Opinions & Advice

Where Have All the Ups Gone?

Guest Posting By John Quinn

Exactly what are Sales Managers managing these days?

question_blueAhhhh…. the good ‘ol days… Remember the weekends? The Sales Staff gets there nice and early with enough caffeine in their hands to jump-start a rhino, trailed by a cloud of cigarette smoke. The managers hold a quick Pump-Me-Up session, doling-out spiffs like Halloween candy to eager 1st-graders… $25 a spot, $100 for the trifecta. Salespeople line-up at the front door… a couple hide in the inventory out front… and then it arrives: the Up Bus! As sure as geese flying South for the Winter and Salmon running upstream in October, the Wave of Eager Buyers descends on the lot every Saturday morning.

Schedule a delivery for Saturday? Are you nuts? Appointment on a Saturday? “Sure… come-in…. I’ll be waiting for you.” (Yeah, right). You’d do half your month on Saturdays and mop-up the leftovers on Monday. What a life!

What happened? When did the Up Bus break down? (And why didn’t anybody fix it?)

The answer is actually pretty simple. When the dealership ceased to be the primary resource for retail automotive information, the traffic dried-up. Why are Blockbuster Video locations closing all over the country? Because people don’t have to GO THERE to rent videos – they can do it from home. Gone to the library lately to research a given topic? It is faster, easier, and more empowering for me, the consumer, to find what I need on the internet. But I still have to BUY at a dealer… so where am I going to go?

Working for a multi-franchise dealer, it’s easy for me to see today that the most successful showrooms with the most traffic have a culture and processes geared toward working ups through the door. And we’re not simply talking about a pleasant phone persona (although that is important). A multi-tiered marketing approach combined with the right tools and customer-touch processes makes the difference.

It starts with culture. There’s a new breed of Sales Managers emerging that will be successful over the long term. It’s not all about desking deals, doing TO’s and dealer trades in today’s market. The first step? Recognizing the change! There’s no more Up Bus. Is there anything more relevant to a Sales Manager than Sales? But you need traffic to sell. So you can either keep waiting for the Up Bus (I’m sure C4C will be back soon… right??), or take a proactive stance and master the details that bring people to the showroom.

What are the details?

Start with your marketing approach. How much of your dollar is spent on “Scatter and Spray” vs. Targeted Offers? Remember: you need people to talk to. Do your marketing efforts maximize your ability to “talk” to people? (And does publishing your phone number in the paper next to an offer really accomplish that goal today?). There are so many good, customer friendly and inexpensive on-line tools that will help you capture an email address and/or a phone number. The reality: the Traffic is still “out-there.” Are you doing enough to attract them to your “space?”

So you do a heck of a marketing job, and your phones are ringing and the Internet Department can barely keep-up with all the emails. Excellent! What tools and processes do you have in place to ensure that you are maximizing these opportunities?

Here’s a secret: much of the old APB selling spiel still applies – actually, some is more relevant than ever! 1st Impression and Meet-and-Greet are even more critical today than they were 10-20 years ago – it just doesn’t happen at the front door anymore. It is sooooo much easier to hang-up the phone or delete an email than walk-out of a dealership. If you blow that call or don’t have a good email response, chances are it’s over, and you never see that customer. So what are you doing as a manager to maximize your opportunities?

  • Do you have a system in-place to monitor phone traffic? Do you reward a good phone conversation?
  • Do you let the geek in the corner answer all of your email? If a person has no talent on the floor, why do you think he/she would be good with the “inter-nutters?”
  • Do you know your customers? Can you use your CRM system to see from what source this phone call was generated? Do you check to see where this email is coming from, or if they’ve inquired or bought here before?
  • Do you personally confirm your team’s appointments?
  • Do you work to work people through the door?

Many managers would read this and say, “I just don’t have the time, how can I possibly do all that?” Well here’s the rub: managing the aforementioned areas well makes the actual selling and closing all the more easier; I’ll take 10 gift-wrapped Ups over 25 walk-ins all day long.

The bottom line is that shifting a Sales Manager’s focus more toward the traffic just outside the door is a self-fulfilling endeavor. Is there anything more important a manager can do than focus on filling his/her showroom with qualified traffic?

About the Aurthor: John Quinn is a no-talent totem-holding hack who’s lucky enough to have been able to fool his superiors into fabricating various positions within the dealership for him to manage over the years. As he is able to report on his own progress, everything looks great, and as such he is regarded as the go-to guru for various inconsequential entities.

Best "about the author" I've ever seen on DealerRefresh - ha ha!

Great article John. This will definitely make the rounds with our managers.
Very funny and hit the nail on the head. Great article John!
Well said... the pattern shift I am seeing is that folks are now shopping online during work hours (on their boss' dime... sorry) and after communicating via email or phone with the dealers they have narrowed their choices down to, they then make an appointment that fits their busy schedule (typically in the evening). Meanwhile, we make all of our phone calls before 5 pm (when our prospects give us their home phone numbers because they don't want to get called at work and get in trouble with the boss, so we rarely reach them) and we staff our dealerships heaviest on Saturday during the day. Are we changing our schedules and approaches to accommodate our customers? (and I loved the about the author as well, lol)
Definitely my vote for best "about the author" Just sent this to our internet team, very good article.

Great article which discusses common sense. This is still something people are not realizing. I believe that maybe in 10 years everyone will be on the same page. I have to say that the "about the author" part is incredibly creative and very funny. Good stuff. Keep it up.


Reading your post made me think. I agree with you. There is no reason to staff your store heavy on saturday unless you consistently have huge traffic in the store. In my internet department, I keep two coordinators (plus me) on saturday and 2 on sunday. My heaviest days are monday and friday. We make the most appointments and get the most calls coming in. We have to constantly look at trends and what is going on in our business. We have to change with the trend.
Good info Stan. We are looking to shift our staffing towards the evenings for phone calls and live chats, and the morning folks for handling the email leads when they come in. We have lots of folks that want to talk/email/chat in the evenings (8-11 pm) after they have finished work, had dinner, put the kids to bed, etc...
good article, the tools are definitley there but it can be difficult to get the online managers use the tools efficiently. if you have an internet department, you need internet savy team that are excite about new tools, and not overwhelmed with every new tool that is introduced to them.
Great observation! The opening to the funnel is no longer at the front door, it's in the buyers home or office.

We recently took the plunge from dedicated 4 salesperson, 3 coordinator Internet Dept. to a 6 coordinator response and follow up system.

This has spread the "Internet Department" Culture to the desk managers that up until then didn't understand a lot about our web presence.

The desk managers are now the point of contact through confirming appointments and greeting the appointments at the door with the ability to have an intelligent conversation about what the customer wants and needs. It hasn't been easy, but we are making progress every day.

I love having total control over the incoming phone calls and the ability to t.o. a call before it hits the wall.
  • M
    Matt Scott
  • December 3, 2009
That is a very good article. (I loved the "about the author")

We are slowly changing management styles from this type of leader.

The authoritative leader: seldom lets others make decisions, feels he/she is the most qualified and experienced, considers his/her views to be most valid, lacks confidence in others abilities, critical of differing opinions, rarely gives recognition, is easily offended, uses others for his/her benefit, action oriented, highly comtetitive

The biggest weakness of this style is the failure to recognize the skills and abilities within other people. They are often denied opportunities to use or exhibit their skills in decision-making venues.

Yet, the greatest strength of this style is to produce action when it is needed.

To this style of Leadership:

The participative leader: team member ideas or equal with the leader, everyone’s input is considered, leader is team facilitator, leader is coach/player, frequently accepts teams ideas over own, focus is on stimulating creativity, creates culture of innovation.

We all work under some sort of the first style of leadership. But we can run our departments the second way and show everyone the strenght of this system.
Printing this out and handing it out! To everyone. A very good article. The leadership for our dealership especially need a message like this as a reminder!