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vehicle sales

THE FOUR-PART SERIES: Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars

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

As part of Urban Science, it’s in our blood to question everything. Not only do we look outside the box to solve complex problems, but we then question each element that makes up the box, down to each individual line, 90-degree angle and the composition of positive and negative space that define the constraints of the box. Better yet, approaching a problem from a true scientific perspective means questioning why the box even exists in the first place. While the process can be painstaking, making observations through the unbiased lens of science can also lead to accidental discoveries.

Granted, for someone who started in the business as a car salesman and later managed dealerships, using scientific methods to make decisions in the showroom isn’t the first and most natural inclination for many of us. And when I say science, I mean actual science – not the junk out there that claims to be science (remember when everyone threw around the term “big data”), but the kind of science that has no skeptics, that sees trends within a data set that not only others don’t, but that no one’s even thought to look for before.

When we hear a number or statistic over and over again, especially one published by a known source, we believe it to be true because…why wouldn’t we? We all know not everything we read on the internet is true, but this example is perhaps the ideal case in point of one widely accepted “truth” the automotive industry has come to accept without any empirical evidence whatsoever.

Automotive leaders in search, analytics, digital advertising and consumer behavior have all published findings stating the number of dealerships customers visit before purchasing a vehicle is somewhere between 1.3 and 1.6 dealerships. This number has been kicked around at conferences for years. So naturally, we decided to challenge the claim that customers visit less than two dealerships before buying a car.

In May of 2018, AutoHook and Urban Science decided to conduct our own survey. We asked real consumers we know bought a car within the last year how many dealerships they visited prior to their purchase. Out of 2,748 responses, what we found is people are visiting more dealerships than we thought. According to the survey results, people on average visit at least 2.4 dealerships before buying a car.

Furthermore, 70% of customers surveyed visited two or more dealerships before purchasing. Almost half, 46% to be exact, said they visited three or more dealerships before purchasing, and 26% said they visited four or more dealerships. The unfortunate reality is that we’ve all been thoroughly brainwashed with the misconception that people only go to about one dealership before buying a car which we now know is not the case.

Regardless of whether customers visit two dealerships or five dealerships, the takeaway here is that everything we’ve been told about consumer buying behavior in the digital age is skewed. The truth is that today’s car shoppers go to at least 2 dealers before purchasing. What’s so significant about this finding is that it proves people have a choice and decisions are being made both on AND offline. The blindly accepted notion that the majority of car shoppers have already made up their mind on what to buy and where to buy before ever stepping foot in a dealership is completely false. In fact, in another study completed by AutoHook and Urban Science, 78% of over 66,000 respondents said they were still shopping multiple brands before visiting their first dealership.

The underlying message we’ve all come to believe is that customers are making buying decisions based largely if not solely on what they read online…which by the way conveniently plays to the ultimate gain of the big publishers, search and media companies. Maybe they are doing this so dealers and OEMs will continue to spend more and more money with said companies on their digital advertising, but we don’t have the science to back that up just yet.

Anyways, down here in the real world, cars are still bought and sold in physical showrooms and the process is still dependent upon a positive exchange between two living, breathing people. The only difference between today and 50 years ago is that customers walk in armed with information and salespeople need to provide a less painful buying experience. Other OEM-specific customer surveys AutoHook conducts on an ongoing basis show that when asked why they didn’t buy a car from a particular brand, the overwhelming majority of respondents selected “bad dealership experience” as their #1 reason for not purchasing.

So, if you think people are going to fewer dealers than they were ten years ago, it may be because the experience they expect to have when they’re at a dealership is a negative one. Not always – I know plenty of dealers who recognize the importance of their people and the in-store experience they provide, and I also know these dealers sell much more effectively as a result. This alone makes the argument that dealers need to focus more attention on hiring and retaining better salespeople who understand the value of relationships if they’re interested in repeat, loyal customers.

Another common misconception is that millennials are taking over the market and they buy everything online; therefore dealers need to move towards models where ~99% of their selling happens online, and their salespeople just need to walk the customer through the paperwork upon arrival. The first part of that statement is true in that Millennials are quickly overtaking the market as they now account for almost 30% of all new vehicles sold. By 2020, JD Power and Automotive News project they will account for 40% of all new vehicle sales.

What’s NOT true is the assumption that Millennials want to buy their cars online. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The test drive experience is more important to the Millennial generation than ever before, so much so that they want to extend the test drive experience to get a solid feel for how a vehicle will fit into their everyday lifestyle. Millennials also spend more time on the buying process and are less brand-loyal than previous generations. As a result, we see more and more extended test drive programs popping up like Toyota’s Try Before You Buy program which allows customers to take home a vehicle of interest from anywhere between 24 hours to a full week.

Again, whether the total number of dealerships visited before a purchase is 2.4 or 3.4, the more important point is that people have choices and if they go to a dealer ready to buy and have a negative in-store experience I can confidently say based on data (and common sense) that they’re going to leave and buy from someone else.

I’m not saying everything we know about digital is dead, and I’m in no way trying to tell dealers to kill or even cut their digital ad spending. But what I am saying is we as an industry need to seriously reevaluate the amount of time, energy, and most importantly, money we spend on what we know is vital to selling cars and the ongoing growth and success of a dealership…good salespeople.


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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.


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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.


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

In Part I of Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars, we overturned one of the most blindly accepted industry-wide standards about the current state of consumer car buying behavior. For far too long, the assumption has been vehicle shoppers have everything they need to make a purchase decision online, and they already know what they’re buying before ever stepping foot in a showroom. The common misconception has been that the average consumer in the digital age only visits one dealership before purchasing a vehicle.

What we found after surveying 2,748 U.S. consumers that have purchased a car in the last year is that the above statement couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, not only does the average customer visit at least 2.4 dealerships before making a buying decision, but almost half – 46% – said they visited three or more dealers before purchasing. Over a quarter of our sample size, 26%, said they visited four or more dealerships before buying. All of this data was collected by AutoHook and Urban Science in May of 2018 from people who purchased or leased a vehicle within the last year – not from a published study conducted five years ago.

As a former general manager of a dealership, CMO of a privately-held dealer group and as a marketer in general, I found the fact that roughly 1 in 4 people (26%) in the year 2018 visit four or more dealerships before buying a car to be personally absurd. Though surprising, this statistic solidified a new truth about the state of our industry. Contrary to what dealers have been told, the in-store experience is arguably more important in the digital age than ever before in the history of the car business – and for several reasons.

The most prominent reason being if a customer has a bad experience with one of your salespeople when they come in for a test drive, they will leave and buy from someone else. If they go to two dealerships and have a bad experience at both, they will go to a third and even a fourth dealer to buy from the one that provides them with the experience they expect and deserve.

Just like everything else that has surfaced from the digital age, car shoppers have a LOT of choices when it comes to what they’re going to buy and who they’re going to buy from. Purchase decisions are still made at physical dealerships, most likely following a test drive – NOT exclusively online. Shoppers in-market for a new vehicle don’t have their minds made up about what they’re going to buy by the time they visit their first dealership. Outsell says 6 out of 10 car shoppers enter the market unsure of what they want to buy. Our own research and survey data consistently shows 78% of people are still considering multiple brands by the time they visit their first dealership.

So we as an industry, we HAVE to get this right. Instead of operating based on pure, often biased assumption, dealers need to seriously reconsider their order of priorities in terms of how they run their business and where they spend their money. The digital age has armed us with so much intellectual power, yet at the same time, it’s made us a little lazy. It’s cast a shadow over what’s really important – defining value and personal worth by likes, clicks and follows rather than interpersonal relationship skills.

Part II of Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars verified the auto industry has become too quick to rely on technology as a crutch to do the work for us, rather than picking up the phone and having a conversation - or dare I suggest having the inventory knowledge and social skills to not only sell a car, but to foster ongoing relationships that lead to repeat, loyal customers. It is officially time for a new dialogue to emerge. The question we as an industry need to be asking is not how can we leverage new technologies to help us sell cars, but how can we leverage new technologies to help our salespeople sell cars?

Rather than answering the above question based on my expertise and years of experience in this business, I’ll share the real-life success stories of how two actual dealerships in the digital age are using great data processed through great technology to help their people sell more cars and lose fewer opportunities.

DEALERSHIP #1

One of our dealer clients needed an accurate way to measure the true effectiveness of their follow-up process by knowing what was and wasn’t working within their current lead mix as well as how many opportunities their salespeople sold compared to how many they lost to competitors. Using their individual salesperson data, we analyzed each person’s sales and defections and identified who had the most potential to improve. We then pinpointed the time frame during their follow-up process when their people struggled the most, which for this particular store was during days 0-4 after a lead hit their CRM. Lastly, we exposed their highest defecting lead source.

Armed with a roadmap highlighting their greatest areas of opportunity, the owner of this dealership shared this data with his sales staff and reviewed each person’s sales and defection trends with them one-on-one every month. He created an environment of transparency and friendly competition by making this defection analysis technology available to all his salespeople, thus holding them personally accountable for every sale they lost in addition to what they closed.

The dealer then helped his staff implement a more aggressive follow-up strategy for working leads 0-4 days old. He provided additional training on how to better work leads that came from their highest defecting source (especially during this time frame). He took the time to listen to feedback from all his salespeople and found opportunities for peer coaching to help further reduce their collective number of defections. He also implemented a system to reward the people who showed improvement each month.

With a refined follow-up strategy fueled by better prepared, more empowered salespeople, they saw the following results in just 90 days:

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  • Their overall defections decreased by 89%, with a 44% decrease in defections specifically during days 0-4 post-lead.

  • They increased their number of closed sales tied to their highest defecting lead source by an astounding 242%.

  • Most importantly, when it came to the salesperson identified as having the highest defection rate, that individual successfully increased their closed sales by 78% and went from being the worst performer on the team to one of their top performers.

DEALERSHIP #2

This store needed a way to identify any potential problems with their lead mix to see which sources were underperforming and why. Using the same defection analysis technology as Dealer #1, they were able to determine the issues they were having with their highest defecting lead source were due to external factors outside of their control – rather than a lack of effective internal follow-up. They then confidently decided to cancel this lead provider and put those marketing dollars back towards their bottom line.

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Ninety days later, they saw a 61% average increase in salesperson performance after removing that lead source – not to mention they were able to free up a total of 40 man-hours per week that were previously devoted to working those high-defecting leads. The best result of all? Four of their salespeople went from being average or below average performers to their TOP FOUR salespeople.

And they didn’t stop there. This dealer applied the same technology to define which model(s) in their inventory represented the most defections specific to their salespeople so they could go after leads tied to underperforming models more aggressively. Model A represented the most opportunity for improvement, and again within 90 days, they increased closed sales specific to Model A by 51% and reduced defections by 30%.

What we can conclude from the examples listed above, is that technology can help your people in a multitude of ways. Technology can help your salespeople close more deals and reduce their defection rates. Technology can help your people free up wasted time chasing leads from a faulty source. Technology can identify which models your people struggle with the most in order to boost specific model performance. Technology can even tell you if your customers are leaving your store to buy the same model somewhere else, or if they’re defecting to another brand entirely.

But the most important thing to take away is that technology in the digital age still doesn’t sell cars. It can do a lot to light up the right track for your people to do just that, but at the end of the day your salespeople need to know your inventory like the back of their hand – what makes it better than competing brands or models, and what makes doing business with you a better option than anywhere else.  

The truth in a current landscape littered with lies is that there’s no way for any one dealer to know everything they need to know about their overall market, which models represent the most opportunity for their store, and if their salespeople are doing their jobs and following up with leads appropriately. That’s where the technology and data come into play. With a complete view of who is struggling and exactly what they’re struggling with during the initial contact and follow-up process, dealers can take immediate action to help their salespeople reduce defections and improve their performance across all facets of their sales operations – so they can be one of the 2.4 dealerships (at least) with a shot of winning the sale.

Kia Motors Approves AutoHook’s TrafficView™ For Dealer Advertising Support Funds

AutoHook powered by Urban Science, the automotive industry's frontrunner in driving proven, incremental showroom traffic to dealerships, announced the official expansion of their dealer co-op program with Kia Motors America to include the Urban Science solution, TrafficView™.

TrafficView will be added to AutoHook’s existing suite of test drive incentive solutions already approved by Kia for Dealer Advertising Support (DAS) funds, including Web2Show and Lead2Show. TrafficView works by ingesting a dealer’s CRM data and matching it up against the daily industry sales statistics available through the Urban Science® DataHub™ to provide first-ever visibility into a dealership’s greatest opportunities and losses. The solution uncovers otherwise undetected problem areas across all facets of a dealer’s sales operations by layering in defection data to show lost sales tied to a specific lead source, model, geography, competing dealer or brand and even down to a dealer’s individual salespeople.

“TrafficView gives dealers the power to accurately measure the success and failure of both their marketing initiatives and internal sales processes so they can take action to reduce defections and improve their overall sales effectiveness,” said David Metter, President and Co-Founder of AutoHook powered by Urban Science. “We’re honored to have the opportunity to help Kia dealers execute upon the insights revealed within TrafficView and convert lost sales into showroom visits using AutoHook’s custom incentive campaigns.” 

AutoHook has already received outstanding remarks and industry recognition from dealers who have piloted TrafficView at their stores.

"We entered into our initial meeting with AutoHook searching for answers. After seeing our data in TrafficView for the first time, we left with a detailed game plan and immediately got to work implementing new strategies in areas where TrafficView identified specific weaknesses. We’ve already seen a dramatic decrease in defections and we’re extremely confident these changes will undoubtedly continue to grow sales,” says Joshua Clinton, General Manager of Gunther Kia of Ft. Lauderdale. “We look forward to reviewing TrafficView on a monthly basis in order to consistently stay ahead of the competition."

Kia Motors was the very first automaker to fund AutoHook’s private incentive offers through a co-op program back in 2014. Kia dealers can now choose from among four AutoHook product packages, all DAS eligible.

About AutoHook powered by Urban Science
Based in Detroit and a subsidiary of Urban Science, AutoHook uses scientifically proven sales and defection insights to drive incremental dealer showroom traffic and attribute sales in near real-time. With a complete view of traffic opportunity, AutoHook's private incentive offers convert leads at a low cost-per-sale for dealers and automotive manufacturers. For more information, visit DriveAutoHook.com or call (855) 532-3274.

CONTACT:  Lindsay Waller: lawaller@urbanscience.com

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!

Route 46 Hyundai Sees Substantial Uptick in Sales with AutoHook's Add-On Solutions

HYUNDAI DEALER CASE STUDY

After recognizing success with the national Hyundai Test Drive Program, Route 46 Hyundai was looking for additional ways to drive even more showroom traffic and incremental sales.

  1. AutoHook+: In addition to the incentives offered on Hyundaiusa.com and their website, Route 46 Hyundai added the AutoHook+ solution, giving them the ability to incentivize existing, unsold leads in their CRM. They leveraged the Triggered Links function within AutoHook+ to deliver incentive offers via email and attribute showroom visits and sales back to this initiative.
  2. Post-Lead Solution: Route 46 Hyundai used AutoHook’s Post-Lead Solution to maximize their incoming leads from their other sources. The Post-Lead Solution automatically scored their existing leads to identify and target the highest intent-to-buy customers with a test drive incentive via email.
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Click below to see all the results and how we made it happen! 

Hyundai Dealer Case Study: Rogers Hyundai Sees Drop in Defection

ROGERS HYUNDAI SEES SIGNIFICANT DROP IN DEFECTION ACROSS OPERATIONS WITH

AutoHook’s Traffic Conversion Analysis (TCA)

Rogers Hyundai needed a way to make sense of their CRM data to expose inefficiencies in their sales process. They had no way of knowing which sales and marketing efforts were tied to the highest number of lost opportunities. They needed a solution to pinpoint operational areas of high defections in order to implement changes to reduce lost sales and close more deals.

Using AutoHook's Traffic Conversion Analysis (TCA) and the resulting action items AutoHook recommended, Rogers Hyundai successfully decreased their overall defections, while significantly increasing the performance of their lead follow-up process in just three months. In addition, TCA was able to prove the dealership's sales staff decreased defections during this period, with one undercover rock star who increased their closed sales by a whopping 118%!

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CHECK OUT HOW WE DID IT! 

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.

AutoHook & Clarivoy Join Forces for the Most Action-Packed Dealer Panel of 2017

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THE DATA DOESN’T LIE: 

SHOCKING DISCOVERIES IN AUTOMOTIVE ATTRIBUTION

Co-Authored by David Metter of AutoHook powered by Urban Science, & Steve White of Clarivoy

An unprecedented occurrence has taken place as the automotive industry prepares for the upcoming DrivingSales Executive Summit, October 22nd - 24th, at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Two vendors, two of the industry’s most recognized names in proving sales attribution, have combined forces with marketing leaders from the nation’s top dealer groups to deliver the most unbiased, action-packed panel discussion in auto conference history.  

Before we reveal why this atypical panel lineup is worth attending, we first want to inform you of what this session is NOT going to be. This is NOT a reiteration of the importance of attribution when it comes to eliminating marketing waste. This is NOT a theoretical account of big data’s potential impact on improving your daily sales operations. This is a collaborative, all boots on the ground ATTACK on the two topics that have been plaguing dealerships for far too long: big data and attribution.

AutoHook Co-Founder & President, David Metter, and Clarivoy CEO & Founder, Steve White, will be co-moderating a dealer panel that will leave attendees with a multi-dimensional, crystal clear picture of how successful dealers are already using big data and advanced attribution models to do the only thing that matters to them: sell more cars.

Attendees will get a first-hand account from Marketing Directors at the nation’s leading dealer groups about how they are taking action and selling cars using data they already have available combined with technology that they’ve already implemented.

Both AutoHook and Clarivoy have differentiated themselves in the industry for their unrivaled ability to define the path that resulted in a vehicle sale. However, these two companies go about solving attribution problems from two different angles and perspectives. But, what they both always agree on is that the dealer’s perspective is the one that matters most. Dealers are not, nor should they ever be expected to be data analysts or mathematicians. It should never be a dealership’s responsibility to scrutinize the 20 different vendor reports they receive in a typical month and find trends that point to success or failure in their marketing and sales operations. It should never be the dealer’s job to assign fractionalized credit to the multiple touchpoints that led to a sale.

Too often, dealerships are debilitated by the excessive amount of one-sided vendor reports that flood their inbox every month. What good is all this data if it doesn’t include an instruction manual that pinpoints exactly what’s working and what’s not?

If you use outdated attribution models, you’re essentially making marketing decisions based on 10% of what is actually happening. That is a HUGE marketing blind spot that can lead to tens of thousands of dollars wasted on sources that don’t convert.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if you could get a clear view of your sales and defection trends all in one place? Or quickly identify deficiencies in both your internal and external processes so that you can more efficiently assign responsibilities to your staff and get more ROI out of your third-party lead or traffic drivers?

What dealers have been lacking is a complete, 360° view of their sales operations, as well as the sales they lost to their biggest competitors. How can you improve the way you sell cars if you’re unaware of the leads in your CRM that have already purchased somewhere else? There is a reason for every lost sale, and that reason is exactly what you should use to take action and reclaim lost opportunities.

Attend this session and you will take away a lot more than the inspiration and motivation you need to take action. You will walk away with a game plan that you know has already proven to help individual dealers and dealer groups sell more cars and increase their market share. The topics of big data and attribution will transform from headaches, confusion, and irrelevant, obscure numbers into actionable steps to improve the way you operate today.

WHAT YOU’LL TAKE AWAY:

  1. Learn the fastest methods of uncovering actionable sales and defection trends hidden within your data.
  2. Define the sources responsible for your greatest opportunities and losses down to an individual salesperson, lead or traffic source, competing brand or dealer, and more.
  3. Eliminate “Marketing Blind Spots” and grow your market share using the automotive industry’s latest and most accurate attribution models.

Do yourself a favor. DO NOT leave Las Vegas deprived of this vital and enlightening knowledge. DO NOT return to your dealership in the dark. Join AutoHook, Clarivoy, and their panel of top dealers, to finally get a clear and complete view of your market and how to outshine the competition. 

THE ACTION STARTS TUESDAY, OCTOBER 24TH AT 9:50 AM SHARP AT THE BELLAGIO IN MONET ROOMS 3 & 4!

The Uncut Story Your CRM Can’t Tell You

You Can’t Win Without Knowing What You’re Losing

by David Metter

It’s hard to solve a problem you don’t know exists. Solutions become unreachable if you don’t know the root of the issue or the source it stemmed from in the first place. The same concept applies to the sales and BDC operations inside every existing dealership. Too often, we get caught up in the day-to-day routine and can only see what’s directly in front of our eyes. We lose sight of the big picture. We look to our CRM and DMS data to identify areas of success and failure. We then use that data to attempt to make decisions and changes to the way we operate. The problem, is that this data is one-sided, one-dimensional, and only one piece of a much larger picture.

It’s a lot like attempting to run a race with your eyes closed. Without the power of sight, you won’t know if your opponents are in front of you or gaining speed behind you. You won’t be able to see the finish line. What’s the point of running towards a goal you can’t see? In order to solve the problems within your sales operations, you need the power of sight, metaphorically. You need to be able to look at your entire market from a 360-degree vantage point so that you can identify sales trends along with the sources of your greatest opportunities and losses.

Sales and service data, believe it or not is the key to being able to see your market from an omnipotent perspective. It’s just a matter of where you get the data and how you use it. Ninety-day old sales metrics can be helpful, but in order to truly see what’s going on within your PMA, dealers need to know what sold and didn’t sell as of yesterday – not 90-days ago given the infinite variables that affect this industry on a daily basis. To most of us, data is just a collection of numbers, charts, and graphs that lack meaning. But what if you had the ability to detonate and mobilize data to make it work for you? That’s when data becomes valuable – when you can turn it into actions that result in more sold cars and less lost opportunities.

If you only draw conclusions based on your CRM’s sales and lead data, you can only quantify the effectiveness of your own sales. But it’s equally important to have the ability to identify defection trends to competing dealerships or brands in your market. How many of your customers purchased from somewhere else? Which dealers are you losing the most sales to? How many customers did you lose over a certain date range? Which competitors did you lose them to? How many units per day are you losing to a specific store? Can you pinpoint areas of lost sales tied to a specific salesperson or lead source?

When you have the ability to answer these types of questions, then and only then do you have what you need to take control of your marketing and sales processes. If you want to successfully grow your market share and cut your losses, you have to know exactly what you’re losing, where you’re losing, and who you’re losing to. The right data, will show you a clear snapshot of which models on your lot present the highest level of opportunity. It will show you which leads in your CRM have already purchased so you don’t waste time and money trying to reach people no longer in market for a car. The right data will determine if you are losing sales based on internal or external factors. It will show you the top 10 zip codes where you’re losing the most sales. It will show you by name which members of your sales and BDC staff have the highest closing rates, as well as who is allowing the most opportunities to fall through the cracks. It will empower you to make better decisions with staffing, training and employee responsibilities based on a more thorough analysis of your business.

From my years of experience as the General Manager of a dealership and as the CMO of a large dealer group, I am very aware of the fact that dealers are not data scientists, nor should they ever be expected to be. Your only job is to sell cars and to reduce the rate of lost sales to the competition. But you can’t stop losing sales if you don’t have the near-real time data to expose why you lost them in the first place. And it’s not only about having access to the fastest data or the best data – that’s only half the battle. It’s also about working with the people that know how to extract the most impactful, actionable pieces of that data and that possess the technology needed to execute a strategy that results in fewer losses and more incremental gains.

My session, “The Uncut Story Your CRM Can’t Tell You” at Digital Dealer 23, will provide dealers with never before seen visibility into their market conditions so that missed opportunities can be turned into closed sales.

Attend this session and learn how to:

  • Define your greatest opportunities and losses tied to a specific lead or traffic source, salesperson, model, day, or zip code.
  • Identify defection trends of competing stores or brands in your market to reduce lost sales.
  • Continuously grow your market share by understanding what you’re losing.
  • Identify defection trends even down to your individual salespeople that are in your showroom. Know more about what’s going on in your dealership and the dealerships around you.

The Digital Dealer 23 Conference & Expo will be held this Sept. 18-20th in Las Vegas, NV. Register now to start building your agenda by choosing from more than 100+ sessions!

***Article originally posted on DigitalDealer.com.

VDP Views are the Top KPI…and Other Data Myths

by David Metter

MYTH #1: VDP views are the metric that matters most. 

Since when did VDP views become more important than sales? This is not an attempt to downplay the importance of driving traffic to your VDPs. Reputable evidence exists around VDPs being one of the last digital destinations car shoppers touch before visiting a showroom. But are vehicle details page views receiving significantly more attention than they deserve? Are dealers working backwards? Are we losing sight of our one true goal…to sell more cars? 

There’s no argument that with everything our industry is capable of measuring, it all comes down to physical transactions between customers and dealers, specifically units sold and closed service ROs. That’s what you measure before anything else. That’s the reason “big data” exists in the first place – to help you generate more sales and service revenue. Dealers have more data at their fingertips than they realize, and it’s easy to get caught up trying to navigate and make sense of it all. Goals become blurred and dealers lose sight of the end game.

Allow me to remind you of the end game. When it comes to dealership operations, NOTHING is more important than increasing salesservice revenue, and customer retention – and I’m happy to take on anyone who’d like to challenge that statement.

I think our industry has completely overcomplicated the idea of big data. The role it plays is actually quite simple. When you break it down, VDP views are #5 on the “what to measure” list. Below is the infrastructure of the order in which you achieve your end game of more sales, closed service ROs, and repeat buyers.

1.    Sales Data: Securing accurate and timely sales match data is paramount. There is nothing more important. Leverage sales match data to see if a customer bought from you or somewhere else? What make and model did they choose? Was it your brand or a competitor’s brand? Monitor your pump in and pump out percent to hold onto sales in your PMA.

2.    Service Data: Measure your closed service repair orders – especially during the critical period from after a sale to the first recommended service appointment. This is where most dealers experience the biggest drop off in retention. Did the customer come to your store for their vehicle’s initial scheduled maintenance or to a competitor? Did they order replacement parts from you or somewhere else? How many people made a service appointment on your website? How many of those people actually showed up? What sales opportunities exist among your service customers?

3.    Showroom & Service Traffic: Next quantify, how many people physically came into your store or entered your service lane? The majority of people don’t have time to browse around multiple dealerships or visit your service center just for a quote. If they came to you, it’s for a reason. So make sure your staff is in the business of closing deals and ROs.

4.    Leads, Phone Calls, & Chats: When potential customers complete an action on your website, whether it’s submitting a lead form or picking up the phone to call you, that opens the door to potential sales. Metrics on your lead, call, and chat volumes are important to analyze, but it’s much more about quality than quantity. Instead of focusing your budget on more leads, calls and chats, focus on the actions that drive showroom visits.

5.    VDP Traffic: VDP views drive awareness, familiarity, and consideration. Although they can influence a customer to take further action, they do not directly result in sales.

MYTH #2: VDP traffic is the foundation for future sales. 

In what world does a VDP view hold more value than an actual human-to-human interaction? VDP views are not the foundation. Showroom traffic is. Correct me if I’m wrong, but last time I checked, getting people in the door and speaking to them face-to-face is the best way to get them in a vehicle so they can touch, see, feel, drive and experience it for themselves. Show rates are infinitely more impactful than any ad or page view could ever be. Our industry has become so brainwashed, people believe more time, energy, and money should be allocated to driving VDP views rather than using those resources to drive showroom traffic. It’s absolutely mind-boggling.

MYTH #3: Big data is very complex and requires experts to turn it into action.

Wrong. All too often, dealers allow outside vendors to come in and tell them what they should be measuring. Social marketers will tell you social metrics are most important. Paid search companies will tell you clicks and website traffic are the secret to more sales. Our industry is stuck in this maze of listening to incessant digital noise. But every dealership is different, and there is no one size fits all solution.  

My friends, it’s time to remove yourself from the maze and turn the volume of the noise ALLLL the way down so that you can actually hear the music. 

You and your staff are the ONLY people that should dictate what you need to measure. Take the data you already have and zero in on the metrics that involve sales, service ROs, and repeat customers. Data is simply a catalyst for determining and reaching your goals. Sales data shows you where you stand against competitors, but more importantly, how you stand against yourself historically. Sales data will tell you exactly where you are, and exactly where you need to go.