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Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars [Chapter 3]: Power to the [Sales] People

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| by David Metter, President of AutoHook powered by Urban Science

I’d like to begin with a subtle reminder of the harsh reality of how car shoppers in today’s technology-first world really feel about the car buying process. Below are a few highlights to help paint the picture…

  • 52% of car shoppers feel anxious or uncomfortable at dealerships and millennials are leading the pack in their dislike, with 56% saying they’d rather clean their homes than negotiate with a car dealer. (The Harris Poll Insights & Analytics)

  • “Stressed,” “overwhelmed,” “taken advantage” and “panic” were among the top 10 words used by female car shoppers when reviewing their in-dealership experience. (CDK Global)

  • Studies suggest that some Americans would rather get a root canal than take their car to a dealership. (Automotive News)

I could go on for days with stats like this, but we have more important things to discuss - such as how to change the current perception. The upside to all the negativity around car buying is that we have A LOT of room for improvement. And dealers aren’t necessarily to blame either. The problem is, what we’re told about consumer behavior in the digital age compared to what car buyers themselves actually do in the digital age are often two very different things.

We live in a constantly connected, convenience-based universe inundated with unsanctioned opinion and as a result, we’ve become conditioned to rely on technology to solve problems. We know the in-store experience is important, but we’re too fast to look to the latest technology to solve the problem rather than focusing on what we can actually control. Not just something dealers have the power to influence, but also something that may ultimately yield the highest ROI out of any available technology in the market…which is your salespeople. How did I come to that conclusion? Funny you should ask.

In the article, “What’s the REAL Cost of a Bad Salesperson?” I dissected the monetary difference between what good salespeople can contribute to your dealership over time versus what just one bad salesperson could cost you. A salesperson selling 15 cars a month yields about $270,000 a year in gross profit. Then when you factor in the lifecycle of the vehicle and any potential service revenue associated, you’re looking at a minimum value of $325,000 a year in pure gross profit for any one good salesperson. Read the blog if you don’t believe the numbers.

Now consider the reverse. One salesperson that loses 15 sales a month to one of your competitors is costing your dealership $325,000 a year in gross profit. Multiply that by just four people and you’re looking at $1.3 million in lost gross profit a year. But here’s the kicker. Without the right data processed through the right technology, you would have no way of knowing how many customers your salespeople interacted with that left and bought a car from someone else. Perhaps due to a negative experience?

A recent study from Cox Automotive suggests that initial experience may be more important today than ever before. The rate of car buyers returning to dealerships where they have previously purchased or leased from is increasing. 40% of new vehicle buyers in 2018 are repeat dealer customers compared to 31% in 2016. This is great news, but it puts even more pressure on getting it right for that first-time buying experience and, in most cases, your sales team is directly responsible for it. Customer loyalty and the chance of them coming back to buy a second or third car depends on the experience your dealership provides them with upon arrival. So your people better be armed and ready.

Jeremy Beaver, COO of Del Grande Dealer Group, told Automotive News, “Retention is the Holy Grail, and the experience is what drives retention. You have to shift away from a ‘visit’ mentality and think about a ‘lifetime value’ mentality.” I could not possibly have said it better myself. This is an example of a dealer that just GETS IT – both on the sales side and on the service side. Their Fixed Operations Director, Trully Williams said, “The technology enhances the experience, but you start with the fundamentals of people and process. You get those right and then add the technology.”

There is a seriously infinite amount of opportunity for improving your dealership’s operational process, and it starts with your people. Dealers don’t have time to guess who their good and bad salespeople are – that’s where the technology comes in. You can’t retain good salespeople if you don’t have the technology to know who they are. The right technology can tell you who is letting the most opportunities walk out the door. It can tell you which leads your people are struggling with and the exact time frame during the month they struggle with the most. There’s a lot technology can do to help your people and to enhance the car buying experience, but it can’t drive the car buying experience entirely. At least not before flying cars become a thing.

So before your brain explodes from all the numbers and reporting being thrown at you during any given moment, or from all the external pressure you’re getting to improve 50 different KPIs at the same time, remember that your people are what gives meaning to the metrics. Retention, should be your absolute number one focus and priority in the digital age – and that applies to both your salespeople AND your customers. Running a successful dealership ultimately translates to retaining good salespeople, but you need the help of good technology to be able to do that. Ironic, I know.

 

Stay tuned for the upcoming fourth and final chapter of Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars: The Executive Edition. Dealer Managers will learn real-life examples of how to apply new technologies to directly support the success of your salespeople instead of relying on technology to do the selling for them. The more you can do to help your employees be successful at your dealership, the more likely you are to retain them, which ultimately leads to everyone’s mutual benefit – not to mention the benefit of your bottom line.

Lies The Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars [Chapter 2]: Are We Using Technology as a Crutch?

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| by David Metter, President of AutoHook powered by Urban Science

There is this perpetual echo of the word “disruption” in the car industry. What will be the next big disruption? What do we need to prepare for that will change everything we know about selling cars? The reality is disruption is largely incumbent upon technological advancements and the rate of societal adoption to these new, uncharted territories dominated by things like artificial intelligence and machine learning. These future “disruptors,” such as the rise of alternative online retail formats, subscription services or the transition from gas-powered vehicles to autonomous, connected cars are impossible for any one dealer or OEM to predict, let alone control.

Therefore, I’d like to propose a new approach. What if instead of the next big disruption we focused a little more on what we can control – the constants – the parts of the equation that aren’t powered by data or machines. What I mean by the constants is the people, or more specifically, the relationships that form when a customer goes to look at a car and has a positive interaction with a salesperson while doing so. The value of relationships when it comes to selling cars has been vastly undermined by the shiny new innovations of the digital age.

I think we’ve become so infatuated by the latest technology and the newest cutting-edge solutions to selling cars that we forgot about the fact that technology becomes useless without the people behind it who make it work. Relationships in the digital age still take precedence over technology and despite the advancements we have yet to see, technology in all its glory can’t replace social skills. All this talk about connectivity and connected devices yet I think we’re failing to connect the dots when it comes to knowing what will ultimately yield the highest ROI for dealerships, both in today’s world and in the future – knowing who your best salespeople are and how to keep them.

We as an industry need to stop using technology as a crutch. We’ve become so focused on the next big disruption in digital marketing that we’ve started to rely on the help of digital tools entirely, forgetting that cars are still bought and sold by actual people at actual dealerships. Deloitte’s 2018 Global Automotive Consumer Study reported car shoppers still rate physical interactions with a vehicle as critical to their buying decision – with over 8 out of 10 needing to see the vehicle in person before making a purchase decision. So, if this is the case, why are we spending the majority of our time and money on the minority of the buying public?

It’s all about striking a perfect balance between technology, the right data and the right people. It takes all three to get the job done. Technology is a powerful tool that can be leveraged to enhance or continue existing relationships, but it can’t create them in the first place. When it comes to the right data, we are extremely fortunate because our solutions are powered by the Urban Science® DataHub™, which allows us to be the first to know when a customer buys a car, what car they bought, where they bought and if they didn’t buy from you. And we get that sales data and the equally important defection data within days – not months.

In the same way that technology lacks value without good people, the right data can uncover things about your salespeople you otherwise never would have known. For example, you consistently see all these closed sales opportunities by let’s say, “John,” so naturally you think John is one of your best salespeople. But how many opportunities is John losing every month to one of your competitors? You’d never know without the right data. So it all goes hand-in-hand. The person selling the most cars may be losing more opportunities than he or she is closing, so your “best” salesperson can quickly become your worst salesperson when you can compare what they’re winning to what they’re losing at the same time.

Having that ability to layer sales and defection data on top of your CRM data is critical if you want to operate more efficiently. Without it would be like making decisions for your dealership based on a cost-benefit analysis but forgetting to include the cost part of the equation. It’s the only way to add enough dimension to your CRM data to make it truly actionable – instead of looking like Flat Stanley.

Having the right data combined with great technology can help your operations in a multitude of ways. It can suppress the leads in your CRM that have already purchased so your people can stop wasting time following up with them. It can pinpoint the ideal time and channel to re-engage your lapsed or dormant leads. Technology can help dealerships interrupt a customer while they’re shopping online and grab their attention just long enough to influence their decision-making process. It can also help ensure a customer chooses to visit your showroom instead of your competitors with things like test drive incentives.

The reality is technology will never be able to stop a customer from walking out of your dealership after a negative experience with one of your salespeople. Furthermore, when it comes to closing lead opportunities, your salespeople may already be at a disadvantage. A recent Automotive News dealer training webinar reported that as many as 98% of qualified leads fail to result in closed business. So instead of pouring all your focus into staying ahead of the next big disruption promising more and better leads, maybe we need to shift our focus back to the one thing capable of converting those leads into sales once they hit your showroom – your people.

Great employees are what gives meaning to the capabilities that stem from great technology. Your salespeople are the foundation needed to ensure data-powered solutions work in favor of your dealership. In a word, the future state of our industry’s digital landscape is unpredictable. But there are two things we do know. Change is constant and retaining great salespeople is still paramount. There’s not a lot we can do to control the rate of change, but fortunately for dealers, there’s a lot we can do to help our salespeople and to make sure we're holding on to the good ones.

 

Stay tuned for Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars, Chapter 3: Power to the [Sales] People to learn more about the importance of retaining your best salespeople and how to provide a better in-store experience.

THE AUTOMOTIVE PARADIGM SHIFT: Is it Time for Science to Take the Wheel?

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by David Metter

In baseball, one slight alteration in the way a hitter approaches the ball can be the difference between strike one and a home run. If a batter’s swing is off by only a few millimeters, or even just a fraction of a millimeter, this makes all the difference in how powerfully they hit the ball, foul it off, or if they strike out entirely.

I believe it's time to take a step back and rethink, rewire, reverse, and reevaluate the way we sell cars today. In order to solve the problems dealerships face when it comes to their operations and overall sales performance, we have to change how we approach the ball. Once again, it's time to disrupt the game and attack from a new angle.

Vendors, dealers, agencies, digital advertisers, partners, and OEMs all have the same end goal - to sell more cars and gain more customers. The dealerships and the experiences customers have at those dealerships determine whether or not people buy cars - so dealer support is what it's all about.

The car business is in desperate need of a complete paradigm shift. Revolution starts with forgetting everything you think you know and making decisions based on facts and a scientific approach.

Thomas Kuhn is an American physicist and philosopher regarded by Stanford as one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, if not the single most influential. The University of California, Berkeley, credits Kuhn for the defining paradigm shifts and the idea of scientific revolution as one in the same.

“Kuhn famously distinguished between normal science, where scientists solve puzzles within a particular framework or paradigm, and revolutionary science, when the paradigm gets overturned.”

During times of scientific revolution, anomalies disproving old theories are broken down, and new ones form to take their place in what’s known as a “paradigm shift.” So how does this relate to selling cars? Science’s definition of a paradigm shift is really just a fancy way of saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know…until you know.” Or in other words, you’ll never be able to know what you’re winning until you know what you’re losing. 

The fact is, science is the only paradigm to live by in the information age. Undoing everything we think we know is not an easy task, especially for an industry overpopulated with often unjustified ego. There is this mindset that dealers only need to measure themselves against themselves. But when you think about it, that’s a myopic way of looking at your business.

So if you sell 200 cars this month and you only sold 170 last month, that means you're improving, right? Not necessarily. To be able to see what’s really happening in your market, we need to look at the entire landscape of the opportunities you’re working. Selling 200 cars is great, but 240 is better – and having the ability to see all these existing opportunities without spending an additional dollar on your marketing, that’s revolutionary.

Another common misconception is that if you don’t sell a car within the first week or two of the lead hitting your CRM, that customer is not going buy. Seems logical, right? Wrong – and here’s a perfect example…

One of our dealerships was seeing a jump in sales between day 8 and day 14 post-lead in their CRM. They did a great job picking it back up and getting more sales during this time frame. However, in actuality during this same time, more than TWICE as many customers purchased from one of their competitors. The data shows that during days 8-14 when this dealership thought they were killing it with 60 sales, there were 150 customers, marked opportunities in their CRM, that they touched, that went on to buy a car somewhere else. That’s a problem.

When we approach this same data set from a scientific perspective, we see something entirely different that our industry has never thought to focus on before – the loss. If we can see all the opportunities you let slide through the cracks, along with the people or sources tied to those defections, we can then see a new side of an often-skewed story. We can’t just look at the wins, as there is a lot we can learn from knowing the number of customers our dealership encountered that left to purchase somewhere else.

Because the dealership in the example mentioned above had never been able to compare closed sales versus defections in this capacity, they really had no idea what was going on both in their own store and in their market overall. During a time frame where they thought they were winning, they lost 100 sales to same make competitors and another 50 to competing brands in their market.

So we start to see these ailments, or weakness that start bubbling up to the surface. It’s also so important to keep in mind that each and every dealership is unique – and that’s fact, not opinion. If you attack the way you sell cars with a science-based approach, you start to see sales and defection data differently than you’ve ever seen it before and the facts become crystal clear.

Never underestimate the power of knowing what you’re losing. Think about it this way; it’s a lot like choosing to watch a movie in black and white when you have the option to watch it in 3D HD, multidimensional color. Which would you choose when it comes to the way you view your CRM data?

 

CURB THE CHURN: How to Identify & Retain Your Best Salespeople

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by David Metter, Co-Founder and President, AutoHook powered by Urban Science

Dealership employee turnover rates are notorious for being amongst the highest out of all retail sectors. Unfortunately, dealers have been forced to absorb the spiraling costs associated with a lack in salesperson retention, which only appears to be getting worse. NADA’s latest Workforce Study reported salesperson turnover rates are at a record high of 74% - up 7% from last year.

What we don’t often talk about is the broader implications high employee turnover can have both on dealers and on the industry as a whole. Consequences of losing good salespeople can transcend beyond an individual dealership level, as any significant reduction in customer retention or customer loyalty has the potential to damage the reputation of an entire brand.

Dealers aren’t shy about communicating the adverse effects high churn has on their business, both in their operational processes and when it comes down to their bottom line. Wards Auto says, “The impact is significant, causing decreased sales and profits, and diminished customer loyalty,” which we know can be detrimental to the health of any business.

MAXDigital recently surveyed nearly 400 dealers in the U.S. and found 78% struggle with issues related to high staff turnover. The root of the problem is two-fold in that good salespeople aren’t just hard to keep, they’re hard to find in the first place. Ninety percent of dealers surveyed said “Hiring good salespeople is hard,” and finding candidates with previous sales experience let alone automotive sales experience is even harder.

 *Source: 2018 MAXDigital Dealership Process and Salesperson Turnover Survey    
  
  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
 

*Source: 2018 MAXDigital Dealership Process and Salesperson Turnover Survey

Over time, chronic retention problems add up and can cost dealers hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars a year. A study by Driving Sales and Hireology determined the average cost of recruiting, training, and lost productivity for each salesperson is $45,000 (and that was back in 2016). In my last blog, we defined the value of a good salesperson over the course of one year to be more than $325,000 in pure gross profit. Add that to the cost of recruiting and training and dealers are losing out on over $365,000 per salesperson, per year.

The need for dealers to be able to identify their best salespeople in order to retain them is more critical now than ever before.

Why? Because people still heavily rely on face-to-face, personal interaction - especially when it comes to making big purchase decisions. The larger the purchase, the more inclined customers are to buy from someone they trust. Despite the abundance of online vehicle research tools at their disposal at any given micro-moment, relationships will always take precedence. And people naturally gravitate towards both consistency and what is familiar to them. They’re also much more likely to buy a second and a third car from the same person they already know and trust.

So how do we solve this industry-wide employee retention problem? There are three components that we know make up the formula for properly assessing your salespeople in order to help curb the churn:

1.     Know What You’re Losing

When it comes to evaluating the true performance of your salespeople, having the ability to view CRM data through a scientific lens is essential. CRM companies do what they do very well, but they only show one dimension of a highly multidimensional story – the wins. But what about the leads your salespeople touched that defected? Without that defection data, it becomes near impossible to properly identify the best performers on your team based on the opportunities they’re working.

In order to see who the real winners and losers are representing your dealership, you need a way to visually compare the number of leads each person sold each month in addition to the ones they lost and who they lost them to. Only then can you see who is really the most effective or ineffective because you have the complete story. You can make much better decisions on who or what needs to change based on a real visual of what you’re losing.

2.     Leverage the Right Technology – Rooted in Science

What we’ve never seen before at the dealership level, is science taking a leading role in how we evaluate our sales staff. If science-based technologies can tell you the people that consistently prove to be growing in a positive direction, or reducing their defection rates over time, then science can play a role in helping dealers implement compensation plans that serve and reward only their best people.

Keep in mind, it’s important to give newer technologies or data-driven solutions time to build, learn and improve. The more sales and defection data we can collect over time, the more accurate and actionable the tools that leverage this data will be at identifying your best (and worst) employees.

3.     Play to Your Strengths

I’ve been in this business for 27 years. If there is one thing I know without a shadow of a doubt, it’s that the chances of a salesperson closing a sale are greatest when the customer is physically in front of them. So, in addition to leveraging the right technology to evaluate your staff, leverage technology that will support what we know to be the greatest strength of any person that knows how to sell a car… get the customer in the showroom.

If the goal is to improve your lead follow-up process and eliminate inefficiencies in the way you operate (which by the way is always the goal) then it’s absolutely vital to have the tools in place that can pinpoint both the strengths and the weaknesses of your team. When it comes to retention, dealers are much more likely to foster an environment of happy employees if they play into their peoples’ strengths instead of wasting money, time and energy attempting to fix what they’ll never be good at. As stated in the national bestseller, StrengthsFinder 2.0, “People have several times more potential for growth when they invest energy in developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies.”  

The takeaway here is to place a heavier focus on solutions that are proven to get people physically in the door, where you have a much higher chance of getting them behind the wheel for a test drive, building a personal relationship, selling them a car, and retaining their business. Test drive incentives are one tactic we know works. Pair that with a bulletproof lead follow-up process and what you’re left with is a prescription for lowering defections tied to your salespeople, higher close rates, and better-rewarded, happier employees.

In summary, everyone wants to retain salespeople and everyone wants to retain the right salespeople for their respective business. So many dealership compensation plans are set up to benefit the underperformers – which is completely counterintuitive to reducing turnover. Until now, it’s been impossible for dealers to adequately compensate their all-stars and overperformers because they’ve had no way to identify them. Moving forward, dealers can take this information and adjust their compensation plans to retain the right salespeople and make the necessary changes to get rid of the rest. After all, it would only make sense to reward the people that are rewarding you.

 

Bice Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Transforms Operational Efficiency with Traffic Conversion Analysis (TCA)

FCA DEALER CASE STUDY

Bice Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram (Bice CDJR) had no way to accurately assess the performance of both their lead sources and their individual salespeople. In order to refine their sales and follow-up processes, they needed a solution that could measure their true success by looking at how many vehicles they sold, as well as the sales they lost to competing dealers.

Click below to see how AutoHook helped this dealer increase their closed sales by 89% in just 90 days using a consultative approach combined with science-based technology. Check out the complete set of results!

What Dealers Don’t Know About Their “Best” Salespeople

by David Metter

As it turns out, what you don’t know about your salespeople can hurt you. I am not sure why, but we don’t often associate analytical tools as the best way to measure the performance of the people we hire to connect with our customers and build lasting relationships. I’m a common sense guy, so if my staff is hitting their numbers and selling cars, there’s really no reason for concern or to take a deeper dive into the opportunities they’re working…right? Not necessarily.

What I’ve come to accept over the last few years is that when good data is presented in a way we can easily understand, it has a tendency to challenge everything we “think” we know about selling cars. Too many of us think that we are the “Presidents of the I Think Club.” I learned that from one of the truly smart guys in the car business, Gary Marcotte, over 10 years ago and I've never forgotten it. 

Dealers have always been able to see their close rates, or how many opportunities each salesperson successfully converted into a vehicle sold. But there is an entire other half (or I could argue 2/3) of the story they haven’t been getting – and that’s how many opportunities they didn’t close and purchased a car from someone else – or in other words, their defection rate. When you layer in data that shows defection rates to competing dealers or brands in your market, it gives life to a story we’ve not only never been able to see before, but one we never even thought to look at before.

I sold cars for seven years, spent years as a sales manager, then the General Manager of a dealership and I eventually became the CMO of large dealer group with 1,100 salespeople to account for. It would have been impossible to analyze every opportunity every person in our organization touched – so the first time I saw this data in action I was blown away.

Take a look at the graph below. The blue line shows how many cars each individual sold during this 3-month time frame. The gray lines show you the number of opportunities that salesperson touched that went on to buy from someone else – whether it was a same make competitor in your market (light gray) or from a competing brand (dark gray).

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In this example, this dealership thought that John was one of their best salespeople. But when you look at your CRM data with a 3-dimensional lens and layer that lost sale (defection) data on top of it, you start to see the true story behind your “all-star” players. You see how many opportunities John touched that went on to purchase from your competitor down the street or from a different brand entirely.

In reality, Jordan is this dealer’s best salesperson. Based on the opportunities he was working, he sold substantially more than he lost. In fact, out of everyone, he lost the least amount of opportunities. So success doesn’t always translate to selling more cars than you did last month. It can also mean losing fewer opportunities to competitors.

Here’s another example. The screen shot below shows the actual effectiveness of a salesperson as they compare to the dealership overall. So in this case, Jim may only be selling 8 cars a month, but because he’s not getting all the opportunities, his effectiveness is 149% - meaning he’s outperforming based on the leads he’s getting. Bill on the other hand might be getting way too many opportunities and he might look like one of your best sales people, but he’s really only about 47% effective towards closing everything he touches.

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Your best salespeople are the ones who consistently deliver HIGH close rates and LOW defection rates. But you need that defection data to see who your real winners and losers are. Think about it like this, a pitcher that has a lot of saves, but has equally if not more blown saves, doesn’t really help the team. Or if a starting pitcher has 10 wins but has 14 losses, is he really a great pitcher? If you only looked at saves or wins, you might think so but when you can see everything at once, the story changes. This is the same sort of comparison.

Keep in mind that if a salesperson has a high defection rate, it may not always be their fault. Maybe they’re being assigned far too many leads than any one person is capable of handling. Or the types of leads they’re working come from providers with low overall close rates. There are all these other factors involved. But those are topics for a different day.

If dealers look at their business through this new lens, they will start seeing trends of opportunity and loss that they can’t see by just looking at their own data and what happens within the four walls of their dealership. In order to determine true success or failure you also need to look at the sales effectiveness outside of your dealership.

Do You Have the Power to Know What You’re Losing?

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by David Metter

The number of automotive reports dealership managers receive in a typical month drastically differs from the number of reports that empower them to take immediate action based on sales data only hours old. It’s as if dealers in today’s world have to excavate through mountains of analytical ruins in hopes of uncovering a single data-driven insight that may or may not impact their sales goals. Not to mention the hurricanes and natural disasters that have further obstructed an industry in its ninth month of national decline.

Auto marketing leader, Brian Pasch recently compiled a list of all the individual reports General Managers running a franchise dealership could typically get each month. “For auto dealers, the count is over 20 reports! All separate. All with different metrics. Lots of data, not many actionable insights,” says Pasch.

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The overarching problem with most reports is that they only show one perspective of a much more dimensional, much more compelling story. A lot of vendors and their unique reporting methods tend to be biased in how they present results. In other words, they focus on what they’re helping your dealership win - whether it’s more clicks, more website traffic, or more leads.

But what about all the other pieces needed to complete the story? What about all the sales opportunities you didn’t win? What about the customers in your CRM your salespeople didn’t close? What about the active leads in your system you’re wasting time, money and effort chasing when in reality, they’ve already purchased from somewhere else? Wouldn’t having that knowledge save a lot of wasted energy and marketing dollars? Wouldn’t it be helpful to know as of yesterday how many sales you lost, which competitors you lost them to, and the reason why you lost them?

Furthermore, dealers need systematic visibility into the true outcomes of in-store customer interactions. We can’t solely rely on CRM data as it can be subject to human error. So the question is, does a report exist that accurately depicts the end result of every living, breathing, human-to-human exchange that physically takes place in your showroom? Did those personal interactions result in a vehicle sold or was the opportunity lost?

AdWeek published the following statement addressing this same issue:

“Over the past 20 years, analytics for digital ad measurement have focused on digital results (including web traffic, ecommerce conversion and data collection). But even though we live in an Amazon world, 92% of commerce still happens in physical brick-and-mortar locations, so measuring digital impact is nowhere near sufficient.”

For every digital action, there should be an equal and opposite reaction. What I mean by that is that all aspects of your digital marketing should strictly be evaluated based on their effectiveness or ineffectiveness of increasing vehicle sales that occur in the showroom. What we need now more than ever is a way to accurately discern if the money we’re spending on our digital marketing AND our in-store processes results in a closed sale or an opportunity down the drain. Those are the numbers dealers need to zero-in on to know the absolute best way to spend their marketing budget moving forward.

But wait! The good news is that a report currently exists that is capable of all of these things and more. This particular report defines attribution in a way this industry has never seen before. I will openly admit, there are few aspects of this tool that others out there have the potential to imitate. However, their numbers are based on 90-day old data, not near real-time sales match data. They also don’t provide a 360-degree view of your lost sales tied to a specific salesperson, lead or traffic source, model, or top competing dealer or brand in your market (all in one single report). How do you put a price on THAT?

10 Ways to Boost Service Campaigns with AutoHook

Here are 10 different ways to use AutoHook incentive offers to boost your service campaigns. A July 2016 client survey revealed some interesting insights from AutoHook’s dealer and OEM subscribers. The study’s strongest finding confirmed: What AutoHook customers want, AutoHook customers get.

Join The Dark Side of Mobile

by David Metter

More than fifty percent of car shoppers are viewing dealership websites with their mobile devices, so having a mobile marketing strategy to connect with them is not only recommended, but critical for future survival. The benefits of "going mobile" are many and well documented, including the ability to make relevant offers to a specific target market, and the ability to identify and communicate with customers that are geo-physically close to your location.

Yet there is a dark side to mobile technology that auto dealers can't ignore. When customers are in your showroom and using their mobile devices, chances are they aren't checking email. Chances are, they're checking prices and offers at other dealerships. In fact, 62 percent of customers who use smartphones on your lot will visit another dealership within 24 hours.

This phenomenon -- called "showrooming" -- is on the rise, helped out by apps that allow car shoppers to scan a barcode or VIN and instantly see:

·      How much other car shoppers in the same area paid for the same make and model

·      How much your competition is charging for the same vehicle

When I talk about showrooming to dealers, I am reminded of a similar time back in the early days of the Internet. During that time, some dealers immediately realized the Internet was the future of car-shopping and raced to be early adopters, posting online ads and posting photos of inventory on their websites. Other dealers staunchly opposed the idea of all that transparency; their attitude was "in order to view my inventory, the customer has to come to my store."

In retrospect, this attitude seems pretty silly, but it was very real at the time. Today I often get a similar reaction from dealers when I tell them the best way to deal with showrooming is not to fight it, but to embrace it. Best Buy is one big-box retailer that initially tried to fight showrooming by blocking cell phone and wifi signals in its stores. The attempt failed dismally and eventually, Best Buy embraced showrooming by offering to price-match its competition and boosting its ecommerce presence. This strategy has worked.

Auto dealers can also make showrooming work for them instead of against them.  

If they jump in now, they'll be similar to those trend-setters in the early days of the Internet who were well prepared as more consumers went down that path.

Here are a few steps that dealers can take to help them conquer the dark side of showrooming:

Ensure Your Entire Online Shopping Experience is Responsive.

Most dealers trust their website vendors to make their dealership website responsive. But sometimes extensions and other third-party add-ons can render in a way that disrupts the flow or function of a mobile page. The only way to know for sure what a customer's experience will be is to use your own mobile device to do everything a customer does, including: inventory search, getting a trade-in price, calculating payments, filling out a lead form and using online chat.

Ideally this process will be done on more than one mobile device. In fact, it may be a good idea to hold a sales meeting and lead the entire sales team through this process on their mobile devices. At the end of the meeting, all glitches should be identified and as a bonus, the salespeople will have a greater understanding of how half their customers are interacting with the dealership.

Check Out the Competition.

Now use your mobile devices to check out the car-shopping experience on your main competitors' websites. Note both their shortcomings and their strong points, and compare it to your own mobile car-shopping experience. Is there anything you think works that you'd like to add to your website? The goal is to offer the best mobile online shopping experience in town.

I would have an app for existing customers - and I would use it as a service application and for customer retention. I fly Delta and I use their app all the time - I use Spotify. A car-buying app - I am not going to use that every single day. Am I going to use it as a conquest car-buying application - I love apps for the right reasons. I have a strong opinion on executing on mobile apps.

Communicate With Mobile Customers.

Car shoppers using mobile devices rarely fill out lead forms, but they will chat and they will text. So learn to communicate with them using their preferred methods. Using a reliable vendor for these services is highly preferred over letting your salespeople send personal, informal texts. In general, if you want to own your messaging, keep it consistent and stay in compliance, a vendor is a better choice.

Draw Customers to Your Showroom.

Once you are in communication with your mobile customers, give them a reason to visit your dealership. Remember, these car shoppers are performing low-funnel activities like viewing inventory and researching pricing, so your messaging should be low-funnel too.

Avoid high-level messaging stating how great your dealership is or why you should shop there. Low-funnel messaging gives car shoppers a specific reason to visit your dealership today, and provides the answers and information those shoppers are looking for, such as:

1.    Maps. Display your address and a map, and clickable directions from your customers' current location.

2.    Offers. Give away a free visor or a gift-card just for coming in to take a test drive. 

3.    Incentives. Display special lease prices, cash-back bonuses and other offers. Offers can be customized to an individual's browsing history.

4.    Pricing. Car shoppers want to know pricing and one way or another, they'll find it eventually. Why not be the dealership that gives it to them?

A very wise Jedi-trainer once said, "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to suffering."

Showrooming may be the dark side of mobile but if Yoda's words are right, auto dealers who fear it may suffer from its ill effects; while those who embrace showrooming will learn to master it, and prosper.

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About the Author:

David brings a wealth of automotive knowledge and experience to AutoHook powered by Urban Science, both from a dealer and service provider perspective.  As President of AutoHook, David leads strategy, product, sales, and marketing for the industry leading provider.  As the co-architect of the product suite, he works with OEMs, agencies, vendor partners, and dealers to increase lead conversion, showroom visits, sales attribution, and brand Loyalty & Conquest rate.       

Prior to starting AutoHook, David served more than six years as Chief Marketing Officer for MileOne Automotive, a large, privately held automotive dealership group. At MileOne, he built an industry-leading marketing organization, leveraging technology and the internet to increase market share, while dramatically decreasing advertising spend per vehicle sold.  David previously headed sales for Autobase for nearly 5 years, where he helped grow the company from a small start-up to the leading automotive CRM software vendor.  He began his career on showroom floor.  As an early adopter of technology, he built a prospecting and follow-up system that helped him rise to become one of the top Chrysler salesmen in the country and moved his way up, eventually to General Manager of a dealership. 

David is regarded as one of the foremost experts in the automotive marketing and e-commerce space and is a frequent speaker at industry events including Digital Dealer, the Global Automotive Conference, NADA, 20 Groups, and JD Powers Automotive Internet Roundtable. 

8 Things Dealers Can Do To Increase Their Show Rates

When handling Internet leads, the lack of response by customers, the appointments that don’t show and the unrealistic expectations often frustrate internet managers and dealers. Show and closing rates in the low to mid-teens is not uncommon, compared to the total number of leads received.

I thought I would share some best practices from my observations working both in and with dealerships, that can be used to increase the number of customers contacted that actually visit the dealership.

1.    Respond promptly – One of the most common setups in Internet departments is to have Internet sales managers (ISM) also serve in sales positions. A typical pay plan will see an ISM compensated by sales commissions, so that is where there focus will be. Therefore, when a customer comes in for an appointment Internet leads get ignored until the ISM is done with their customer. Which, in the event of a sale, could mean that the leads coming into the CRM are ignored for hours. A quick lead response exponentially increases the chance of contacting and further interesting the customer.

2.    Provide Information – ISMs typically use templates to contact customers once a lead is received, which usually contain information about the dealership and its value proposition, along with an invitation to visit. However, far too often the first e-mail fails to contain the one thing that the customer is expecting – vehicle pricing. It’s important to consider the source of the lead when responding. In most cases, the conversion occurred because the customer was prompted to fill out a form to get the price. If you fail to give the price, customers can perceive your dealership as unhelpful and move on to your competition.

3.    Be agreeable – We all know that some customers tend to have unrealistic expectations when requesting pricing or payment information. It’s not uncommon to find ISMs engaging the customers with reasons NOT to buy. For example, a lead comes in with a customer wanting an unrealistic payment or price. Rather than inviting the customer in to work numbers, the ISM will explain that the requested price or payment isn’t possible. Always remember that sales are a numbers game. With the proper deal structure, a payment can be as low as any customer wants it.

4.    Be consultative – Many times the vehicle that the customer requested pricing for isn’t the one they end up purchasing. Always remember that customers are looking for information and assistance. Failing to provide information puts the salesperson in an adversarial position to the customer. It’s much easier to build rapport and get the customer into the dealership if the customer feels that you are sincerely trying to assist them in finding the right vehicle.

5.    Sell the appointment – When dealing with Internet leads, ISMs will all too often try to sell the car via email or the phone. The key to increasing show rates is to remember that the goal is to get the appointment, NOT to sell the car. Using sales skills and techniques focused on selling the appointment rather than working a deal can help increase appointments set and your show rate.

6.    Go above and beyond – When a customer requests information, always give them more than they asked for. If you are offering vehicle pricing, try including an example payment. If the customer requested information about a new vehicle, include several trim levels in your response. If they are interested in a used vehicle, you may try including some alternate vehicles in your response as well. By providing more information than requested, the customer will understand that you are truly trying to assist them and therefore more likely to choose to do business with you.

7.    Make them feel special/personalize – There’s a reason why many dealers are adopting video in their email responses. If a customer wants information about the condition of a used vehicle, it’s very simple to record a personal walkaround for the customer while mentioning their name. Personalized video responses are valuable for building rapport and help put a face with a name. It’s also much easier than taking 10 pictures of a vehicle and trying to email them to the customer.

8.    Consistent follow up – It’s very easy to understand why ISMs get frustrated trying to contact customers who submitted leads, but are then unresponsive. After days or weeks of emails and phone calls, many salespeople tend to give up on the customer and move on. Keep in mind that chances are the customer is being contacted by other dealers as well. And, those dealers have ISMs who are getting just as frustrated. By not giving up on the customer and continuing to follow up, you could well be the only dealership left doing so. This exponentially increases the chance that the customer responds and ultimately ends up in your showroom.

Regardless of whether your Internet department consists of commission based ISMs, or if it has a full-blown BDC, the right processes, personalized responses and attention paid to detail, rather than simply shooting off boring sterile templates, will show your customers that you are there to help. Consider adopting these techniques into your Internet lead process. I hope that you are able to contact more customers, make more appointments and see more of them show, resulting in more sales.