How to Maximize the Return on Your Dealership’s CRM and Improve Sales Productivity – Mark Vickery, VinSolutions


There are countless ways a CRM solution can provide the car buying market with a more connected, personalized, and overall better shopping experience. In fact, according to Nucleus Research, the average ROI for a CRM is $8.71 for every dollar spent. But how do you know if your dealership is using its CRM to the fullest capability? To find out, we recently caught up with Mark Vickery, Director of Performance Management at VinSolutions.


Jim Fitzpatrick: Welcome in to CBT, Mark.

Mark Vickery: Thank you, Jim. It’s great to see you again.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, you too. Four Toughies For Moving Past Just Okay Car Dealerships, CRM. That’s an article that you wrote in Wards Auto I believe. Talk to us about that.

Mark Vickery: Well, CRM is an interesting animal and I’ve been at VinSolutions now six years and I feel like I’ve learned a lot in the last six years. It’s really not all that complicated. It’s a thing that doesn’t do anything by itself. The dealer has to do something. I tell dealers all the time.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And therein lies the problem, right?

Mark Vickery: [inaudible 00:01:13] the car, you got to do that part. It’s about utilization. It’s about doing stuff that gets value out of that tool.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So many dealers will report to us that their CRM is used in terms of its full capability, at about 30%. And they’ll give all sorts of reasons. But it sounds to me like it boils down to what the expectations are set by the dealer principal or the GM of the store. And also the support for the training of the people in the CRM. Do you find that to be the case?

Mark Vickery: 100% and look, 30% you can say 20%, you can say 50%, I don’t care what number you use. I think any dealer would agree that they’re not using 100% of the capabilities. And I think that’s okay, by the way. I really do. But it’s about understanding what it is you’re trying to accomplish and how you can use the CRM to get you there. Starting with really establishing, developing, creating a CRM culture. Meaning, gosh darn it, it’s happening in the CRM or it ain’t happening.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Talk to us. What are some of the common indicators that a dealership’s CRM strategy just isn’t working?

Mark Vickery: Well, I mean it could be as simple as I’m not selling as many cars as I want to sell.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s a good start.

Mark Vickery: That could be an indicator that CRM isn’t working the way that I want it to. If I’ve got a large number of overdue tasks, meaning the tasks and my processes aren’t being completed, then I’m definitively not using the CRM anywhere close to its full potential. And I would say that’s the simplest and easiest way to understand that I’m not getting the most out of it. And the other area might be data capture. I’m not getting all of my people, all of my customers into the CRM. I’m not routinely entering all interactions with the customers in the CRM. And those are things that are somewhat easy to measure. And if I’m not doing those things, I am guaranteed to be leaving opportunities on the table.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. It’s a very good point. What steps can dealers take to implement an effective CRM utilization plan?

Mark Vickery: It starts with an idea, I think. And I’ve just come to this in the last year or so. Because I don’t know that it’s necessarily a thing, or a step, or an action. I think it’s about creating and maintaining a CRM culture that’s just who you are. I mean think about it in an old school way. We test-drive everybody, right? I mean if they’re going to buy our car, they’re going to drive our car. We’ve been doing that for 70 years. We don’t think about it, but that’s really just a process, that’s in our DNA. The front line is clean, it’s straight, it’s organized. Not because somebody tells us to, that’s just who we are.

Mark Vickery: [inaudible 00:04:26] has to be that. We’ve got to create, build and maintain a CRM culture. Meaning everything happens in the CRM or it didn’t happen. [inaudible 00:04:37] you call them because I know you didn’t. Because if you did it’d be in the CRM. It’s not. So that means you didn’t call him. We’ve got to live like that.

Mark Vickery: And then I think the next thing is another idea is you got to train. We still have dealerships today that do daily training. Guess how often they include the CRM in that daily training? Almost never. Guess how they onboard new hires? They go sit them in the corner with Five Car Fred, have him show him how to use the CRM. We’ve got to onboard people with a real CRM focus to set that stage to build that culture of who we are.

Jim Fitzpatrick: It all starts and finishes really with the CRM when you think about it, doesn’t it? Or at least it should.

Mark Vickery: Yeah, I mean 100%. Think of what a CRM really is. Our tool does lots of things. But it’s really two things. It’s a data warehouse that houses all of your customer information. People that buy cars, service cars, consider the possibility of maybe buying a car. All those people live in the CRM. And then it fires processes. Call this person, email that person, text this person. That’s all. And so if we don’t collect data and we don’t keep the data clean, then those things are flawed. If I don’t execute on those processes, then that’s flawed. That’s really all I’ve got to do. Build good processes, and then follow them.

Jim Fitzpatrick: If it was Mark Vickery Auto Group, how would you run the dealership? Who should be the champion of the CRM, from your perspective, if it was your auto group? Who needs to be the champion of that on the showroom floor at the dealership?

Mark Vickery: You said a good word; champion. We use that word around here a lot. You better have a champion. I don’t care if you’re a single rooftop, dealership, independent lot, or you’re a part of a big group with 30, 40 stores. I don’t think it matters. I’ve got to have somebody on staff that knows that CRM from stem to stern. I’ve got to have somebody that my users can go to with simple questions. I’ve got to have somebody that can train and onboard new managers and new salespeople. I’ve got to have somebody, frankly, that interacts with the CRM company on a regular basis and establishes relationships and that sort of thing. I need an internal CRM champion.

Mark Vickery: And then I think I need an external CRM champion. So here at Vin we call them performance managers. You’ve got to have somebody in the CRM company that can guide you through the process, that can recommend best practices, that can quite frankly hold you accountable to do those things you said you were going to do. [inaudible 00:07:23] automotive group, I want Jim Fitzpatrick telling me what the heck I need to do better. Don’t answer my questions. You tell me what I need to do and then hold me accountable to it.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. And you guys at Vin have that.

Mark Vickery: Well we do. We call them performance managers. We hire retail car people. Everybody we hire has a retail background. And I tell people all the time, look, you may not hire me to wash cars out back, but I at least understand what it is you’re trying to accomplish. And then we talk to dealers every single day. So we see good ones, we see not so good. And look, I said it at the beginning, I don’t think it’s really very complicated. I really don’t. It’s about as simple as the kid example. Go clean your room. Well, you either clean it or you don’t.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Absolutely. And the CRM really is probably the most important tool that the dealer, or GM, dealer principal, sales manager has to manage that team and to manage that showroom floor. Its activities, where the money is being best spent for marketing and advertising. Who’s doing what in the way of performance. And it’s got to be either 100% or don’t have a CRM. Which is a very, very bad idea to not have a CRM today.

Mark Vickery: Yeah. I mean, you know what’s interesting today, if we lose a customer, we’re losing them to a competitor. [inaudible 00:08:50] gain a customer, we’re gaining them from a competitor. In other words, everybody has a CRM. That doesn’t mean they use it though. That doesn’t mean they’re really getting any value out of it. You have dealers, I’m not joking. Happy just turning off the clock with the manufacturers so they can keep getting leads that they’re not going to follow up on. How does that make any sense?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, Mark Vickery, director of performance management at VinSolutions, a Cox automotive company. I want to thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been very enlightening. Great article in Wards Auto. For those of you that haven’t gotten a chance to get it yet, go to and check it out. But again, Mark, thanks so much. Hopefully, we can have you back to talk about this very issue because it is a very hot issue always with dealers. So thanks again.

Mark Vickery: Anytime, Jim. I really appreciate it, had fun.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Thanks.

CBT Automotive Network, the number one most-watched network in retail automotive. This has been a JBF Business Media production.