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Forget your Processes and keep PUSHING! Posted on DealerRefresh - Ralph Paglia's Response

Over at DealerRefresh, Alex Snyder posted the following Blog:

We speak a lot about not going forward until we’ve fixed our core processes first, but I’m going to challenge that notion for a minute.

When my dealer group was on ADP CRM we had the option of denying sales people the ability to email out of the CRM. I know that sounds nasty, and there were some solid reasons behind it I’m not going to detail here, but I can say one was due to us not being able to handle a phone call or consistently mail a letter – if we couldn’t do that, how could we send an email? iMagicLab CRM, which we’re currently on, did not have the ability to turn email off from any user when we first moved over, so we were forced to abandon the policy that 
“if the core is broken, don’t move forward”. Today, I’m really glad we were forced to move forward.

Through email, we have found another way to train our people. A few who we couldn’t get to buy-in on phone training are email fanatics whom we’ve been able to train on email, and they’re now using that email training inside phone conversations.

One buy-in is turning into multiple buy-ins.

I’m seeing a repeat of this lesson through facebook today. Some of our sales agents, who are the biggest CRM-follow-up offenders, are becoming incredible facebook-follow-up artists. When I visit with these sales agents, I point out what they did on facebook and try to show them that CRM is no different – it is just a different communication tool. It is working!

It is obvious that every person learns differently, and it should be obvious that each person has different hot points. So why not nurture the next big thing to see who climbs on? You may be surprised what kind of old highways the new alleyway creates.

My Response to Alex Snyder:


I caught this post of your on the tool bar i built which shows DealerRefresh, Kain Automotive and ADM on the same mashed up scrolling feed, and... I just had to respond because you have discovered something i learned the hard way, and which most people think I am nuts when describing. When I first started working at Courtesy Chevrolet in Phoenix, I came from a job at Reynolds which had me working with their CRM team for several years. I firmly believed that it would be a waste to attract customers in any way if the sales team was not yet trained to follow an effective process, regardless of whether we are talking about showroom, phone or Internet, I (like so many others) believed in "Plan, Prepare, Train BEFORE Inviting Customers. So, my first two months at the Chevy store I was like a Grizzly Bear with a King Salmon, focused and shredding the Internet and BDC team's processes apart like pulling strips of string cheese (I'm at the Red Rock in Vegas and hungry). And, we started making process... I was damned proud when we went from a 7.2% Internet Lead to Close Rate and from 8% to 11% Incoming Sales Call to Close rate. Then one day the dealer (Bill Gruwell) asks me to come to his office. After I explained what I was working on and showed him the numbers (bragging somewhat), he was polite but not smiling... The store's total sales had gone down and he expected my work to yield INCREMENTAL sales, not just doing a better job of tracking everything so my team got on more deals and we were able to claim a higher percentage of the store's business... He already knew how much business the Internet was brining in, and that's why they hired me... Or something like that. I am paraphrasing based on memory, so Bill, Scott and Mark if you read this please forgive me if I don't get it word for word... The bottom line was this:

Stop trying to perfect the processes and get more people into the dealership! get more leads, get more phone calls and if the CRM and Process performance ratios stay the same, we will sell more cars. So, being the smart ass that I seem to be less and less of as I get older, I said to Mr. Gruwell something like this:

"More leads is easy sir, it is just a matter of budget, figure an average of $20 a lead and multiply that by the number of increased leads you want me to get and it's as simple as that..." (today I know what a f*&^#ing idiot I must have sounded like. But, the Gruwells are VERY sharp operators and Mr. G did not blink... He took a pencil and piece of paper and said something like: "OK, so can I use 7% closing rates as a safe average?" As my chest puffed out, I said "Yes SIR, my processes are so pure and so effective, you can count on me for BETTER than a 7% Close Rate... Sir, YES Sir!". So he looks at me and says "OK, I am giving you an extra $20,000 a month to generate 1,000 more leads and sell an extra 70 cars above and beyond what you did last month...". As I walked out, I had that gnarly knot in my stomach like when your holding an Aces over Kings Full House in a Poker game, slap it down and the other guy quietly lays down 4 Deuces... Yet, the "Idiot Lesson" I would receive had only just begun. After I went to every known lead provider and found out we were already buying every Chevy lead we could get in the Phoenix Market, out of sheer desperation i turned to online advertising and microsites which meant I had no time to monitor processes... I was able to get lead volume over 5,000 a month, processes be damned, and somehow everything fell into shape and we sold thousands of cars... But ONLY after I threw away the blueprint and focused on opening up the spigot of customer communication opportunities. Which somehow seems like a similar experience to what you described in this post... sort of... OK, cut me some slack here, I am in Vegas and sleep deprivation does weird things to people!

Views: 43

Tags: Alex Snyder, DealerRefresh, Forget your Processes, Ralph Paglia Response, keep PUSHING


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Comment by Keith Shetterly on October 15, 2009 at 7:44am
I don't think a process focus is wrong but that works when you build it from the first that way. The horse is out of the barn in most dealerships, and increasing Opportunities To Do Business (OTDB) is the focus that pays best and first in those dealerships. I'm reminded of how they teach CPR nowadays vs. the old way: In the first few minutes, instead of 5 compressions and a breath, 5 compressions and a breath, they focus on COMPRESSIONS because the lungs have a lot of oxygen already (Ever hold your breath? Exactly!) and blood flow is the most important to keep up in the first few minutes (check out articles like

I greatly admire Texas Direct Auto for their processes, which they put in place from the BEGINNING. That horse stayed in the barn quite nicely. Nowadays . . . I think Ralph has a point. New stuff helps the blood flow
Comment by Ralph Paglia on October 15, 2009 at 12:12am
Tom and Gerald,

Thank you, both, for the feedback... The best dealers I have worked for have been those who have an intrinsic ability to set the stage for brining out the best in their people. When you claim only one barrier, and the dealer removes that barrier, there is not much room for anything less than improved performance. The best dealers know how to remove the roadblocks that hold their people back. I had an experience today during a conference call with key managers and April Ancira from the Ancira Auto Group in San Antonio, where the dealer decided to remove several policy constraints preventing her people from have direct unfettered access to customers. Very similar to what Alex Snyder described in his blog post. This was not a matter of spending more money, but simply having enough faith in her people to trust them with direct access. I know the dealerships in her group will benefit from the access and sell more cars.
Comment by Tom Gorham on October 14, 2009 at 8:56pm
To Ralph - "More leads is easy sir, it is just a matter of budget". That didn't turn out to be wrong because you used the budget in other ways. Am I correct? I often find the biggest challenge is to do more with less... less staff and less budget (Really a challenge!!!). I was captivated by your story. I agree with both of you that a process isn't everything but it sure does lay down a firm runway to take off from and fly. I think you were right to build that foundation, and then you were lucky to be forced into flying from it. Your boss was a smart man, and lucky to have you.
Comment by Gerald Hand on October 14, 2009 at 7:04pm
Ralph- it almost seems to me sometimes we need to suspend the rules and just get leads in, and pick the low hanging fruit before tightening our belts. It is almost akin to an adolescent growing up. You'll notice they become a little pudgy, putting on some extra pounds, and before you know it, they have grown a couple of inches and they are back in their normal parameters.

It sounds like the challenge from Mr G forced you to get outside the box and it led to an increase in leads which in turn led to more opportunities. I think we are often blinded by our familiarity with a situation and can't see the forest for the trees.

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