As a rookie salesman an auto dealership, Chad Hubler remembers hearing the sales manager talking about Internet vehicle sales and marketing. “I thought, ‘What’s that?’” Today, Hubler is general manager of Courtesy Chevrolet, a San Diego store with one of the nation’s most active and ambitious Internet departments.
It is one of several Courtesy dealerships owned by the Gruwell family that has embraced new technologies to sell cars. Six full-time employees assigned exclusively to Internet sales at the San Diego location handle incoming leads “from start to finish” and sell about 120 cars a month, Hubler says. “We’ve tried to pump them up.” It’s important to get “the right people” for Internet sales, he says. Not every sales person is right. Someone good on the showroom floor doesn’t automatically become a good Internet sales person.
From detailed job descriptions and regular meetings, Courtesy’s Internet employees know exactly what their duties are. “We didn’t want any surprises,” says Hubler, who describes himself as “big on systems and processes.”
Courtesy’s Internet leads come from various places, including third-party sources that charge for them. “I’ve heard the pros and cons about third-party leads,” Hubler says. “The best thing about them is that you can measure them. A lot of times it’s the salesperson if a lead doesn’t result in a sale.”
Other leads come from the dealership’s 350 URL addresses that route people to the dealership’s information-intensive website, www.courtesysandiego.com. It contains an array of features. “We went crazy buying San Diego URL names; anything we could think of from the military to special finance to Spanish-language names,” Hubler says.
Other leads come from putting Courtesy’s Internet address on advertising throughout town, including bus shelters.
Still others come from search-engine marketing efforts. In four months, 16,266 shoppers were driven to Courtesy sites at $1.90 per click. Of those shoppers, 2,248 submitted leads. “Getting someone to land on your site is one thing, getting them to click and submit a lead is another,” Hubler says at an E.N.G. conference on Internet marketing and customer relationship management. Courtesy’s Internet marketing costs average $412 per vehicle retailed (PVR). That’s not bad, but there’s room for improvement, Hubler says.
Steve Stauning, dealership chain Asbury Automotive’s e-commerce director, tells the conference that dealership PVRs still average $500 to $600. “Wasn’t the Internet supposed to lower that amount?” Stauning says.
Nevertheless, Hubler is a believer in the power of the Internet when it comes to aiding vehicle sales. “The Internet is tremendous,” he says. “It’s a giant. It’s amazing what you can do with it.”
By Steve Finlay