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 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
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

With VDP’s A Photo is worth a 1,000 words.

photo-nophoto
Your Car is Dead in the Water if you don’t have photos

Your Dealer Website is a Photo Visual Experience

When it comes to selling cars online, quality photos are the highest return actively I can think of. Would you use a dating website if there were no photos, I think not? Think about it, a web site by its nature is a visual experience, so if you have no visuals of the car, you are quite literally dead in the water.

How Many Photo’s is too Many?

Today customers expect photos and lots of them. Now you can see some dealers adding 50 or 60 photos to their online showroom. While that may seam like a lot and it is, some cars need that many pics to off show all the options. Your customers may not look at all of them but for the few extra minutes it will take you why not have them there.  At a bare minimum, I recommend 15  as this will allow you to show off most features but if you want to truly represent the car you will need 24-30 because it will give your customer a good virtual tour of the car.

Use a Photo Template for Your Photographers.

Along with the number of photos you take,  having a consistent look is important. Start by putting together a templet showing how you want the layout to flow. First photo, second photo, third photo… It’s all most like building a burger at a fast food restaurant, step one is… step two is… and so on.

Don’t Skimp on the Camera.

Now that you have picked the layout the next thing to do is get a good digital camera. There are hundreds of cameras to choose from, make sure you get one that lets you change the pixels, a common size is 1024×768. While you don’t need a $3000 Nikon -, I would tell you to get a better than average one. Remember you are going to take a lot of pictures with it and you don’t want to be buying a cheap camera every month. Plus the photos that come from a good camera look a whole lot nicer. We use a Nikon COOLPIX L810 16.1 MP Digital Camera with 26x Zoom , at the $170 price point, has all the features and durability without a huge learning curve.

Shop Your Site as if You are a Customer.

As you can see from looking at other dealers websites everyone has found some kind of flow or process to add photos to their cars. A best practice is to have someone in the dealership look at the website each day just like the customers do. Remember this is your digital showroom and it needs to stand tall. Bad photos, dirty cars, crumpled up white paper mats, other dealers plate frames are all little things that can drive customers away. You would never put cars like that inside the building where 20 people a day will see it, why would you want them online where 20,000 will see them.

Best Practice, a Photo Booth.

Taking good photos of the cars you intend to sell will increase your leads and keep customers coming back to your website. Keep your photo area or booth clean and free from clutter, set up good lighting and use a proper camera. Remember the car is the star, have it fill the frame and take your time.

Categories
Car Auction Retail Car Lot Wholesale Lot

Where Can Dealers Find Cars for under $10,000

Find the Best Cars at $10,000 or less

Buying cars under 10000One of the hardest tasks for car dealers is the stock quality used cars for under $10,000. If you have ever been given this assignment by your owner or GM you understand the pain this can cause you. I wish I had any easy solution for this but I guess if it was easy everyone would do it. The good news is that cars under $10,000 are often searched 100 times more than any other priced car. That means if you can nail this you will open the floodgates to new leads.

So where do you start looking for cars under $10,000. The most common answer is “head to the auction”. Although going to the auction to stock your used car lot is a necessary evil it can’t be your only go to move. This is where we separate the people that make things happen from the ones that watch things happen and even more from the ones that say “what just happened”.

Finding new avenues like your service drive can pay big dividends when you are sourcing for cars under $10,000. The best way to work the service department is to add a sales team right in the service lane. However if you don’t have the right staff for that or if you’re just not ready to make that commitment you need to get some help from your service department. Once you get service on board that having a customer trade their car over repairing it makes more sense, since they will most likely do the repairs anyway everyone wins.

Another way to obtain less expensive used cars for your retail lot is from private sellers. What is interesting about this approach is it can be used for both obtaining inventory and generating new leads, if someone is selling their car they may be looking to replace it. Similar to using your service drive this works best if you have staff dedicated to contacting these customers.

This process can be very time consuming, you may have to comb through lot’s of cars before you find one that fits your used car stocking profile. Even with all the work that needs to go into buying from a private seller, getting two or three of these cars a week could be a big win for some dealers.

If you don’t think you will have the time or staffing to consistently source for these cars, you may want to enlist the help of some local wholesalers buying and selling cars in your market. Most of them will have a steady stream of less expensive cars they buy from new car dealers. It only takes a few good car buyers (wholesalers) to help you get your lots full of those hard to find under $10,000 cars.

 

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
Retail Car Lot

What’s Your Strategy for Pricing Used Cars?

Pricing Used Cars

Pricing Used Cars for Your Retail Used Car Lot

Having the right pricing strategy is key to selling used cars in todays markets. Pricing used cars and re-pricing should be strongly based on your market and the online metrics SRP (search results page) and VDP (vehicle detail page) you are getting on your website or other search sites you are advertising with.  It has become a best practice to have every vehicle you select for retail advertised for sale starting at day one with a competitive “go-to market” price. This means competitively pricing your vehicles to the market to achieve quick turn at a fair profit.

VDP conversions

0% – 2%       underperforming vehicles
2.1%- 3.5%  avg. performing vehicles
3.6% +         high performing vehicles

How to pick the right pricing strategy for your store. Different dealers are looking for different results from their used car department. Some dealers are looking to increase market share, while other dealers are all about the money. Whether you are going for volume or gross, having a pricing strategy and using it consistently will help you achieve the results you are going for. Here are two examples;

To achieve a MAX TURN set your targets at:

Days                  Min %         Max %
0-10                 0%                    95%
11-20               0%                    90%
21-30               0%                    85%
31+                  0%                    80%

To achieve the MAX GROSS set your targets at:

Days                         Min%               Max%
0-30                 110%               150%
31-60               100%               125%
61-90                 90%                 100%

Once you have determined if going for max turn (high volume) or max gross (all the money), which will cause you to pass on the occasional deal, it is time to build your pricing strategy. Most strategies are based on the age of the car. As a vehicle ages we move the price down in an attempt to build interest in it. While having pricing targets tied to the age, can and does work you still have to watch the market when it comes to making pricing moves. It’s not just age that causes values of vehicles to drop, although it is a big factor things like MDS (market day supply) and seasonal change will affect the value of your cars.

Market day supply (MDS)

0-40      days, fast moving

41-80    days, average

81-100  days, slow moving

101+     days, very slow moving

 

The most important part of having a pricing strategy or implementing any procedure is laying out your expectations and then holding people accountable to the task. Setting a strategy for a used car manager to follow can be tricky, from time to time they may have to veer off the strategy if the data they are looking at tells them to price a car different from the targets. You may have set your targets to price all fresh cars at 110% to market, but if the market day supply is 150 you will never sell that car for 10% over the market average price. You may not even sell it at 100%. Or maybe you have a 30 day old car and your target is set at 85% to market (15% discount) but you are getting an avalanche of internet traffic (4.5% VDP) you may want to holdout on moving the price down to 85%. Try moving it a few hundred dollars and watch the traffic. Don’t give up gross if you don’t have to.

 

So you have picked your pricing strategy and set your targets now its time to outline your plan. If you need a little jump start here is a 70 day and out pricing plan.

Vehicles are looked at for re-pricing as they age. No vehicle should go longer than 7 days without a price change and should be changed by the Used Car Manager. It’s always a good idea to have the GM, as well as the other managers in your store participate in the pricing conversation. Set up a bullpen so you and your employees can look over fresh inventory before putting cars out on the lot. Have the go to market price at the bullpen so you can discuss it with the team.

0-15 day

The re-pricing of cars 0-15 day old should be done at 7 and 14 days. You will need to monitor the vehicle’s online performance with SRP and VDP metrics. Vehicles with a low conversion percentage or with low SRP counts will typically need a larger price adjustment to help them get some interest.

16-30 day

Vehicles are re-priced at 21 and 28 days. Under performing vehicles (0%-2% VDP) or vehicles with a higher days’ supply (over 81) are marked down in price more than vehicles performing at a high level (2.1% VDP or lower day supply). Try to position vehicles in the top 5 price point base on vehicle condition and miles to increase online traffic. Make sure all vehicles have marketable photos and a well written description that differentiates your vehicle from the competitions. Promote any maintenance or  recondition you have performed in that description.

31-45 day

Vehicles are re-priced at 35 and 42 days. These cars should be re-bull penned with sales consultants.  Used vehicle managers, inventory managers and sales managers need to review SRP and VDP counts as well as MDS – looking for underperforming and slow moving vehicles. Price changes at 42 days should be moved at or below 90% of the market and should be set in the top 3 price position. (Based on market size)

46-59 day

Vehicles are re-priced at 49 and 56 days. At this point, you should have an exit strategy depending on market days’ supply (MDS) and stocking levels of vehicle class. You may want to keep a vehicle with low VDP conversions if it is of like brand to your franchise, but make strong consideration to be price ranked #1 in your market. Use MMR (Manheim Market Report) to re-price your vehicle based on what this unit will draw at the auction.

60-69 days

Set the retail price at or close to what the car will draw at the auction. Its time to make this car go away and retail at any price usually makes more sense than taking a wholesale loss.

70 days and out

Time to rip the band-aid off and send it to the auction.

 

Hopefully you have been re-pricing and making good stocking decisions so you never have to send another car off to the slaughter.

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Categories
Car Auction Retail Car Lot Wholesale Lot

How to Stock Used Cars Customers Want to Buy.

& How to Stock Used Cars Salespeople Will Sell!

Buying Used Cars For Your Lot is Easy:

Buying used cars is easy
Lots of Rental Cars Out There

Stocking your used car lot is easy, Right? You can load up on as many cars your lot will hold, fill every spot and you could have it done today. The auctions are loaded with all kinds of cars. Sounds pretty good right but only if you like silver, white or tan x-rentals. Just because something is easy doesn’t mean you should do it. Putting cars on your lot just to fill it up can cost you thousands of dollars. Most of us have been in this spot once or twice. So how do you stock up on cars customers want to buy and that salespeople want to sell.

The good news is that with a little hard work and a little smart work you can find the cars you need and keep them rolling in. Much like looking for cars under $10,000 you are going to need some help from your team. Now don’t get me wrong some of these cars are going to have to come from the auction. Whether you buy online or at the local sale, just make sure you look for cars you need. And don’t over pay for them at the sale, if you are going to step up for a car make sure you buy it from a customer in your showroom.

Wholesale-Used-CarsUnderstand Your Used Car Market:

Once you understand your market and the stores history you can start to build a profile of what cars you need. You never want to just go off your history, this will cause you to miss out on selling the customer what they want. If you have never sold a 2008 Toyota Camry in the past, but every customer in your market is searching for one and you follow your history how many 2008 Camry’s are you going to sell? Thats right, ZERO. History is good but you need to watch the market and look for cars customers want to buy. Again its easy to buy the cars you can buy, but that doesn’t mean the customer wants to buy them from you. Its why they are still available at the sale.

So searching for cars the customer wants to buy is half the job. The other half of stocking your lots with the right cars is pleasing your salespeople. Remember they are the ones that have to sell them. If you can’t get the salespeople on board with the cars you are putting on the lot you might as well burn your money. Some salespeople will sell any car you give them, but not everyone is that comfortable with selling used cars. Most of them will walk right around a used car if they don’t feel good about it and can sell a new one instead. You have to get them in front of every used car, this will lift their confidence and sell you more used cars.

The morning bullpen

Bull Pen Cars Lined Up
Used Car Lot Bull Pen Meeting

Now if you’re asking your self how do I get that done, you may want to try bull penning. Running a morning bullpen isn’t that hard but you can’t half-ass it. The last thing you want to do is waist the teams time with nonsense. Its best to have all the work for your bullpen done the night before. You want to have the cars you are going to show lined up, you don’t want to spend time walking the lot. Also you are going to have to do some homework on the cars, start with a list (year, make, model, miles…). If any of the cars are trades have the salesperson that worked the deal talk about the car. It’s a good idea to get them involved. This is a good time to talk about your go-to market price and to find out if the team has any interest in selling these cars.

Now you can’t let the inmates run the prison but you do need their buy in if you want to move some medal. Do your best to have good information about each car, things like service history, carfax, market data and pricing. Let the team help you weed out the bad cars and you will fill your used car lot with cars people want to buy and ones your salespeople want to sell.

Categories
Car Auction Retail Car Lot Wholesale Lot

Should Dealer Groups Have a Centralized Buying Center? 

Centralized Buy Center

Why Centralize your Purchasing?

If you’re serious about reducing the amount of time you spend at the car auction consider a centralized buying center. Central buying or central purchasing, is the practice of relocating the authority and responsibility of a small purchasing team for individualized stores to one location for a whole group. The consolidation of the purchasing function by a large, multi-site organization into a central authority increases efficiency, inventory control, and purchasing power. Central buying is commonly used by multisite automotive retailers, to buy centrally for individual locations. This can be highly effective in controlling inventory levels and improving profitability.

Benefits of a Centralized Buying Center

Centralized buying has the benefits of consolidated purchasing power, standardization of purchases, enhanced professional purchasing skills and easier management of the buying function.

The major responsibilities of a buying center or a trade desk are;

  • Sourcing used cars for purchase both at live physical auctions as well as online.
  • Locating cars to buy from non-auction sites (craigslist, news paper, off the street…).
  • Answering trade calls from sales managers as they work deals.
  • Working with store managers to keep used inventory levels steady.
  • Working with the wholesale manager to move cars to the right locations or to the right auction.

Less Emotional Decision Making = Better Acquisition

Setting up a centralized buying center or a trade desk can make your used car departments run more efficiently. When the emotion is removed from the purchase or trade evaluation it allows the used car manager to focus on the customer, which results in more sales and a higher profit. When you are working a deal, it is easy to become wrapped up in the heat of the moment and push a trade number past the actual cash value (ACV). If the number is delivered from a trade desk or wholesale manager it is more difficult for the consumer to disagree. The same urgency to buy can arrive at the auction. If you are buying cars that you are responsible to retail, somehow you convince yourself it is okay if you pay too much. This is a bad plan if you are trying to make money. This is where the wholesale buyer or trade desk works best. They are given a cap on how much to pay per car and can quickly call back to the store if a new game plan is needed.

This practice of a centralized buying center has been working well for dealers all over the country. Most stand alone dealers will have a buyer or wholesale manager to handle their used car inventory, which does not scale well for larger groups. If you are a multi-franchise dealer group you may want to consider having at least one representative for your different brands (Ford, Chrysler, Imports, GM and High-line).

Staffing a Buy Center:

Staffing the trade desk with two or three individuals that each work with a set of stores or with a specific brand is most beneficial. This gives the buyer better product knowledge and a greater understanding of each market. The team should work together with sales managers as a part of the trade evaluation process, sharing their opinion on what every trade is worth.

Having a solid trade process and a consistent buying plan will keep your lots full of the right cars and improve the bottom line. Remember the more used cars you trade, the less time you will spend at the auction, and the more time you have to sell.

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