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I recently added this into a forum post comment and realized that some more people might be wondering about this. Where is the best place to ask for a referral? It used to be simple, after they purchase - ask for a referral or maybe give them a call a few weeks later and ask. Definitely YES, those two options are prime time referral asking opportunities but now that we live in a digital era, there are A LOT more opportunities to connect and engage with your customer. Meaning there are a lot more opportunities to ask for a referral. 

I like to refer to all the best places to "ask for a referral" as touch points and I will preface this with my STRONG, STRONG opinion that a referral program is great, it's awesome, but without an offer of some kind.... some of these ideas can just fall flat... why? People are busy. The offer is the stickiness that you need to go above the competition and stay at the top of your customer's mind. PS: People prefer MOOLAH, according to a recent survey," 77% of Americans identify money as their reward of choice."

I know some dealers are hesitant/wary about the effective on ROI when combined with the reward amount but it's such an inaccurate/outdated way of thinking about it.  I love showing stats and blowing dealer's minds about ROI on referrals. Just look at PayPal: "By directly paying people to sign up and then paying them more to refer friends, we achieved extraordinary growth. This strategy cost us $20 per customer, but it also led to 7% daily growth, which meant that our base nearly doubled every 10 days." - Peter Thiel - Co-founder. And not only is it cost effective, it improves your overall branding and marketing efforts, according to MarketShare, "Word-of-mouth has been shown to improve marketing effectiveness by up to 54%."

My biggest tip to gain the most traction in the following scenarios is that you ensure your referral offer/request gets to your customers QUICKLY and it is EASY for them to refer. Below are a few top touch points for a dealership/salesperson, GM or really any employee to ask for a referral.

Top Touch Points:

The most common and effective touch is point is immediately after purchase, but as we all know, our salespeople are usually a little too stoked about closing the deal to handle this.. so here are some other just as effective and awesome places to ask for a referral or promote your referral program:

  1. In-Store Marketing - while they wait for F&I create some flyers that highlight the referral program + $OFFER, your customer is at their most elated point right now, they just bought a car but now they're stuck waiting. They also know they've just spent a pretty penny and the option to help a friend and earn is extremely appealing at this point. We've had some customers submit 4+ referral leads while they've waited for F&I!
  3. F&I - your F&I manager is an ideal candidate to quickly explain the benefits of your referral program AKA earning money, while they are also discussing added benefits of new features AKA customer's spending money. a nice ying and yang for the customer to think about.
  5. Automated Emails - if you have a follow up email to thank your customer for their purchase - add a referral button or banner that leads to a form to submit referrals. It's easy and efficient.  Your salesperson should also be following up with an email or call (mentioned below) but if they forget or won't, these automated emails and inclusive offers will ensure it gets to your customer!
  7. Salesperson Follow up - 1-2 weeks after purchase. A simple check in to see how the car is doing can lead to a LOT of useful information, like if anything is wrong and the salesperson can help remedy this -- Major brownie points and once resolved, it's the perfect time to ask.
  9. REVIEWS! If you get a good review, comment back and give them a link to a landing page/form where they can submit referrals!  The lack of action on positive reviews sometimes saddens me, they are a GOLD MINE for referrals... and even the bad one's offer up so much learning experience --- a goodwill offer can help a ton here too.
  11. Social Media - It's where you have a lot of loyal fans (as long as you didn't pay for them J ) You can post about referral offers a TON here, it's something that actually won’t get old because you're offering up a reward. You can also tag your most loyal customers and invite them to join. Gamifying this is also really cool, whoever submits the most referrals this month gets 3 free oil changes. (it doesn't always have to be money offers, it's just what the people prefer.)
  13. Your Website - PLEASE!!! do not stuff it into one of your million and billions of tabs and sub tabs. Nobody really looks in those. Make it a nice attractive button that highlights the offer amount "$100 Referral Credit" $100 Reward Credit". Something to catch their eye. 

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Written by Jason Unrau on 09/30/2016

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Like most of you that read this blog, I’ve spend years and years in the automotive industry. I’ve become immune to the sales techniques and upsells, just like most of you have. When I get my vehicle serviced or repaired, I am able to objectively make decisions about each item’s urgency.

But when it comes to our customers, we don’t usually think they’re on the same level as us. We think they should blindly trust what we tell them, because we are the experts after all. We’re surprised when they’re skeptical of the repairs we try to sell them. They decline repairs that are obviously safety related.

It’s our fault.

You see, we don’t give our customers enough credit. They’re intelligent about their cars and you can only expect their blind trust once you’ve built a relationship. To do so, you need to speak with them on your level as an expert and reach out in a way that is most convenient to them, your paying client. It’s a surefire way of delighting your customers.

Would you approve repairs without knowing the full story?

If your car is in for its $50 oil change and you’re approached about a $500 oil leak the technician just noticed, would you blindly approve the work? Probably not. You’d want to see it, wouldn’t you? Your customers are the same way. They aren’t inclined to place their trust in your dealership’s service department, especially not until you’ve given them a reason to do so.

Build that trust with your customers by providing proof of the required repairs and maintenance. Take photos or video of the problem areas, then send them off to your customer. When they can visualize the issue on their car, it’s undeniable. It’s trustworthy. And that’s when the wallet will open more freely.

Your DMS system may have something like this already built into it. Or maybe it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, find a way to make it happen. AutoVitals Inc. has a solution known as SmartFlow that is revolutionizing the service department from front to back, and it includes a slick way for technicians to take pictures and video of any issues, including a walkaround inspection. I can’t see how it WON’T improve your ability to close on sales.

Contact customers on their terms

Did you know that your customers aren’t inclined to answer a phone call? You knew that, yet you still expect them to answer when you call them throughout the day. 98 percent of text messages are opened within the first minute of receiving them, and most people respond to those messages right away. Businesspeople and those how can’t answer their cell phones at work can usually respond to a text message, making it a more reliable method of contact than the telephone.

Email is on a slight decline in popularity, although it’s still more effective than waiting for someone to call you back from a voicemail message. The additional benefit to both text message and email messages it the ability to send attachments. Have a photo or video you want your customer to see? Include it in your message! Have a quick repair quote they can authorize by text? It could save you several valuable minutes over a lengthy phone call, trying to explain what needs repair and why.

However, if you can’t implement text messaging or email communication as effective methods of customer contact, the phone is better than nothing! Be consistent, contacting customers regularly throughout the day so there’s no worry about how their vehicle is doing.


As a rule of thumb, be the one to reach out to your customer before they can contact you. If they have contacted you first, you can bet that they’ve already been stewing about the lack of contact for a while. It’s the kind of customer that is more likely to give you a bad survey response or decline repairs on the basis of principle.

When you’re timely in your communication and are able to back up your upsells and repair estimates with photo or video proof, rest assured, your customers will be exponentially more satisfied. There will be less complaints to management, higher conversion rates on estimates, and the bottom line is guaranteed to increase. 


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