Best PracticesOpinions & Advice

How do I grow and evolve my Internet Sales Department?

How do I grow and evolve my dealers Internet sales department from 10-15 trackable sales a month to 20, 30 and more?

I know people are going to the site and looking, then just coming to the dealership and not asking for me. I am still paid based on the cars I sell vs a salary job, which I’m OK with but if I’m doing this amount of work I need people to understand and use me vs other salespeople.

I’m wondering what suggestions you may have for me as well as anyone else, on what I can do to get this thing jump started.

Reis Hauser
Internet Sales Manager
Dubuque Autoplaza

This is a question many dealers and Internet Sales Managers have. If anyone has some great advise to offer Reis, let’s not hold back.

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
  • D
    Dorothy Hamil
  • July 7, 2008
Find another job. You'll be skated on deals forever. I'm serious. Owners need to realize where the customers are coming from and compensate ISM's for their contributions to the bottom line, of course this would mean realistic sales track sourcing which will never happen.
I'm with Ms Hamil,
ISM's hard work are plus business over and above the site's traffic generation (shoppers perfer to shop stealth!)

Lord knows I'm a marketing guy, but I've been saying it for years, Auto dealer sites are more a marketing tool than a sales machine. SMART dealers realze this and ATTACK their market by out efforting their competitors (see Dr. Evil's world domination site: for a peak into the future).

Here's my metric that drives me nuts.
We sell and deliver ONLY 1.6% of the unique visitors we get each month. Whereinthehell do the other 98.4% go? Are they in the market? Did they buy this month from a competitor? Can I figure out a way to get a 1/2% out of this traffic?

Sorry I wasn't much help Reis,
(hahaha. Dorothy Hamil... a great skating name)
Joe - you crack me up! I'm going to shave my head bald and get a hairless cat now. By the way, did I see your site hit a PR of 6 the other day?

I agree with Dorothy too. There are some things you can do better for tracking, but it will give you a headache too and you won't catch it all. Like Joe said, consumers prefer to remain anonymous until they're ready to make a purchase. I don't blame them for that because I'm the same way. I don't want my phone and email blowing-up with follow-up things from various dealerships while I'm just trying to make a decision....on my own.

Another thing that always bothered me, up and beyond what Joe said about less than 2% of your unique visitors buying cars each month, is in our exit surveys. We survey most customers who purchase a car from us while they're waiting on their tags to be issued. One of those questions has to do with whether the customer visited Checkered before coming in, and even that number doesn't jive with our own'll fry your brain every time you try to figure it out. I like to think consumers are being as honest as their memory is at that point, but they make our other numbers look too high. There are some other questions in that survey that compare and relate various ad campaigns across the medias and Internet absolutely murders everything else (except TV - only about a 10% beating), so all the things we're doing are still well justified. By the way, what our customers are telling us, are the same things they're telling you and all the other survey companies.

On another note, nobody is ever going to make you successful. You have to do that yourself. Don't wait, do. If the road you're on isn't taking you where you want to go, make a new road. In this Wild West of Internet, we are in charge and it will be what we make it.

Good luck with things and never stop pushing.
  • R
  • July 8, 2008
I didn't catch the "skating" reference...maybe Tony Hawk would have hit my demographic?


This one isn't perfect, but it's a good launching point and timely. is hosting a webinar this Friday titled The New ISM Survival Guide: Top Tips for Top Performance.

Here is some info:

Internet business accounts for a growing percentage of dealership sales, creating intense pressure for new internet sales managers to hit the ground running. In this workshop aimed at new Internet Sales Managers and those looking to improve their game, you’ll learn from successful ISMs about the proven tactics they use to produce results for their stores.

Panelists include leading internet sales expert, Cory L. Mosley, of Mosley Automotive Group, and internet sales managers D. Rawls, of Saturn-HUMMER of Union City, GA, and Ed Goldstein, of Wigder Chevrolet of Livingston, NJ.

In this session, you'll learn how to:

Put email templates and phone scripts into action to boost performance
Manage time to help you get more out of your day
Implement new practices and refine existing sales processes to close more deals
Set realistic goals and manage internal expectations
Drive results that get you noticed

Here is a link to follow if this is of interest to you, you do need to register ahead of time. I know the panelists take questions during the discussion, it might be a good chance to get a few of your specific ones answered.

  • R
  • July 8, 2008
I don't think skated is the word I would use. I think a better way to rephrase would be.....How's the best way to educate customers to ask for the internet guy rather than finding a car on a website and then just coming in if they think it's the car for them. I get paid well, I have flat for every internet customer sold whether I sell them or not but if I sell them then I get comm. plus the flat. But from a greed standpoint I want to sell the car and get the bonus.
Reis! I got something for ya!

Get YOURSELF a blog. If management won't stop the skating (hahaha... did I even say that?) then build yourself a web site that sells YOU.

Here's a post I made on DR a few weeks ago:

"Building Your 1st Blog".

>>>Hire yourself a local fellow that can throw up a WordPress Blog for you. Cost: $300 to $600. You'll need it hosted: $200 p/yr, you'll need to be trained on how to post inventory to it (offer your geek pal $100 to be avail to you by phone at any time you need it).

OK, now your almost ready to fly, Do your homework on what vehicles are HOT on the net and look thru your inventory for matches. Start posting inventory into your blog like a mad man and make it personal. EXAMPLE: (my wifes blog).

While you're waiting for your blog to fill and the search engines to index you, Spend money on PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising on Google and Yahoo. Keep the PPC budget low and ask your Geek to help you with tracking.

Now, your burning with NitroMethane! (aka: kik'n a**)
p.s. Have your rent-a-geek train you on how to post inventoy to Craigs list. Also ask him for a WordPress mod to allow you to easily post inventory to Craigs list.

ALSO: be sure to make your connection to your home dealership very visible. Shoppers need to know that you have a large dealership behind you (vs. a side of the road sale).

hope this helps,

This ad on craigslist has the nitromethane effect for our store.

  • I
  • July 8, 2008
I agree with everything that has been said. Of course, you are always going to have people that come in and don't ask for you. That is true for Internet Sales and regular sales guys. What would you tell a regular sales guy that has this problem? I would tell him he should do a better job building a relationship with his customers so they feel compelled to ask for him when they arrive. Build trust and value in yourself. Obviously, the best way to do this with an Internet customer is over the phone. Be inquisitive about the customer's needs and really listen to what the customer has to say. Do not limit the conversation to the vehicle of interest. Ask them about thier daily lives to spark conversation and establish a bond. Of course, you will not get 100% of the people on the phone. There are several things that I have done in the past that have worked well for me. The first thing I did was create my own personal web site. I personally own the site so I can post anything I like without the dealer being responsible. I put a lot of my own personal views here. It gives the customer a chance to "meet" me before they visit the dealership. I put links in all of my emails to predetermined pages on my site. It isn't anything fancy, and since I now assign leads to other salespeople, I don't keep it up as much as I should, but it might be perfect for what you are trying to accomplish. Here is the page I normally link to You will see that there is also a page for why a customer should ask for me. I even post pictures of my certifications.

A quick note. Your Craigslist page looks good, but what's the phone number?
I built that ad to send traffic to my site. That is why I used that pic so they would have to visit my website to get an idea of what it looks like. I have followed the clickthrus from the url and the traffic to that one car has increased 42% don't really care if they buy that car just want them to visit my website/showroom.....kinda like a free watch giveaway back in the day.
Get track able number on the site...

You can always go with a nasty tag line like... ask for Reis for Internet Price or lot pricing applies... err..

Add Google analytics to your site... read up the articles in Google conversion university... apply what you learn...
  • J
    Jerome Jerenovich
  • July 8, 2008
Make sure that you're branding your department alongside your inventory..... do little things like make sure photos of yourself/staff are prominent and easily found on your dealer website.... splash your name into the 'comments section' of your inventory listings..... use tools like eBay and craigslist for more exposure by including actual photos of your staff into these specialty listings. The more consistently you market yourselves as 'everyday people who happen to sell cars' to 'everyday people looking to buy a car' the higher your chances of making that connection.

Don't tell people to call you for the best deal. Tell people to call you for the best advice. Put your name in their mind as they decide which car they're interested in buying......
PS: I find this to be a solid CL post:

what do you folks think?
The only person who will be able to address your dilemma is the Dealer Principal and/or General Manager. If they understand the importance of what you do, then they'll help you. If they don't, then you should find another job.

The solution is to offer INTERNET ONLY pricing. Internet shoppers must be told very clearly that they can ONLY get the special internet price you are offering by dealing directly with you. It doesn't matter if the internet price is higher or lower than the "lot" price...what matters is the customers thinking they are getting a special internet price. As I said, some DP/GMs will allow you to do this, and some won't.

Most customers believe that car dealerships offer lower prices on the internet. I doubt that's true, but I'm happy they feel that way and Lord knows I'm not going to try to change their minds! It's in my best interest to let them know the "special deal" I am offering is for that "elite" group of internet shoppers who are savvy enough to avoid the normal car buying process and deal directly with me - the Internet Sales Manager.

Fortunately at our dealership we have an awesome CRM system (ADP) which allows me to log customers as soon as they send in an inquiry. Once I log a customer, no one else can "skate" me. Even if the customer comes in and doesn't ask for me and winds up buying a car, the work initial work I did is on record. The GM can track the sale, and at least I'll get some recognition for the part I played in it.
Umer said best...apply what you learn.

Are we really doing all we can to teach oursleves, to learn and to to execute?

Since we're sharing - CL works. Use it.

Here's a sample ad:

I would start by putting prices for your vehicles on the website. I noticed you have them on AutoTrader. Speaking of AutoTrader-dump the Pontiac and Nissan stock videos. You and Steve borrow a good video camera (not a flip cam the resolution is too low) and shoot a commercial for each of you. Use that on AutoTrader instead. See if you can get the dealer principal to agree on putting the videos on the home pages of your sites as well. Once people get to know you they will seek you out. Good Luck...
You all want to know something?

DealerRefresh ROCKS!
Just look at this thread, 6 different ways to address the challenge! What a treasure it is!

Post On!
  • R
  • July 9, 2008
I want to thank everyone and there are some good idea's. I will definitely take them to DP. Thank you all!!!!!

I have had this problem at my dealership also. I had to reconsider the way that I was looking at the situation in order to fix it. Think as if you were the customer... What is in it for me to ask for you when I come in? If you can't think of physical reasons or benefits of working with you, then that may be the problem. It took me awhile to realize that setting an appointment with my department was no different than just coming to the dealership when they felt like it. So, two things have been helping to solidify our ability to make sure that people we talk to call to set an appointment before they come in.
1.) What are you going to do for them? Create some type of obligation by telling them all of the things that you are going to do BEFORE they even get to the dealership..... People will feel like they have to come because of all the hard work you are doing...

2.) We implemented a Benefits Package just for online shoppers who purchase through our department- It isn't much (I would have liked to have gotten more) 2 free oil changes (in the form of a $50 John Jones Gift Card), $50 in gas, and $250 owner loyalty coupon for a discount off their next purchase.... It seems to be working for us because our appointments and closing ratios are up, and we even had one guy call us from outside the dealership right before he went in to set the appointment because he had forgotten he needed one! (Sales Managers weren't to happy about that one)

A lot of dealerships offer a package like this, and it might work for you. It is not expensive or complicated. Just some suggestions.
  • S
    Scott Gabster
  • July 9, 2008
You want to effectively grow the number of vehicles sold thru the Internet department..

1. Call Bill Philllips @ Automotive Internet Management 949-716-7716.

2. Listen to what he has to say..

3. Do exactly what he says..

4. Reap the benefits...

Its really that easy..
I've been battling the same problem. I hate the way this thread started with all that negativity, but it is sometimes hard to stay away from that attitude. However, I agree with Alex that if this job/path ain't working for you, go get/make another one.

It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.
And who the heck is Bill Phillips and where has this Second Coming been all my life?
Bill Phillips with Automotive Internet Management would like to call your customers for you within 30 minutes for small fee, at least that is what it says on the front page of the website, I did not look any further into it.

My dealer principle said to me six years ago if you cant get someone to come into the dealership and ask for you then dont whine about it. Big eye opener.

I suggest picking up the telephone and calling your customers asap. First one to call is the first one to sell. A good lead management tool is required and tracking your conversion rate is also very important among other trackable numbers. Listen to what the pros have to say here and possibly they might share some of their spreadsheets for tracking data, why track data? because you cannot improve what you do not know.

how many unique visitors do you get a day? how many leads? (there is your conversion) how many appointments? how many showed? sold? new, used?

Sorry about the hard-ass start to this thread. Unfortunately, there is a lot of truth to it though. I've been in this business since birth, and have been working for Checkered Flag on and off since 1989. On my current stint with the group I'm going on 10 years, but it wasn't until about 4 months ago when the owner told me something that changed my entire outlook. I was upset with the way things were going in a few different areas. I felt like I couldn't get things to go my way (I was in the same boat as Reis, but in a different part of the ocean). The owner of Checkered Flag took me out to lunch and explained that he started this company without any help or automotive experience. Everything he learned about the automotive business was developed on his own. He told me there is a way to get anything done, but it is up to me to find the path to make it happen.

I cannot put the whole context of that lunch, or the months of frustration that built up to it, into this post. You'll have to take the gist of it out of what I have here already and use your imagination to fill the holes. In a nutshell, I was given a perspective on the school of hard knocks that I have now taken to heart. It is not all punch and tackle tactics though - it is about working smart to find your own way.

I used to take no for an answer. I used to let things happen because I thought that was just the way things were. No longer!

So, I apologize if my initial response to this thread was a little on the hard-ass side. However, don't despise debate. It is something to be appreciated and desired. If you don't get all sides/opinions then you're short-sighting yourself.

Like Joe said, this is what makes Dealer Refresh so great - it is a forum for everyone to benefit from all perspectives and view points!
  • S
    Scott Gabster
  • July 10, 2008
I am trying after 15 minutes to find where Bill Phillips want to talk to any of your customers, for ANY Fee.. Maybe you should have spent more time on the site, watched the intro video and done some more reading.

There is NO Saviour in the car business, there are just some guys who are better than others.

Fortunately there are people who don't actually take the time to do the research and get all the detail's. You sound like a guy who has been thrown into a tough spot in your dealership, I understand wanting to maximize, profit, units, etc. I have had a chance to work with Bill Phillips in the past and he happens to be much better at this game than any I have dealt/worked with. It wont cost you anything to call, you may end up with a pro player on your team.

Personal opinions are just that, opinions, Reis asked a great question, only a few gave him what he asked for.

So sorry yanked your soft spot there buddy, I went back and found your friends site Bill Phillips. I have to say I looked at the wrong site first time. Excuse me but it was the first one to show up and it said Automotive Internet Management and it says they will call your customer within thirty minutes.

Mr Phillips site has a good intro and I am sure he is very good at what he does, Reis it might be a good idea if you call Bill Phillips and see what he has to say. No argument there.

  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • July 10, 2008
Sorry I was not able to get in on this thread before now. Damn job.

I too was a little scared with how this thread opened up with the comments. Though I know we have all been there and at times where it seems as if finding another job is the easiest solution.

Ike, I like what you have there, very nice and a great personal message. How well is that working for you?

"My dealer principle said to me six years ago if you can’t get someone to come into the dealership and ask for you then don’t whine about it. Big eye opener." I've heard that one before a long time ago.

Alex, that last comment of yours was full of heart my man. Love'd it!

Wanna hear something really cheesy (not really)? I was working for a smaller dealer group in my home town and a group of men came in and pitched everyone on attending an "Anthony Robbins" seminar. At the time I sort of knew who he was but was never following any of his motivational stuff. Anyways, after the short seminar/sales pitch, the dealer offered to pay for half of everyones ticket that wanted to attend. I figured what the hell..the quickie was good and Tony Robbins wasn’t even there. The sad part, only 5 other people from the dealer attended.

Long story short, the seminar was all about business and marketing but most of all BRANDING. Whether it was branding your company or your just name. For over 3 hours he preached/talked about so many avenues on how to brand yourself. Here's the cheesy part..I have to admit it was one of the best days of my career. I walked away that day with a million $$'s worth of information.

Reis, look for every way, every avenue you can brand yourself and your internet department.

Something that worked for me in the past...get a photo of yourself and or of your team with a quick compelling message and place it in line of photos of your vehicles. Make it the 4th or 5th photo so when your customers are looking at the photos of your cars..they see your photo with you or your team "smiling" and having a good time.

Be sure all your emails have a smiling photo of you in your signature.

This is where videos can too be a huge asset. Get you or your team and put together a few short videos to help build transparency and let your customers know that you and your team are the solution for them.

Take advantage of the dealer rating sites and get your customers to rate you and your team by mentioning your name in their comments. This makes a strong and compelling WBFM message.

Those are 4 quick methods of branding yourself that doesn't take a lot of effort or consistent up keep.

I don’t think you need to do the "Internet pricing" or even a "Benefits Package" if you take the right message everywhere else (unless you totally need some type of competitive advantage over the competition).

Amanda wrote - "What are you going to do for them?" this is so true. Customers want to know what you are going to for them. "What have you done for me lately? -JJ The right message using some of the avenues above will allow you to achieve this.

Take full ownership of your internet sales department and find every opportunity to brand it to the max.


Joe Pistell, you ROCK!
  • C
  • July 18, 2008
A few things...

First off, I finally convinced my dealership to make the plunge and TK Carsites is going to create us a real website - the best product they have, and now I don't have use Nissan's site to let my customers build and search for cars...from my website! I got a big 888# and all calls come right to me, but after the new site is up, I can only imagine how many better leads I'll get right from my own website... so I am glad I am the sole i-Guy for my top volume Nissan dealership... I am gunning for 30+ deals a month soon.

So to sum it up, invest in a nice site with all leads and calls coming to you

Secondly, but sadly I have had to abandon my Craigslist ads, as they were all getting flagged by some idiots who think Craigslist is for the small guy... I'm moving on, it was free, and you get what you pay for!

I did use which I highly recommend...

Lastly.. be upfront in your emails... explain this is not the dealer price, but a special opportunity, and by coming in and not asking for you - you are being taken advantage of. In your face is NOW what it takes, and I tell people flat out if they come in and don't ask for me, and I find out - the dealership will cancel the deal!

It's a lie... but who cares, they pay attention when the prospect of losing the deal altogether is possible.
  • C
  • July 18, 2008
One more important comment...

Make sure the pay plan works for you! Base of atleast $300 a week + $175 flat minimum on mini deals, and 30% on gross and used.

Do not work for free! so -- get some balls and hold a meeting with the GM and Owner. You can get a job anywhere man... dealers are looking for MORE SALES... but if you are going to do the groundwork, getting these people in the door, you better get paid for it.

There's a new Sheriff in town... it's YOU!
  • J
    Jimmy lowe
  • July 23, 2008
Hello Reis,
I know this maybe a little late but I figure you may still want to hear my two cents. There is only one way to solve your problem...become the trusted leader within your market. In my opinion you can not control every factor within your market, yet you can control how effectively you position yourself within your marketplace. Today's success does not depend upon products, a consumer can purchase the same vehicle from you or a competitor a hundred miles away. Being successful in today's market depends upon how you position/market yourself or your knowledge. Despite what you may think, you are a business owner (salesmen are independent contractors) and you must begin to think as such. If you can position yourself as the one person that understands the way people feel, the challenges they face, you will dominate your market. Adopting this mindset will set you apart from 98% of everyone else within your dealership and within your market.
  • R
  • July 24, 2008
I think it is something as simple as tracking the customers that email you, and matching them up against the closed deals log.

I manage a large internet department where we average anywhere from 180--200 deals per month. Much of my time is matching closed deals with lead records I maintain in an excel program.

With the amount of the deals you are talking about, you should be able to create a manageable tracking system, combined with email proof or, like others have mentioned, incentive for the customer to ask for you.

I use a "Preferred Internet Price Code", which is actually the Customer Number my pathetic CRM tool assigns to each incoming lead. The customer is told to bring in the sheet we email, with their PIPC on it, to avoid the rigamoral and experience our "Internet Experience."

I hope this helps. Bellyaching and foot-stomping leads to unnecessary aggravation, bitterness, and poor performance. Simply take matters into your own hands and play Columbu..quietly and confidently.

Best of luck...Rob L.
  • G
    Gerald Hand
  • July 26, 2008

The first thing you need to do is a little detective work periodically. Many of these customers that are sold are buying after they have contacted your store. Depending on how many vehicles we have sold, I will scrub the deals with my CRM by looking for names/phone numbers from the DMS and those in the CRM, Cars, Autotrader and SEM campaign phone reports. You will find a couple of more vehicles each month.

Second, you need to give the customer a reason to contact you. Perhaps to have a stance of no pricing over the Internet or phone, your best price is in person, or a pop-up coupon with a $200 value, $400 if they schedule an appointment. Perhaps a flat-screen t.v. with any Internet sale (about $250 shipped from Circuit City).

Third, give the customer a reason talk to you when they come in. Things like you are a senior associate and have more latitude for working deals, you can deliver the car and paperwork to them, since you already know what they are looking for you can save them time AND money, rather than starting from scratch when they come in. You will have a vehicle waiting on them when they arrive when they schedule an appointment with you, etc.

These and the social networking ideas are the way to differentiate YOU AND your dealership from the others.

Good luck!
There's a website called MyLiveSignature that has a cool free tool that creates your personal signature in about 100 different font styles. I use it now for everything and adds a professional touch that most of the others dealers are not doing. Check it out.. and it's free!!

Chris K.
VIDEO! Video your inventory - with you in the video!! Place your inventory I my website, and any other place that you can find video car sales. Not many dealers have caught on yet w/video and that's why I started this site! Sell yourself and your inventory! Be creative and have fun with it. People will remeber you and your inventory Give it a try -
This is my first visit to this site and I'm glad I found it. I've been in this position for about a year and a half and it's good to know that I'm not the only one faced with some of these issues. All of the suggestions I've read are good and I look forward to implementing them. I find the greatest difficulty I face is getting buy in from the sales managers.
uh oh looks like we have more Ky. folks showing up....:)
Evelyn don't listen to these guys and gals they just want to start trouble and beat up on autotrader.
  • J
  • October 31, 2008
Reis: Here is my suggestion. You need to monitor the effectiveness of whatever you or your team does. I can track 35% sales of my dealership to the Internet I believe I influence 50% or Higher. I believe this as the other forms of advertiseing dollers have dractically decreased without loss of sales.
Have a toll free number directly to your department with a call monitoring program. Have a CRM with effective lead management and tracking.Market every way possable. review the results.
Of course you'll have to chase deals from time to time, but Branding yourself and or your department works. As mentioned before video is a powerful tool if used effectively.
You must make the customer aware that you are their link to the best service, deal etc.

We use video introductions of all of our Internet Sales and Delivery Team. The video is short and casual, but it puts a face on the person on our end of the keyboard.
Believe it or not strong appoinment setting skills go a long way.

Confirming the appointment the night before, and giving the customer specific instructions as to what to do when they arrive to save them the most time works. When you tell a customer while firming up the appointment that you will have all of the information pertaining to their purchase so they "Won't have to start all over again" when they arrive. It really makes an impact. Just don't be desperate, please ask for me....yada yada. Be professional. Run your department like you would run your own business.