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My hope is to start a discussion here where Directors at dealerships can post questions to issues they are facing and hear back from the community ways to overcome them.

If you have a problem or solution please share it with the rest of us.



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I want to share an issue that I think most of us face in our dealerships. I have a very progressive President/GM but it seems that the rest of our dealership has a tough time buying in to the idea that the Internet Department is vital to the growth of the dealership. Keep in mind my department accounts for 40% of the volume each month, but even getting something as simple as new/pre-owned specials can be a pain in the @#$!!!

I guess what I'm looking for is some tips on how to get everyone on board to create an internet dealership instead of a department.
It isn't going to happen. Most people don't want to vary from what they have always dine, even if it doesn't work any longer. They still look at the internet as something they cannot control so it has no value to them. This business has always been about control. They preach that you need to control your customer, sales managers have to control their salespeople, even with advertising, they have control of the ad in the paper that everyone who reads it will see.

I am initmately familiar with the issues you are referring to... The buy-in, or lack of, from the management team in the dealership. When I was a field consultant setting up dealership Internet Departments from 1998 to 2003 I noticed a gradual change in both sales management preception of Internet Sales Teams, however they were organized, and the primary causes of failure and breakdown of the teams and processes related to generating, handling and selling Internet leads and phone calls. In the early days, we saw managers who would get quite excited about the prospects of using the Internet to generate business. And then I noticed what I thought strange and counter-intuitive at the time... The more successful the salespersons were with Internet leads, the more resistance the managers seemed to create and the more often I would get calls and emails about the "Internet problem" at the dealership. Not so much today, but back when we were first growing this part of the dealership sales business, there was an expectation from many managers that Internet sales would be incremental, or, in addition to the sales already being sold to showroom walk-ins, bebacks, etc.

When many managers began realizing that these Internet leads were the very same customers who previously came to the showroom, a good portion of sales or desk managers developed negative biases towards Internet sales that would show up in a variety of ways depending on their personality... Here's some of the ways these destructive attitudes and perceptions can be seen:

1. Managers that apply policies regarding split deals and skating protection in an uneven or inconsistent manner depending on whether the situation involves an Internet Sales Specialist and a Showroom Salesperson.

2. Managers that allow vehicles to be sold to showroom customers when there is a deposit on the vehicle and an appointment made by the Internet department. However, when the same deal circumstances exist for a showroom sale, the Internet department is not allowed to sell the car.

3. Managers that produce dramatic price and/or payment offers, often at a selling price below vehicle cost, for the purpose of an advertisement that will appear in newspaper, radio, tv, outdoor or other offline advertisement. THEN, forbid that same offer from appearing on the dealership's websites or from being included in broadcast or 1 to 1 emails sent to prospective car buyers.

4. Managers who declare that the store has a policy of NOT sending price quotes to customers who submit a Request For Quote (RFQ) via a dealership, OEM or 3rd party lead provider website.

5. Managers who do not invite Internet Sales Managers to their various management team meetings.

These five items I have listed above are just a few examples of the ways that managers damage their dealership's total sales volume. This is entirely unacceptable to most owners, unless they do not recognize these management practices as being the destructive force that they actually are. The problem is often hidden or unrecognized by the dealer or GM when the very same managers who engage in destructive and counterproductive sales management practices also control information flowing to the dealer or GM.

So, once we recognize that in many cases the problem resides within management, or a specific manager who is making destructive decisions out of a negative prejudice towards any successful sales processes involving Internet sales... What should we do?

First, we need to identify the individual mangers who are the source of the negative management practices. In many dealerships, other managers execute these sales destruction processes because of guidance from another manager who is a peer or from another manager above or below them. Identifying the source, and then understanding the motivations that drive that source's negativity towards Internet sales is a key part of solving the problem. Of course, one way to solve the problem is to find a job at another dealership... But, make no mistake, in almost 100% of the situations I have seen like this, the person who makes their living selling Internet leads, and the dealer, are the losers. So, the Internet Sales Specialist or Manager has an advantage over the dealer... They can go work somewhere else. No matter what happens, the dealer is going to get hurt if he/she fails to identify and resolve the problem. The degree of that damage is greater today than ever before and will continue to grow. I have seen DOZENS of sales managers lose their jobs over this type of situation, and it is a shame because omce you really analyze it, the root causes are usually related to pride, ignorance, jealousy and fear. All of which can be mitigated through education and dealer commitment.

One of the consulting practices I have executed several times over the years is to identify the sales manager who is the driving force behind destroying any success related to Internet sales and then convince the dealer to offer that manager a choice. The choice is to either become the Internet Sales Director/Manager and be held responsible for all sales resulting from digital marketing and internet sales processes, or if he/she refuses the job, they will be resigning from employment at the dealership. This has resulted in some of the best Internet Sales Managers I have had the privilege to work with, and has also eliminated the problem via their departure in many other cases.

Although I do not want to name people, and potentially embarass them, there was a desk manager at Courtesy Chevrolet when I worked there who was always complaining about my Internet sales teams and seemed to encourage skating my people. Things like calling the ISS when their customer showed up on the floor and hanging up on the ISS's cell phone after 2 rings, stating, "oh well, he's not available, but here is Joe and he is Bill's partner so he can take care of you and Bill will get full credit". Then, the deal is "accidentally" put into the showroom salesperson's name as a whole deal... Until the ISS calls the customer, raises a big stink with me, a mangement meeting is held, kangaru court, and then the ISS gets a half deal when he should have gotten the whole deal... So what did I do? When I had a sales management position come available within the Internet team, I asked to dealer to give this manager to me... The dealer thought I was nuts at first, but you know what happened? George (oops) became one of the best ISM's in the business and is there today with his team of 8 ISS's selling over 100 cars a month. And, when George was offered a promotion to go back into the showroom sales department, he asked to be given the same role but be responsible for the Internet Sales Team.

One thing that happened as a result of bring the most Internet negative manager into the Internet deaprtment, was that he KNEW all the ways the desk managers were screwing the Internet Sales Specialists to benefit "Thier" showroom sales people, and he became the most fiersome and fight-to-the-death advocate of recognizing and priotecting the work that the ISS's do in order to get a customer to show up at the dealership.

George probably still does this, every morning he would pull a sales report out of the DMS and then do searches in our NetTrack lead management system for any lead that MIGHT have been that person who bought a car, related to that person, or maybe lived in the same zip code! Then George would get that look of determination and say to me "I am going to get to the bottom of this crime right now, even if I have to use waterboarding on the *&@%#$ sales person to get the truth...". Now, there were many times I would insert myself and resolve issues before they turned violent, but what happened was that the desk managers and showroom salespeople grew to fear the wrath of the G-Man, as we called him, and they simply started doing what they should have been doing in the first place. Since George had been a desk manager, the others respected him and again, would change their management practices over time to do what they should have been doing in the first place.

Now, I will take very little credit for the success of integrating the Internet Sales Team into the rest of the dealership, because that success was driven by the dealer and his 2 sons who supported growing the dealership's digital marketing and sales capabilities. They invested a lot of money, time and commitment into building the infrastructure, buying equipment and services, developing and building, then executing online/offline integrated marketing campaigns and hiring the people needed to get it all done. As the showroom managers saw where the dealer was investing his money, they were smart enough to know that they should get as much benefit out of that investment as they could.

When showroom sales managers figure out that online advertising drives more showroom traffic than Internet leads, they become big supporters and the transformation of their attitudes is amazing. When Internet Sales Managers realize that budgets which are taken away from buying Internet Leads from 3rd party providers and reinvested into online advertising produce more showrrom traffic and far fewer electronic leads than buying leads, they will sometimes go negative on digital advertising. It is ironic, but all part of the transformation of our industry from being focused on Analog Marketing and Sales Tactics to becoming skilled and focused on Digital Marketing and Sales Tactics. When sales managers who are primarily responsible for showroom sales activities figure it out, there whole attitude and approach to the Internet Sales Specialists changes.

Why? Because the stires that really do a great job of digital marketing and advertising get more lift to showroom and phone traffic out of it than they do from increased volume of leads from online forms. Why? Because out of every 100 people who visit a dealership after visiting that dealership's website, fewer than 22 of them contacted the dealership in any way before showing up on the showroom... After awhile, even the most ignorant miscreant sales managers figure it out. However, without the dealer making the investments into digital marketing, they will never believe it from any other source of information.

In your situation where 40% of the store's sales volume 0originates from an Internet lead, you will inevitable deal with the negative attitudes that come from managers who do not get any credit or recognition for this significant portion of the sales department's productivity... The REALLY scary part is that depending on how you are getting these leads, whether homegrown or purchased, there are probably many sales not being credited to the Internet department that are being driven by your dealership's online marketing activities.

My advice? Somehow, perhaps in multiple ways, you have got to get other managers to take pride of ownership in your department or Internet sales team. Produce and review reports with them, take leads that your people have worked for the past 10 days and gotten nowwhere to these managers and ask them if they have anybody who might be willing to :take a turn" and try to get the customer's attention, and get them into the store... Then, give the salesperon the whole dealm, but insist that the deal be shown as an Internet sale for reporting purposes.

When you have more leads than you can properly respond to in time, go to a non-Internet manager and ask if he or his sales people might be willing to help.

Take any online credit apps you get and print copies, and run reports showing how many online apps you have gotten YTD and go to the finance manager. Ask him/her to discuss possible improvements that your team could implement in the way they handle leads from online credit apps... Talk about how your Internet Sales come from customers who have far higher credit scores than the showrrom walk-ins. If you have never figured this out, you will be amazed, in most stores the Internet leads come from people with an average credit score more than 100 points higher than the showroom walk-ins. Finance Directors know that they need a higher score loan portfolio balance in order to get the more risky loans bought.

When you have Internet leads show up and your ISS cannot come to terms during negotiation, before the customer leaves the dealership, and when the situation is approrpiate, ask a showroom manager for help, or see if a TO to one of the better showroom sales closers might be approprate.

When making design changes and setting up your dealership's pages in, and other online publications, print them out as drafts and take them to the other managers. Explain that 80% of the people who come to the dealership after seeing an online web page about your dealership do so with submitting a lead or calling the store, so you feel they should have some say in what appears online because it actually has more impact on them than on you and your leads... You get the idea.

I am uploading a couple files that you may find interesting and supportive... Oh yeah, GOOD LUCK! None of this stuff is easy and many Internet Sales Managers fail because they can't get the other managers to support their activities.

The eMarketer Report attached is a real eye opener and has some great automotive specific data to show your management team.

You say your president/GM is progressive, but you have a problem getting specials from new and pre-owned managers? Being an Internet Director you should not to have to ask for those specials, first you should know before anything goes to print or on air what specials are going to be broadcast etc. Even knowing those specials you should be creating your own. "It is your job to create business for the store" as you have a budget and a means of advertising hence it is your job and you should have the flexability to price vehicles and yes even loose some money to drive interest and business to the store. The Director of Internet Sales is a very busy person and having to ask for specials is unacceptable. You are a manager of people and that includes other managers and yes even the GM. I always called it manager management when I was on the sales floor. It is kind of like selling a car, " be a salesman" all of the time.

You can also look at it like this: My attitude is great and I will let no one take that from me, I am going to do this job to the best of my ability and I am not going to let some manager with a bad attitude stop me from selling as many vehicles as possible. There are no negatives in my life and I will crush you if you have one, get out of the way jack I have work to do.

Get with the GM and create all of your own specials make sure that everyone is on board. Be sure they understand what your job is and that is to drive traffic via the best advertising media there is. Just because it is priced one way does not mean it will sell for that. Some of my biggest gross deals have been on sale priced vehicles. Good luck Eric.
You have a great website by the way and if you are doing 40% of the business for the store, you are a stud. Rock on
I love Frank's words of wisdom... He is one of those that "get it" and you would be wise to adopt his advice and internalize it.
Quit Asking!!!!
If you truly have a "progressive GM",meet with him and set the parameters of your responsibilities and powers...then use them.
If you are truly generating 40% of your stores volume on a monthly basis and can prove it, do so.
Results matter.
When you go to "ask" for your next special, simply state what you have come up with and tell your FELLOW manager (read peer) know that you are letting him know what you are doing as a courtesy and you will continue to do so in the future.
If this becomes a "pissing match" everyone loses.
You hope it doesn't become a need for the "I have this role and you have that and I'm not sure why, but i am going to fulfil my duty" type of situation.
Too many times I have seen I-net Depts. that fail to establish themselves as a seperate and powerful entity: And though empowered by the G.M. to be independent, set a precedent of "asking" in order to be nice much to their own future detriment.
I wish you all the best as you re-educate your partners.
That solution works where you have little or no turnover. Everytime you send a new hire to demo a vehicle they end up demonstrating how little they know about the car and how much more the internet prospect knows from their research. T/O's are another area where dealers will end up proving to the Internet customer nothig has really changed, most newbies can't negotiate a price. Many floor salespeople are not interested in serving Internet customers because they view the sale as low $$$ value. I won't even start with how often people on the showroom floor blow off daily calls. Eric has a good model, just needs help taking it to the next level...
The Salesman approach can be very brutal, but I have seen it work, when the Salesmen bought into the Department. Mind you that was one out of five. Most of what I see ends up like what Scott was talking about. I hate to say this, because this is a very cost effective way to try, but the Salesmen better be sold 100%. It is very difficult for the typicall car Salesman to see calling a customer over and over and over, as most Internet Customers want us to. They typically do not buy right out of the gate and that frustrates 90% of the sales staff. They expect instant results and when they do not get it, they move on. If they buy into the fact that it takes more work than a normal up and just keep making the calls and keep sending the e-mails they will see the results. Sometimes. The last Dealership I was at GAUDIN FORD, I had three salesmen that bought into it. You would think them telling the others that it works, but you just have to work a bit harder, would be a slam dunk. Truth is, they don't want to work harder. They want instant satisfaction. Until we can breed that out of them, it's a bumpy road.
For Specials try this approach and it may garner different results, at least on the Used Car side. I typically like to blend Old Agers with a couple of high interest vehicles. If you do this and sell your Used Car Manager on the fact that you are trying to help him, get rid of the units he needs to, it should get him to start playing ball. As far as New or the Ad in the Newspaper for the Dealership, ask them to have the company that does the ad, to CC you when they send over the Final Print. That should be fairly easy. For New Specials if you pose it in a similar way, that you are trying to move the product that needs to go, blowing out vehicles that are costing them money.. you should meet less resistance there as well. Couple of quick tips anyway.
I think the best thing that has helped my career is education and plain old results.

Why? It shuts everyone up!

I can remember when I arrived at my current dealership. For years they had averaged 20-30 cars per month in Internet. In that first sales meeting, I introduced myself, listed my experience, and stated that we would be selling 150+ cars per month soon out of internet. Most of the sales managers were averaging around 86-90 cars a month (per team, 9 salespeople.) and literally laughed in my face when I said that.

Three months later, they were calling me sir. And that was my team of 5 salespeople.

Which gave me the credibility to do what I wanted to do...which is bring ALL of the business to our store. Specials? Me. Online campaigns? Me. SEO? Me. The first time you kick their teeth in, in terms of units and gross, they shut up.

I think the one thing we all have to focus on is an angle, a nitch; what psychologically motivates your regional clientele. Figure that out anywhere you are, exploit it, and you will be the winner!

Remember, this is YOUR business! Run it and own it! Invest in it! Strive to become an expert in what you do. No one can refute strong results and look intelligent. Do what you have to do to achieve THAT.
Absolutely right on the money. RESULTS, RESULTS. It's funny I have been at two types of Dealerships.. One that stands behind what the Director does and the other that Micro-manages. There is nothing more frustrating than the Micro-managed style. You know what needs to be done to get things on track and they won't except it, won't even give it a try. If I am going to fail, I would rather fail at it MY WAY, than someone else’s.

The Dealership where they allow you to sink or fail based on your ideas and proven results is the one I am at now. Now I feel like I am back in control of my Dealerships Virtual destiny. WE WON'T FAIL! I'm not a know it all for that matter, but I do know what works and what does not. I have been involved with both very successful and non-successful Internet Departments. As I said before, Sales People can work, I have witnessed it. If you are able to manage it the way you want and everyone is on board. It is very successful, just like the other method. It's the backing of Management, Sales Managers, and the Sales Staff that is crucial. With that you, it's very difficult to fail. Results will shut them up.

Taking a store from not on the map to a top ten Internet Store and from selling 30-40 cars to 60-100 cars should show anyone that what you do actual makes a difference... I had a funny experience with GAUDIN AUTOMOTIVE where I worked for Ford Country ( One of their three stores ) and did just what I said in the last sentence. Then I was taken to their Parent store to get it on track, GAUDIN FORD and even with the results at Ford Country, was not allowed to manage the Department. Instead In was Micro-Managed and the store failed. It killed me going into the GM's office everyday knowing what the problem was, telling them what the issues were.. but not being allowed to implement what worked effectively into that system made me as frustrated as I ever have been.

I am so happy to be back at a Dealer that believes in results and says " Show me! " because this is exactly what I am going to do!


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