Auto Dealers: Will you be the Champion in 2013?

By Howard Leavitt

“In a broader sense, nearly any sort of competition can be considered a championship, and the victor of it a champion.”

In the automobile industry you as a dealer are a competitor and want to win every deal.  We all look for ways that we have the advantage in winning each deal; ultimately the champion has the edge.  As you reflect on this year and forecast for next, think about your role as a champion within your dealership.

What better time than now to embrace the idea of being a champion. Laying out our forecasts and wishes by themselves will not be enough to make them come true.

As a dealer and manager you will need to understand a champion’s role and responsibilities. While you are looking at the charts, reports and numbers for the closing year and looking ahead at forecasts for 2013, remember this:  number goals have no meaning without someone to measure, drive the process and lead.  For every goal you hope to achieve, you need a champion to help get you there.

What exactly do I mean by a champion in the dealership?  What I am talking about is “someone who fights or speaks publicly in support of a person, belief, cause, etc.”  A champion in the dealership will carry the flag for the rest of the staff, whether it’s in implementing new processes or applications, or just mentoring the staff to reach their sales goals.

In so many dealerships, the role of a champion is critical when it comes to implementing a CRM application and enforcing its effective use.  The use of CRM technologies and championing that process seems so clear as a cause for action. The acceptance of data management technology does not mean you are championing its use. Being a champion for a CRM process takes some courage, because not everyone can readily appreciate its benefit.  It is easy to see the relationship between services that provide current auction values or Internet leads and how that information can result in a sale. The biggest challenge faced by those championing a CRM is educating the dealer that data collection combined with structured follow up will increase sales and customer retention. The champion must overcome objections and really want to change the dealership culture so that the staff will see the value and benefits of using a CRM.  Once they see the results, those who may have previously objected will become champions themselves.

I became a Champion in 1988 when I built a homegrown system on my own to manage prospects and client follow up. Frustrated by lost leads and sales people doing their own thing I decided to run my own race. As a team were successful but I knew we could do better. It was not easy to get the staff on board in using my new system. But by continued mentoring to show each sales person the benefits of collecting data and how that data with the proper follow up would sell more cars, I was able to create a culture change in the dealership and we all benefitted. I became the champion for my staff in making them understands that the collection of data and execution of a basic sales process using technology will increase their closing percentage.

Years later I became the President of a large dealer group selling luxury automobiles. I had moved from the number one dealer to a lower ranked group in the same market. My new dealership had seemed to resign themselves with where they stood in the rankings. I asked my sales manager, “Do you want to walk into a factory meeting as the number one dealer, or just another mediocre dealer in the district?” In order to turn the dealership around and get everyone excited about exceeding goals, I needed to recruit other champions and he was my first challenge.  He eventually did come around and saw the benefit in being at the top.

Being at the top gets you the best people who are attracted by income and the atmosphere that success brings. It brings you a presence in the market place that sets the standards for excellence. People want to work for winners and they want to be winners. I made my sales manager a champion and he made his staff champions.

You want all your staff to be Champions in whatever job responsibility they have. It starts at the top, so set the example and the rest will follow. It is amazing how it happens when you lead.  As we look ahead to the beginning of 2013, be prepared to not only set your goals, but prepare to meet and exceed your goals by becoming a champion for success in your dealership.

Howard Leavitt is president of AutoRaptor CRM and can be reached at



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