative Strategist

2300 Hurstbourne Village Dr, Suite 1200 Louisville Kentucky 40299 | 877.818.6620 / 502.588.3170 | / | Thomas Williams, VP & Creative Director

leadership solution

Susan Givens, Publisher



your top social strategy for 2011

36 KendallBillman 40





the power of paraphrasing

26 MarcSmith 32


24 FranTaylor

taking advantage of the paperless office JimFranco

14 traits that exist in every successful dealership, Part 2

GM finds the right crm for his staff, dealership


20 22 JeffHicks

Engaging your prospects BrianBrowning

failing is the assurance of success


38 MarshBuice 42

the death of the traditional dealership, part 6 MarkTewart

internet sales 20 group review, part 1 SeanV.Bradley

are your policies and procedures working?

16 30 28 HowardLeavitt

feature solution An Interview With RyanGill


marketing solution

SALEM FORD HYUNDAI UP 65 PERCENT IN SALES AND 100 PERCENT IN SERVICE IN JUST THREE MONTHS Recently Salem Ford Hyundai, a member of the Key Auto Group, implemented a new targeted marketing strategy that has shown impressive results — a 65 percent increase in sales and a 100 percent jump in service ROs written, from 1890 to 3925, as compared to the same three-month period in 2009. Located in southern New Hampshire, Salem Ford Hyundai serves customers in both southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts with the majority of its business coming from a specific geographic area. Reevaluating their marketing practices, Salem Ford Hyundai sought a more targeted focus. They determined that it did not make economic sense to advertise to the broader New Hampshire and Massachusetts region, and they wanted a strategy that would help them reach their local customer base. “Why should we spend our marketing dollars to reach an entire region when 90 percent of our sales come from a limited local area,” said Salem General Manager Tania Pulkowski. “We do have phenomenal prices. Our ‘HassleFree Zone’ guarantees the lowest prices around, so customers will drive an hour or more to save a few hundred dollars to buy a new car, but the lifetime value of these customers is much lower than a local customer, due to the lack of service and repeat business.” While carefully defining their ideal target areas within their local market, Salem Ford Hyundai also wanted to streamline costs by combining sales and service messaging to their current customers and potential new customers. They developed a combination sales and service marketing communication platform that would speak to everyone in their database, providing current service offers that matched the customer’s unique service status. They also aggressively targeted Ford and Hyundai owners in their market who were not yet Salem customers. “Since starting on this new strategy, our sales are up 65 percent,” Pulkowski said. “What’s more amazing is that our service department


was down by 13 percent the previous three months before starting this new strategy, and now it’s up 87 percent since September – that’s a 100-percent turnaround.” “We wanted to help Salem Ford Hyundai target the perfect prospects with the highest statistical probability of buying or servicing with their dealership,” said Budd Blackburn, owner of the targeted marketing company that Salem Ford Hyundai uses. “By conducting an indepth, five-year historical assessment of their data and researching the local market trends, we helped them target the best audience.” Their goal is to positively affect all five departments — new, used, finance, service and parts — with their new marketing strategy to get the absolute most out of the money they spend. “Another key factor for us is used cars – 50 percent of our market comes from used sales and we needed a way to continue to build our pre-owned inventory with quality, one-

owner trades that are not easy to find and can be expensive at auctions,” Pulkowski said. To help effect their used inventory, Salem Ford Hyundai created a special trade-in campaign that offered to buy-back used vehicles at above Kelley Blue Book value. The campaign was successful and they plan to use similar campaigns a few times a year to keep inventory up. “It’s not just about sales,” Pulkowski said. “We want to create a customer who will continue to come back to service their vehicles with us and eventually buy with us again, and again — creating a greater lifetime-value customer.”

Susan Givens is the publisher of AutoSuccess. She can be contacted at 877.818.6620, or by e-mail at

in the number of visitors to Windsor Castle because people can see images and learn facts about the Queen and her doings online. There is no question that the Internet’s first major transformation had to do with commerce, and its current evolution has to do with social relationships. In reality, commerce and social relationships are very much intertwined. While I don’t believe that social media presently has a strong influence on vehicle sales, I Centuries ago, when someone had a message, they had to stand on a box in the middle of the believe that it will in the years to come. As town square or pass the message along to the designated town crier. When farmers and merchants the Internet now enables commerce and social had something to sell, they also had to congregate in open markets. Newspapers, mail and connections, I believe that dealer real estate eventually telephones diffused the need for central physical locality to move the message or the will ultimately become an albatross around the commerce. These communication mediums diminished the need for the physical realm. neck of the dealer. DalePollak

marketing solution

An Albatross Around the neck of the dealer

Recently, Queen Elizabeth created a Facebook page. Royal officials are predicting a reduction

Under the present and future margincompressed environment of the automobile business, I don’t believe that dealers can justify the amount of expense they have tied up in the land, building, taxes and insurance. I believe that small is the new big. Dealerships that have much less and much lower cost physical real estate will have the opportunity to sell cars at a higher profit than that of their high-overhead competitors. This is a particularly difficult and early message to dealers. This is so because dealers have derived a lot of ego and identity from their physical presence. Moreover, the manufacturers are requiring dealers to invest even more in their facilities. In my opinion, this is not the time for a dealer to get more vested in real estate, but rather less. I can imagine a scenario where a new car showroom looks like a small square-footage boutique in an upscale, high-traffic shopping plaza and/or office complex. The model in my mind for the look and feel of such showrooms is a Volkswagen and Audi display on the ground floor of their North American corporate office in Herndon, Virginia. I think the service departments should be located in clean and conveniently accessible low-cost, square footage property. The used car operation is the only part of the enterprise that, in my opinion, may still require high-traffic visibility. I think that the separation and consequential concentration of these three businesses will lead to greater productivity and lower costs. While I’m not sure that I’m completely correct on the above configuration, I am sure that the present and future retail automotive business will not support the rental factors that I see being constructed or upgraded at these new dealerships. I think that the manufacturer should be incentivizing the dealer right now to reconfigure their real estate for the purpose of getting to a much lower per square foot cost factor. As the importance of the Internet increases, the value of their real estate decreases.

Dale Pollak is the founder of vAuto and a best-selling author. He can be contacted at 866.867.9620, or by e-mail at


Sales Manager, Ryan Gill Chesrown ChevroletBuick-GMC

While geography was once a severely limiting factor to dealerships located in smaller towns, the Internet has helped to create another source of customers who can easily shop their lot and find vehicles and service that attracts them to make the drive. One dealership that has taken advantage of this new way of thinking and marketing is Chesrown Chevrolet-BuickGMC, located in Delaware, Ohio, about 25 miles north of Columbus. We recently sat down with Sales Manager Ryan Gill and asked him about the process his dealership goes through to attract customers online, and make the sale once they’ve established a relationship. AutoSuccess: What makes Chesrown a dealership that people want to buy from? Ryan Gill: For one, we have an extremely friendly and respectful

sales and management staff that has seen very little turnover through the years. In our unique culture, we do everything we can to kick the traditional “car dealer” stereotype by exuding an attitude of service and being very straightforward with all of our customers. Another competitive advantage that we have going for us is that my father (owner Jim Gill) and I are active in every facet of the dealership. Being a sales manager, I get involved in each sales transaction early in order to put our customers at ease and let them know that they are in good hands. Our Website has become a key part of our sales process. Customers love the simplicity and ease of finding the relevant information they are looking for on our Website, and even our repeat customers continue to come back to our site to shop for cars for their relatives and neighbors.

AS: Why is it more important than ever to listen to the customer and how they buy, instead of working harder to improve how you sell? RG: It’s this simple: We are in the service industry. We have to continue

to provide information to the customer by whatever means they want to receive it. We have never before dealt with a more informed customer than we deal with now. It’s truly unbelievable how many deals we work before we ever meet the customers in person.

AS: How have you used your Web strategy to create a more personal relationship between your virtual and physical sales process? RG: Everything is transparent. We make Carfaxes available on every

vehicle, we have pictures of both new and used vehicles online, and our online negotiation tool allows us to provide multiple payment, purchase and lease figures with multiple term and down payment options. We even have personalized pages on our site for each member of our staff, allowing any customer to get in touch with any of us, including the owner.

AS: What features on your Website are contributing factors to the conversion rate you have seen from your visitors? RG: Our Website is an absolute conversion machine. Between

the live chat and online negotiation features, it allows customers to communicate with us with “no strings attached,” which we find is exactly what they prefer. We talk to so many more people than we did when our Website only featured “form fill” customer lead generators. Those methods simply turn people away. 

AS: Explain how Chesrown has created an effective and efficient sales process from the moment a customer steps onto your virtual lot and/or your physical lot. RG: It all starts with a quick and relevant response. From there, we

provide as much information as necessary to set the appointment, and we’ve thought out processes for the events we encounter. We have a process for sight-unseen trades. We have a process for people with credit issues. We have a process for everything.

AS: Do you believe in the world of CRM and ILM tools? How effective is yours within your sales process and within your continuous, ongoing follow up? How do you measure which tools are most effective? RG: Today, you don’t have a choice. Now, more than ever, we need to

have eyes on every prospect who comes across our lot. From there, we can go back to unsold prospects and reevaluate the appraisals, the vehicle, the figures and whatever else needed to make a deal. Our CRM

system assists us here through its “Daily Dealership Activity Interface” by allowing us easily to track all appointments, showroom traffic, phone calls, Website activity and lead sources in one application. We need this in order to more efficiently focus on our lowest hanging fruit in all areas of the store. AS: It appears that Chesrown sees the value of combining all of their digital tools in their sales process — not only to build value in your dealership, people and process — but also in an effort to motorize and generate results and growth in each of the dealership’s profit centers. How has this been most effective and why? RG: We are always trying to build value in our organization throughout

the sales process. We feature our “Chesrown Advantage” all over our Website, we disclose all repairs made in our reconditioning process and we make sure that our in-dealership first-class sales and service experience mirrors our online experience.

AS: What is the most pro-active part of your measurement strategy? RG: Accountability. Every morning we have a managers meeting. On

any given day we look at previous appraisals, response times on leads and all deals desked. We believe that those are the most vital items that constantly need addressed.

AS: What have you found to be the most effective method in speaking effectively to your customers? RG: In the past, we had little to no way of knowing anything about the

customer when they first arrived on the showroom floor. Today, we use the “cyber sonar” function of our CRM and Website, which “surveys” every prospect we receive through our Website. This unique tool supplies us with detailed information on where the shopper came from specific to their search method. Once on the site, it tracks every search, every page and every car they research. Not only does the system attach all of this data to each customer’s record, but it also lets us know if they have been active on our site in the past so we can better provide them with information that speaks to how they buy and less how we sell. If there has been a shift in the car business over the last year, this is it.

For more information about Ryan Gill or Chesrown Chevrolet-BuickGMC, visit For more information about Widestorm, contact the president and founder, Jock Schowalter. He can be contacted at 866.456.3180, or by e-mail at

marketing solution


how hillside honda is staying ahead

In the Internet age, dealers who do not keep up are going to be left behind. The Internet Department of Hillside Honda often is the first point of contact between the dealership and the customer, and while keeping up with new trends and technology can be tricky, it’s well worth the effort. The Internet is where many consumers begin their car-buying research and our Internet Department is here to make sure they are finding us and getting into the right vehicle. Before customers even think of stopping by our dealership, they use the Internet as a tool to aid in their purchasing decision. Consumers are more aggressive than ever, and we are using all our efforts to ensure that they are leaving happy. We utilize the landing page on to promote specials, new inventory, advertising and other fun information. Selling cars is our business, but consumers come first. We want to share information they would enjoy hearing about and keep bringing them back. To aid the Website with aggressive pricing, we have implemented a different approach for client. Our business development center is responsible for contacting Internet customers and bringing them in to purchase a vehicle. It has always been a rigid format to never disclose pricing to the customer prior to their showroom appointment; however, to compete in an aggressive marketplace and service price-savvy customers, we are trying a different approach. We have created a series of e-mails for our best selling vehicles that disclose an aggressive new vehicle price, plus several pre-owned vehicles that would also meet the needs of our customers. Our business development center has always been timely, friendly and accurate responding to customers. Their priority is to have strong communication. Our follow-up approach with the customer is to stay in contact with them and provide them with information they are seeking. The new vehicle prices show the customer three

possible trim level choices, so they can assess what they can afford to spend. The pre-owned vehicles will also give them added options of vehicles they would like for an even better price. Since we have created our own e-mail campaign with good results, they have integrated it into their best practices. Our modified approach has produced great results with respect to our closing ratio for our Internet customers. Over the past couple of months, our closing ratio has stayed relatively steady and healthy, around 10 percent. We’ve seen an increase in our closing ratio, to about 12 percent, since testing this type of e-mail campaign, from April 2010 to May 2010, and in June 2010, our closing ratio was at an amazing 19 percent. Our team has since decided to continue this campaign because of the success that our Internet sales team has seen. It is vital to stay ahead of the times and try new methods to see what really works for your dealership. We’ve recently launched a Website created specifically for our pre-owned car shoppers. Not only does it display our used inventory, but also informs our consumers why purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle is such a great decision. The Website layout is specifically designed to be very clear and simple. We have two locations, and on the homepage the addresses and pictures of what each location looks like are displayed to make it easier for our customers. Not only will this help our customers, but it has also assisted us in many ways. In the auto industry, many consumers use Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines to locate the vehicles they are looking to purchase. Having more than one Website helps us in our organic searches, as consumers are much more likely to select an organic Website than a pay-per-click ad. If they are searching for a used Honda Accord in Queens, they will be brought to a Website where they

can see plenty of vehicles they are looking to purchase. We are currently working with Reach Local for our pay-per-click campaigns, search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Originally, we had a budget of $5,000 per month because we thought the more we spent, the more visitors Hillside Honda would receive. We now know that it is not how much a company spends, but how they spend it. I trust that search engine visitors are much more likely to select an organic link, rather than a sponsored link. Internet users are aware that search engines will pull sites and information that is a close match to what they are searching. Our focus is to trend organically for key search phrases, but we also understand to keep an appropriate budget for pay per click. More so now than ever, consumers want to trust a business and feel comfortable with the organization they are doing business with. There are many ways that we make sure our customers feel comfortable coming to us for their car purchasing needs. Hillside Honda is an accredited business by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Having our BBB accreditation on the Website shows customers they can trust Hillside Honda, and it solidifies our business practices and reassures customers they should choose us over other dealerships. By using all these elements, we have been able increase our profitability. Our Website presence and proper customer follow up is what allows Hillside Honda’s business to grow and flourish. It is vital for all dealers to have accurate information, aggressive pricing and proper customer care follow up in order to increase sales and happy customers.

Erin Ehrling is the Internet marketing manager at Hillside Honda. She can be contacted at 866.871.0247, or by e-mail at


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leadership solution

are your policies and procedures working?

“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength; I have written before about empowering your sales staff in negotiating with clients one is pushing down, the other is pulling up” — Booker T. Washington, 1856-1915 and customers. Before that happens, though, you should first empower your management team. Knowledge is the most empowering Do you have clients that keep coming back as tool you can give your staff. Educate your ambassadors and repeat buyers? If the answer is “no,” then you need to review your sales and management team on the store’s mission and how you would like them to be part of building service process. This could be a very painful the dealership’s reputation. Micromanaging exercise, but, if done correctly, will increase your sales and customer satisfaction. We all get your operation will reduce the potential of real growth and profit. Let your management complaints and, as good business people, we team do what you hired them for, to manage tackle those complaints head on with the goal your business effectively. In order for this to of a positive solution that does not break the bank. You must consider why you received the happen, they need a clear understanding of the what, why and how to perform correctly. complaint in the first place and what is your limit in give back to keep a customer happy? Poor policies, poor decisions and management Not all dealer principles can manage, but as principles they want to be involved. If you not being held accountable are usually the are a working owner, then make sure you reasons you give money away. manage smartly and are clear to the staff what you expect in performance and work There are preconceived notions about auto dealers and your goal should be to change your ethics. Are you consistent in your messaging? Sending mixed messages is just as bad as market, not the national obsession about how micromanaging. Get started internally with bad we are as a group. Build relationships one your employees and their attitudes. at a time with strong, structured foundations.

Do you have an employee handbook? It is the simplest way to let your employees know how you want your dealership run. If you already have one in place, review the contents and decide if the policies and procedures that you have established for your employees create the business results you are seeking. Unhappy employees make unhappy customers. There is no cookiecutter structure that works for every dealership, so it is best to stay flexible. Dealerships reflect the owner’s personality, as do individual businesses that relate to the life of the community. Structure does mean that you cannot have flexibility with


your employees or your clients. It all has to make sense in the way you operate. A number of years ago, I became the GM of a well-established luxury dealership. The economy was stagnating, the product acceptance was declining and the attitude of the staff was depressing. Policies were in place that accumulated over a 20-year period and all the employees were afraid to make decisions for fear of getting in some sort of trouble. All I heard for the first week was “we can’t do that; it is not what the owner wants.” The dealership’s policies and procedures were focused on when something went wrong instead of policies that aided sales but protected the dealership. These little changes over a period of time were created to solve a failure in management. In turn, the built up policies impacted the dealership’s ability to compete. I decided to clean the slate and start from scratch with the management team that was in place. The excitement that was shown as they started to use their experience to create a better work process was amazing. As a group, we went step-by-step analyzing every policy and procedure to see if it had any merit. It did not take long to weed out the bad policies and to institute solid work structures and procedures. No one really knew how some business practices evolved; they just did. It just happens over time and if you do not review your procedures annually, you end up clogging the business engine. In our case, we started to see immediate results in the number of units sold and how the customer perceived the process. Did the economy get better? Did the product get better? Did traffic get better? None of the above changed; the only difference was that the employees understood what we were attempting to do and they performed under the new structure and policies. Policies and procedures are not etched in stone; they need to be reviewed periodically. Put in place a yearly review and adjust to the changes in business practices and customer expectation. Consumers can buy cars anywhere, so give them a reason to buy at your dealership. Structure your policies and procedures so that the consumer gets the experience that keeps them coming back for more. Howard Leavitt is the president and founder of AutoRaptor CRM. He can be contacted at 866.618.9053, or by e-mail at


marketing solution

The Search Game has changed: The Lowdown on the New “Google Places” In late October, Google unveiled major changes to how it automatically displays local search results, rolling out their new “Google Places” format. Local searches, of course, are the ones dealerships care desperately about: i.e., “Honda Dealers San Francisco,” etc. The search community has been filled with speculations about how the new algorithms work, and many dealers are asking themselves how it will affect their placement and business generation at Google. A Summary of What Happened:

• With local results, instead of the listings/ links and map on top with organic results, first-page results are now heavily dominated by “Google Place” pages for local businesses, marked with a prominent “red pin.” • Google created a “Place Page” for each local business (whether the business set themselves up or not), with basic info and “algorithmically-chosen” snippets of reviews culled from online review sites. • At each Google Place listing, a business’ number of reviews, overall “star” rating and links to individual reviews sites, are now intensely visible/clickable on firstpage results. • The map moves to the right side of the search results, and scrolls with you. Rightside PPC ads are pushed below the map, and are covered up as a searcher scrolls down. The top three sponsored listings remain. Remaining organic listings appear below (and sometimes throughout) map listings.

• On left side, users can click the “Places” tab, and only Google Places results are displayed.

the “apples” (Place Listings) were ranked on aspects including reviews, citations and content quality on the Google Places page. Actions to Take: • Optimize Your Google Places Listing:

If you haven’t created your dealership’s Google listing, it’s imperative to do so (go to: Place Pages now supports longer descriptions, so make sure your address, Website, photos, hours, details about services provided, awards, logos and all the relevant details that paint the best picture of your dealership are set up properly. Add as many categories as allowed, and do the same thing at Yahoo! and Bing. • Gather Positive Reviews Across Many Sites:

With a dealership’s reviews now exploded all over first-page results — and your performance at numerous review sites one click away — your reviews are right in a searcher’s face. You need to set in place systematic, ongoing online reputation management (ORM) to gather a high volume of authentic, positive reviews across numerous sites – also for sales, service and parts. • Focus on Great SEO: Google raised the bar on the necessity for strong SEO technology for the dealer’s Website now that they’ve integrated Places listings into organic results. If you’ve been focusing on “rounded” SEO — good design, great content/content code and online marketing — and you’re local, you’re in great shape. If not, find a great SEO partner. The “merge” reduces the number of the remaining Page One organic results. And if your dealership doesn’t have a physical location in a targeted market, you’re now more likely to get pushed off the page, and your SEO efforts must redouble. • Watch Your Phones:

Essentially, Google has created a new hybrid algorithm that merges the old “Google Local” listings with organic results. You could call it comparing “apples” to “pears,” pears being the “normal,” organic listings (ranked based on Website content, links and other signals), while


The new layout encourages searchers to click on Place Pages, rather than your Website. Because info like addresses and phone numbers are now easier to find (and a significant percentage of people hitting your site simply seek contact info), your site traffic could decrease. Conversely, your

phone traffic (particularly if you have a great “online reputation”) should increase. So, make sure you have dedicated “800” and local numbers at Google Places and a high converting phone-handling process in your store. • Re-Think PPC Placement: Because right-side PPC ads take a visibility hit, we’re already seeing increased competition for the top three sponsored spots, and they’re likely to get more expensive. Dealers should investigate “Google Boost,” a new tool in the PPC armory: the single premium spot on the page just above the organic results, mimicking the look of the new Places listings. Google claims it costs “as little as $100,” to up to “a few hundred dollars a month.” Only available in some markets today, it’s expected to launch widely soon. The Upshot:

There’s still a lot of revisions going on (with listings appearing differently in different regions, etc.), and I think it’s safe to say that with such a big change in Google’s search/ business model we can expect more surprises along the way. But it’s clear Google is making “local” a major priority, and that the model is to erase the distinction/algorithms between organic and Google Local results. So, it will be very hard for any dealership to dominate in search without great SEO and a well-optimized Website, a claimed, optimized Place Page and a high volume of positive reviews across many sites. Dealerships can tend to conceive of SEO and ORM campaigns as separate. But with the new Google Places this isn’t an option, given the “merged” algorithm for organic and Place Page rankings, and the new, intense visibility of reviews in search results. The world may have too many acronyms, but it’s actually high time for a new one: Say hello to SEORM, the search strategy of today and tomorrow. For a free report on whether your dealership is ready for the new Google, contact me at the number or e-mail below. Richard Winch is CEO and founder of eXtéresAUTO. He can be contacted at 866.476.4389, or by e-mail at

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sales & training solution

GM finds the right crm for his staff, dealership

As a general manager with 11 years of experience, Jeff Hicks has seen sales technology evolve to fill gaps that weren’t even known to exist before. When Crown Honda of Greensboro, North Carolina — where Hicks has been GM for the past four years — was looking to introduce a CRM that would meet their needs, he knew that it could be a challenge. Fortunately for him, and his dealership, the right solution presented itself. We recently spoke with Hicks to find out what he was looking for in a CRM, and what he found. AutoSuccess: Jeff, how did you go about searching for a CRM? Jeff Hicks: Over the last couple of years,

(Crown Honda’s owner) Asbury Automotive Group has made a point of communicating with their GMs that they were committed to providing us with the best possible tools for us to operate our stores. We looked at multiple CRMs and began to narrow it down. We’re able to test pilot the eLEAD program and felt like it could accomplish the goals that our corporate office had set up, which was to provide us with

the best tool available. I’ve tried several CRMs, and this is the best comprehensive tool that I’ve seen on the market.

AS: Describe the role your CRM plays in the path to the sale. JH: The CRM in our store is utilized by

everybody involved. It’s a consistent road to the sale that we are able to use with every customer, by every salesperson and every sales manager. It’s easy for us to use, and it’s easy to train new salespeople using it because it’s visual, and it’s almost an “A-B-C-D” type of process.

AS: How does the CRM fit into the overall marketing strategy for your dealership? JH: Crown Honda has been able to reduce

our advertising expenses utilizing our CRM, because it gives us a much more pinpointaccurate opportunity to find the right customers for the right program. We base most of that off of our current customer base because customer loyalty is such a big part of our business. We’re able to deliver messages to customers that they’re actually interested in hearing.

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AS: What kind of results are you seeing? JH: I can only

speak for our store, but at Crown Honda of Greensboro, we have had an increase in sales and at the same time we’ve reduced our advertising expenses.

AS: How has the use of the CRM evolved in your dealership? JH: From

a historical perspective, I believe it’s one of the biggest challenges we’ve had — that we’ve gone from writing names down on a pad to using a computer application. Through the years, I

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have tried different products to try to get better and more accurate data for follow-up and for us to be able to manage their customer base — the cost of advertising your own customer base is so much less than to try and conquest customers from other manufacturers or other stores. I have always struggled in trying to find a way to get the customer’s information, get it loaded into the system and us being able to utilize the system to help us pull customers out where applicable. eLEADs has made this easy for us. They’re able to provide us with customer names and e-mail addresses and we’re able to track and utilize all those addresses for e-mail blasts. Customers may not want to be contacted by phone now, but we’re able to use the different mediums that we have because of the good information we get up front. If we have a good cell number, if we get a good e-mail address and if we get a good address, we can text, e-mail, call or even send a letter; we’re able to utilize and communicate with customers now the way they want to communicate — not just the way we might want to communicate with them.

AS: Describe the training your people get on your CRM system. JH: We have support from eLEADs — they

provide in-store training, and they also provide WebEx applications and training on the telephone where we can dial into a meeting situation and get trained on specific information. Also, the system itself is simple; when you look at it, you know what you’re doing. It’s almost intuitive. Our sales managers, and even our sales staff, can train new sales staff members on how to use it because of its ease of use.

AS: What advice would you have for a GM or dealer who is looking for a CRM? JH: Make sure that the CRM integrates with

your DMS. Full integration of your CRM with your DMS is critical for success. Then it’s just a matter of whether or not they have the management staff that will commit to utilizing a CRM. If they get the tool but don’t fully utilize it, you might as well save the money not get the tool.

For more information about Jeff Hicks or Crown Honda, visit For more information about eLEAD CRM, contact director of marketing, Melissa Maxey. She can be contacted at 866.922.0175, or by e-mail at

sales & training solution

14 traits that exist in every successful dealership Last month, we listed the first seven traits that exist in every successful dealership. Let’s do a quick review: 1. People setting and achieving their own lofty goals and living their dreams 2. Effectively overcoming obstacles 3. Turning negatives into positives 4. Persistence 5. Ethics 6. Belief and commitment 7. Focus and unstoppable drive Now let’s talk about the remaining seven traits: 8. Risk-Taking

Super-successful dealerships know when and where to take astute risks. They know how to take them for maximum yield, but minimum downside. Most average dealerships are afraid to take risks. They see them as “dangerous speculations.” Super-achieving dealerships recognize that unless you do things differently, better and more effectively, you can’t produce the breakthrough results you’re after. 9. Fearlessness

The sky will not fall. The world is not collapsing. You won’t go broke or look stupid. Actually the opposite is true once you master all 14 traits. Doom and failure only go to those who stay stuck in the status quo. You must move from fear to fearlessness. Imagine never fearing a bad economy, or your




competitors, or making payroll ever again. Imagine having total certainty that you’ll do just fine because you have total control of your business fortune. Imagine making the decision to never participate in a recession. That’s what the most successful dealerships do. 10. Learning From Others’ Mistakes

Why make any more of your own mistakes when there’s a powerful, infallible method you can use to tap into the successful experiences of thousands of prosperous dealership minds? The most successful dealerships pay attention to what is working and what is not working. They work with agencies who track and measure results from thousands of dealers. They are active participants in 20 Groups. Start tapping into the successful experiences and lessons learned by all the bright minds around you. 11. Daily Motivation

The inspiration to super-achieve. If I can steal a quick Tweet from Grant Cardone, “If it’s worth doing… it’s worth doing every day!” Motivate yourself and your staff every day until you become the business you want and will become. All the knowledge, the change of mindset and a clear path to super success isn’t enough to get you there. You need a team of dedicated people to believe in your direction. You need to push, pull, prod, inspire, compel and propel you and

your team to the levels you and your dealership are capable of achieving. 12. Good Handle of New-found Success

Making a ton of money isn’t really hard to do. Sometimes handling success is a different matter. Once you start achieving the level of business and financial results you’re after, you have to be able to deal with the added responsibility, wealth, options and influence you have. You’ll find yourself in a different position within your marketplace and the industry. Sometimes keeping our ego and business in check requires strategy. Just look at the changes you’ve made over the last few years. The trick as business continues to pick up is not to forget about the improvements and adjustments you’ve already made. It can be easy to slip back into bad habits. 13. Giving Back

All successful dealerships I have interviewed over the years give back to their community. When the success and money start to flow, they always give back. Whether you give money or time an interesting thing happens — you’ll find that your success compounds geometrically with every contribution of yourself you make. 14. “Success-ion”

The idea of “success-ion” is very powerful. It’s the process of getting other, massively successful individuals to pass on their best practices. It shortens the learning curve of your staff. Once dealerships understand and practice this concept, a higher percentage of their staff learns how to think, act and say and what their most successful employees do. More importantly… they will know why. Scott Joseph is the president of J&L Marketing, Inc. He can be contacted at 888.835.1689, or by e-mail at


sales & training solution

how doug sold 40 cars in his first two months in the auto business

Doug, a Subaru salesman in northern Pennsylvania, started his automotive sales career by hitting the ground running, selling 40 cars in his first two months. How did he do it? The credit goes to his manager for getting him help. Getting proper help and accurate information to a new salesperson is critical when starting out. Doug started with 250 names, addresses and phone numbers of his friends. He also has a birthday system that he puts the whole family into. But this is just to start. The first things to go over in training are attitude, goals and work. You need all three to be

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successful. With a great attitude you will find a way to get to your goals. Good work habits are a must to start. With a daily routine and good work habits, sales happen. Hitting your goals by doing this means a great attitude. Come to work with a plan and do it every day. The daily routine requires Doug to make 20 phone calls or more a day, send out mailers and prospect to get his own customers. When Doug sends out mailers, he has a magnet in each letter and the $100 referral on the back of his business card. Every customer gets a “thank you” card — every time. Doug is an outdoors kind of guy; he is getting the name, address and birthday of every friend in his hunting club, and all that information goes into his system. He is putting them in his Facebook group, as well. Every person sold is mentioned on Facebook, along with a big “thank you.” Doug also has made a little video and put it on Facebook; this is powerful. When it comes to selling a car, there are no shortcuts. Every one of Doug’s customers goes on a long demo ride, followed by a service walk. This sets him apart from the normal salesperson, and he knows it. “I don’t understand why everybody doesn’t do this,” he said. “It’s so easy.” With this kind of attitude, he will be unstoppable, and is excited about his future in the business. “You don’t have to tell me there is a customer on the lot,” he said. “I’m ready every day to do what it takes to sell a car a day.” The system Doug has is simple: one or two customers a day, one or two appointments a day and one or two incoming calls a day will equal one car sold every day. The long-term goal is to have so many customers that he doesn’t have time to take new customers. One advantage he has is that another salesperson is selling 35 to 40 cars every month using the same system. That is a big plus. Doug reads the training manual during slow times, and this keeps him focused. Talking to people outside work isn’t work to him, but fun. “Where else can you work, have this much fun and make money,” he asked. In a nutshell, this guy got training that showed him how to have a business within a business. His goal is 180 units in six months; the way he is going, I think he might have to raise that. I wonder what his attitude towards further training will be in the future? My hat is off to the manager for helping him stay on track.

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Fran Taylor is the president and CEO of Taylor Techniques. He can be contacted at 866.848.9864, or by e-mail at


sales & training solution

taking advantage of the paperless office It’s so easy today to get caught in the media’s negativity on the state of the economy, but I see this as an opportunity, not a problem. I see the next few years to be the highest for sales and profits for the parts business in this decade. As history repeats itself, we all are aware that when the economy slows and new car sales plummet, the auto parts business increases substantially. We are part of a $2.3 billion industry. Vehicles are on the road longer today, and there is $1.6 billion of unperformed vehicle maintenance annually. The motoring public needs their cars and trucks to operate safely and efficiently to meet the demands of their everyday life, and the aftermarket parts business needs to capitalize on these opportunities. Parts distributors can no longer do business the way we used to. We need to think outside of our box. We need to take a look at another industry. Let’s take a look at the United Parcel Service (UPS), for instance. It is efficiency at it’s finest. You can see where your order is instantly, anytime, 24/7. The auto parts aftermarket, has these capabilities today, and don’t have

Some of the more “mature” parts guys said

“Internet ordering is just a fad; people want someone to talk to.” As you are all well aware, Internet ordering is here to stay. Why? Because it’s faster and easier, and time is money. You can make it easy for your customer to order parts from you online.

to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. eDelivery tracking management systems are available today as “bolt-on,” “hookup” or “integrated to” most all management systems. Look at Amazon and eBay online ordering, selling billions of dollars of merchandise annually. Some of the more “mature” parts guys said “Internet ordering is just a fad; people want someone to talk to.” As you are all well aware, Internet ordering is here to stay. Why? Because it’s faster and easier, and time is money. You can make it easy for your customer to order parts from you online. Take a look at the banking industry. No more statements, no more checks, no more mail. It’s Internet access only, or they’ll charge you money. Today, most of us are handling paperwork the old fashioned way. We must step up and use technology which is available today from multiple vendors, known as the paperless office, paperless warehouse, etc. The amount of time and money spent on back office procedures is huge. Activities such as sorting, matching, filing, retrieving, copying, faxing and refilling, not to mention the cost of things such as invoices, statements and postage, all cost money. The efficiencies that can’t be measured in actual dollars (which is what we call “efficiency dollars”) are also huge. Not only your


customers, but your office staff, counter and management can view, search, print or e-mail any invoice, statement, payment on account and all parts purchased online, 24/7. The parts business is notorious for creating large amounts of paperwork purchasing parts. We create a PO, receive packing slips, invoices and statements. Then, we spend countless hours matching all four documents so we can pay the proper amount. An ePayables product should be used. Such products can “bolt on” to most management systems seamlessly, capturing the printed PO and storing it online in a database. Next, whether from a manufacturer or a local W/D, an ASN (Advanced Shipping Notice) is sent electronically through a secure “pipe” and is matched online to show the quantity exceptions. Then, an invoice is sent, which is also matched to the PO and the pricing exceptions are noted. If a statement is sent, there are provisions to reconcile with PO’s and invoices, online. The real value is there is no filing, and no key punch mistakes, which results in fewer credit memos and more time for customer service. There is some hesitation from owners to adopt new technology. Their resistance to change is mainly due to lack of resources — not just dollars to invest, because most of these new products cost very little or have no upfront fees and you don’t even have to change management systems. The main hurdle is the time and energy it takes to inform, educate and promote ecommerce to their customers and employees. The benefits of making this transition, however, more than outweigh the temporary effort it takes to make the change. For your free copy of “Six Steps to Implement an eCommerce System,” e-mail me at the address below.

Jim Franco is the CEO of Autologue. He can be contacted at 866.456.1296, or by e-mail at

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engaging your prospects

It has been well documented that the prospects you are trying to reach are being bombarded from a number of “media” sources. Yesterday’s best practices for television, radio and newspaper just don’t work when consumers have so many resources available to them today. They expect that the brands they select will respond to them faster and in more detail than ever before. Because of technology advances, the industry has shifted to finding ways that create conversations via the Internet and mobile messaging. However, a complete shift from traditional methods of marketing is not necessary; rather, integration of new technology into old tools is proving to be very effective. Many dealers continue to use direct mail which, by nature of what it is, has a tremendous reach across the country. Simple integration of mobile messaging, social media and advanced data analytics can dramatically increase response rates of your direct mail efforts. There are several techniques that dealers can use to ensure that the prospect lists they are using are more effective. This allows the dealers to spend the same dollars but get more for that money with a data list that is highly focused. One example is the use of your current DMS data resources to power marketing campaigns. There are providers of solutions that can “poll” your dealership DMS and then do advanced analytics on that data to make it even more pertinent and valuable to you. Some examples of the types of services are NCOA, Phone Append, Email Append and identifying current household vehicles. All of these things either save the dealer money or increase the chances of your offering making it into the right hands. A second example is the use of text/mobile messaging to offer yet another way for the prospect to interact with your dealership. There are more than 258 million wireless lines in the U.S., and more than half of them are active users of text messaging. The stereotype of


text messaging being only for the younger age groups has been dismissed over time. While there are challenges to deploying an effective and compliant campaign, integration of text messaging is another way that you can do more with traditional campaigns. These efforts are not isolated to use by the new or used car sales department. Your service department can benefit greatly by campaigns that use traditional point of sale material in the waiting areas to drive current customers to enroll in a text program. This will allow you to conduct permissive-based campaigns at a future date for such things as discounts on oil changes or similar services. A third example is the use of PURLs (Personalized URLs) in any e-mail campaigns or direct mail offerings. A PURL generates a customized URL or domain name using the customer’s name within the content of the address (e.g., http://johnsmith.yourdealership. com). When you combine the effectiveness of such personalization with the ability to provide very detailed tracking of responses, PURLs become a very powerful and cost-effective tool to use. The PURL takes the consumer to a custom landing page that uses variable data elements to make the page appear in a manner that is more focused on their status or potential interest in a specific offering. For example, a PURL may be directed at a current owner of 2000 Honda Accord, and when they arrive at the Web page it displays a picture of the same model of their current car, only in a 2010 model. PURLS are very effective methods at taking an initial offering to an online engagement, which gives the dealership more chances to communicate with the customer about what they really want, need or can qualify for. A fourth example is the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. It may seem like it is easy to just throw together a presence on social media sites, but that is only half the battle. Maintaining current and relevant content on those sites is imperative. Overuse of the media will discourage customers and

underuse will seem not valuable or outdated. Many of the top companies in the country have discovered how valuable an audience can be for promotions and offerings using social media. At the same time, a dealer must craft their messages and promotions carefully. The nature of instant feedback on the Internet can cause brand damage if not well thought out and properly deployed. However, the market penetration of these sites and the cost effectiveness make them strategies that all dealers should review carefully. Finally, if you are not currently sourcing your leads from companies that do validation and scoring of those leads, you are probably following leads that are not going to be productive. In today’s market, with many finance sources drying up, often times dealers find themselves spending time on leads they pay for, but for which they can’t provide financing. There are a number of programs that provide either modeled or credit-scored leads for auto dealers. This helps to ensure that the dealer is spending valuable time talking to leads who are very close to what the dealer has to offer in financing sources. There are many choices for auto dealers in the area of advertising, marketing and lead generation. Careful review of your current programs to see if you are using some of the items above can indicate to you if perhaps there is something more you can be doing with your current investment. Auto dealerships have been faced with many new challenges over the past few years and these are ways to ensure that you are engaging your prospect and current customer base. Consumers are sending a very clear message, and that message is: Talk to me in a way that is easy for me and let’s do it now, not later.

Brian Browning is the director of operations for BlueLizard Interactive. He can be contacted at 866.613.0980, or by e-mail at

leadership solution

the death of the traditional dealership

Everyday managers walk into their dealerships in the morning and start their day with tasks or “to-do” list items. Unfortunately, those items rarely involve direct interaction with their sales team. The ultimate place for managers to be is in front of customers and salespeople. Salespeople need interaction and input. If a manager allows a salesperson to direct their own day by their own design without input and coaching, the results will often be lackluster and will lead to feelings of being alienated. Attitudes will decrease and salesperson turnover will increase. Most likely you have heard of Pareto’s Rule, otherwise known as the “80/20” rule. The rule states that 80 percent of the money will be made by 20 percent of the people. The rule has stood the test of time and will remain true forever. If you know that only 20 percent of people are self-directed, that means the remaining 80 percent need direction, coaching and guidance with their daily focus. Gone are the days of salespeople working



in the fashion of independent agents where they are measured at the end of the month for results and the winners are rewarded while the non-producers are fired and replaced. Salespeople will be coached and guided from the beginning of the day and then periodically throughout the day. Actions and productivity will be measured, praised and rewarded knowing that more often than not those things will produce results. The Law of Reaping and Sowing will be applied by coaching salespeople to sow seeds continually during the day. CRMs, BDCs and social media tools will all push dealerships to measure and correct every daily action of salespeople. Imagine if there was a football team with a head coach who did not believe in practice. Or, if the coach did not believe in coaching, monitoring and holding responsible his players for every detail of their normal day or what they did in the games. Imagine if a football coach each day said nothing to his team and, at

the end of games, just looked to see if his team had won and who had played well or not. Would a coach do these things? Would a coach tell his team to go win and never guide this team? Who is calling the plays at your dealership? Who is doing the coaching before the game? Who is monitoring every action and number? The role of the traditional salesperson is dead. Gone forever are the days of waiting until the end of the month to see how the salespeople have done. Think of your salespeople as you would players on a team. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Each player will have expectations and responsibilities. Each player will be continually coached on techniques that involve sales skills, people skills, marketing skills and life skills. Create a team of team members rather than expecting all your players to be superstars that can do everything on their own and produce superior results. The old model is dead and it wasn’t effective. Bury the old salesperson model and give birth to the new one today. For the FREE Special Report “10 things Your Dealership Must Do to Be Successful” e-mail me at the address below with 10 things in the subject line. Mark Tewart is the president of Tewart Enterprises, and the author of the best seller, How To Be A Sales Superstar. He can be contacted at 866.429.6844, or by e-mail at

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sales & training solution

the power of paraphrasing

Recently I was faced with having to renew my cell phone contract. I had thought about changing carriers but wanted to investigate all of my options. Very much like shopping for a car, I surfed the Web and made several phone calls to competitors before reaching a decision to stay with my present carrier, provided I could negotiate the right program that would fulfill my needs. Note that I said “provided I could negotiate the right program.”

After restating, you will want to use phrases such as, “It sounds like...” or, “I hear you that right?” These questions and statements should be followed with a pause in order for the customer to acknowledge that you are correct and both parties are in agreement.

After speaking with an account rep for several minutes, I was routed to an account manager. By this time, I had experienced a lower level of training, and was anticipating that the manager would have higher level skill sets. After a brief wait, a voice came on the phone. “Hi, is this Marc Smith?” I replied, “Yes.” And then the gentleman asked if it was OK to call me by my first name (more on this strategy in a later topic). Again, I replied, “Yes.” Then he thanked me for being a loyal customer for so many years and apologized for having me put on hold. This was interesting because the previous account rep, after asking permission to put me on hold, had also apologized for having put me on hold.

The sales manager knew that my concern was not having enough minutes and that all he had to do was present me with an alternative or solution that would address the issue. He replied, “What I can do is credit to your account an additional 1,000 free minutes for renewing. You will be able to continue enjoying the same level of service without worry. Should you find that you’re going to increase your usage, you always have the flexibility to call in and change your plan without any charge or interruption of service. Can we get that started for you?” Yes, the close.

“How can I be of assistance?” he asked. I explained that I was considering all of my options in renewing my present service but wasn’t sure that the plan I had discussed with the sales rep had enough minutes. He replied, “I understand.” Then he paused briefly and said, “It sounds like you may have some concerns over the amount of minutes you’re using and that’s what may be preventing you from going ahead with a new plan. Am I right?” “Yes,” I replied. Bingo! One of the biggest obstacles in closing the deal is uncovering or identifying the real objection of why the customer won’t move ahead or deeper into the process, as I like to say. Paraphrasing is the art of restating in your own words someone else’s ideas or opinions. In sales, we use paraphrasing for the purpose of clarification. Once we clarify the objection, then we can address the issue to the customer’s satisfaction, as did the sales manager in this example.


Once we clarify the objection, then we can address the issue to the customer’s satisfaction as did the sales manager in this example.

When you look at what happened here it was pretty much like a car deal. The manager listened to the sales rep at the desk. He went in on the T.O. (turn over to manager). He listened to what I had to say and simply paraphrased by restating what I had told him. Then he expressed empathy by saying something as simple as “I understand,” and presented a solution or alternative and went for the close. Novice sales people are always giving up gross before they uncover the real objection. Notice in this example the manager didn’t give up anything. Yes, he offered 1,000 free minutes, but also offered the solution of the flexibility to move into another plan if I needed it. OK, so I know you’re wondering, how can I offer up something free? Well, for starters, there is no free lunch and if there is it may be up to the manager to serve it up. However, you still need to isolate and uncover the true objection of why the customer is not making a “now” decision, so that you can prepare the manager for whatever he or she needs to do in order to close the opportunity.

“Paraphrasing is the art of restating in your own words someone else’s ideas or opinions. In sales, we use paraphrasing for the purpose of clarification. Once we clarify the objection, then we can address the issue to the customer’s satisfaction....” So the next time you hear “the payments are too much and we really need to think about it,” or, “the price is higher than we thought and we’re going to look a little longer,” use the power of paraphrasing to uncover the hidden objection, propose an alternative and go for the close. Remember, the only reason a customer can’t buy is if they have no money or no means to borrow it. Every attempt should be made to close the opportunity. Marc Smith is the president and CEO of Marc Smith International LLC. He can be contacted at 866.665.4479, or by e-mail at


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marketing solution

your top social strategy for 2011

The explosion of social media into all aspects of our lives, including our businesses, has created a shift in marketing strategies. At this point, most dealers know something about social media and how it works. In fact, many invest significant time and effort in social 72UsedCarDealer7.376x4.811-P1.qxp:1660 media to find, connect and converse with customers. While social is a growing strategy for connecting with customers, the largest database of customers should not be forgotten in the mix. Consider the following three reasons for why your CRM is still the first priority in connecting with customers.

masses is as simple as leveraging your CRM — the beginning of a truly effective “social” strategy. Customer Insights

— drive the conversation. CRM-driven conversation enables dealers to create targeted, timely and relevant messaging with people who have gone beyond “liking” your fan page – they’ve actually done business with you. Furthermore, until things change with social sites, your CRM drives and measures ROI.

A true, comprehensive CRM will provide you 8/4/10 9:21 AM Page 1 with the single greatest view into customer interaction and behavior. In it, you have Don’t misunderstand: Get on Twitter and join everything needed to establish and build unique relationships with the 50,000 customers the conversation; build your Facebook page and go social. But any dealer who wants to in your database, each with notes, contact be where his customers are doesn’t have to history, sales history, contact preference, look any further than his CRM — the database trade analysis and service spending and of customers he already owns. Social media trending. Today, social media simply cannot channels should be in your plan for 2011, but offer this level of insight into the purchasing All Customers guard the temptation to make “social” your and servicing behavior of your customers. A CRM database captures every type of (2) Used Car Dealer (NIADA primary focus. That attention should go to your However, given the right magazine CRM with the right customer; including leads, prospects, referrals, most powerful social strategy — meaningful automated marketing capabilities, knowledge lost sales and sold customers — and lots of Minn. Auto Dealer Assoc. Magazine, customer engagement driven by your CRM. of customer behavior can’t help but drive them. While anyone would be impressed with horizontal, business.1/2 Realpage business. the 4,742 Facebook fans and the 9,978 people following you on Twitter, most CRMs contains 7.376 x 4.811 three times the number of customers than Real Engagement August 6th it are found in the DMS. This means a unique Lean on**Deadline your social strategy to do what Bryan Anderson is the founder of Autobase. connection with more than 50,000 customers. does best — follow the conversation. Lean on He can be contacted at 866.667.9659, or by By volume alone, reaching and engaging the your CRM to do something entirely different e-mail at

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leadership solution

internet sales 20 group review

We recently completed a very successful Internet Sales 20 Group three-day event — we had dealer principals, GMs and Internet directors from all over the country attend — and we (myself included) learned a lot from each other. We started the 20 Group by getting to meet all of the dealers in the group. It was extremely diversified — we had small stores, medium size stores and even full-blown dealer groups in attendance. The group started by getting to know each other. We were able to go around the room and basically discuss each dealership’s situation, process, strategy and philosophy. It was interesting to see the different ways dealers were doing everything. There were some advanced dealers, and there were some dealerships that were at the early stages of engaging automotive Internet sales. Later in the workshop, we transitioned into a lot of statistics, data, details, philosophy and strategy. As the moderator I lead the discussion, but the dealers and managers directed the flow of conversation — at one point we had a dealer principal giving advice and coaching directly to a different dealership owner from the other side of the country. We went over the most up-to-date data from JD Power & Associates, NADA, Digital Dealer and various OEMs. It’s helpful to set benchmarks and expectations. We discussed operational process and protocol. Meaning, we went into detail on how to build a department or how to fix a department — not just operationally, but also the specific processes, such as outgoing Internet sales phone calls. We also went through several dealership’s Websites and evaluated them based on content, difference, SEO, psychology, strategy, value package proposition, etc. That was a fun and eye-opening exercise. Since sharing is the foundation of a good


20 Group, I’m going to spend the rest of this article and next month going over some information those attending volunteered. We asked a series of questions about sales strategy, promotions, use of social media, the evolution of their dealership’s online activities and employee training and relations. The results are presented here to give you a feel for what your fellow automotive sales leaders are thinking and seeing. Answer the questions yourself and see where you stack up to the answers we found here. What’s the one best online strategy (a promotion, a special, etc.) you’ve seen or used that brought people into the dealership?

• LinkedIn and regular e-mail • Customers can leave messages via ContactAtOnce! live chat; they can also schedule service and test drives • Live chat, allowing customers to leave a message for our staff, and e-mail • Our team leaders stay connected to CRM, and we use Flip videos and social networks • Social media – Facebook, texting, etc. • Texting, Facebook, e-mail — all on cell phone

• Price quoting more aggressively than our competition

• Traditional media advertising, Website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr

• Our strategy that says “If you don’t find something in our inventory, we’ll find it for you”

• E-mail, text and Facebook

• Free gift card for test drive of specific model – it brings people in and gives the sales team a chance to sell that model or move the customer to another vehicle • Internet coupon for anywhere from $50 to $300 off vehicle • Video optimization • Using verbiage on Website specials, such as “Manager’s Special,” “Last Chance” and “Won’t Last on Our Website” • We have “special” Internet-based pricing that is usually well below what other dealers are offering. If the vehicle is aged, then we will take a unit deal and, if not, the “Internet pricing” still seems like a great deal to most because it is specifically labeled. What strategies do you use to connect with people during non-business hours?

• Facebook, sporting events and church outings



• We answer and communicate through BlackBerry, as well as answering all leads with the BlackBerry • Facebooking my info as well as just normal conversations with those I might come in contact with, be it my friends or whomever We’ll get into social media, eye-catching displays, separating yourself from the competition and aiding your employees in their professional development next month. There’s a lot you can learn from your peers, and we’ll dig deep next time.

Sean V. Bradley is the founder and CEO of Dealer Synergy, a nationally recognized training and consulting company in the automotive industry. He can be contacted at 866.648.7400, or by e-mail at


marketing solution

what are people looking for when looking at your site? Imagine this: It’s January 15, 2011 at 10:15 a.m. and you are sitting at your desk. It’s a cold, windy, rainy Saturday and you think to yourself, “How many prospects are really going to show up on my showroom floor today? How are we going to hit our 30-new-car goal today?” Time to move to where the prospects really are and generate some real action! So you turn on your new Apple MacBook Air and watch the realtime interaction of prospects, current customers and just basic shoppers on your Website. You decide to filter out and only look at unknown shoppers. There are currently 53 people who are shopping at this given hour. The first one has looked at 15 interior Website pages and, of those pages, three are the same model of vehicle. You select the “Call to Action” button and push this customer an immediate custom offer based on their specific user experience. The offer is only good for that model and will expire this week. This approach creates a new a sense of urgency and is tailored to the specific behavior habits of this Website shopper. As you are making offers to other shoppers, the unknown prospect is debating, “Wow, this offer is exactly what I am


looking for. Should I accept? I am looking for this particular vehicle and it is only good for a certain date….” The technology that allows this advantage example, along with countless others, already exists today. There are consumer information applications available now that give your dealership a competitive advantage when it comes to converting shoppers on your Website. This type of industry-changing application truly changes the game. Now you can see what pages each person is viewing, what vehicle or vehicles they have searched for and even if they are using a mobile device. Is this a current customer, lost lead, service-only customer, or your best friend looking at service offers? From this behavioral information, the most important feature is that you now are able to push a customized offer or discount to that shopper. The integration and usability of this knowledge is key; the more you know about a shopper, the more prepared you can be to earn their business. When you see behavioral trends,

you can create a custom offer to help convert the shopper into a customer, you can see what keywords got them to your site, you can see the browser and device type they are using. All of this data is critical to increasing conversion. Let me ask you this: Do you consider Website shoppers as tire kickers? I know you are constantly monitoring your lot for customers and have each person greeted, but have you considered the thousands of unique visitors that go to your Website every month? Why would you not take advantage of technology and up every person who comes to your Website?   Facebook, Google Maps or Craigslist — Which One Drives More Traffic?

Currently they are all running close to the same percentage, but we do see more referral traffic from Craigslist. Facebook is a close second and Google Maps is increasing.

Twitter — Should I Have an Account?

I am a believer that writing positive content will benefit you in the future; however, traffic from Twitter to the dealership Website is currently non-existent. To learn more or have other questions about traffic, please e-mail me at the address below.

Kendall Billman is the vice president for VinSolutions. He can be contacted at 866.892.1447, or by e-mail at

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leadership solution

failing is the assurance of success The world is full of people who fear failure so much they never pursue their dreams and wind up living an unfulfilled life. We live in a world thinking “what-if” instead of living in a world of “already did.” Countless stories have been recounted and movies made depicting people who realized they only have a short time left to live. Suddenly they set out on a quest to do everything on their “to-do” list. Many call it a “wish list,” but I disagree, because a wish is a want or desire, but stops short putting anything into action. Hall of fame hockey player Wayne Gretzky said, “You will miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” In life, you will not succeed if you fear failure. How ironic is it that a majority of hall of fame athletes not only hold the top rank of achievement (e.g. most points scored, most assists, etc) but also rank at the top in attempts. NBA great Michael Jordan said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something, but I cannot accept not trying.” By his own admission, the most famous athlete on the planet missed more than 9,000 shots, lost nearly 300 games, missed the game-winning shot 26 times and what was his only excuse? “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” Advertisers spend millions of dollars developing slogans to shake us out of our selfimposed limitations. Here are a few reminders: Adidas: Impossible is nothing Nike: Just do it Apple computers: Think different U.S. Army: Be all you can be Red Cross: The greatest tragedy is indifference U.S. Marines: Every warrior lives for the fight You will not conquer what you never confront. Countries fought for their freedom, companies formed, inventions developed, promotions earned and athletes achieved all because they took a chance on a dream, failed many times in the process, and eventually succeeded. Founding father Benjamin Franklin never


thought he failed; he just found many ways he did it wrong. Coach Vince Lombardi argued that he never lost a game; he just ran out of time. The reason most people do not pursue their dreams is because they fear the idea of change. “Change is inevitable; growth is optional,” leadership expert John Maxwell reminds us. Everything is in a constant state of change. Your situation will not begin to change until you do. Become attractive to success by committing yourself to learning everything you possibly can through various materials not limited to reading, audio and video materials (I call your “You-niversity”), and staying available to the unlimited teachings life has to offer. Your life is like that of a sea shore; the waves of life’s circumstances incessantly pound the shores of your life. Like a thief, erosion will whisk away everything you have worked hard for if you do not do something to reinforce it. Continuous knowledge is the wall that protects success. “Fear” has been acronymed “False Evidence Appearing Real” or “Finding Excuses And Running.” Just as a soldier prepares for battle or an athlete prepares for a game, you must study your opponent in order to win. In order to conquer fear you must first understand what it really is. Fear is nothing more than a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, whether the threat is real or imagined. An emotion is a feeling and your feelings are often unreliable. In short, fear is nothing more than an unreliable, stress-induced emotion. Can you think of an occasion(s) where you faced insurmountable odds only to overcome them victoriously? No matter how many times you were knocked down, you got back up and by sheer determination fought, scratched and clawed until you prevailed. In the book Thick Face Black Heart, author Chin-ning Chu wrote, “Often the bravest warriors were originally the greatest cowards. The more fear you confront and conquer the greater courage you will possess.” In his inaugural speech to the recessionbattered nation, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke, “the only thing we have to

“Founding father Benjamin Franklin never thought he failed; he just found many ways he did it wrong.”

fear is fear itself.” He went on put the nation’s difficulties in perspective by saying, “The only concern, thank God, are only material things…yet out of distress comes no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plagues of locusts. Compared with the perils which our fathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we still have much to be thankful for…. Plenty is at our doorstep.” Tough times do not last, but tough people like you do. Do not let the minute details become a roadblock in your quest for success. One day, you will be able to laugh when you look back on the adversities you face today. Many of us have lost our jobs, homes, autos, marriages, financial independence, and much more. You may have faced some unbelievable obstacles, but remember — someone, somewhere has it worse than you. One thing you can never let go of is HOPE (Have an Opportunistic Perspective Everyday). Always keep the mindset that problems are cleverly disguised opportunities and you must be ready to seize them. Faith in your todays will make sense in your tomorrows. I encourage you to take another shot at the game of life; if you fail try, try again. Pursue your dreams; conquer your goals; and recover all that you have wasted by allowing fear to paralyze you. Having fear condones inaction; having faith condemns it. Marsh Buice is the sales manager of Mark Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep. He can be contacted at 866.535.5006, or by e-mail at

J&L Marketing is looking for Business Growth Strategists to sell our multi-channel direct marketing products and services. They will prospect for new customers as well as manage leads from J&L Marketing’s growing national accounts. This is a full-time B2B outside sales position.

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Success Story New Honda Dealer Surpasses over 1,030 Dealers Reaching #9 in the Country in Only 12 Months Hamilton Honda opened its doors in May 2009 and never looked back. Within 12 months Hamilton landed a coveted spot among the Nation’s top 10 Honda retailers. Founded by automotive executive Mike Saporito, a 24-year veteran of the automotive industry, and Jessie Armstead, a 5-time Pro-Bowl linebacker, Hamilton Honda is one of the fastest growing Honda dealerships on the East Coast. From the ground up Saporito and Armstead built a phenomenal 65,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facil-

ity on 12 acres complete with all the bells and whistles, including an internet café that offers breakfast, lunch and free refreshments, as well as, a mini-museum with an exclusive Jessie Armstead collection highlighting his 11-year NFL career. Saporito and Armstead attribute Hamilton Honda’s extraordinary growth to a comprehensive strategy that includes their active community involvement, a discounted volume pricing approach which gives consumers guaranteed low prices, free oil changes, loaner cars and car washes for life, and their virtual deal-

ership,, that makes it easy for consumers to shop, buy and service their vehicles online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Hamilton has become an important member of central New Jersey’s local business community, employing more than 100 individuals and generating more than $90 million in sales revenue in its first year selling over 4,600 new and used cars and servicing over 27,000. Hamilton Honda combines traditional advertising with digital marketing, targeted email and direct

Success Story mail, publicity, social media marketing, reputation management, niche marketing, point of sale merchandising and a complete retention program to keep customers loyal to service and sales. “We have a consistent message throughout all of our marketing and our team has one focus – exceeding our customers’ expectations,” said Saporito. “We are passionate about customer satisfaction and our team does whatever it takes to make our customers happy.” One key part of Hamilton’s strategy was the execution of a smart targeted marketing strategy. “We identified Honda customers who had the highest statistical probability of purchasing and/or servicing a vehicle with Hamilton and we sent targeted email and mail with attractive offers and Hamilton’s advantage of free car washes, oil changes and loaner cars,” said Budd Blackburn, owner of,

the targeted marketing company Hamilton uses. One of the campaigns Hamilton promoted was the “2010 Hamilton Honda Vehicle BuyBack Program.” The program targeted Honda owners who were in equity and had a high probability of being in the market for a new vehicle. “The BuyBack Program offered customers additional trade-in value to “buy-back” their Honda and provided additional incentives toward the purchase of a new Honda,” said Sean Wolfington, owner of, Hamilton Honda’s marketing company. “Hamilton also included service offers for the customers who may not want to get a new vehicle but needed a major service.” Like all of Hamilton’s integrated marketing campaigns all the materials had a consistent message, look and feel (see materials on the next page).

In a Nutshell • Hamilton Honda generated more than $90 million in sales revenue in its first year, selling over 4,600 new and used cars and servicing over 27,000. • Hamilton Honda experienced a 600% increase in service ROs written on combination sales and service marketing initiative. • Hamilton Honda uses and to implement targeted marketing campaigns that attract, sell and service in-market consumers. • Hamilton Honda’s call monitoring program,, sends alerts to their management team whenever a customer is mishandled so they can save a deal and a customer for life.

“The program was a great success and brought in a lot of quality, low mileage, single owner, late model Honda’s that are not easy to find and can be very expensive at auction,” said Saporito. Another successful marketing initiative created by Hamilton is a unique Teacher Appreciation Purchase Program, where teachers received special pricing and service from Hamilton. “We like to get involved in the community and help in any way we can,” said Saporito. Hamilton has created several other specialty vehicle purchase programs including one specifically for the military for active, reserve and Guard Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps military at Joint Base McGuireDix-Lakehurst. All military personnel and their families are eligible for special pricing and service through Hamilton Honda.

Success Story

Happy Honda Days Integrated Campaign

BuyBack Upgrade Program

Success Story To ensure every customer gets 5 star service Hamilton hired a company to monitor every inbound call and to alert management whenever a customer is mishandled or has a customer service issue that cannot be resolved. The management team also reviews daily, weekly and monthly call monitoring reports to improve their processes and the customer experience for the growing number of customers that prefer to call before coming into the dealership. “We use the reports to track our advertising sources, employees, processes and to make sure we exceed our customers expectations,” said Saporito. “Hamilton’s managers respond immediately to alerts and do a great job responding to their customers’ needs,” said Chip King of, the company Hamilton uses for call monitoring. “Whenever there is an issue with a customer our managers get and respond to the alert within

minutes by calling and resolving the customers concerns. Many customers are pleasantly surprised that a manager contacted them so quickly and addressed their issue,” said Saporito. It was not sheer luck that Hamilton Honda surpassed over 1,030 Honda dealers to reach the #9 spot in the country in only 12 months. They implemented a comprehensive marketing strategy that promotes all their profit centers, New, Used, Service, and F&I. Their marketing strategy is targeted to in-market consumers and their message, look and feel is consistent across all mediums: TV, radio, print, direct mail, web site, digital marketing, publicity, retention and even the point of sale merchandising. In addition to Hamilton’s integrated marketing strategy to attract ready-to-buy consumers they deliver a world class custom-

er experience that has earned them high customer satisfaction and will certainly translate into loyalty down the road. “We want to make sure that every customer’s expectations are not only met, but exceeded,” said Saporito. If year one is any indication, there is no doubt that Hamilton Honda will have many more successful years in the future.

Over 600% Increase in Repair Orders Written

AutoSuccess December 2010  

The #1 Sales-Improvement Magazine for the Automotive Professional

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