Categories
Business Development Retail Car Lot

7 Ways to Win Google’s “Near Me” Search Wars at Your Dealership

“Near Me” Searchers Buy the Same Day

Did you know that 50% of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit that business within a day?
Interesting is the fact that 18% of those visit will make a purchase that same day. Even more stunning, is the fact that Millennials will buy 29% of the time on the same day. So it stands to reason that your business should ensure that it can be found in a “near me” search for all the categories and products you sell.

1. Being mobile compatible is not good enough.

Finding a product or service nearby used to require a combination of the Yellow Pages, a paper map, and a telephone — not the most convenient solution. Thanks to the powerful devices in consumers pockets and on their wrists, buyers can now quickly and easily find things around them. All you have to do is sit at a coffee shop or commuter train and you will see consumers figuring out where to go next, where to buy the products they are interested in and where to get service, all from their smart phones.

“Turning to our smartphones when we need something — a forgotten word, a better (used car) price, a movie time— has become a reflex”, according to Matt Lawson, ‎director of search ads marketing at Google.

Words like “near me,” “closest,” and “nearby” are increasingly common across the billions of search queries on Google every month especially in Automotive research. Searches like “Used Honda’s near me” and “Closest used car lot” are quite common. According to Google, search interest in “near me” has increased a staggering 34 times since 2011 and nearly doubled again since last year. The vast majority come from mobile — 80% in Q4 2014.
In a new article on Think with Google, Matt Lawson, says,

“We want things right, and we want things right away. As a result, the consumer journey looks markedly different than it did just five years ago. Instead of a few moments of truth, it’s a series of ‘micro-moments’ when we turn to mobile to act on a need.”

He call’s them “I want to go” moments, read more http://bit.ly/Iwanttogo

2. Make Micro-Moments, Awesome Moments

Consumers have become fast at Google “Sniping”. They are expecting the answer right away and expecting the site they find to provide those answers in an instant. In other words, we have become less tolerant of poorly designed websites and sites with a bad customer experience.

For example if a customer searches for “Oil Change near me” or “Service in Alden NY” they expect to find sites they recognize. Then when they tap into that site from their mobile device you better take them to a site where they can find service and oil changes and it better be an awesome mobile experience.

3. Embrace Google’s New Mobile Experience.

In Google’s latest round of changes to their awesome search algorithm they focused on rewarding sites with amazing  mobile sites. You can test your site by going to http://bit.ly/SEOFriend

Make sure your websites are “Mobile Friendly” or “Near Me” compatible. Think about it, if 80% of “near me” searches are preformed on mobile devices, which makes sense, what do they see when they search for your brand “near me”. In other words test it against the mobile tools out there such as Google’s mobile friendly tag

4. Taking Advantage of “Near Me” Search

I was at a used car super store last week, (Auction Direct USA) speaking about this subject with Scott Harvell and his team. I asked if he’s store was “Near Me” ready? He beamed back at me and said, “Go ahead and check.”

So I pulled out my smart phone and searched “used cars near me.” Auction Direct  was listed on page one, with the “Mobile Friendly” tag.

Looking around his showroom at the many customers, I realized how important it is to have a great website fully compatible with Google’s latest search.

5. Focus on Your Google Business Listings Again.

I was visiting a large dealer group the other day, while waiting in the showroom I searched “Nissan Dealer Near Me” and was horrified to find that the very store I was standing in somehow was listed as “permanently closed” by Google maps.

How much business is that costing them. You cannot loose focus on the importance of Google’s Business Listing. You should have someone at your company reviewing them monthly and adding photos and videos as often as possible to keep it fresh.

6. Focusing on Localized Search with Special Websites

Consumers seldom know where they want to buy a car, they tend to search for things like “used cars in Alden NY” or “Charlotte Used Trucks” as their opening volley. You will notice that Autotrader.com and Cars.com are dominant advertisers in that space. For good reason. Customers search for the product they want in the town they want it, twice as often as a business name.

However, buying a domain like UsedCarsCharlotte.com and pointing it at your main site does not work, because in the past black hat SEO heathens ruined this technique. They built hundreds of phony one page landing pages with static content to game the old Google algorithm. Google now penalizes businesses that use this technique and in some cases have practically black balled victim dealers using into obscurity.

On the other hand, Google loves content rich websites that complete their main goal “Relevance.” So the way to help customers find the car they want in the market they are shopping in, is to have fully functional websites. Similar to car.com or craigslist.com that list your inventory and allow a great mobile and desktop experience for your customers.
UsedCarAd.com ($499 per year) is a perfect example of an inexpensive way to get yourself a “localized” web site. It provides a full inventory search, specials, aged inventory and 10 separate contact points including an awesome stepped credit ap.
It go as far as to allow the consumer to stay within your localizes site including VDP (vehicle detail pages) or allow the user to jump over to your branded VDP and continue their shopping experience on your main website.

7. Follow Google’s Rules and They Will Love Your Site

At our company, Dealer Simplified, LLC, we study Google and their rules on a daily bases. We read their blogs, we watch their learning center videos. Why? Because we learned if you embrace their rules, Google will love your sites. Let me say that again in a different way. Stop fighting them, instead do what they say and they will index your site beautifully.

An example of how great Google lays out the rules is this site: http://bit.ly/MobileSeo devoted to helping you make your mobile site compatible with Google’s latest search algorithm.

Categories
Car Auction Dealer Software Wholesale Lot

Wholesalers back in My Dealership? Dealer Auction Software

Wholesales in my dealership

Dealer Auction Software that helps save auction fees & avoid the major pitfalls of wholesaling.

Just because at times retail customers are disruptive and even bounce checks, would you shut down your dealership? Of course not, instead you would put controls in place to prevent future issues.

We kicked out wholesalersBut for some reason, dealer principles were advised at their 20 groups and at conferences to kick wholesalers out of their dealerships. Dealers were told that wholesalers were disruptive and were bribing our used car managers. That their checks bounced and that the only way to prevent all of this was to kick them out, once and for all.

While these issues did happen at times, it was the exception. Unfortunately we tend to remember the extremes. In my experience, the wholesalers and independents I have meant over they years, while sometimes rough around the edges, are solid hard working business people. They are the core behind what makes our industry tick.

It seems crazy to me that we have excluded them from our dealership, sort of like the proverbial, throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Think about it. If you found a way to control the check issue, the back room deals and the disruption. Your dealership could save hundreds of dollars per car in auction fees and transport fees. The best part is your manager isn’t away from your dealership, missing TO’s and coaching opportunities with your sales consultants.

Is a Dealer Held Auction the Answer?

In this article you will learn many of the basics of running your own dealer auction and welcoming profitable, fee free wholesale transactions back into your dealer group. You will learn how to prevent most of the pitfalls and above all how to stay organized using dealer auction software, so you can focus on profit.

The Dealer Auction Study

My partners and I conducted a one year study of dealer run auctions and private dealer bid sales. We visited dealer auctions that have achieved 95%+ sell rates on a weekly basis, even in the dead of winter. We have seen it all from complete “Red Light AS IS” auctions to dealers that recondition every car that goes through their lane. We learned quickly the advantages of using dealer auction software and running online versus physical and picked up some of the best practices along the way. The following is a small portion of that study.

Magic 10 steps? No such thing.

I am not trying to say that it as easy as just 10 steps, just like magic you can run your own dealer auction. Not at all, this is just a 10 step primer to help you understand what will be expected. I recommend that you speak with other dealers who are running their own auction or call companies like ours, who specialize in helping dealers run an accountable profitable and successful auction.

So what are the steps to starting your own dealer wholesale auction?

Retail lot or wholesale row sign1. Merchandise your wholesale cars as vigorously as your retail. For many dealerships there are two kinds of trades: Cars we’re going to keep and cars we are going to sell at auction. Traditionally we process them differently. What if you merchandise wholesale cars as expertly as you do your retail cars, then offer them to your local and national wholesalers and independent dealers online. Do you think you could sell a bunch of those cars before you have to take them to auction? Of course, and because you don’t pay fees or transportation you avoid expenses and above all make more on profit.


2. Process your wholesale car using the same tools your inventory team are already using.
No need to reinvent the wheel here, just have your IM’s (inventory managers) use the same tool they use to process retail trades. This way they are not overwhelmed with too much change. Companies such as vAuto, Red Bumper, DealerTrack and Vin-solutions already have a special category for wholesale where you can add photos and descriptions. Then you can feed the inventory to your wholesale website or to a wholesale marketplace like Auction Simplified

Wholesale Photos focus on flaws3. Focus on the flaws not the cheese. Wholesalers are very different from retail buyers. All they want is the basics of the car and photos of the flaws and a well thought out condition report. So merchandising for wholesale can be quite a bit easier. You don’t have to take 40-60 photos or write a Shakespearean level description, instead keep it to the basics.
My partner Dave Kaiser, explains it like this:

“Take 10-15 ‘Get to know me’ photos then take photos of the rust spots or missing items. If there is a special feature such as AWD or Navigation that is not normally on that vehicle, go ahead and photo it as well.”

In most cases 15-20 photos and a condition report will get the job done. Some dealers write out a condition report and scan it as a photo of the car or use the free condition report built into Auction Simplified. It only takes 5-7 minutes per car to complete. As Dave says over and over again. “Point out the issues on the car so the bidder can make a serious bidding decision.”

4. Put your wholesale cars ONLINE the as soon as possible.

Cars have 48 hours to be onlineApplying the Dale Pollak, Velocity retail approach to wholesale, makes the most sense. If you can get a list of your wholesale cars in front of hundreds of buyers the day they arrive. Then list them on your wholesale marketplace for hundreds of used car dealers to see. And get all of this accomplished On Day One or within 48 hours at the latest, you should turn your inventory faster than if you wait for the next auction especially if you are waiting for decent lane numbers. Again this is just one more tool in your digital marketing plan. Not every car will sell this way. That is why I still think off site auctions are useful as a secondary strategy to your successful dealer run auction.

One extra benefit of having your cars on an auction platform, is your dealer auction will be listed by other wholesale tools such as Autoniq .

5. Hold an inspection period. SOLUTION TO AUCTION PITFALL #1

To avoid wholesalers showing up at random times, hold a regularly scheduled inspection time. This will allow buyers to visit in a controlled area at a specific time. Have a mature lot attendant there with keys and to offer help and allow them to drive the cars if they like (on their dealer plate of course.) This builds value and improves wholesaler relationships over time. You will find that the wholesalers will pay more when they can trust the dealer and will sometimes buy from start to finish online. Not every wholesaler will buy online. Some feel they still need to touch and feel the car, that is why I recommend a viewing or inspection period.

Auction Inspection Day

Hold your inspection period at a time that is convenient to the buyers in your area, for example, don’t have it at the same time as other auctions in your market. This way more buyers will be available to view your cars.

6. Certified Checks or Floor Plan only. SOLUTION TO AUCTION PITFALL #2

certified-used-carsAt first, it is critical to establish your auction rules. We recommend that you only accept certified checks unless you have an established relationship with the wholesaler. At minimum hold the title paperwork until their check clears.

You might think that buyers would be upset with this but in my experience they are usually so glad to be back in the dealership and avoiding huge auction fees that they understand the reasoning and will work with you at first.

As your auction takes off, you will be able to invite in floor plan companies as well. This way the money is EFT directly into your wholesale account with reduced risk. CFO’s love EFT from floor plan companies.

7. No one should know your bidders until the end, including the manager. SOLUTION TO AUCTION PITFALL #3

Use software that hides the bidders until the end. True accountability and tracking is a key security measure to prevent bribes and backroom deals. Software like Auction Simplified are great for this because they allow buyers to bid completely online. It has one truly unique feature, no one knows who the bidder is until they win. All bids are truly anonymous. This way there is no risk of those back room kick backs, because know one knows who bid. I admit it, that was a shameless plug for the company I co-founded, but it solves the biggest issue with wholesaling direct; accountability.

back room deals with wholesalers

TIP: If you are aware of a trouble buyer or you don’t want a buyer at your auction, you can block them from seeing your cars online.

This works especially well with competitors. Lets face it you don’t want them seeing your trades. Again not something easily done if you take the car to off site auctions.

8. Merchandise to your wholesalers.

bdcIf you spend a little effort on making your wholesalers feel welcome, by providing donuts and coffee or pizza and wraps at lunch time, they will come back each week and make your viewing day part of their schedule.

I recommend that your BDC includes 25-50 calls per week in their action plan to invite wholesalers to your weekly events.

Sending form letter invitations and post cards periodically to remind independents and wholesalers about your online marketplace is also recommended.. Many successful dealers run specialty sales when they have a glut of similar trades, like trucks. The call would sound like this:

“You’re invited to our wholesale lot for a very unique truck auction this Thursday at 9am-3pm, final bids by 4pm online. Lunch is noon, we hope you can join us.”

9. Staff Appropriately

It is not terribly expensive to staff your auction appropriately and it is money well spent. Be organized on your inspection day, have an extra lot attendant managing the car keys so you can focus on the important things. When your auction ends have appropriate billing staff and cashiers ready to bill the transactions. Try to have everything billed for pickup the next day and be ready for a rush billing for non local dealers.

1Titles to trades0. Priority Cashiering.

Pick a location for the wholesalers to cash out, it can be a managers desk but it works better if it is a cashiers window. With a little training and rule setting, cashiers become terrific gatekeepers for auction transactions. As your auction takes off consider having a special cashier just for wholesale transactions, sort of a priority window, so the wholesalers feel important. Because in my view they are.

In conclusion. If you gain trust, show concern and respect and make wholesalers and indy’s feel welcome they will pay more for your wholesale cars. If you don’t have to ship your car, pay auction fees or have to send a manager off site for the day, you’ll make more money wholesaling cars.

If you can turn a $500 car into a $700 car that’s a 40% profit. It is next to impossible to make 40% on most of your retail used cars.

Digital marketing for wholesale cars is long over due.

Resources

If you are ready to start your own dealer auction and wholesale marketplace, call our team or myself directly at 877-877-4511 or visit dealersimplified.com for more information and strategy guides.

Categories
Business Development Car Auction Dealer Software Wholesale Lot

It’s Time for Digital Marketing for Wholesales Cars

If your dealership survived the recession of 2007-08, you understand the value of Digital Marketing for Retail and the importance of getting your cars online fast.

You probably have all the latest and greatest tools for selling cars to the retail public, the best pricing tools, beautiful SEO efficient websites and the latest apps.

You insure your retail inventory is online by day 3 at the latest. We have all become, what I call, “Online Dealers with Local Delivery”

This leads me to the following questions:

  • Wholesale Cars online Day 1Isn’t time to do the same for wholesale?
  • Why is it OK to wait a week or two before selling our trades at auction but we require our managers to have our retails on-line in three days?
  • Why do we not digitally marketing our wholesale inventory to our wholesalers on day one?
  • Why did we kick the wholesalers and independent buyers out of our stores? (Don’t jump to conclusions on this one, really think about it, because it is the root cause of some wholesale loss.)
  • Why do we send our prime wholesale money makers to off site auctions only to give up profits to fees, transportation and travel time.?
  • Why do we pay those sellers fees at all, even negotiated fees still add up?
  • Why is it ok to pay for shipping? And if it is free, who is actually paying?
  • Why don’t we run our own wholesale auction?
  • Why not digitally market your Wholesale Inventory?

Take a 22 minute meeting with us and we will show you how!

Call me now 716-818-4444 (my cell phone) or 877-877-4511 touch 1 for sales.
You have nothing to lose, its free to sellers (no fees, no software expense whatsoever.)  One dealer we spoke to said he “averaged $312 more per car at his private bid sale” Is it time you took a hard look at that profit center

Kevin Leigh
Co-Founder
Dealer Simplified, LLC

Categories
Car Auction Wholesale Lot

How to Spot Ghost Bidders and What Can Be Done About Them?

Maybe you have not heard of the term Ghost bidders before. It is a phantom bidder that unscrupulous auctioneers use to bid against you at a used car auction. Learn how to spot them and how to take advantage of the ghost bidder problem.

Fake, AKA. Ghost bidding is not condoned by any auction association because it is a shady way to increase bids, but it does happen from time to time. Sometimes even the person rep-ing the car is the person tricking the auctioneer into thinking there is a bidder.

In this short video I explain the problem and have a few suggestions as to how to deal with it.

 

Categories
Car Auction Retail Car Lot Wholesale Lot

10 Sites You Shouldn’t Ignore when Sourcing Used Cars

Used Car DealerIf you have been in the car business for any length of time you have faced the dilemma of how to buy used cars. Do I go to auctions? Do I visit private dealers? At Auction Simplified we think you need to be always looking for cars and visiting every venue.

 

hemmings

10. Hemmings

This site is often overlooked by car dealers because they cater mostly to Collectors. But sometimes there are gems hidden in the listings from people that consider their cars to be collectable. Used Mustangs for example or even that oddity you need to fill a customer order. Additionally, if you need old parts, Hemmings is the place to start. To buy used cars from Hemmings, go to www.hemmings.com

bring a trailer

9. Bring a Trailer

If you’re looking for something cool and old, from a rusty Pinto project cars to perfectly restored Camaro, Bring a Trailer is where you want to go. To quote their site; “There is no need to keep sifting through hundreds of hopeless projects or overpriced dealer inventories to find that one car you’ve been looking for. We pick the winners and save you the trouble… the best bargains, the best dream cars, and the best rarities.” To buy used cars from Bring a Trailer, go to bringatrailer.com

autotrader logo8 AutoTrader.com

One thing that is great about AutoTrader is that you can search the nation in a second. So if you are looking for that hard to find specific car, AT is your best bet. Links to Carfax and Kelly Blue Book straight from the site are all plusses. Not everyone likes AutoTrader because of its heavy advertising and because their listings tend to attract people who severely overvalue their cars. However, AutoTrader does have an excellent search function, letting you make searches for things like “manual transmission + two wheel drive + four cylinder engine” and gives you a variety of similar cars across different years and makes.  To buy used cars from AutoTrader go to www.autotrader.com

auto tempest7. AutoTempest

It’s great because it allows you to shop all the major used car sites at once. It’s like those cross-shopping flight search sites, but for cars. To buy used cars from AutoTempest go to AutoTempest.com

carfax logo6. Carfax

Most buyers don’t realize that Carfax has a rather robust used car listing filled with great inventory, much of it wholesale. This is because many dealers have opted to pay flat rate for Carfax and they allow the cars to show up as an additional service. You get the added bonus of a free Carfax report, cool huh? To buy used cars from Carfax, go to www.carfax.com/cars-for-sale

kijiji5. (Canada Only) kijiji.ca

Even if you live in the US there are ways to get cars across the border, so I threw this one in for our US dealers. Canadian dealers have been using Kijiji.ca for years. Great cars for sale and a good user interface makes it like Craigslist but better. It’s also owned by eBay. By the way Kijiji means “village” in Swahili. To buy used cars from KiJiJi go to www.kijiji.ca

4. Auction Simplified

I also recommend our own wholesale marketplace, Auction Simplified (shameless plug) because it is free for sellers to use and the buy fee is so small. It offers a turnkey “Make and Offer” style buy center that feeds from their existing inventory software. More and more dealers are using the platform to buy and sell used cars.  Go to AuctionSimplified.com and register.

Cars.com-Logo3. Cars.com

Similar to Autotrader but with less of the commercialism, cars.com is great especially on their mobile app. Cars.com has a clear user interface and  a great search function. Because of their lower cost as compared to AT they attract more independent car dealers and small used car lots, so they will often have almost all the cars in a particular town listed. They also allow for national search which is really helpful when looking for a bargain if you are not afraid to travel. To buy used cars from Cars go to www.cars.com

eBay-Motors-Logo-no-border2. Ebay motors

It harder to find a great deal yourself because of the national exposure, but eBay Motors is generally more reliable and easier to deal with than Craigslist. It’s also good when you already know what you want, and if you’re looking for something very specific. To buy used cars from eBay, go to www.eBaymotors.com

Use a robot bidding tool like bidnapper.com as it can really make a difference in winning the bid because it bids hyper fast on your behalf at the end.
Kevin Leigh, Dealer Simplified
Kevin Leigh

craigslist-logo-transparent1. CraigsList

You get some weird crap thrown in, so be careful not to surf craigslist while kids are around, but nothing can beat Craigslist when it comes to local listings. The search function is not the most specific, alright it actually stinks, but their are mobile apps that make things a lot easier. To buy used cars from Craigs List, go to www.craigslist.com

The trick with CL is to looks a lot further down the page, because you may not realize that it is actually a chronological list and sometimes the honey is at the bottom of the pot.
Kevin Leigh, Dealer Simplified
Kevin Leigh

UPDATE 8.12.14:

Dealer Auction SoftwareNow that Auction Simplified has launched, we also recommend our software (shameless plug) for Dealers to find, buy or sell wholesale cars. Go to AuctionSimplified.com and register.

Categories
Car Auction

Title Attached – Why it costs you money.

Profit loss missing titlesQuick Answer:

We Think You Should AVOID  Selling a Vehicle “Title Attached”.

A third less buyers and the remaining buyers pay less.

Lets use an example of a $8000 car. If you sell it at auction “Title Attached” 33% less buyers will consider the car, and the average bid will be $250 to $700 less. So net proceeds will be approximately $7300-$7750.

If you waited the 10 days until the lien release or title showed up, you would pay 10 days of extra floor plan.

Lets say your floor plan rate is 10% or .000273785 per $ per day. So in other words $8000 time .000273785 or $2.19 per day in floor plan

Which would you prefer?

$250-700 in loss at auction. OR $21.90 in floor plan and pick up the true value of the car.

 

Detailed Answer:

Title Attached/Missing/Lien Definition

What is the difference between “Title attached”, “Title Missing”, “Lien Release Missing”

 

Title Attached. New dealers/wholesalers are often confused about what “Title Attached” means.  It actually means that the title is NOT present at the time of the sale. This means the selling dealer has the title but it is not on hand at the time of the auction, usually at another dealership billing location.

 

Title missing. The dealer does not have a title in their possession. Usually they are still waiting for the customer to bring it in or they ordered a duplicate title from the DMV and are waiting for the title.

Lien Release Missing. The dealer has paid off the lien and is waiting for the bank to send the release.

Do I Get Less Bidders If The Title is Missing?

Yes. According to a study we conducted in August of 2014, dealers and wholesaler said that about 33% of dealers will avoid bidding on title attached cars because “It is a pain to deal with”.

Some dealers said they are working on fast turn around of inventory, because of this, title attached is not allowed by their owners. “We follow the vAuto philosophy of more turns per year (roughly 13-14 per annum), so title attached is a pain because you never know how long its going to take to get your title.”

One dealer told us that the “Big boys never buy title attached, because they have unlimited funds so they wait for the right cars.” Another said, “When we started only sending cars to auction with full title, we saw a 20% decrease in No Sales and a  higher average wholesale profit.”

Will I lose Profit if Title is not ready at Time of Auction?

Yes. Most bidders will pay less for a vehicle if the title is attached. One large dealer buyer told us that he pays between $250 to $700 less for “Title Attached” vehicles depending on the price. “The more money I am floating because of missing titles the more it costs. So I adjust my bid accordingly.” The only exception to this rule is for junk cars under $500.

The second reason you profit less on title attached units is because you have less bidders as mentioned above. Less shots on goal = less chance of a winning high bidder.

Can I Sell My Car if The Title is Missing.

We are not attorney’s, so we called our local NYS DMV and the person on the other end laughed when we asked the question. Her response was an  emphatic “NO.”

“You must have complete legal ownership of the vehicle before you have the right to sell it. The only exception is vehicles older than 1972 where titles did not exist for the most part. We know dealers sell vehicles with missing paperwork all the time but they shouldn’t because they technically don’t own the vehicle until they have a clear signed title with no liens on it and a signed mileage statement. ”

Is the Seller still Liable if The Title is Not in their possession?

There are many vicarious liability cases that have been won against selling dealers who did not complete their paperwork correctly or did not secure full ownership of the vehicle before they sold it. Again check with your attorney and or DMV before you consider selling a car without full ownership.

Recap:

The original intent of “Title Attached” at traditional auctions was to allow dealers to still sell cars at auction if they forgot to bring the titles with them. In most cases they needed to have the title the next day or the deal would be cancelled. It should not be used as a way to float money if you don’t have legal possession of the vehicle.

 

Categories
Business Development Dealer Software Retail Car Lot

The Important Question To Ask Dealer Software Vendors? Hint:Not DMS Integration

The Core Question?

If you draw concentric circles around your dealership accounting office you will probably find several software packages attaching themselves to your DMS. Everything from inventory managers, compliance software to CRM’s and service schedulers.

Each supplier probably had a booth at NADA where they showed off their bells and whistles and colorful graphs and functionality. We all get sort of mesmerized by the experience, taken by the flashiness and chrome.

Dealer Software is too complex
DEALER SOFTWARE IS TOO COMPLEX:
This is an actual training slide from a software vendor. I hid the brand to avoid the embarrassment for the company in question, but you know who you are.

As the long time Director of Variable Op’s for a large dealer group in Upstate New York,  I used to look forward to returning to the group to show of the latest and greatest software that could “revolutionize” our dealer group. Usually very early on in that meeting someone will ask , “does this integrate with our DMS?” I would say that is one of the least important questions early on. What dealers need to start asking is “How often are those shiny features actually used?”

We founded Dealer Simplified after sitting through three dealership website meetings. In one case I was shown a really cool bar that allowed customers to track searches. It looked great and was presented as a “Killer Feature” of their website. When I asked, “how much is it actually used by customers?” the salesperson actually gasped and stood there for a moment like a deer in the head lights. I pushed and finally he said 1-2% of the time.

I realized right then and there, Shiny Features are much different from Usable Features. The core question is, why are we always focused on the shiny bells and whistles instead of the features that make us money.

Lets take CRM for example, vendors love to show how you can make lists of customers to call and fancy reports showing our failing salespeople. The programmers that designed these features never sold a car in their life. Reports don’t sell a thing, until the salesperson learns to love his/her CRM.

In CRM the real questions are:

  • How does it help me retain customers?
  • Will my sales team use it and why?
  • How does it identify potential clients?
  • Can I speak to a satisfied 50 year old salesperson using this CRM every day?

In my opinion, the evolution of dealership software is not to add more bells and whistles or better DMS integration but to remove unused features and work towards higher utilization.

Utilization Through Ongoing training.

I really believe that software utilization comes through training. I think dealers spent way too much time showing their sales team every bell and whistle of the new software package they’re trying to launch. In my training classes I focus only on the items that salespeople and sales managers are going to use. Especially early on.

The key is to have multiple meetings over multiple months, because the sales people and managers have no idea what questions to ask until they use the software for a period of time. They also should have the cell phone number to the software vendor so they can ask questions on the fly as they are using the dealership software.

Require Quarterly Training Revisits as Part of the Contract:

One of  the least mentioned and most important lessons I have learned with software vendors is to require in their contract that they revisit and retrain your team at least once a quarter. Again it is my believe that ongoing training is an essential part of software utilization.

Categories
Car Auction Retail Car Lot Wholesale Lot

Used Car Profit Hacks

When it comes to used car profit, dealers constantly consider the resale value of their inventory. Having a profitable, well maintained inventory can make a huge difference when it comes the speed in which you turn your used car lot.
Here are some simple tips on how to increase the value of your Used Car Inventory.

Wash Your CarsCleanliness Matters

Keeping your cars clean isn’t just for cosmetic appeal, it can seriously affect your cars value. As a percentage of profit improvement, a clean car has the most impact on value for the least amount of expense.
All plastic should be treated with a quality cleaner and protectant, and the carpets should be vacuumed to the point where you can actually see the lines the vacuum made. Get your detail shop a carpet rake, to really make the carpets look awesome.

Hidden garbage under the seats or in map pockets can cost you a sale. Make sure your detailers are looking everywhere and even vacuuming under the seats, trunk and map pockets.

Clean door jams make a real difference as well, have them wiped down and silicone the hinges.

Detail the engine and trunk, clean out their jams as well and be sure there are no signs of oil leaks whenever possible.

Freshen your Inventory often

cars with hoods openOne of the biggest mistakes dealers make is they don’t freshen their inventory weekly. I make it the lot person’s (porter/inventory managers) daily job. They should be flagging 2-5 cars a day to refresh.

Minor Modifications

Sometimes the smallest little details make your cars look so much better and in many cases add profit at a 2:1 ratio. When I was younger I made a living buying cheep cars with rips in the seats and dash boards. I would add seat covers and a minor patch kit for the cracks, then turn around and re-auction the car at a tremendous profit.
Simple things like spray painting the wheel wells black or silvering the end of an exhaust have amazing impact on curb appeal.

Adding Accessories

Some dealers like to add accessories, such as alarms. In my opinion the return is only equal to the value of the added item and in some cases lowers your SRP’s because it sometimes raises the price pass your competitors. Another side effect of adding the accessory in advance is you tend to give it away, instead of selling them at a profit

Minor Bodywork

Mobile paint technician’s are a used car manager’s best friend. These companies will come to your used car lot and can remove scratches and small dents without the hassle of taking your car to a repairer or body shop. They can also treat your car with an extra clear coat, giving the paint a new lease on life and providing added protection against chips and scratches.

When you have your own body shop you can fall into the trap of wanting to paint every minor dent. Dent removal without painting is the better way to go. Again its cost to profit ratio is as much a 4:1
Kevin Leigh, Dealer Simplified
Kevin Leigh

Story Book

One of the most important things you can do to increase the value of your cars is to keep a “story book” which includes such items as:

  • Printed Carfax
  • List of Work Already Preformed on the Car
  • Printed List of Reviews on the Car from Edmunds or Cars.com
  • Printed List of Standard and Added Options
  • Original Mileage statement
  • Warranties Available

Salespeople that show the storybook upfront are far more likely to get top dollar than salespeople that wait until the customer asks for the Carfax.

Categories
Business Development Retail Car Lot

Top 10 Tips to Encourage Employees to Utilize the CRM

It’s Sad, I Know, But Your Average CRM Utilization is:

28%

Getting Your Team to Use Your CRM

Having a new customer relationship management system (CRM) won’t grow your business until you figure out how to get everyone to use it. Your CRM needs to be EASY and make sense for your manager and their team. CRM is probably one of the most valuable systems that any small business can implement. It is as important as the employees and will have a more significant long term effect than any one individual.

1. Don’t bombard users with features. 

Change is hard enough for most users, the manager does not need to spend a majority of the training class showing off feature after feature of the new system. Especially at the beginning, keep it EASY for the user. Display only the features the employees need to do their job. After the basics are understood by all employees, hold weekly meetings where you can show off additional benefits of the CRM.

The Easy CRM is not Bloatware2. Hide the Complex Features at First.

“Make sure your CRM is as simple as possible for what the employees need,” says Maggie our head of customer service, “If you think you need a full blown bloated CRM system with every feature possible, then plan on failure. Bloated CRM’s are almost always under utilized and under appreciated. Think about the phone system in your office, it probably has many great features, but most of your employees only use it to make calls.”

3. Make sure the owner uses the CRM, too. 

Nothing is more effective than when an employee knows the company owner is using the CRM, especially if they email questions to the employees about their utilization. Example: “I was looking in the CRM and did not see….’ Insert your ending here. When everyone uses it, it will become a trusted source.

CRM Trusted Source4. Make the CRM your trusted source of information?

Companies that also use Outlook or other contact management software often find themselves torn between two systems. If you can find a CRM that does it all, like the EASY CRM consider using it as your only source of customer info and customer detail. Most great CRM’s integrate with Gmail and google contacts, the user will not have to worry about an inability to access information. All of the info will be at your fingertips when you are off site.

5. Make it fun (and competitive) and reward the use of the CRM. 

Turn it into a game–with leaderboards, rewards and public recognition. Use competitive nature to encourage use of the CRM. Spiff’s and incentives work great, especially during the install phase of the CRM.

6. Play up CRM benefits. 

We all love top 10 lists, you are reading one now! Consider creating a top 10 list for the features that are most valuable to the team. The CRM sales top 10 would be completely different than the Customer Service Team’s CRM top 10 list. Keep it simple, and focused on the things they will actually use.

Once everyone is using the CRM, then show top new features each week to highlight the parts they may not be using yet. If an employee asks for a feature, make sure to use their name in your feature list. “Nancy asked the other day how to log a hand written note mailed to a customer? That feature is found in the ….”

7. Involve everyone in the early CRM rollout process. 

Make sure that the system is simple to learn for new users, and that your users can easily teach themselves as they work. Make sure employees have the opportunity to tell you what features do and do not make sense. You do not want to change workflow and make things take more time than before the CRM was implemented.

8. Find out who Hates the CRM

Figure out why and fix it early. “Naysayers do more damage to a CRM rollout than a power outage” says Kevin in CRM development. “Find the haters, help them, heal them and make them your evangelists.“

How to find them? The site Switch & Shift says, “They [users] will love the CRM or hate it based on its functionality. Let’s assume that your CRM is easy to use and provides them with essential information – a big assumption, but work with me. No matter how cool the functionality of your CRM system, your people may still hate it. Here’s why.

If your people love your CRM, it’s because it makes their jobs easier. If your people hate your CRM, it’s because you’re using it as a whip to ride them with.

It all comes down to this: do you look at your people as wayward children whose time and activity must be controlled tightly so they don’t slack off? Or do you see your employees as mature, responsible adults who are eager to do their work to the best of their abilities?”

CRM Is About Me9. It’s all about me

As a salesperson, the mentality will generally be “all about me”… that is what makes them good. If you didn’t take the time to involve them up front in the decision making process, why would you try to convince them now? After all, the salesperson will be the primary user of this new system. ‘Buy in’ occurs up front, not afterwards. If possible, try to rally your team to be onboard with the software before you even receive it.

10. Keep Training CRM

Driving CRM (or any software) adoption requires relentless and extended training. Training the CRM users once, having a few follow-up meetings and then having CRM fail, is an organizational execution failure, not a software failure.

Finally, have patience, give employees time, offer help.

“As leaders we all want to launch new procedures and policies, but it takes time for the average person to make them a habit. Be patient, be kind and be understanding. You are only truly successful with CRM implementation when the computer illiterate and the naysayers can use it to do their job. Just because they are not ‘computer savvy’ does not mean they cannot become CRM Savvy,” says Kevin.

TIP: Sales Buy-In is critical. In your sales meeting, ask for a CRM tip of the day. Spiff the person with the  $50. Then teach the whole team how to preform the tip. Or better yet ask the salesperson to demo his/her suggestion. ‘
Kevin Leigh, Dealer Simplified
Kevin Leigh

Categories
Retail Car Lot Wholesale Lot

Don’t Make Assumptions About Anyone, They All Deserve the Best From You.

“A man is great by deeds, not by birth.”  Chanakya −290BC

It was my first week working at my dad’s used car lot and I was 15 years old. It was the late 70’s and things were a little different. My father did not think twice about letting me drive one of his used cars to the corner to get coffee for him, without a license. We did not consider it unusual to spray paint cars in a wooden garage without a mask. It was an innocent time. Jimmy Carter was president, interest rates were 20% and being in the car business was hard.

don't prejudgeWe had just immigrated to the USA from Ireland and my dad started a small used car lot on a shoe string. Immigrants are the original “boot strappers,” because they usually cannot borrow money, yet they possess a ridiculous work ethic. To say we barely had a “pot-to-piss-in” was an understatement. I was the middle child of six and my parents had spent all of their money on a home and that used car lot.

You are thinking, “what has all of this to do with making assumptions?” well the answer is, everything. Because in that predicament I should not have assumed anything about anyone, but that is precisely what I did.

At the side of the garage, my father had a small camper that he used for his office. We were sitting in the “office” one early afternoon having lunch, when a man pulled into our lot driving a very old and rusted Chevrolet Pickup. My dad said, “Kevin, why don’t you go out and meet that man, lets see if you can sell him a car?”

I was horrified. At the time, I had never sold a car, I had never talked to a customer. My first reaction was to come up with any excuse in order to hide my inexperience.

“Dad, he can never buy a car, look at how he is dressed!” I said as we both looked out at the man, who was now opening the door of one of our used trucks. “He could never afford that.” The man was dressed in greasy coveralls with one shoulder strap missing, a torn and unwashed grey t-shirt and old steal toe boots with the metal exposed in the front from years of ware.

Without a word, my dad was on his feet, in ten long strides he was at the mans side shaking hands and smiling. Within minutes the hood of the truck was open and the man was looking at the motor. Every once in a while my dad would look back at me smirking. After the third look from him, I finished my lunch and went out to help.

My dad introduced me and then introduced the man. It turned out that he had just left his job site where his was building a strip mall. The man was so pleased with the progress from his construction crew, that he decided to buy his foreman a replacement truck. It was the foreman’s rusty truck he was driving. The man standing next to me was one of the wealthiest  commercial builders in Buffalo, but to my presumptuous young eye, he was poorer than us.

Years later, I still teach this lesson on assumption in my workshops and one-on-ones, because a common mistake of young inexperienced sales people, is the error of prejudgement. Even if a person is dressed poorly, has bad credit, and appears to be only shopping rather than buying, they should not be ignored. Every customer deserves your best efforts.

One of my earliest trainers was Grant Cardone, he discussed the 100% rule and I used it for the rest of my life. It goes something like this: Give 100% effort, sell the customer 100% of the time. Even if you don’t succeed that day, give 100% effort in getting the customer to come back.

Later when I became a finance manager I practiced the 100% approved rule. No matter what their credit rating I was always able to get the customer approved. If they were attempting to buy a $10,000 car, and the bank said no, I would repeatedly call the bank and ask how much money down it would take to get the person approved. In almost every situation, I was given 100% approval. In some cases they asked for $6000 down, but I learned it was better for the relationship with the customer never to say no, to always give hope. In the future that customer will remember how hard you worked for them, even when it seemed impossible to gain approval, and it will be you they return to when their credit score has improved or they have saved enough money to make a purchase.

I could talk about treating customers fairly and not making assumptions for hours, but for the sake of time, try this: Look into their eyes, not their cloths. In other words, treat everyone with utmost respect and they will buy from you like you are a natural.

Even after my father died, the man from the used car lot and his family still buy from me. I have lost count of the number we have collectively sold them over the years. He was my first customer and my first lesson in sales, which has forever shaped the way I sell for the better. You never know who a person is or when their situation may improve, someone with a poor credit score today, may be wealthy enough to buy a Mercedes tomorrow. Put prejudgments aside, and always give 100% effort.