|Starting an Internet Sales Department from Scratch!!
Internet Sales Manager
Welcome to the wonderful world of Automotive Internet Sales! Whether you
are a seasoned ISM or a soon-to-be Internet Sales Manager, this article
will hopefully interest you. In this article I will discuss my
experiences creating an Internet Sales Department from scratch, the
issues that I faced and the thrill of riding the next big wave in the
Automotive Sales Industry.
My situation: I started out in this business as most automotive
professionals do, as a floor salesperson. Don’t get me wrong I love
chasing down up’s and cold calling the existing customer base as much as
the next guy, however something was missing in the job description for
me. The tremendous growth of automotive shopping and research online
caught my attention. I was lured in by the efficient use of technology
by consumers in the marketplace. In the beginning my head was full of
questions: How were potential customers finding/researching vehicles
online, Is there profit potential in Automotive Internet Sales, Did
consumers who used the Internet actually buy, and etc. To answer these
questions I did what most young, modern-minded professionals typically
do, I dove-in head first.
It took me approximately 3 Months to convince the General Manager/Owner
of my dealership that money was being left on the table by not having an
Internet Department. Growing sick of the floor sales gig, I
nominated myself to be the one to start, run and maintain growth of a
profitable Internet Sales Department. So the next Monday, I found myself
sitting in front of my GM pitching my plans for our newly founded
Internet Department. I would have to say that I spent at least 20-30
hours reading up on the growth and Integration of Internet
Departments in the Automotive Industry so I felt confident and well
prepared. One week later I landed in an empty corner office with a
laptop, digital camera, color printer, landline phone, cell phone and a
head full of ideas. My first week as an ISM was a lot like a first date
with a beautiful woman: I knew exactly where I wanted to be at the end
of the experience; however I wasn’t quite sure how to get there!
First things first: I needed to establish a solid web presence for my
franchise rooftop. We already had a website designed and maintained by
one of the big players in Online Automotive Industry which I decided to
update and use as a solid base for my Internet Department. Aside from
our own website, I knew I needed a way to promote both our New and
Pre-Owned Inventory. I turned to JD Power to see where consumers were
going to search for vehicles online. It wasn’t long until I began to
notice names like AutoTrader, Cars.com, VEHIX,
AutoBytel, AutoUSA and Dealix. The next step was to
contact Sales Reps from the companies that I wanted to do business with.
I spent the rest of the week in meetings and got to know a lot about the
online marketplace through the conversations I had with Sales Reps from
the aforementioned companies. I put all of my findings together in a
report and took it to my GM. We decided on a budget for the Internet
Department and I started spending money!
I signed up with AutoTrader, Cars.com and Vehix all in one day. This
jump-started my Pre-Owned marketing plan and I began shooting pictures
of our Inventory. There is a lot to be said regarding pictures of
vehicles for use in Internet Sales, so I’m going to make it simple:
Quality Pictures Sell Cars!! I took 9 pictures of each vehicle (the
maximum allowed on AutoTrader, Cars.com uses 12 and Vehix uses 1) and
stored them by Stock Number. Two days later, I had my entire inventory
uploaded on each classified listing site. To save time I opted to use
Stock Pictures on New Inventory. Next, I knew I would need to find a way
to promote our New Vehicles online so I turned to AutoBytel and Dealix.
I signed up to purchase leads for my franchise within a specific mile
radius. This strategic move consumed the rest of my budget and I knew it
was time to stop spending money and start making some!
Managing Incoming Leads: It was now time to figure out how to manage and
handle the optimistic snowstorm of leads I was looking forward to
receiving. I opted to follow the first piece of advice I got when I
started a career in Sales 6 years ago, KEEP IT SIMPLE! So, in my
quest to “keep it simple” I had all of my incoming leads from both New
and Pre-Owned source forwarded to my company email address ([email protected]).
The next step was to have every email (lead) I received from my email
address forwarded to my cell phone. This way I knew the second a new
lead was in my Inbox, pretty simple right? The need for an ILM / CRM:
In order to effectively manage incoming leads you MUST have software to
track the follow-up and pursuit of your potential online clientele.
Short and sweet, don’t waste ANY time trying to re-invent the wheel.
Since I haven’t received any checks from ILM/CRM vendors I won’t waste
space in this article dropping names.
Internet Sales Staff: After handling a couple of leads and setting
appointments I had to decide how to manage Customers that originated as
Internet Leads. Due to the size of my dealership and my confidence in my
sales ability I decided to do it on my own. For my situation with 50
Pre-Owned Vehicles and 30 New Vehicles, averaging about 1 lead a day, I
felt confident running a one-man show. My closing ratio on Internet
Appointments was 66% my first month!! My first month, I sold 4 Vehicles
from 6 Internet appointments. I was happy, my GM was impressed and I was
ready to take the next step.
A Truly Effective Web Presence: After shopping several dealership
websites and their Internet Departments I began to notice several
correlations. I came across Ward’s E-dealer 100 list and studied
it thoroughly. I realized that I needed a better, more effective rooftop
website. My current website listed my inventory, contained “pre-qualify”
financing forms, listed my contact information and offered the ability
to email be directly by requesting a quote. That was it and I needed
more! I no longer desired an online brochure; I wanted a 24 hour, 7
day-a-week salesperson working aggressively on the web to bring me
prospects!! This began my search for a new, exciting, interactive
rooftop website. I contacted every company I could find: DealerSkins,
DealerPeak, Reynolds & Reynolds, Cobalt Group,
Dealer Impact, DealerON, and many more. I knew what I needed,
CONVERSION. I wanted to drive traffic to my website and convert
that traffic to leads that I could sell. I also needed a way for my
entire Inventory to be sent to my Pre-Owned lead providers (AutoTrader,
Cars.com, Vehix) so that I didn’t waste half my day uploading vehicles
when we got fresh inventory on the lot. Needless to say, I chose a
provider and am looking forward to seeing their solution in action.
In Conclusion: My Internet Department was profitable the very first
month for several reasons:
• I had a strategic plan to get leads, a system to manage them, a
resourceful staff (myself) to sell them.
• I knew where to focus my marketing based on my demographic and online
• I never stop researching new ideas and am always ready to bump it up a
Contact me with any questions/comments:
Internet Sales Manager