I’m often asked at dealerships, seminars and 20 Group meetings what is the key element of success for selling cars online. My answer is always the same: First and foremost, the dealer principal must take an active role in making sure e-success happens. That means going beyond stated intentions and actively supporting the internet department.
I’ve found that dealers with successful, profit driving Internet sales departments have five things in common. Let’s take a closer look at each one:
- They invest in the proper technology: These dealers use the same due diligence in choosing internet-related products and services as they do when buying products and services for fixed operations.
- They emphasize return on investment more than expense: These statements should sound familiar: “These leads are expensive,” “Maintaining this website is too expensive,” and “Customer relationship management software is way too expensive.” A dealer principal or primary decision-maker must realize that cutting corners isn’t always cost effective. In fact, cutting corners can actually cost money in front and backend gross, F&I income and service business.
- Their opinions of internet buyers are based on research rather than opinion: These statements may also sound familiar: “Low gross,” “Looking to steal cars,” and “Not serious buyers.” Those statements represent how many dealers view online shoppers. If you don’t see the value, then your actions to attract internet buyers won’t be effective. This also applies to decision-makers who don’t verbalize their negative feelings.
- They invest in training internet personnel: internet staff or personnel manning the business development center are arguably the most undertrained people in the dealership today. Many staffers are assigned to the internet department simply because they know how to send and receive emails. It is irrational to put untrained employees on the front lines to face hundreds of potential customers a month. How can you rationalize spending thousands of dollars a month for leads, CRM software and a website, but not spend anything on training? What message are you sending to an internet professional starving for support?
- They understand the value of metrics and accountability: Expected results can and should be measured. Stop going with your gut and use those measurements when selecting lead providers and website vendors. Also use that data when deciding who will man your Internet department.
If you feel you have the basics covered, here are three power tips to energize your internet department:
- Brainstorm with experienced people: Would you readily take parenting advice from someone who isn’t a parent? So why discuss internet strategy with colleagues lacking strategic Internet experience?
- Recognize that technology isn’t a silver bullet: All technology is created by people. Technology also can be utilized effectively or ineffectively by people.
- Train, train, train: Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. How do you move the needle in your dealership if your employees are using poor or, worse, undefined techniques, processes or followup action plans? An investment in training is an investment in improving results.
The best thing any dealer principal or decision-maker can do is get involved in the educational process. They should also be involved in determining where the department is, where it needs to go and how. They also need to be involved in the execution of the plan.
Success online will depend on the same things that drive the showroom: people, processes and technology. Yes, I know the tech part is a moving target, so properly vet your providers, talk to other dealers and don’t be afraid to get multiple opinions regarding your next steps.
There is no logical reason why the dealer down the street should be burning it up online while your Internet department is stuck in neutral. So, ask yourself: “Am I the one standing in the way of my dealership’s online success?” If the answer is “Yes,” get out of the way and into the game.