Opinions & Advice

Forget your Processes and keep PUSHING!

We speak a lot about not going forward until we’ve fixed our core processes first, but I’m going to challenge that notion for a minute.

Your-ProcessWhen my dealer group was on ADP CRM we had the option of denying sales people the ability to email out of the CRM. I know that sounds nasty, and there were some solid reasons behind it I’m not going to detail here, but I can say one was due to us not being able to handle a phone call or consistently mail a letter – if we couldn’t do that, how could we send an email? iMagicLab CRM, which we’re currently on, did not have the ability to turn email off from any user when we first moved over, so we were forced to abandon the policy that 
“if the core is broken, don’t move forward”. Today, I’m really glad we were forced to move forward.Through email, we have found another way to train our people. A few who we couldn’t get to buy-in on phone training are email fanatics whom we’ve been able to train on email, and they’re now using that email training inside phone conversations.

One buy-in is turning into multiple buy-ins.

I’m seeing a repeat of this lesson through facebook today. Some of our sales agents, who are the biggest CRM-follow-up offenders, are becoming incredible facebook-follow-up artists. When I visit with these sales agents, I point out what they did on facebook and try to show them that CRM is no different – it is just a different communication tool. It is working!

It is obvious that every person learns differently, and it should be obvious that each person has different hot points. So why not nurture the next big thing to see who climbs on? You may be surprised what kind of old highways the new alleyway creates.

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...

I caught this post of your on the tool bar i built which shows DealerRefresh, Kain Automotive and ADM on the same mashed up scrolling feed, and... I just had to respond because you have discovered something i learned the hard way, and which most people think I am nuts when describing. When I first started working at Courtesy Chevrolet in Phoenix, I came from a job at Reynolds which had me working with their CRM team for several years. I firmly believed that it would be a waste to attract customers in any way if the sales team was not yet trained to follow an effective process, regardless of whether we are talking about showroom, phone or Internet, I (like so many others) believed in "Plan, Prepare, Train BEFORE Inviting Customers. So, my first two months at the Chevy store I was like a Grizzly Bear with a King Salmon, focused and shredding the Internet and BDC team's processes apart like pulling strips of string cheese (I'm at the Red Rock in Vegas and hungry). And, we started making process... I was damned proud when we went from a 7.2% Internet Lead to Close Rate and from 8% to 11% Incoming Sales Call to Close rate. Then one day the dealer (Bill Gruwell) asks me to come to his office. After I explained what I was working on and showed him the numbers (bragging somewhat), he was polite but not smiling... The store's total sales had gone down and he expected my work to yield INCREMENTAL sales, not just doing a better job of tracking everything so my team got on more deals and we were able to claim a higher percentage of the store's business... He already knew how much business the Internet was brining in, and that's why they hired me... Or something like that. I am paraphrasing based on memory, so Bill, Scott and Mark if you read this please forgive me if I don't get it word for word... The bottom line was this:

Stop trying to perfect the processes and get more people into the dealership! get more leads, get more phone calls and if the CRM and Process performance ratios stay the same, we will sell more cars. So, being the smart ass that I seem to be less and less of as I get older, I said to Mr. Gruwell something like this:

"More leads is easy sir, it is just a matter of budget, figure an average of $20 a lead and multiply that by the number of increased leads you want me to get and it's as simple as that..." (today I know what a f*&^#ing idiot I must have sounded like. But, the Gruwells are VERY sharp operators and Mr. G did not blink... He took a pencil and piece of paper and said something like: "OK, so can I use 7% closing rates as a safe average?" As my chest puffed out, I said "Yes SIR, my processes are so pure and so effective, you can count on me for BETTER than a 7% Close Rate... Sir, YES Sir!". So he looks at me and says "OK, I am giving you an extra $20,000 a month to generate 1,000 more leads and sell an extra 70 cars above and beyond what you did last month...". As I walked out, I had that gnarly knot in my stomach like when your holding an Aces over Kings Full House in a Poker game, slap it down and the other guy quietly lays down 4 Deuces... Yet, the "Idiot Lesson" I would receive had only just begun. After I went to every known lead provider and found out we were already buying every Chevy lead we could get in the Phoenix Market, out of sheer desperation i turned to online advertising and microsites which meant I had no time to monitor processes... I was able to get lead volume over 5,000 a month, processes be damned, and somehow everything fell into shape and we sold thousands of cars... But ONLY after I threw away the blueprint and focused on opening up the spigot of customer communication opportunities. Which somehow seems like a similar experience to what you described in this post... sort of... OK, cut me some slack here, I am in Vegas and sleep deprivation does weird things to people!
  • T
  • October 14, 2009
I'm seeing some marketing savvy sales people leverage Dealerrater to build their own personal brands online and promote the quality of their customers buying experience. They are using the personal reviews to create a distinct advantage against their competitors but also their own dealership colleagues. The positive mentions of their names by their customers is allowing them to spread that message in other online communities. It really keeps them focused on earning a good review. It's one of the best tools to build their OWN name in our business.
Ralph Paglia,

That was by far, the most entertaining, personable, fun read from you ever!

I highly recommend you write only when tired. And, when you're really looking to smack one out of the park, starve yourself too!

"...shredding the Internet and BDC team’s processes apart like pulling strips of string cheese..."

hahaha... somehow that made sense!
<b>Ralph</b> - never post again without a drink in hand! I'm glad to hear we're on the same page, and I think we were on the same page last night too.
  • C
  • October 15, 2009
I have to figure out a way to get more leads. I'm stuck with what Nissan sends me, including all the 3rd party leads I get, but lately it seems the quality really, really sucks. Knowing this is a pure numbers game, I'd love to quadruple my leads to 500 vs. the 150 I get. I know for a fact, I will sell 4X the cars and make 4X the money (for the dealership) - but getting my GM to see this is a stretch. My owner hates the internet and doesn't care if we have a website but I know this is a place to make money. Any ideas??
We can never let a "process" interfere with a customer! I've seen soo many managers put the process before the customer and watched many a buyer leave frustrated! That's not to say we run everything in a state of chaos, however; we need to make sure our processes put the customer first!

Question: How many Internet department's are out there looking to gain market share from out of there target geography vs. just staying local? Thanks!

  • J
    John Doe
  • November 20, 2009
Ok, obviously my name isn't John Doe but after you read what I'm about to post- management would #@!*% me if the location was disclosed, naturally.

Lead count includes 100% verifiable contacts for most online advertising sources; emails and phone calls to 800#'s. Total does NOT inlcude local calls or walk-in traffic. Sit down for this one...

Just over 800 emails and phone calls received in OCT with total units sold- somewhere around 50. Lead sources include manufacturer websites, dealer websites, Autotrader, misc Homenet outlets- nothing weird or eccentric. We carry two prominent import brands with a total of 80 new/used vehicles in inventory.

Have fun with this one- thankfully my job function is soley to optimize websites and ensure proper lead distribution to CRM and copies of leads to all managers company email in text format.

Do the leads suck- or are processes lacking?
John Doe,

What state are you in? Is your market saturated w/ same brands? I.e., I'm in SoCal, there are 16 Honda dealerships in about a 30-40 mile radius.

Are the Internet teams emailing and phone calling? Are they giving price over email?

Are they "working" the deal or not trying very hard?

How many leads are duplicates? When using multiple lead providers, and getting that many leads I've found about a 15% duplicate- lead ratio.

80 cars in stock new/used is a problem! How many of those prospects would have purchased if you had the inventory?

These are some of the things I would ask/research to figure out where the issue is.

Keep Pushing!