Category Archives: Internet Staff

Walk a Mile in the Internet Manager’s Shoes

Whenever I work with dealerships to improve an Internet department I ask the Internet manager if their dealer understands the role of the Internet within the dealership and what is expected of the Internet manager. The answer comes back in multiple forms but generally suggests that the Dealer understands an Internet department is a necessary part of their business but is not familiar with how it all works and how to help the Internet manager be more successful and get “good results”. The “good results” typically mean vehicle sales and profits. Both the dealer and the Internet manager agree on this overarching goal but the confusion seems to occur in how the department should work and why the results don’t happen in a predictable fashion.

In exploring this situation time and again I’ve found the most basic of explanations; the dealer has never experienced the role of an Internet manager. This sounds too simple but a typical Dealer works in various departments during their climb to the dealer position and are able to integrate their first hand experience into being a better leader. Dealers have generally been sales people and sales managers but the Internet role was not even available when they came up through the ranks. The same situation occurred when finance departments first started and many dealerships had to integrate these new profit centers into their sales department. Since the automotive Internet started coming of age in the late 90’s most present day dealers were in more typical sales management positions and did not develop these departments first hand or manage Internet leads.

This is a bigger concern than you might initially think. When you manage your dealership staff you can think back to when you were in the role and offer support based on experience. I often hear sales managers say “when I was on the floor….” or Dealers say “when I was the used car manager……” which gives them and their sales team the comfort of experience. I can only remember a few instances where a sales manager said “when I was the Internet manager…..” Why is this lack of operational experience with the Internet an issue? Well, for one thing it means that the Internet manager is typically working blindly to set up or improve a department. To their credit I find them very active in trying to read everything they can get their hands on to soak up the best processes and practices. Secondly, the Internet manager does not have a supervisor that knows how to judge a good or bad performance or whether progress is being made except by the most basic standard of selling vehicles. Imagine how nice it would be for the Internet manager to hear “relax, this will all come together just fine – I remember when I had a similar issue when I was running this department”.

When a dealer gets involved and supports a department the manager and the department usually operates at a high level. The opportunity to work with your Internet manager first hand is available to you and your managers each day. I recommend working a few leads, responding to some emails and making some calls. When we first started our dealership’s Internet department I handled all the leads myself just to find out what we would need as we tapped into this growing opportunity. This was the best possible experience for me and allowed me to help shape a very successful department. Selling over the Internet is something we all need to experience and one I think you’ll find quite enjoyable.

Please direct comments or questions to David Kain President of Kain Automotive Inc.

Thanks for reading,

David Kain, President

Why Pavlov Should Have Been an Excellent Internet Manager

Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov famously tantalized his dogs by ringing a bell to alert them that food was about to be served. The dogs, soon wise enough to associate the sound of a tinkling bell with a big juicy steak, began to salivate each time the bell tolled.

This associated behavior is known as “classical conditioning,” and the parallel between the doghouse and the dealership cannot be clearer. Obviously, the incoming lead is the “ringing bell” in your dealership, and the dealers are the hungry dogs pouncing on the lead.

Right? Wrong.

Instead, what I hear all too often in my visits around the nation’s dealerships are lackluster lead responses like “Ahh, that can wait a little bit.” or “Somebody else can take the phone call.” Over the past four or five months, I’ve noticed this non-responsive attitude toward leads becoming more common than ever.

What happened to the urgency? Shouldn’t every Internet sales person know by now that the first fifteen minutes are the most critical when it comes to new automotive leads? Why are all the Internet sales processes taught in OEM seminars and Dealer Group guidelines going out the window?

To understand this seemingly irrational behavior, we must return to Pavlov’s dogs.

In the same experiment, Pavlov began ringing the bell WITHOUT providing food, to see if the dogs would still respond with salivating and pouncing. Result: Without the food (stimuli), the bell elicited less and less “drooling” and, after a while, the behavior became extinct.

The moral of the story? For a variety of reasons, Internet Sales Managers have stopped associating leads with sales. As a result, sales urgency is out and “lead lethargy” is in. In order to understand why, we must identify the reasons and establish best practices around digital automotive lead management.

Why Automotive Leads “Overflow” is Turning Alpha Dogs into Lapdogs

Why have so many dealers stopped associating leads with sales? Believe it or not, one key reason is the sheer abundance of leads. Digital automotive marketing has done its job almost too well, and as a result, there is an unprecedented flow of leads and lead sources. Like Pavlov’s ringing bell,today’s Internet Managers are inundated with nonstop chimes, buzzers, pages and calls, all alerting them that leads are pouring in.

With “too many” leads for one Internet Salesperson to handle; the reward for selling a car will be still there, but the closing ratio will drop. This drop will probably defeat company’s policies (closing ration >10% and so on). If a dealership has an average of 200 leads coming in per month, even if an Internet Salesperson sells 18 cars a month, they will still not be able to make a dent. Realizing this, the salesperson begins “cherry picking,” handling the lower hanging fruit (e.g the rare used car in inventory with tons of inquiries), and neglecting the fresh 3rd party leads, most likely the leads w/ the highest cost per sale ratio.

How to Yank the Leash on Automotive Lead Management Apathy

[list:1tyd5fps]1.Staff up. Many managers hear this story and think the answer is to decrease leads. Instead of canceling leads, I suggest converting one or more salesperson into your Internet team and supplying them with the lead “overflow.” By sharing the wealth, you get to keep all your leads and still make sure each one gets the attention it deserves.

2.Limit leads per person. Even a dog faced with 2,000 juicy steaks can’t eat them all. Sharpen sales concentration by limiting the number of start-to-finish leads to 80-90 per person/month. If they are an absolute pro, 120 start-to-finish leads may be doable, but don’t risk it unless you are sure this person is well-versed in your internal process.

3.Correlate effort and reward. To keep that urgency going, you have to make sure the stimulus is there. Let your team know “This next incoming lead will be the only one for today.” Limiting leads will stretch the necessity to handle each lead with thoroughness, according to your automotive lead management process. Needless to say, it was also increase staff motivation. All of a sudden the dog who was sitting with his tail between his legs will be streaking after the tennis ball.[/list:u:1tyd5fps]

These lead management practices work, I can assure you. I have turned around 3 franchises in the last 6 months to #1 CPO in state, #2 CPO in the country, and #1 New Car dealer objective, and so on. By integrating these practices, I have helped dealership realize the most Internet department sales ever, not by minimizing lead count, but by allocating the right resources in my eCommerce departments.

In conclusion, while I do not expect Internet Sales people to start drooling and pawing when an Internet Sales phone page comes across, these lead management practices should urge them to get out of their chair and “take care about business” right away.

And? Did this post ring a bell?

VJ aka Volker Jaeckel
Internet Director
Jim Ellis Volkswagen and Audi of Marietta

So Now You’re an Internet Sales Manager

Veterans Share Strategies for Delivering Online Results

With dealers increasingly relying on internet business to drive their stores’ success, the pressure is on internet sales managers (ISM) to deliver results. In this environment, new ISMs find they must hit the ground running to put effective processes in place and earn credibility with both the management team and their colleagues on the floor. In this month’s DealerADvantage LIVE webinar, we spoke with a pair of internet managers about how they built on their prior success in the showroom to produce in this new role and what they do to get the customer in the door. And, yes, they do recommend the job to others. “For the right person, it’s a great opportunity,” said panelist Rick Carlson, the internet manager for Patrick BMW in Schaumburg, Ill. “It’s a tough job that’s very rewarding. You should be the top salesperson at your store when you’re successful at it.”

Joining Carlson for the session were Michael Johnson, internet director for Billion Automotive Group in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Fred Haney, a training manager. At their stores, Carlson and Johnson oversee different aspects of the internet sales process. Carlson acts as a one-person business-development center, responding to inquiries and then working with prospects to set an appointment before turning them over to the sales staff. By contrast, Johnson manages a team of ISMs that works with online shoppers from the first point of contact to the point of purchase.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Carlson, a 14-year veteran, and Johnson, a seven-year veteran, shared with Haney how they began their career in online sales and the strategies they used to make the transition a successful one. Here’s a look at the highlights of the discussion.

First Things First: Process

“The very first thing they should do is come up with a process that they feel good about and stick to it,” Johnson said. “You’re just starting out, so you’ve got to know what works for you.”

This process should establish procedures and timelines for every aspect of an internet inquiry, from the initial response to email and telephone follow-up for the next 30, 60 and 90 days and, if the prospect hasn’t purchased, using automated systems (e.g., email and enewsletters) to stay in touch. Beyond the vehicle itself, each message to the shopper should sell the value of buying from your store and encourage the customer to contact you for more information.

Persistence Pays: Follow Up Until They Buy or Die

Said Johnson: “A lot of the leads we close, the customer emailed us three weeks ago. If we didn’t keep the process in place — if we didn’t stay in front of them and create that doubt that they want to see us before they buy — we wouldn’t get them.”

Carlson agreed, noting the payoff to his sales efforts can be longer in the making, though no less rewarding. “Two years down the line, I’ll have people call me and say: ‘Hey, I just saw this (car in your enewsletter). I want to come in and get it.’ It works.”

Customer Rapport

Equally important to process and persistence, Carlson and Johnson said, is the ISM’s ability to connect with prospects by touching on their “hot buttons” in phone/email communication and committing themselves to serve as their advocate at the store. They said this approach not only helps the ISM get the shopper in the door, but it also minimizes the risk that he or she will be skated.

Describing the email autoresponder he developed, Johnson said he begins by thanking the customer for the inquiry before outlining what to expect from his dealership. “A customer knows that we will be calling and we will be emailing — and that we’re looking for a response. ‘If you don’t find that we’ve lived up to your expectations, then I want to know about it.’ They have my personal phone number and email address. They know that I’m not a sales guy; I’m just someone who wants to be sure they’re taken care of. That’s worked very, very well.”

Also effective, Carlson and Johnson agreed, is reaching customers as soon as possible by telephone to ensure they’re receiving the information you’ve sent via email. At this stage in the process, resist the temptation to sell the car unless the shoppers indicate they’re ready to move forward.

“People are so impressed. ‘I just sent you an email, and I can’t believe you called so quickly.’ These are the people — the first person that talks to them, that’s the person they remember,” Carlson said.

Added Johnson: “The first person who talks to them is the one who wins. That’s usually how it goes down.”

Communication Counts

Another key ingredient to succeeding as an ISM is maintaining excellent working relationships with the management team. Our dealers recommend meeting weekly with your managers so you can keep them up to date on the traffic you’re driving and the cars you’re selling. You’ll also want to coordinate with them on the promotions they’re offering to ensure your online programs are in sync.

“You’ve got to have 100 percent management onboard in order to be successful in this position. If not, you’re just running into the wall, and it’s very frustrating,” Carlson said. He recalled how he made an initial good impression with his managers when “they saw my work habits. Hard work paid off. They saw I was serious. They saw I wanted to make it work.”

ISMs: Master Your Domain

Said Johnson: “You have to look at being an ISM as being more than just a salesperson. When you’re a lot guy, you have the advantage of that customer walking on to the lot and wanting to kick some tires and take a test drive. When you’re an internet guy, it’s your job to create that interest. When you’re a lot guy, you think, “Hey, boss. You’re not getting me enough leads and walk-in traffic. What’s the deal?” When you’re the internet guy, there are the phone calls, and there are the leads. Now you have to be smart enough to figure out how to turn them into a walk-in customer so you can actually sell them a vehicle. You have to have marketing in mind; what email campaign am I going to send out that’s going to raise some hands that I can start working on and accomplish this task?”

Ongoing Challenge: Find the Right People

What are the makings of a successful ISM? The dealers told us that they’ve found no surefire way to identify, from a resume or an interview, the people who will succeed as an ISM or internet salesperson. While follow-up skills, a commitment to work hard and the ability to build rapport with a customer you can’t see are essential, they said it’s difficult to know whether candidates will be a good fit for the job until you see them doing it. “There is no mold,” Carlson said.

“That’s where most dealers fail,” Johnson said. “They think that if their No. 1 salesperson can’t do it, then we can’t do it, so that’s why they give up on the internet.”

Develop Good Work Habits

“Come into work knowing you’ve got calls to make,” Carlson said. “Have a good web process. Have a good follow-up process. I’ve got steps I do everyday for each lead. You’ve got to be organized and stick to it.” He added: “There’s never any downtime for an internet manager. You’ve got to come to work and know you’re going to work eight hours, 10 hours, whatever your schedule is.”

Continuing Education: Keep Learning

Both Carlson and Johnson said they continuously evaluate their processes, looking for areas they can refine to drive better customer response. Each has increased the number of photographs he includes with his online listings, for example, and each gives more attention to the quality of his seller’s notes. Carlson said he looks for new ideas by reading trade publications and attending industry seminars. Johnson said he’s now looking at how to rework the email autoresponder his ISMs use to encourage prospects to pick up the phone first and call them for more information.

“You always have to keep an open mind,” he advised. “We’ve had some good success, and we’re doing well, but you can’t look at it as ‘I’ve arrived.’ There’s always something better around the corner, and there’s always a better way to do it.” Johnson added: “We’ve had follow-up processes that really weren’t that great, and we changed them. We moved on to different things.”

ISM, Know Thy Competition

Car buyers tell us they use the internet to identify dealers who not only have the vehicle they want but who will also treat them professionally and offer the car at a fair price. So they know how they fare in the comparison, Carlson and Johnson said they regularly check up on their counterparts.

“I get to see who’s on the ball, who is our main competition,” Carlson said. “I know what dealers in my area are just shooting out a price—they don’t even care if they get to talk to a person. I know the price issue, so I know what I’m up against. Then I know what we’ve got to do.”

The Secret to Success: There’s No Secret

Said Carlson: “When you come into the department, assess what you’re working with. Look at your lead management tool. Look at your website. Get yourself situated and set up a procedure. Just go to work and find out what works. Keep track of what you’re doing. You’ve just got to get in there and get yourself established and show people that you’re there to do it. If you have a good follow-up procedure, it’s going to work. There is no secret to success: It’s hard work. You’ve got to have sales skills, social skills and phone skills, but it all comes down to hard work in the end.”

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Store Management’s Keys to Building Internet Sales

Perhaps the weakest link in growing Internet sales departments is the lack of management understanding or support. There seems to be a growing reluctance with the sales pressures we are facing now in the automotive business to be transparent and forthcoming about pricing and availability. Yet it is these qualities that are vital to successful Internet sales.

For some reason we keep thinking that we should not divulge information until we can get the prospect into the store. This turns off Internet prospects. The funny thing is that we worry about leaving money on the table, so we think we have to hide the facts and figures. The Internet sales reality is, if we will be transparent, give information freely, act professionally, be responsive and act in a timely fashion, our chances of winning the sale grow considerably.

But let’s back up. I heard of a store recently that hired an Internet salesperson and did not even provide him with his own phone, let alone his own computer. He lasted two weeks. Store management needs to consider how to facilitate maximum Internet sales based on our goals and local opportunities.

The first thing we need to consider is hiring the right people. Hiring someone who has not succeeded on the floor but is "pretty good with computers" does not work. We need someone who is disciplined and organized. We need someone who loves making phone calls. We need someone with patience and will work the process. We need someone who is likable and engaging with people who can draw prospects to the showroom appointment and close the sale.

The second thing we need to do is build a successful sales process. This process includes scheduling of quote responses, phone call attempts, well thought out e-mails and a schedule for their distribution based on prospect response.

The third thing we need to do is provide a work station that is off the "beaten path" in the store. It is important for the Internet sales person to not be distracted when making all the daily phone calls it takes to work the Internet database. This station requires a computer that is not shared, a phone that can make the long distance calls, and depending on how large the staff, an Internet department signage and clearly marked space.

The fourth thing we need is to support our Internet sales department’s access to information: inventory, pricing, incoming availability of vehicles, and dealer trade availability. We often think these things need to be guarded like the crown jewels. But the truth is the more easily we make this available to our staff the more easily they can be responsive and professional with our Internet prospects.

A key place where Internet sales need management support is in the pricing strategy for Internet prospects. It is important to offer a price in our first response because someone has gone to a web site and "clicked here for a price quote." When we then withhold a quote they get mad and generally will not respond to subsequent attempts to sell them a car. I recommend picking out a vehicle in stock (if at all possible) and sending them an Internet price without sending them the MSRP. I also send them an Internet price on a less expensive vehicle if possible. In addition, I recommend sending the price on a used certified. It makes no sense to require getting these prices for every lead that comes in from the sales manager. Management needs to support the Internet sales with easy quoting prices.

We can’t just stop the discussion there. While I advocate upfront pricing I don’t advocate e-mail or phone negotiation. Our upfront price should not be our final price! It should be close but we need a little wiggle room so that in securing an appointment we can promise there is room to move if they will come into the store.

Management support needs to be manifested in careful and committed budgeting. More and more dealers are now planning to not spend additional ad dollars on the Internet department but are rather taking a portion of the ad budget and allocating a percentage to the Internet. Most successful Internet sales departments are achieving 15 to 30 percent and more of new car sales. West coast import dealers are achieving even higher percentages. Dealers that are tracking sources and costs are finding a lower cost per unit via the Internet than traditional ad results. Internet costs per sale should be under $300 per unit. And this figure should actually decrease over time as the database builds and is able to generate sales over an extended period of time from leads that have been in the database for six to 12 months.

I have watched dealers buy third-party leads for 30 or 60 days and want to get rid of the expense as if they were not working. Now I believe third-party leads need to “prove their worth,” but it takes at least six months to do that. If the close takes on average 60 days, obviously they need to be in our system and processed for six months to find out just what their quality is.

It has been proven that Internet sales are an effective means for selling new and used vehicles. It still is a fact in most markets that the Internet delivers to the dealership leads that just would not come to our store. In tracking this at some stores we experience 65 percent of Internet sales from prospects out of our market. It behooves the dealer to make a decision to enter into this sales channel and find out how to sell cars and make money in doing it.

Now we often want to exercise control before the sale. But doing this with Internet leads will lead to delays and complications that will result in slowing down the sales process and undermining sales success. To achieve maximum Internet sales and profits I recommend that we first find out how to sell cars utilizing the Internet and then work on how to get the most profit per car. In the early days we sold cars and paid little attention to the back end. It seemed most people already had financing in place. But as this sales channel matures we are finding our Internet sales back end can be almost as profitable as the floor sales. It is amazing to me as a consultant how few store managers see themselves as facilitators of sales. It seems most managers think they should control every step before the step is taken. And in reality this bogs down the process, frustrates the customer, and hinders sales success. It may be a better idea to “release” the staff and the process and make corrections after the sale and not before the sale.

Daryl Sanders is the owner of Internet Dealer Solutions, Ltd. He has installed his evolving sales system in over 100 dealerships. He has a business degree in marketing from Ohio State University. As an offensive tackle at OSU, he was an NFL number one draft pick in 1963 for the Detroit Lions.

The Death of the Internet Director

It was announced yesterday that America went into a recession in December of 2007. We have now reached a full year in a down market. By now, all of us in the automotive industry are feeling it on some level. I’ve heard some people saying they just want to break even and hope things will get back to at least 50% of what it was before 2010. A lot of businesses are trying to save their way into a profit. I’ve taken Econ 101 and even some 200 level classes, but I’m not an economics expert. I do think the notion of saving your way into a profit is silly. If you down-size, you down-size everything. So the real question is, where should investments be made in this recession? Where can a dealership get the most bang for the buck?

There’s a very simple answer when it comes to marketing: the Internet.

However, let’s take “the Internet” in a different direction. We all know online advertising has further reach than traditional media and costs much less than traditional media as well. However, traditional media is still a very viable marketing tool. Television, radio, and even the newspaper still have a place in the marketing mix. The mix has just shifted.

There are a few hang-ups in dealerships right now when it comes to truly utilizing the new marketing mix:

[list:2qm2zrv8]- People who do not know how to use a computer are still pulling the major strings – the “HIPPO”
– Internet marketing is too cheap to be taken seriously
– People spend so much time online that it is taken for granted as an advertising source – customers don’t mention it like they would a newspaper ad or radio spot
– Online measurements are different than traditional media and so precise that some people cannot comprehend them
– Online marketing changes too often
– Online dealer marketing is also internal – it is a CRM system and it can be IT driven [/list:u:2qm2zrv8]
Some of these points are obvious. Let’s look at number 6 for a minute, “Online marketing is also internal – it is a CRM system and it can be IT driven.”

Yes, your internal software usage is part of your marketing mix. Before I expand on that, I should say that if you’re not using your CRM to direct your sales staff’s work days, you’re wasting your money on that fancy CRM. Did you ever think you could use your CRM to direct the message your sales staff is delivering? You can, and you should. If you’re doing that, sending email blasts, automatic emails, scheduling follow-up calls, printing letters, or doing some sophisticated data mining through your CRM, then it is a marketing tool. What about products like vAuto, Auto Exchange, Manheim, ePencil, HomeNet, or any of the other tools you’ve probably invested in? Guess what, they’re part of your marketing mix too. If one of those systems is a chore to use because your IT department has strangled bandwidth for security or blocked useful websites with Websense then your people are probably not using those products. Guess what, that makes IT part of the marketing mix too.

If you’re a large dealership or dealer group, then you probably have a hard time getting all of these elements working together:

Traditional media message + Online advertising displays + Internal software usage to drive the message

Are all of these areas spouting the same message? Are they pushing your clearance sale this month? Are they helping to let the public know you’re giving away a free Garmin with every car purchase this Christmas?

If not, here’s why…

I’m making a major assumption here, but I assume your dealership has someone (or someones) who decides what the marketing message is going to be this quarter/month/week/day. Then that message is passed to the creative people (ad agency perhaps) who will turn it into a PDF for the newspaper, a recording for the radio, and video for the TV….and maybe even a banner for a website. After the creative is done and scheduled for this weekend it is shown to the sales staff in the Saturday morning meeting….where it is forgotten 5 minutes later in lieu of a Starbucks run and the toughest question of the day: “what’s for lunch?”

Maybe you’ve got someone proactive in the Internet department who decides to turn this message into an email blast. Maybe you’ve got someone proactive with the CRM who sets up calls for the sales agents to make informing recent customers of the new specials. Maybe….maybe….maybe….

Why wait till Saturday morning to do all of this?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a central person who understands how all of this stuff works? Someone who can put an internal software campaign together with a television ad? Someone empowered to get through all the red tape with the vendors, General Managers, and IT departments to get that marketing message out. I believe the time has come to promote the Internet Director into a much larger role. And it will need to be the Internet Director because the most crucial part of the whole mix is the technology/online side. This Chief of Marketing needs to know how all these systems work. We need some glue.

Written by Alex Snyder

Tips for Hiring the Right Internet Sales Manager

Your customers will use the Internet while shopping for their next vehicle at record levels in 2005. Your dealership needs to be prepared to greet your Internet customers with the same level of consideration you give a person who walks into your dealership. As a result, it is time to get serious in hiring the right person to manage your fastest growing department. The person you select as your Internet Sales Manager (ISM) will either bring customers to your dealership or drive customers away depending on how well they understand their role.

A few minutes spent determining what you expect from your Internet Department and what you expect from your ISM can make all the difference and provide clear directions on how to get the best return on your Internet investment.

What Results Do You Expect from Your Internet Department?

Answering the following questions upfront will allow you to select the right candidate with confidence:

1. What are your current results?

[list:pagoi2vh]• If you don’t already know it is important for you to find out before you start recruiting. A good candidate will likely want to know this right off the bat to see if they are being offered a growth opportunity. If you are a franchised dealer your manufacturer should be able to provide this information and if you have a relationship with a lead provider they also provide monthly reports. Gather the information, determine your current status and be up front with your candidates about the challenge or opportunity ahead of them. [/list:u:pagoi2vh]
2. What is your dealership’s Internet marketing plan and expected return on investment?

[list:pagoi2vh]• Identify your Internet target market (all buyers, used vehicle buyers, import buyers, specific zip codes, etc.).

• Identify your lead sources: website, providers, aggregators, database marketing.

• Determine your budget for this effectively tapping this market. Keep in mind you are paying for a website, a lead management tool, any lead providers, vehicle photos, etc.

• What kind of return on investment is necessary to make the effort worthwhile? [/list:u:pagoi2vh]
3. What are your performance expectations for the Internet department?

[list:pagoi2vh]• What kind of operational standards do you require?

• How many vehicles do you expect them to sell?

• What kind of gross profit do you expect?

• Be specific and communicate your expectations to your ISM.[/list:u:pagoi2vh]
4. What kind of Department Structure would work best at your dealership?

[list:pagoi2vh]• Internet department reporting to GM?

• Internet salesperson reporting to the GM or Sales Managers?

• Internet sales team embedded in a Business Development Center?

• Other? [/list:u:pagoi2vh]
Selecting the Right Candidate

Creating a job description for the Internet manager is the best way to communicate your expectations for the department as well as the qualifications necessary to do a good job. Consider the following while writing the job description and in selecting your candidate.

1. Candidates must be able to sell vehicles if your process requires them to work the customer from email to delivery.

[list:pagoi2vh]• Too often dealerships delegate the Internet management role to mediocre salespeople that are just good guys who have not had much sales success on the floor. If they can’t sell cars on the floor they likely won’t fare any better online. The best results I’ve seen come from dealerships putting quality salespersons into this role and training them on the computer and the administrative functions. Keep in mind this role is to sell cars and trucks. [/list:u:pagoi2vh]
2. Candidates must be organized and able to handle multiple tasks.

[list:pagoi2vh]• The Internet role includes managing leads, updating the inventory on the website, managing lead providers/aggregators, measuring results and many other activities. Most dealerships require the ISM do all these activities so it is important that the candidate realize this going in.[/list:u:pagoi2vh]
3. Candidates must be willing to put in the time necessary to make the department successful.

[list:pagoi2vh]• The Internet is 24/7. Most customers shop online after traditional sales hours so responding to leads in the evening and on weekends should be part of your expectations. If a candidate is not willing to communicate with customers after normal business hours it is best to find this out beforehand.[/list:u:pagoi2vh]

How you choose to pay the Internet Sales Manager depends on what you ultimately create as their job description. As with all pay plans, where you focus the pay is where your results will come from. Consider the following when determining your compensation plan:

[list:pagoi2vh]• 1. What is the structure of the department? Internet Salesperson, Internet Department, BDC, etc.?

• 2. If your structure is an Internet Salesperson will the position be full-time or will the ISM take floor ups?

• 3. How much time will be spent working with administrative activities (website updates, photos, lead provider interaction, etc)?

• 4. Do you want to focus on volume or gross? [/list:u:pagoi2vh]
A variety of plans are in use by dealerships today and selecting the one that works for you should be well thought out.


Selling online is a difficult task considering your customer must be motivated to talk to you on the phone and then motivated to visit the dealership. The time spent creating your dealership Internet Department structure, expectations and goals will be a valuable foundation to your Internet sales success. From this foundation, a well thought out job description and compensation plan for the Internet Sales Manager will give you the confidence you need to choose the best possible candidate for the job. With the right candidate in place you can expect to increase your sales and profits. Aim high and the results will follow!

David Kain
CALL: 859-533-2626
Automotive Internet Training Specialists

ISM, Phone Home

Here’s a plan to help Internet sales managers connect

Remember that line from the 1982 Steven Spielberg classic, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, “E.T. phone home.”? Poor little E.T., desperate to get in touch with his home planet to schedule a pick up, tells Elliott repeatedly, “E.T., phone home.”

Do you sometimes feel like that, walking around the office mumbling because you’re having a tough time getting in touch with your Internet customers about their new vehicle inquiries? Just remember, persistence pays off. E.T. scheduled a pick up from outer space; all you need to do is schedule an appointment for a test drive!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: the key to being a successful Internet sales manager is your ability to move the customer from e-mail to the phone to the appointment. First, set your self up for success. Let your customer know in your first response e-mail that you will be calling to schedule an appointment. “I know this information is important to you. I’ll give you a call later to confirm you’ve received it and to schedule a test drive.”

Be ready when you call. Have the customer’s information open in your lead manager and make sure you have a good script to work from. The general components of the script should be: greeting, confirm specs, confirm vehicle availability, describe your Internet process and ask for the appointment. (Remember your appointment ratio goes up dramatically if you offer to bring the vehicle to the customer’s home or office for the test drive.)

You should greet the customer in a way that tells the customer that he or she initiated the action and you are calling to address his or her needs. After you greet the customer, clarify the information you received in their Internet inquiry. Also, use this as an opportunity to confirm that they made a good selection.

Be clear about the vehicle’s availability. Do you have an exact match? Then confirm that it is in stock. If you have an approximate match, let the customer know what options are different and what the price difference is. If you have no match, let the customer know that you can locate it for them, and give them an idea of how long it will take. As a last resort, give them the option of ordering the exact vehicle.

Describe your Internet process. It’s important to set customers’ expectations so they know how the process works and why it will be a great experience for them. This will build trust and help you move them through the process.

And finally, after you’ve described the process, ask for the appointment. Always give the customer an either/or option, so they make a choice. Don’t just give them a yes or no question with the easy option of flatly turning you down.

Here’s one example, on the next page, we use in our training course.

If you handle this process well, the likelihood of getting and keeping the appointment increases. So ISM, phone home! You may not gross $200 million and win four Oscar’s like E.T. did, but you will increase your appointment ratio, sell more cars and trucks and win the approval of your management team.

FordDirect EVP Leo Hillock is the former president of Maroone Ford Ft. Lauderdale and was on the 2000 Ford National Dealer Council that founded FordDirect.

Just Promoted to Internet Manager? What to do first?

Congratulations to the new group of automotive Internet sales anagers out there! You are embarking on an exciting adventure that will allow you to increase your income by serving the fastest growing segment of the automotive marketplace. For most of you the situation you inherited is not in the best condition unless you are following someone who has been promoted to a different position within your current dealership. Hopefully you are excited about the opportunity and have a lot of energy to bring to the role. Regardless of what situation you walked into there are some important first steps you should take to ensure you have solid success now and in the future. Take these 5 steps first and you will set the stage for good results.

1. Identify Expectations

Of course you have your own expectations and would likely not have accepted the job if you did not feel you could improve your income and position within the dealership. However, it is equally important to find out what your management team expects from the department. Ask them how they will measure the department results and be sure to obtain objective goals that you feel you can reach. It is important that you understand what actions are necessary to achieve the goals and how management will work with you to support your efforts.

2. Identify Resources

Tools – Today’s progressive Internet department’s should have the following tools in place to effectively manage leads and allow your Internet sales team the flexibility to work with customers both in and away from their office.

[list:155c853t]• ?? PC – Every person working with Internet leads should individual access to a computer so they can actively manage leads.

• ?? Lead Management Tool – An effective lead management tool keeps you organized and allows you to manage large volumes of leads and market to your customer’s long term.

• ?? Cell Phone – In order to fully service the Internet customer you will need a cell phone so customers can contact you when you are away from your desk.

• ?? Two Way Pager – An email pager allows you to respond anyplace anytime which will likely exceed your customer’s expectations and position your dealership to sell the customer first.[/list:u:155c853t]
Leads – There are many sources of leads and your dealership likely has leads coming in from a variety of sources already. Keep in mind that you will receive “leads” by email and by phone depending on your listings. Both types are vital to your operation and it is important that your team be the recipient of the emails and the calls related to the Internet. Your lead management tool will be the best source for identifying your lead sources. A good rule of thumb is to generate 80-100 leads for each full-time Internet salesperson if they work the deals from lead inception to vehicle delivery and to generate 150-200 leads for full-time BDC/CRC or call center team member if they set appointments for the dealership sales team.

[list:155c853t]• ?? Dealership Website Leads –

• ?? Manufacturer Leads –,,, etc.

• ?? Third Party Leads –,,, etc.

• ?? Online Classified Leads –,,, etc.

• ?? Online Auctions –,, etc. [/list:u:155c853t]
3. Outline a Lead Handling Process

There are a lot of different patterns for managing leads and fortunately most of them work if you implement them consistently. I recommend drawing a simple process diagram on a sheet of paper that identifies the steps to take and who should take them to complete the action within your department when a new lead arrives.

Draw Your Lead Handling Process

A Simple Diagram will clarify for your team the lead handling process and what action each team member will take. Be specific and carry it out to the fullest detail possible .

4. Internet customers have easy access to information about their choice of vehicles and they typically know a great deal about their choices. As a result, they tend to judge the dealership person they communicate with on a more critical basis if they cannot effectively answer questions about their products. To meet Internet customer’s expectations it is important that you ensure that each person on your team is fully committed to learning about the products you represent. Some BDC/CRC or call center experts may take issue with this recommendation but after twenty years of in-dealership sales experience I have found it is better to know the product and be able to respond intelligently than to not know it and try to pretend or avoid product questions by using scripts.

[list:155c853t]New Inventory – Have your team become product certified by the manufacturer and brush up their skills with product presentations by the dealership sales team. I recommend test driving the products so you can learn about their unique features and benefits.

Used Inventory – Do a daily inventory walk, test drive new arrivals and ask the salesperson that traded for the vehicle to tell you about the history so you can bring the vehicle to life for the customer. [/list:u:155c853t]
5. Walk in Your Customer’s Shoes

In order to understand what your customer expects from your Internet department it is important that each Internet team member visit the sites where your customer submits leads. This will allow them to experience first hand what messages your customer receives while on the site and after they submit the leads. This will be an eye opening experience and will tell you a great deal of how customers are influenced by the lead submission path they take. You will also understand why customers are a little surprised when a dealership emails or calls them after they submit a lead.

There is plenty more to learn but taking these first 5 steps will give you a head start and allow you to generate sales this week!

[list:155c853t]- Lead Arrives
– Auto Response
– Personal Email
– Phone Call [/list:u:155c853t]___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

David Kain
CALL: 859-533-2626
Automotive Internet Training Specialists

Match Talents to Positions

If You Want to Change the Job Your People Do, Change the Job You Hire Them to Perform

It’s early October, and I’m just leaving the J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Internet Roundtable in Las Vegas, where a wealth of great information was presented. The best thing I learned from this conference was that the work environment within a dealership is changing faster than anyone realizes. Technology is changing the face of who now works in this environment, and the industry is unprepared for or unaware of the change at hand.

In the opening session, the folks from J.D. Power brought together several manufacturer representatives to discuss the results of a recently completed mystery-shopping study. This survey showed without a doubt why dealers are struggling: response times to customer inquiries that exceed 12 hours and next to no follow up of any kind. J.D. Power then brought out a panel of dealer representatives. For the next 30 minutes, this group of well-meaning, intelligent people discussed little of this problem – though for good reason. With all due respect to the smart people who participated, I don’t believe that anyone addressed the issues that needed to be addressed. Why? They can’t.

To be fair, the current landscape is changing very quickly – for dealers, manufacturers and even industry observers such as J.D. Power. Job descriptions within today’s dealerships, for example, did not exist as recently as five years ago and have failed to keep pace with the challenges confronting dealers on a daily basis. Even as we bring talented professionals into our stores to solve these issues, the sad truth is this: The skill set needed to tackle them isn’t in their job description and often extends beyond their job duties. In practical terms, consider your marketing director who understands SEO, website metrics and ROI calculations. Is this the person who has the ability or the time to fix your broken advertising and sales processes? What about process engineering-minded sales leaders who can manage staff and hold old-school car people accountable? Will they have the time – or the expertise – to do anything else?

What I’m suggesting is that you separate these distinctly different jobs and fill them with the distinctly different types of people they require. This point was proved in the J.D. Power panel discussion. One dealer representative proudly proclaimed that her staff is responding to all leads within 26 minutes: How could the manufacturer’s numbers possibly be true? (Unknown to another panelist of one of the larger dealership groups in the United States was the fact that, at the time, I’d been waiting three days for a call from one of his stores following a mystery-shop of my own). I don’t believe that one person on this panel isn’t doing his or her job. Rather, I contend that the issues J.D. Power presented as the problem lie outside their ability or job title to fix. You can know everything about Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 ecommerce marketing and still not know how to correctly fix process issues in a store.

Manufacturers and dealers need to be more committed to training and less willing to throw money at a problem. In this economy, you can’t back your way into profitability. You have to put your head down and focus on the basics. If you’re not sure what they are anymore, take this opportunity to relearn them. Your consumer is now placing boundaries between you and a sale that requires proactive methods to make contact. This business climate tests even the best managers; the ones who traditionally have operated on the basis of their feelings and their theories about what works must now get in tune with managing this new area of business that’s more about the numbers.

According to J.D. Power, car sales in the next year will fall more than they have in the past seven. The decisions about process control and dollars spent on marketing, as well as who makes these decisions, can’t wait until tomorrow. In case you think this is a sales pitch by a consultant to hock his services, let me be clear: Don’t hire one. Instead, hire somebody who can properly manage your marketing and someone for the sales process. Or, as I’m suggesting, hire two somebodies.

Hire someone who understands the data we need to manage in automotive retail and who knows how to work around the limitations of software tools currently available to us. This management-level position will involve spending advertising dollars that, in the past, may have been directed by the general manager.

You also need to hire a strong process manager, a role previously known as a sales manager. These individuals are not deal managers who stand around waiting for something to manage; they follow and enforce the process. They know how many emails and calls your customers receive, and they know the contact patterns your salespeople follow. They know that driving showroom traffic requires action – and that action is not developing an advertising concept or scripting a radio/TV spot. Their daily activities have changed the most of any position within a dealership, and there will be some sales managers who can’t adapt. As an owner or GM, you need to be ready to change the person if that person can’t change.

The good news is that, even in this market, dealers who work both hard and smart can thrive and flourish. Instead of worrying about who moved the cheese, focus instead on moving toward the cheese, and you can be among them.

Written by Bill Phillips

Overworked Internet Sales Managers

The role of managing the Internet has outgrown most Internet departments as dealerships find Web-based sales becoming more prevalent. Ten years ago when a dealer wished to sell cars online it was a simple model: Assign a salesperson to the job, buy a computer, buy some leads, make some appointments and sell some cars. This model persisted for the next several years and meant the marketing actions necessary to compete online in the local market were manageable within an Internet department.

When the first dealer and third-party web sites came along that allowed dealers to post “live inventory,” it changed the dynamic. Automotive shoppers soon realized they could shop outside their local market with greater ease. It was always difficult for auto shoppers to go outside their market to purchase when their best option was to “call around” and ask what a dealer had in stock.

Posting of inventory opened the market and put the consumer in the driver’s seat. No longer did the sales persons’ script “come on in and we’ll get on our locator and find it for you” apply. The Internet provided auto shoppers with their own locator, and the shopping and buying dynamics have not been the same since.

Internet departments have evolved and with online sales of new and used vehicles, parts and service increasing every year it has caused a lot of stress and strain on the conventional Internet department model.

Initially the role of the Internet manager was to sell cars, but more of their time today is spent solving IT issues, supervising, working with lead management and CRM tools, updating web sites, developing and managing online marketing actions, running reports and meeting with representatives of various Internet product and service providers.

To maintain a competitive position in the crowded Internet market, a dealer must participate in a variety of online marketing actions:

[list:3agbu0at]- Dealership web sites (both their own and manufacturer-sourced sites)
– Inventory management (pictures, descriptions and pricing)
– LiveChat
– eNegotiating
– eNewsletters
– Search engine optimization
– Search engine marketing
– Manufacturer-sourced leads
– Third- party sourced-New and-used leads
– Online classified
– Inventory management (pictures, descriptions and pricing)
– Online auctions
– Community bulletin boards. [/list:u:3agbu0at]
Not many dealers have the time or the experience to effectively study each of these marketing actions and understand how they can help them grow their business. As a result, they have to depend on Internet managers to keep them competitive by studying these products and services and offering recommendations on what the dealership truly needs in play to stay at the front of the pack. This puts a great deal of pressure on the Internet manager.

Distributing the Internet load is going to be a key challenge for dealers and general managers the next few years.

Some dealerships have solved this issue by dividing the responsibilities and creating the role of an Internet sales manager, who directs the online sales team, and an Internet marketing manager, who handles all of the marketing.

These are complimentary roles and require coordination by both managers to operate smoothly. Dealerships also have to develop the right compensation plan to allow both roles to be affordable.

Another method is to distribute the workload by shifting the Internet marketing responsibility to the GM and Internet sales to the Internet manager, which does not add to the headcount.

These growing pains are a part of any normal business operation and the better you plan for them today the more likely your dealership will keep pace with the sales and profit growth opportunities the Internet can provide.

Best to you as you develop your online sales environment.

David Kain. President is an automotive training and consulting firm that specializes in Internet marketing and sales training.