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