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http://www.automotiveinternetsales.com/

Sean V. Bradley, CSP sat down with Toni Anne Fardette, Business Development Director with the Atlantic Auto Group, better known as "The Billion Dollar Girl" to share her secrets on how she became one of the top female leaders in the automotive sales industry. From her remarkable lessons on employee retention to her world-class practices in maintaining a 22 rooftop automotive group like a true champion, Toni Anne showcases what truly earned her the title of "The Billion Dollar Girl"

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There are muffins, and there are great muffins. The kind we get our of a plastic package from a vending machine or at a continental breakfast at a hotel usually meets the hunger requirements, but it's usually not exceptionally enjoyable. Compare that to a muffin from your favorite bakery and the experience can be like night and day.

Why is that? They have the same basic ingredients. There's the freshness component, but even packaged muffins are usually not that old because the shelf-life is so short on them. It really comes down to the way that they're prepared and baked. It comes down quality.

The difference between muffins is like the difference between customer database marketing solutions. When I speak to dealers across the nation, there is a good number of you who have some sort of customer database marketing in place. Perhaps it's an automated follow-up system through your CRM. Maybe you have a BDC procedure that tries to cultivate the relationship over time. These are fine and they're (usually) better than nothing, but they're usually result in very little tangible value as far is increasing sales and service business.

They're packaged muffins.

A true customer database marketing strategy requires quality, care, and strategy. It requires taking your database and improving on it based upon referencing other data that is available. It's about appending the data to make it more accurate and therefore more effective.

It also requires proper messaging. One of the biggest mistakes that I see dealers and even other vendors make is that they separate out their databases to target service customers and sales customers. The reality is that you have customers. Your service customers should be buying cars from you. Your sales customers should be getting their cars serviced through you. The strategies that can take the two types of customers and turn them into a strong set of "whole" customers is something that simply cannot be done through standard automated systems.

The packaged muffins won't get the job done.

A great muffin means putting together the right recipe (strategy) to nurture them properly. It's about staying in front of them with the right messages and being relevant to their needs before, during, and after they're fulfilled.

As you think about all of this, ask yourself if you're taking full advantage of your customer database in a way that is translating into dramatic increases in business and customer loyalty. Today, the loyalty factor has been abandoned by many simply because customers in the digital age seem to be less willing to do business with the same companies over and over again. They've broadened their horizons thanks to the internet. You can take advantage of this by nurturing them appropriately and constantly. The most successful dealers in the coming years will not be the ones that are relying on getting new business. The most successful dealers will have a strong balance between acquiring new customers and keeping their current ones.

Look at your strategy and decide whether it's really going after your current and past customers with the fervor it deserves. If not, it's time to explore a new strategy.

It's time to bake a great muffin.

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Are We at a Cross Roads with our Auto Sales Staff?

Even if you don’t believe, as I do, that high sales staff turnover is the number one issue facing the auto industry today; we certainly can agree it is right at the top of the list. There is not one positive thing that happens at our dealerships as a result of high turnover, and the benefits of low sales turnover are so obvious that I don’t need to list them.

High sales turnover has completely undermined training efforts. It creates the mental attitude amongst many managers to not bother training at all because they won’t be here in 6 months or others take the salmon going upstream approach; if they survive then we will invest some time into them.

Meanwhile over the past 10 years our customers have become more and more acclimated to the Internet and are gobbling up as much information as they can on product and price prior to coming into our dealerships. By most accounts 75-90% of our customers have done most of their selection process before they ever step on our lots.

This is leaving many dealerships in the position of having the least educated salesman talking to the most educated consumer. Since we can’t uneducate the consumer we better start investing and educating our sales staff.

I believe the manufacturers play a major role in helping us to resolve this problem and should work closely with their dealers about salesman’s retention programs. With all of the dollars that are budgeted for incentives they should slice out $100 or $200/car and designate it to our sales departments and reward top performers.

Short of having these conversations with your manufacturers or dealer council reps we can only effect what we can control at our dealerships and we better start getting serious about training so we can give our salespeople the tools they need to EARN a good living.

Let’s face it we are not brain surgeons or scientists !!! We are only selling cars and if we hire motivated, personable people that care, we should be able to make it a personally and financially rewarding career. Here are a few items that I think many of us miss with our sales staff:

1) Know what each salesperson’s personal financial needs and wants are?

2) Ask each salesperson what they feel they should produce to achieve their needs or wants. You may be very surprised how far off some salespeople are with what they think they need to produce vs. what they will earn if they produce what they say. It is in everyone’s best interest to clarify their earnings potential based on expected performance.

3) Train, Train, Train, Train- Take the approach of a college student that gets a degree and then goes after his Masters.

The college degree would be the basics:

  1. Product knowledge

  2. Meet, Greet, Qualify, Road to the sale etc.

  3. CRM- Your salespeople should know their CRM tool inside and out. They should look at it as if it was their own private secretary or marketing department that you gave them at no cost.

  4. Networking and Referrals- The lost art of the auto industry!!! Let everyone know what you do and ask for referrals. This is a must for any salesperson that wants to make serious $ in this business.

The Masters program would be the training on the following topics:

a) Internet Sales

b) Phone Call Sales

c) Service Retention-Equity Mining

d) Lease list and owner loyalty

e) Social Media as a way to sell cars TODAY!!! For the first time, technology allows your staff to effectively market themselves at no cost to the dealership.

As a dealer you need to be clear of what your expectations are from your sales staff. This might include:

  1. Sales goals

  2. CSI Goals

  3. Dress Code

  4. Attitude

Both setting processes and expectations is a great step in making sure you and your sales team are following the same path, and hopefully are on a long road together.

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Cutco Can Do It; Why Can’t We!!!

If you look close enough to this picture:

you will see my name “SANSONE” etched into my new Cutco Cutlery set. What’s amazing to me is that I didn’t think I needed a new set of knives, I certainly didn’t have any difficulty cutting my last steak.

So why do I own them ???? Because Cutco is smart enough to train their college-age, door-to-door salesman to ask for referrals. That’s right, my wife’s name was given to this young man from one of her friends and he cold called my wife and asked to set up a presentation of his company’s product. He was knowledgeable, polite and asked for the sale. Then after he got the sale he said “most of my business comes from referrals; who do you know that might be interested in a new set of knives? My wife was so satisfied she happily referred a few or her friends, not sure if any of them bought but that really doesn’t matter. What matters is that Cutco is smart enough and disciplined enough to make it part of their sales process to always be networking and ask for referrals from their satisfied customers.

The question I put to you is: why can’t we get our salespeople to ask for referrals? We all know that referrals close at a higher percentage, have a higher gross profit margin, have a higher CSI and cost almost nothing to get. You would think that this would be one the first things we teach our sales people like Cutco taught their part-time employee.

Can you imagine how much fun we could have and how much money we could make if more of our showroom traffic were referred from satisfied customers, as opposed to the price banging we all do with the online shoppers.

We all know the answer to the question…. It takes a process, training AND work. Every one of us knows a few salespeople who ask for referrals religiously and they are our top producers. Why not demand the same from all of our salespeople. Let’s at least try!!

Paul Sansone Jr.

 

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4 consumer points to consider when selling car accessories

Since the release of the popular film “The Fast and the Furious”, car accessorizing has shifted from being a secret of car gear enthusiast to a main stream phenomenon. Two sequels later and the aftermarket accessory market continues to average 8% growth annually. Car dealerships would be wise to keep up. The demand for car accessories is high. And, just like fashion accessories there are hundreds of options. And, trends change rapidly. Here are four reasons why people love certain car accessories.

1.       Making a Personal Statement

Crisp leather jacket, “I’m a rebel”, Eco-friendly seat covers “I care about the planet”. Just like fashion accessories, car accessories help your buyer make a statement about who they are.  A car is an extension of its owner, and we all want to present a certain “self” to the world. So, whether it’s a bike rack on a rugged Jeep Wrangler or a spoiler on a sporty Mazda 3, accessories gives buyers another way to express themselves through their car.

2.       Affordable Luxury

It’s inevitable. There is always going to be a prospect that’s eyeballing a Mercedes-Benz but their budget lines up more with a Toyota Corolla.   The right accessories can make that Corolla feel like a Benz. With today’s economy more and more people are learning to live within their means. That doesn’t mean buyers don’t still desire luxury.  But, in terms of cost efficiency it’s harder to justify. Rather than stretching their budgets almost $20,000 more on a luxurious brand consumers will invest $5,000 more in alloy wheels and seat heaters giving an economical brand a very similar look and feel.

3.       Protects the Value

A new car loses 11% of its value as soon as it leaves the lot. So unless they plan to ride until the wheels fall off, it’s not an ideal investment. People are aware of this and are more concerned than ever about protecting the value. Accessories like bed and trunk liners, covers, and deflectors can protect the resale/ trade-in value of a new car. This makes your buyer more confident about shelling out so much of their hard earned cash.

4.       More Convenience

 We as Americans are always on the go, we love to multitask, and prefer to be able to do things in our car just as we would if we were in our homes. Certain accessories were designed to offer a level of convenience that many buyers are looking for. The iPod adapters are one of the hottest selling accessories right now. It offers buyers the convenience of listening to their favorite music without needing CD changers.  Navigation systems and Bluetooth are other accessory options that appeal to a buyer looking for convenience.

Insignia Group, the leading provider of accessories sales systems and training has helped dealers maximize profits for over 10 years. Supporting 20+ brands and dealerships nationwide, we help our customers establish and grow their Accessories Profit Center. Call 888-579-4458 to learn more or schedule a demo.

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http://www.dealersynergy.com I get asked "What is the BEST CRM or ILM"? from so many dealers all over the country... I explain my take on this question. Its MORE than just "who" is the best software. Its about the CONTENT within the tool-
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Top of Mind Awareness, or “TOMA,” as referred to by marketers, is that product or service which a consumer thinks of first when considering a purchase. For dealers andmanufacturers alike, TOMA is on the top of their minds relative to their business and theircustomers.

It is no secret that over the last decade, both domestic and import manufacturers and dealers have suffered a loss in market share to mainstays like Honda, Toyota and Nissan, and are continuing to do so especially since we have been experiencing $3/gallon gasoline prices. Consumers are flocking to downsize or seek out a more economical ride when it comes to fuel costs.

We all know that these struggling manufacturers recognize that the products that they have to offer must be capable of being competitive in fuel efficiency, quality, style, and safety in order to be on the consumer’s checklist when car shopping. We also acknowledge that hey are now taking the steps necessary to correct this. But what happens to their owner base in the meantime? Or, more importantly, what happens to Your Owner Base while you are waiting for the right product mix to arrive that will motivate buyers to come back to your showrooms? More than likely, they will be lulled away from you or your manufacturer’s brand into the arms of one of these very formidable competitors.

For dealers faced with this challenge, the ultimate consequence will be continued loss of market share, customer base, and profits unless they decide to do something about it NOW!

Traditional advertising will not keep your customers loyal to you. One of the most incredible assertions dealers make to me every day is that when they are referring to their owner base, or their list of customers who have purchased vehicles or have had service performed at their dealerships, is that they assume they are “theirs.”

I am often compelled to challenge them on that assumption, since that was also the mindset of those Motor City manufacturers who churned out products each year knowing that “their customers” would be back to grace their dealer’s showrooms regardless of the products that they presented. Dealers seem to be anesthetized by the illusion that just because they sold or serviced a customer once, that their customers are then locked to them for life. My argument is that those customers are you customers for only as long as they are on your lot, in your showroom, or in your customer lounge. Beyond that, they are anybody’s customer. Toyota and Honda proved it.

On a smaller scale, but more importantly, let’s look at your business. What are you doing to retain the customers that you have previously sold or serviced? Do you even know who they are? Are you even maintaining a current data base of customers? Is it cleansed, merged, and purged regularly? Do you even know who they are? Are you even maintaining a current data base of previous customers sorted by sales or service, new or used? Are you tracking your customer visits? Frequency of visits and the amount of revenue each spends with you per visit?

This is your book of business and you need to nourish, cultivate, and protect this book as it you were the premier stockbroker on Wall Street. Once you have done this dirty work and have really spend the time and money necessary to get this data into a manageable format, you need to develop a strategy that will enable you to maintain constant contact through a series of “touch points” with your customers. I am not referring to the warm and fuzzy stuff you do while your customer is in your service lounge or in the showroom.

I am talking about keeping your dealership’s TOMA to your customers when they are not at your dealership. In order to keep a hold on your customers you need to be in constant contact with them. Develop a multi-channel marketing strategy that incorporates what you know about your customers into what you talk to your customers about when you do contact them. The most efficient method of staying in contact with your customers is through direct marketing. Direct marketing includes several forms of marketing media, including direct mail, internet, social media, and telemarketing. Sophisticated marketers know that the traditional media cannot reach customers with the level of personalization that is necessary to stay in contact with your customers. By employing direct mail, a dealer builds his own brand, and it is not as imposing as telemarketing can sometimes be.

Research indicates that Auto Buyers are turning to the Web to communicate with dealers via e-mail and they use search engines to acquire information about a prospective make, model, or dealer. The most effective choice for a retail dealer to stay in contact with their previous customers is direct mail. According to a recent study performed by Cap Gemini, consumers polled on whether they like to receive or if they would respond to a direct mail offer from an auto dealer told marketers that over 80 percent would prefer to receive and be “more than likely” to open and respond to an offer from an auto dealer. This percentage is much higher when the offer comes from the manufacturer or dealer pertinent to or known by the consumer. How a dealer chooses to use the power of direct mail is very important, too. Most dealers turn to direct mail as the “quick fix” that is going to get them through the month.

Direct mail has been a great source for providing the needed boost when sales lagged. Dealers love it because they can track its performance on an hour-by-hour or day-by-day basis. Employing direct mail in this way has been the cornerstone of the medium in the retail auto industry for the past 30 years. It has been proven over and over again to be an effective medium in driving traffic and sales in dealerships. What dealers might not see is that the medium has evolved as the auto industry has changed. It has matured into what should now be the foundation of a sound marketing strategy. Dealers must recognize the value of their customer database and the power of this medium that will get into the home when the salesperson can’t. It is the face of your dealership, your products, and your services, and you use it can help you or it can hurt you.

Many dealers look for the next new “hook” in their direct mail. A flashy new direct mail salesperson gets a dealer on the phone or in-person and lays out the latest and greatest gimmick that can “catch” the most uninformed prospect with an offer of “incredulous believability”. Some of these ads are violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and dealers end up paying fines to their state attorney general’s office because the flash-in-the-pan direct mail company is insolvent.

Dealers use mail to target a beacon scores or FICO score range to prospects regardless of their affinity to your dealership or your manufacturer offering credit to those who can’t otherwise get credit. Buy using direct mail in this way does not help you hold onto your most valued possession — your former customers, as it may in some cases even alienate them.

If you run a newspaper, radio or TV ad, every dealer in the state knows what you are doing. If you mail your offer, no one knows your deal besides you and your prospective customer. Unfortunately, the opposite scenario holds true, also. When you least expect it, your former customers are receiving a personal invitation to test drive the latest new gas saver from your closest competitor. An, what do they think? “Hey, why didn’t my dealer invite me to his dealership? Maybe I will give Dealer X or Brand Y a try.” If you don’t keep in touch, I promise you, your competition will.

A dealer needs to touch their customer on a preplanned, regular basis, offering reasons for them to come back to your dealership for their vehicle needs. Each time you contact them, a dealer must give the buyer the warm fuzzy, show of appreciation. This can be accomplished by developing a VIP program, Preferred Coupons, discounts, test drive incentives, and savings offers. Give them a reason to come in and see your sales staff or service team. Your customers are just like you and me; we love to be appreciated and we love to be loved. Show the love. You’ll keep that TOMA with your customer base.

- Anthony J. TaCito, CEO

Original version appeared in the January 15, 2007, issue of Dealer Magazine.

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