I am a pretty successful ISM at a Volvo store in an area that is very competitive. A 1200 or even 2000 dollar loser is not unheard of in my area.
My problem is my owner is very conservative and will not allow me to send ANY quotes out. He wants me to only set appointments. I do understand what he is trying to do. I also understand that it is my job not to provide too much information and to set an appointment. However, consumers shopping on the internet expect a quote and can get one within an hour.
Do you have any ideas as to how I should approach getting a customer in the door without using any numbers?
Thanks for your help guys.
As I’m sure most of you are aware, the 3rd annual AAISP Digital Dealer Conference and Exhitition was held this week (October 1-2 2007) in Las Vegas.
I was unable to attend but would love to hear all about it!!
Some of the speakers included:
So for those who attended..
- Who gave the best presentation?
- Did you learn how to get a customer into the showroom in the least amount of time?
- Was it well orgainized?
- Are you going to start a dealer Blog or podcast?
- Can you now run an effective Internet Operation?
- What was that “1” thing that you took back to the dealer?
- Was it worth it and would you attend again?
Leave your feedback!!
The Internet is the ultimate Game Changer, we’ve seen it completely alter the course of entire industries (just ask an old school travel agent or securities broker). Luckily, the auto industry has repelled being swallowed whole.
Let’s talk about auto retailers that are busting the mold and trying to offer the shopper a fresh new "shopping game". The game is still alive and well, consumers still need and want to smell, feel and touch but they are hungry for a “new way” to buy.
- Who dares to be different?
- Who among us is hard at work breaking the (perception) of the auto sales business model?
Allow me to offer up some examples to start this off:
1. Auction Direct USA
Three stores; NY, GA, FL and growing like a weed. Institutionally funded with over 400 vehicles for sale
- Auction Direct USA Game Changer Claim to Fame?
- On Site Auctions with open reserve prices. Unsold units at $399 over reserve.
- No negotiation.
- In store Web shopping stations to shop competition (great closing tool IMO).
- Non commission sales (flats?).
- Killer pre-qualifying process (the finest bar none)
- Open feeling sales floor, No desking, No offices.
- 3 day, 300 mile exchange
- RSS Inventory feeds
Lots of hype "only $400 over reserve", but it successfully hits several favorite "hates" of shoppers (one price-no negotiating, open, no rooms, shopping stations, etc). I haven’t been there but I bet that they don’t let a soul into the inventory lot to browse without coming through the showroom 1st. If you look at the career opportunities area, they really key on the BDC team.
2. City Auto
Located in Memphis, Tennessee with over a 1,000 vehicles for sale
- City Auto’s Game Changer Claim to Fame?
- Results 1st: Auto Dealer Monthly’s 2007 Independent Retailer of the Year and #1 in U.S. Internet Sales for 2007!
- City Auto is a mall made of an Army of self employed sales reps
The salesmen actually own their own vehicles. That is why the contact information is different for each vehicle listed on cityauto.com
It’s a strange setup, looks just like a shopping mall. Small players rent space from the house. From the consumers side, I see how exciting it would be to buy from the owner. No "go ask the boss" routine. I’d bet the phone pitches from the owners are personal and excellent. Also, the boss/sales rep gives the shopper the trade-in. I just don’t know how they can keep each other from cannibalizing themselves. Or… maybe that’s why they sell so many! (great party story, pitting 2 owners against themselves, all the while, mr. shopper sits tight). IMO, if the “House” can keep the peace and keep its customer service reputation clean, I’d call City Auto model a GENUINE game changer.
Give it a look, post your Game Changers.
Article written by Joe Pistell
CEO of new-traffic.com
- Google research shows – “the sales funnel isn’t six months at all, but more like one month.
- Thirty-percent of car buyers start the search for a new car less than
a week before they make a purchase. Seventeen percent start just two
weeks ahead. Nineteen percent start a month in advance. That’s almost
70% of the car-buyers starting the process no sooner than a month in
advance.” The article goes on to say..
“car companies should be spending a bigger chunk of their marketing
dollars online than they are today.” Go figure!
- Watch this short video and appreciate everything you have.
Mint.com wins the techcrunch40. See where your money goes!!
She is pretty young, but a sponge for learning. I think she said she was born in 1991. As young as she is, she is already attending Carnegie Mellon! She’s a genius in certain areas, but only a genius in the areas she has been taught. One of her talents, I’m interested in, is her ability to stick to a BDC sales script 100% of the time. She is also good at giving customers directions to the dealership and knows every piece of inventory we have. She can flip to taking and making service calls, and scheduling service appointments. She is an excellent typist as well; sending personalized emails for just about any task. Did I mention she speaks more than 7 languages? I told you she was a genius. She can also do all of this hundreds of times a second!
I met Abby. Abby is the first of her kind, and will become the future business solution for companies who market over the phone and through email.
She is an advanced artificial intelligence based off of speech recognition programs. For dealers, she will interact with our DMS and CRM tools to deliver anything we need her to deliver to our customers. The demonstration I heard had a customer calling Abby to ask if a particular vehicle the customer saw on the dealer’s website was still in stock. Abby graced through the call to earn A+’s at a BD College. When the customer got off track, Abby had a simple question to bring the customer right back into the script. On top of that, Abby was accessing the DMS to not only tell the customer that particular vehicle was still in stock but also told the customer about 2 other vehicles just like it. Abby scheduled an appointment, took all of the necessary customer contact info (including a marketing source), got the customer to write down the manager’s name, and then gave the customer directions based off of Google Maps. Aside from just interacting with a DMS and CRM, Abby can also use any website (while on the call) to deliver necessary information.
Abby is an impressive spectacle. I am convinced she will become the forefront of a BDC while experienced BDC staff works behind her to handle the tougher customers. I don’t have an exact time as to when she will be fully ready for prime time, but just know she is coming. One day we may all GetAbby.
Article written by Alex Snyder. Director of eCommerce for the Checkered Flag Auto Group.
I came across this article written for Digital Dealer By Peter Perrotta back in August 2000.
It’s really interesting to read something form several years ago and reflecting upon it 8 years later.
Enjoy and share your comments!
By Peter Perrotta, August 2000
While the Autobytels of the world may not ever go away completely, new trends are emerging, suggesting that a shakeout is imminent. This is key. You don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of the aisle.
For the most part I try to bring you "news you can use." You may be too busy at your respective dealerships to even have a free finger you can use to test the pulse of some of the key indicators in the automotive world. That is why you read this magazine, right?
By now, you have heard about the Internet. You’ve heard all the startling statistics that tell you by 2003 you’ll be selling almost anything you can get your hands on over the Web, right?
For a while now, we’ve tried to steer away from continually boring you with statistics that emphasize how big the Internet will become. Instead, we’ve made a conscious effort to steer away from that to bring you a much more "how to" approach to selling cars on the Web.
However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any intrinsic value in pointing up some of these trends from time to time. Now, is one of those times.
The trend is this. By now it is clearly obvious that the dot-coms haven’t figured out how to make money doing whatever it is they do. Namely, trying to squeeze a profit by selling your cars off of your lots.
Just take a look at some of the stocks of some of these companies, Autobytel is one example, and the proof will be in that pudding. The stock markets woes of late haven’t helped much, either.
Anyone who works anywhere near Wall Street can tell you at least two things for sure these days: the venture capital money many of these dot-coms used to launch their businesses is quickly drying up and the high flying days of the technology sector, which includes Internet stocks, are not coming back anytime soon.
The double whammy here is that interest rates are sure to rise, with the Fed attempting to put the brakes on the irrationally exuberant stock market, and any investor worth his salt is now out there looking for companies to invest in that actually have profits, can you imagine.
This may spell death to some of the dot-coms. With the IPO market drying up, interest rates rising, their stocks on the down slide and no hopes of turning a profit anytime soon…well, you do the math.
Sheldon Sandler has. Sandler, founder of Bel Air Partners, financial advisors for the automotive industry in Princeton, N.J., says the referral model or lead-generating car buying services is "virtually dead."
Sandler knows a little bit about money having spent a good portion of his career as a Wall Street analyst.
"Their fundamental business model is flawed," Sandler says. "They can’t make money. We knew it was a joke from the start."
Initially, the dot-coms were flush with venture capital money. They made some money selling regional contracts to car dealers.
However, Sandler says there was such a proliferation of these services their own revenues, let alone dare we say profit margins, began to get eroded.
Moreover, the Autobytels and Autowebs have a hard time gaining any brand loyalty. "The consumer can’t differentiate between them and the dealers just used them," Sandler says. "How will they make enough money to stay in business? The answer is they won’t. Until you control the inventory, all you can do is direct people."
Sandler and others in the know currently subscribe to the notion that a rotation is already underway. That rotation has more of the dot-coms pushing into the direct selling approach used by Carsdirect and Greenlight.
Underlining that point, Autobytel has launched its Autobytel direct in an attempt to capture revenues from both sales models.
Sandler says consolidation in the dot-com arena is already underway. This will lead to short term changes with the stronger continuing to survive.
However, Sandler believes that even the direct selling model employed by the third partner sellers won’t bring in enough revenues to sustain them.
In two to three years, Sandler says, the dot-coms will mostly be gone.
Filling the void, Sandler predicts, will be a strong network of Web sites that are controlled by both the manufacturersand dealers.
"As long as the inventory is still coming from the dealers, the dealers are still in control and the manufacturers are in control of the dealers," Sandler says. "Don’t forget the manufacturers want brand identity. The factory will find a way to do their own (Web) sites. They have the bucks. They have the cars.
"They (the factory) want the relationship with the consumer. The dealer will be hurt by these guys (the factory) coming together with the consumer," he predicts.
However, to make up the difference, Sandler thinks the factory will provide added incentives to the dealers to make up differences, especially on the loss of profits on the front-end of Internet sales.
"The factory may end up cutting a check back to the dealer to make up for the loss of gross profits on these sales," Sandler says. "It will be more of a ‘Detroit’ system with a direct factory to consumer relationship. The dealer will deliver the car after the factory builds it for the client."
Is Sandler on the mark here. I think so. Maybe not 100 percent, but I think he’s pretty close. There will be a shake out on the dot-com horizon. There will be a move towards direct selling models.
That is the short term outlook. The long term will be a combination of Web selling through the use of factory and dealer Web sites, with much less dependence on the intermediaries. It makes sense.
To date, dealers have been somewhat lazy. They have put up Web sites but haven’t been able to figure out how to drive traffic to them. So, hence, they rely on the Autobytels of the world.
But, once the dealers and the factory get on the same page with this (and they will) they won’t need the Autobytels of the world. Think about this: Why should they continue to give these guys a piece of their pie?
The answer is there will come a day when they won’t have to.
Here we are 8 years later. What had changed VS what has not changed?
We all know about search engine marketing and most of you have already given it a try for your dealerships. Some of you have seen great success with Pay-Per-Click advertising and some of you have really just wasted a lot of money. Everyone knows where they fall. There are tons and tons of vendors out there targeting the automotive industry and selling search engine marketing like a snake oil salesman sells oil.
I lead a team that conducts search engine marketing campaigns for our in house agency clients. I would like to share with you an experience I had this week.
Before starting any search engine marketing campaign either I or one of our team members researches the current climate surrounding the keywords our client will be using. As we all know, certain areas and franchises have much more competition then others. In my keyword and competitive research I typed in the keyword "newburgh cadillac" and in the top sponsored links I saw the result for a dealership named Tunstin Cadillac. Here is a screenshot:
I thought this was interesting since I am quite well versed in the local dealerships and had never heard of this one. I continued my search by searching on the general term "Cadillac." Tunstin Cadillac once again appeared:
My initial reaction was that whoever is doing their search marketing is at least covering all the bases. I was interested in finding out more about the dealership so I typed in www.tustincadillac.com (I didn’t click the sponsored link because I didn’t want the dealer to get charged). Upon further research I found out that this dealership is located in Tustin, CA a whopping 2,799 miles away.
I have no knowledge of what vendor is running their search campaign. Maybe its even the internet manager at the dealership. Either way my point boils down to this. Make sure that your SEM vendor is acting in your best interest. Audit their results and check your site logs to make sure that you aren’t receiving traffic from regions outside of your general market area. Google Analytics is also a great and free tool to help you audit your search marketing results. Many SEM vendors work on percentage of spend. If they get you to spend more by running your campaign almost 3,000 miles away from your dealership It won’t matter how much you spend, your search engine marketing campaign will always be a failure.
Guest posting by Brandon Hoffman
Director Of Internet Marketing at KEA Advertising, Inc
I Felt like posting this. I know we ISM’s get these emails requests all the time. I usually laugh at them and move on if I can’t get the customer on the phone (in this case).
Now and then I "might" take a stab at them but it’s rare. Keep in mind I’m not a high volume dealer, I’m located in a smaller town right out side of several big dog dealers. This is a HOT just released vehicle AND this customer is not in my market.
How do you guys handle these requests? And be real!!
Original Lead (using John Doe rather the customers actual name)
First Name: John
Last Name: Doe
Email: [email protected]
Day Phone: XXX-XXX-XXXX
VEHICLE WANTED INFORMATION
Model: C350 Sport Sedan
CUSTOMER COMMENT INFORMATION
Comments: I am Interested in C-350:2008 Model. These are my specification. M.S.R.P.* $37,275 Exterior Color (Metallic paint is optional, resulting in an additional price of $710) Obsidian Black Metallic $710 Interior Color Black Leather1 $1,550 Wood Trims Black Birdseye Maple $0 Options Tele Aid Security and Communications System $650 Packages Multimedia Package $2,950 Gas Guzzler Tax $0 Total $43,135 Please provide me with your best price quote. No Language Preference selected. Address provided is invalid.
Their response to my auto-response
Thanks for the prompt response. I am interested in buying the new 2008 C350 with the specification that I have requested. I am waiting for the best price quote that you can offer. Please feel free to contact me at this account, or my cell.
I have to ask, how much of a discount are you looking for? These are are flying off the shelves and most people are not even asking for a discount.
Thank you for replying back. Just do the best you can. While I requested quote from the website, I also sent it 3 other dealers. I’m waiting for their quotes. You can exclude the security aid that I had added.
Dear John Doe,
No thanks. I have no need to get into a bidding war with other dealers. I’m sure you understand.
Good luck with your purchase. I know you will love the new C-Class.
I guess the consumer feels as if they are going to get their best deal this way. Who knows, they might. I’m sure one of those dealers will whore out a car that we should be allowed to make some money on (at least for 3-4 months).
How do you guys handle these requests? Be real!!
Car dealers are usually a year or two behind the internet trends. Some companies are taking advantage of that fact.
Doing search engine optimization for auto dealers is difficult, as the market is extremely competitive. Selling search engine optimization to car dealers makes doing the SEO seem like childsplay.
Since the beginning of the world wide web, the automotive industry, car dealers in particular, have been a year or two behind the trends. Whether it is their reluctance to let go of the “glory days” in the 80’s and early 90’s or simply a lack of time to devote to understanding the technology, car dealers seem to be the last to know when it comes to the internet.
This creates problems for those selling SEO services. There are so many companies out there who are selling services that are not adequate to use against the highly-competitive world of automotive marketing. Here are some “smoke and mirrors” tactics that are currently being used to get dealers to sign on the dotted line for “snake-oil SEO”:
Myth #1: Thousand of Indexed Pages are Necessary
It has become a catch-phrase for website providers who create separate pages for each individual car.
The Pitch: “Search engines read web pages like we read books. They give more weight to websites with thousands of pages than they give to websites with dozens of pages.”
The Truth: In many industries, having thousands of pages available for “long tail searches” (covered later) for individual items is a good thing. People look for “round blue widgets in ireland” and having a page for that is good. People do not search for individual cars, which leads to the next myth…
Myth #2: People search for individual cars or by VIN
The Pitch: “Pick a car from one of our dealers. If you type in the VIN (vehicle identification number) you will see a ton of listings to the website. Competitors don’t list their vehicles like this.”
The Truth: In the automotive industry, people wanting a new or used car will search for “minneapolis toyota” or “used cars oklahoma city”. They do not search for “used toyota camry in minneapolis”. According to Overture, here are the searches from January:
“used toyota camry minneapolis” – 28
“toyota minneapolis” – 32,430
Real humans search for dealers. They do not search for individual cars. They do not search by VIN. They do not search by model year unless they are looking for reviews. The search for dealers when they are ready to buy a car.
Myth #3: SEM Certification Means Better SEO
When I first heard of this, I was appalled. Some providers use their Google Certified Reseller and their Yahoo! Ambassador badges as indications of their search engine optimization prowess. This couldn’t be seen as anything other than a lie.
These certifications are nice, as they mean that someone at the company took the time to learn what Google and Yahoo! wanted to teach about their Pay-Per-Click, sponsored results programs. They have no SEO benefits. There was a company that promoted their “inside track” to search engine optimization using these badges in a press release.
Yahoo! certification costs $50. Google requires a certain spend on Adwords. They both have eBooks and tests that are required. They have NOTHING to do with search engine optimization for natural listings. Sadly, most dealers do not research what the programs are really about.
Myth #4: Flash Websites cannot be optimized
The Pitch: “Our templates are completely HTML. They don’t look as good, but the search engines prefer no flash.”
The Truth: There are ways to allow the search engines to read flash. Even more importantly, most automotive websites that are built with flash technology are built with enough HTML content to give the search engines all that they need.
* * *
There are so many more tactics used on car dealers, but this is a good start. In today’s ultra-competitive automotive marketplace, it is so important for dealers to look at examples and to check more websites than the few that the SEO companies provide.
A company with 5,000 websites is bound to have a few that were optimized. It’s in checking some of the other 4,995 that car dealers can keep from falling for the smoke and mirrors.
Guest Posting by J.D. Rucker
J.D. is an automotive search engine optimization specialist
Original Post on PromotionWorld
Let’s start of with what I consider to be good customer service from a vendor in the B2B sector of the automotive dealer industry.
- Don’t over promise and under deliver.
I find this to be a huge problem in this industry. From dealer website providers to CRM/ILM companies, they all say “YES, we can do that”, only to find out when you have the system installed and running, nothing works the way they promised. Once they have your money and a signed contract you just a number.
- Answer your phone.
There’s nothing more irritating then having a quick question or a minor issue for tech support and having to wait on hold forever. Then after waiting forever, you receive a voicemail that tells you to leave a message and your contact information and someone from support will contact you back. Then you never hear back from them.
- Have skilled tech support highly trained and familiar with your product.
I get so sick and tired of dealing with tech support representatives that know nothing about their own product. It’s even worse when I know more then they do. Don’t get me wrong, some issues are deep rooted and I would never expect a level 1 tech support to fix a major issue but if you have to get with a manager for every little issue and to ask simple questions then this representative needs to go back into training before answering the phone as a tech support representative.
- Call me BACK!!
If I call in an issue and you can’t fix it right away, provide me with a ticket number and CALL ME BACK when you have it fixed. Matter of fact, call me back even if you don’t have it fixed and keep me in the loop with the progress.
- Check in and see how I’m coming along and what kind of progress I’m making.
Here is where just about every vendor I have ever dealt with over the last 8 years in this business FAILS. I can’t recall ever having a vendor call me at least once a month to review performance, issues, or just talk about the product and how I’m getting along with it.
- Be open!
Especially if you’re a CRM or Desking software vendor, why would you not have tech support open on Saturdays? It’s the busiest day of the week usually and when an issue occurs, it’s imperative to have it corrected right away.
This has to be the only industry that allows below average customer support to exist. I don’t get it really, why do dealer continue to sign these long term contracts for sub par products and poor customer service? If a dealer would show the same lack of support to their customers that most vendors do to the dealer, we would sell a lot less cars.
Those are my 6 steps for better customer service. If you have others and would like to share, please do so (lets keep this posting clear of vendors and allow only dealers to comment. Thanks!).