Opinions & Advice

Toughest job in the Dealership?

I often think the Internet Sales Manager position is the toughest job in
the dealership
! Would you agree?

We are constantly defending our department, fighting for larger budgets
and overall respect for our department. We are often the one that establishes
any form of process for sales and follow-up within the dealer.

We have to interact sitting behind a computer, know how to send effective
persuasive emails, get customers on the phone, schedule appointments, manage our
inventory, update our websites, post specials, deal with lead providers and
other 3rd party companies, track statistics from our websites and sales (that
the typical floor sales manager would not even understand the concept of).
Then the very next minute
we have to put our game face on to meet and greet
a customer, demo and close a sale.

Ohh, I could go on and on. Just keeping up with the technology is a job by
itself but then you have to understand Search Engines, ILM or CRM software too.

Then you have a month where everything comes together, reaching some crazy
high percentage of over all sales only to cause the RED FLAGS to rise.
You’re questioned.."how you could sell as many cars" and are they all really
"Internet Customers"?

You have to LOVE IT!! You know why..because you track everything and you
have to ammo to prove that every customer you sold using internet marketing was
indeed a sale that is fully creditable to your efforts.

Split personalities is what you have to have in this realm. That is what
makes a true Internet sales manager so different and such a commodity. We are
a rare species.

So this leads me to a POLL…As an Internet Sales Manager, are you paid what your

Take the poll and share with others some of your thoughts and comments!

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
Your polling applet is not appearing so I am forced to write a comment. Jeff, you know that I do not work at a dealership so I can not give a credible take on your declaration. I will say this however.

In my organization, most of the workers, especially management, will tell you they are so busy it is rediculous; that they have so much going on and so many people demanding so many things from them that it doesn't seem possible, and to be fair that is typically the case. But I know that it is natural for us to see our own jobs as one of the busiest and/or most difficult in the organization.

I think this is a sign of the employee working hard and taking ownership of his work and also of having a dynamic work environment, like you do. Some workers do not feel this way. They have some things to do and their jobs are well defined. They come in, do their thing, and go home. But in your case, everything you said is probably true. But I suspect others in the dealership would argue they have the toughest job. Like the Service Manager, or the GM.

So, I am not one to say whether or not the ISM is or is not the toughest position. I would say however that it sounds like one of the more exciting jobs there.
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • October 17, 2006
Great point Ryan. I do personally take full ownership of my department and everything I do. I guess my point of the post; I know I have many readers that are just starting off and work for dealers and GM's that lack in knowledge on what it takes to be successful leveraging the internet. That many times makes for a difficult work environment and can make this position that much harder.

  • M
  • October 20, 2006
Any position, in any business, in which you strive to do really well, requires a lot of energy and hard work. For busy car dealerships my vote for toughest job is Service Advisor. If you've never done it, do it for a week or so. You'll have a new appreciation for your position.
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • October 20, 2006
The Service advisor is a tough position no doubt! I was a honda service advisor for over 3 years and you are dealing with customer complaints all day long. BUT at 5:30 when the service department was closed, I did'nt have to think about my job. Work was left at work.
  • J
    Jake Wirth
  • October 30, 2006
I think Jeff is right and this is the reason:

Most auto dealers, and I talk to many on a weekly basis, simply fail to see the value in the Internet in general! From my experience as as an Internet Manager, I quickly realized that the Internet Department is still scary territory for many Dealerships and that must be due to a lack of information. Most General Manager's and Dealer Principals rely solely on their NADA Groups for information on new and emerging ways to sell more cars.

Unfortunately, they attend these meetings every so often and come back with a whole set of new ideas. All you Internet Managers and Directors out there can SURELY testify to this! Then what follows is a lot of excitement and motivation from Upper Management leading into a lack of commitment and follow through.... probably because they tried the new Idea for 15-30 days and simply gave up on it, anxiously waiting for the next NADA Group meeting to hear what the next "big idea" is!

From what I have learned it takes on average 90 DAYS to see the full results from ANY new advertising source or Marketing Idea!

I imagine that Dealerships felt the same apprehension when the Finance Department was first introduced. Its just takes time folks, along with dealership-wide commitment (buy-in) in order to utilize the Internet Department as a Profit-Center in the Car Biz!

If we are all in this for the long-haul, whats the hurry? As the great Bob Marley said, "....don't worry, everything is gonna be alright." Yes Mr. Dealer is gonna be alright, provided that you stop Micro-Managing you Internet Director and trust what he has learned from Dealer Refresh!

Lets all stand up, take a deep breath, sit back down and realize that the way people are shopping for their next vehicle HAS changed! If you want to earn their business Mr. Dealer then you will simply have to re-think the way you market to your target audience.

If not, no hard feelings, they will just simply buy a Mercedes from Jeff Kershner!
  • J
  • November 1, 2006
It all starts at the top of the food chain.

Cell phones, pages, add, and floor reps that don't know how to qualify a deal before desking it...

Most sales managers are old school car salesman in all ways. They are usually older, brought by even older, start the retail at $6k/over and $6k/under on trade (only to offend the educated consumer), computer challenged, have long-time bonds with the newspaper rep that stops by and hands them that ad with their picture, name and stores phone # listed, and never have taken the time to learn where 90% of car shoppers start shopping now.

They believe- to hire BDC/Internet employees they need to hire a car salesman, internet sales= low gross, and $1000/month for a 24hr/7days a week advertising source... you gotta be outta of your mind!

Sometimes we as "car people" forget about the actual buying process the customer experiences. Sure, some big hits still happen from the drive-by that happens to catch the "right" sales rep. But let's be for real. Where do the managers go when THEY want the big screen, plasma tv? Or search real estate listings for their next mansion? Sure they go to the best buy (note the name) place, or do the walk-through when narrowing down the options. But where did they start?

My equation: Successfull BDC/Internet = Dealership long term success

So is a GOOD bdc/internet professional at a dealership worth the money and time to develop?

For many customers that is the first experience with the dealership. Often, Bdc/Internet managers are the sales rep, managers, and sometimes the F&I.

Quality Bdc/Internet managers are worth more than most Sales Managers when they produce the numbers.

Computer skills, internet savvy, marketing knowlegde, sales ability= PRICELESS

First I would like to say that it is a pleasure to find this type of information about the internet sales manager positions and functions. I have been developing and marketing all types of businesses and services on the internet for the past 10 years and was recently hired by a local dealership to optimize their websites. Website optimization is a process where you get a website to rank on the first page in Google, Yahoo, Msn and many other search engines, using a specific key word, words, or phrase.

The dealer had several different people in this position before me. Most were sales men with limited internet knowledge and experience. With in two months I increased the hits to the site by 38% and sales from all over the country. I want to comment about the importance of this position with in a car dealer or any other company. If 80 % of people today are looking online and shopping online before they even enter a store don’t you think going forward this is the type of position that will be highly marketable and warrant a six figure income plus bonuses?

I did some research about this position and it led me all over the internet and here is one of my stops. I searched nation wide for internet sales manager positions and I came up with the following. Most of the car dealers that listed a salary range they are willing to pay people $80,000 to $150,000 per year. There are other companies besides car dealers that will pay up to $200,000 per year. In my opinion this is definitely one of the, if not the most important positions at any company. The life line of any company any where in the world is new customers. I think this should be a $200,000 and up position.

Internet Sales Manager may be the hardest position today in terms of defending its purpose and value. The blur of new technology and relationship building online is a space that 'old school' management is struggling with. We all know that fundamentally the problem goes well beyond an 'unknown' landscape. Or even the fear of change. If the dealer is not meeting the customer’s needs face-to-face now, why should things be any different online?

There is good news for the Internet Sales Manager. Time is on your side. It is weeding out 'old school' every day. Within the next decade you will be seen as the new champion. The dealers will not crown you, the customers will. They have decided they want a better customer experience. They are speaking with their keyboards. From the internet they are better informed. They are safe from fast-talkers. And they have lots more choices of where to buy. The interesting thing is it is the negative associations that are attached to buying cars in person that are driving customers to the internet!

I have another thought about ISM’s. They seem to be pioneers. Early adopters. They run towards change. They will someday be recognized for saving the dealer industry.

A final thought for any dealer who reads this. You do not have control over the manufacture of the product you sell. The identical vehicle can be found at every dealership that sells your brand. What you do have complete control over is the experience you provide your customer. This experience can be your point of difference, and your greatest competitive advantage. If you are selling on quality, service and low price, News Flash: customers can get that anywhere. It’s time to create compelling reasons to buy from you. Reasons that make the product secondary.

Perhaps I am missing something, or others haven't picked up on it, but as an Internet Director, I am also responsible for parts & service's presence on my website. Funny, their budget comes out of mine, I am responsible for that budget (SEM, PPC, etc.) and any DECREASE in parts or service. Yet, for some reason, when there is growth, there seems to be no remuneration or credit. Still think you're paid what you're worth?
I would like to add another twist to our position...
undefined job responsibilities. I often spend time wondering just what is expected. I am an Internet Manager, not Director, but often fill that position as well. When it comes to Manager meetings, I guess I am not one, because I am not invited. I am told by my owner, that he is my boss and I report to him. My GM says I report to our sales managers. My Internet Department runs 40% of our dealership business...reckon someone could throw me a bone here...better still, do I have the right to ask for one? By the way, how does less then 1/2 min wage plus commission (which will be a flat) sound for all the work you do?
This will only be solved with Executive buy-in. Until the owners, presidents, VP's, etc acknowledge the importance of this "Internet Thing" these issues will continue.

Just be glad you aren't an Internet person in the Real Estate business.
  • D
    Donny Beckman
  • May 16, 2007
Now don't forget that we have to teach everyone what a spread sheet is, do their word docs for them and type for them as well. Not to mention should the copier go down or the phone system is acting up. Well you are the "Internet" manager are'nt you? Here is my personal favorite! I actually had a Gsm call me and ask me if he unplugged his monitor would he lose any data? Naturally, for job security I ran right up there and told him" better let the pro" handle that one. He thought I was Bill Gates. Of course after that I had opened myself to fixing his lap, I mean cleaning it from the sites that he did not want to pop up and fixing anything that had a wire attached to it!
I personally know Donny and he taught me everything (well almost) that I know about sales and I taught him about half of what he knows about computers and high tech stuff...

We had the best internet team in the business routinely selling 40 cars per month (in a 125 to 150 car per month dealership) yet the forward thinking GM (who was also the one who wanted to make sure he wouldn't lose his data if he turned off his monitor and still uses AOL to email his numbers to Toyota (oops did I say that out loud)) just kept cutting our pay.

Out of one side of his mouth he said he wanted units and didn't care about gross, in fact suggested we go $100 to $200 below invoice on Camry's. Then decided that we were overpaid and couldn't hold any gross.

Getting off of soap box now.
  • L
    Lao Shi
  • June 13, 2007
Having been in the Industry, at the same organization for 7 short years as ecommerce director and working with a number of dealers I have seen Internet sales go from 0 to 3-4 a month and gradually move up to 28, 30, 35 a month average at some dealerships that sell average 140-160 units per month new and pre-owned in a year, these are pure Internet Department Sales not tied into BDC's. This number can double in the BDC environment. I know where Jeff is coming from.

In some of these dealerships there is no one in the sales/service department management or staff that was there when I first started calling on them. Is this turnover or what? The only person left is the dealer owner, President or General Manager and the ISM.

Some of these guys have a revolving door for turnover and complain all the time on how unhappy they are.

I tell them what my Father always reminds me; "If you always do what you have always done you will always get what you always got."

Having seen so many General Sales Managers and Sales Managers who have come in over the years, looked at the Internet Department and wanted to place their imprint, their change, modify the process, change CRM tools, change LMT's, out source, in source, contract out. Dealers go from their own web site to a cookie cutter concept to a 3rd party. They have lead 3rd party lead providers; then do away with the lead providers, it goes on. They have little or no clue to what makes ecommerce work because they do not understand the nuance of the system.

It is difficult for a hunter to appreciate the needs of a farmer and vice verse. Many times the Hunter yearns for what they perceive the peace and tranquility of the farmer's life but they cannot. Same for the farmer

One thing is we learn from these challenges, it helps us become stronger. One major thing I have learned is the client, at this point, increasingly each year is looking more and more at the Internet to research, decide and purchase.

Dealers that take the old approach and work with CRM operators that promise quick results, web sites that look like supermarket tabloids, treat customers like they were on a showroom experience, have the need to roll around on the parking lot and beat up the customer on pricing will never know and effectively service the Internet Consumer.

There are so many successful companies out there that are able to do this. LL Bean, Amazon, Dell, Harry & David, ebay the list goes on. These companies have huge databases they work, manage, cultivate and keep fresh. They mine these databases very effectively and sell a ton of goods and services to the clients.

We build a relationship with them and give them the information they request and meet with them and they buy when ready. It maybe a week or month, I recently had ISM's client come in 4 years after she first met with them on line and they made a purchase.

I will dare say, and this maybe more of an International observation at this point, that in the next few years we will see more and more virtual dealerships that outsource the service work on a contract basis and will focus on selling/leasing vehicles, warranty's and service contracts to clients they have built a data base on, brokers on line. There are already small pockets of the going on in the US.

We see companies like eBay that sell more and more vehicles on line every year and the consumers are lining up to purchase because they trust the system. This is not true in just the USA but Internationally as well. OEM's have people on US Military installations worldwide that have been doing this for years.

China as a emerging economic world power in many ways is innovating this ecommerce process and there are many examples that the interested observer can see for themselves.

The American Auto Industry is ripe for this type of innovation and change as (with the exception of Toyota and Honda) the Industry is in shambles.

Where there is crises and trouble there is room for opportunity.

This is fertile ground for young entrepreneurs like Jeff kershner and hundreds of the ISM's across the country that will one day realize they are in possession of a key of knowledge that will open a door of opportunity for them.