by Howard Leavitt, Founder of AutoRaptor CRM
Each segment of the automobile retail industry—franchise dealers, independent dealers, and BHPH dealers—has unique operating practices and processes. While the systems and culture may vary, the fundamental practice of building customer relationships remains the same.
When it comes to most effectively utilizing your dealerships’ most valuable asset—your customers—dealers across the board face the same challenges: how do we effectively and efficiently maintain all the information we have about our customers, and what is the best way to then use that information to help us sell more cars?
Why do I need to manage data?
Your customers are your dealership’s most valuable asset. Every customer you speak to, each lead, walk-in, internet request or phone call comes to you at a cost. The cost is the money you spent on signage, your web site, advertising costs, anything that you use to drive traffic. Calculate your per-lead cost using simple math by adding up those expenses and dividing that by the number of leads that came your way. You may be surprised to see the total amount in dollars and cents that it costs you to get a single lead. Do this exercise, and it’s easy to recognize the importance of getting and holding onto as much customer information as you can.
Maintaining customer information is crucial if you want to squeeze every last ounce of business out of the leads that come your way, and get the most return on your advertising dollars. When you lose a lead’s contact information, or miss out on opportunities to follow up, those missed opportunities translate into real money lost. Thinking about it in terms of dollars and cents, you can see that adopting a system to maintain your customer information and that makes customer follow-up simple is a worthwhile investment.
What’s the best way to manage my customer data?
Regardless of what size dealership you operate, having a good system for managing your customer data for continued follow-up and relationship building is important. You need a CRM application that is tailored to your needs, gives you quick access to your information when you need it, and provides for accountability for your sales staff.
Implementing a new CRM application is a marriage of your process and personnel; it should not be so difficult that you spend more time policing the system than selling cars. It should be a tool that enhances established business practices that will make the sale and give the customer a great experience. Make it a simple process to determine what solution will work best in your dealership.
Here a few basic steps in the process:
- Create a written sales process in detail that meets good business practices.
- Evaluate each of your sales people. Number of ups taken, closing percentage, delivery percentage, repeat business, mistakes, and computer skill level.
- Review findings with each sales person and set across the board goals.
- Review your Internet process and how it is being managed.
- Determine what your failings are and what needs to change. This is the hardest to come to grips with. Just be honest in addressing issues and move forward.
Changing culture also means making an investment in people and resources. Every CRM vendor out there will tell you how you will get a return on investment in the first minute, hour, day. But you will only get out of your CRM what you put in. Seeing the return on your CRM investment will not happen overnight, and it will not happen unless you change your internal culture and take charge of the sale process. Execution and following good guidelines will take the monthly cost of any system and make the costs disappear. Your investment is in people first and then the equipment they need to work the solution you choose. Make it mobile so think of smart phones, tablets, and web access. Do not get locked into hardware that limits availability of your data. Make sure your security measures are in place so that your data is protected. You pay for every lead, every walk in, they belong to you so verify that this information is secure.
To maximize the value of a digital CRM you must setup some basic rules:
- Enforce mandatory use of the CRM.
- Collection of all contact information: name, address, phone, and email address are not optional.
- Document your customers’ interested vehicle information and trade information. This is valuable to you for long-term follow up even if you don’t make the sale.
- Compile detailed notes, remembering that details are often what will help you win the deal.
- Create a solid action plan, with specific follow-up steps.
The steps you put in place in your new CRM should mirror your existing sales process. The difference will be that you have the power of keeping your sales staff accountable, and you have more transparency in the sales process. This will help you find where problems exist and quickly solve them. You will have the ability to see in reports or detail what is really happening in your sales process. It does not matter if you are not at your dealership you can still manage the business from anywhere with Internet access. Assign e-leads manually if you choose, allowing your sales team to quickly connect with the customer with the correct message. Implementing this process and getting the most out of your CRM is what will give you the advantage over your competition.
Howard Leavitt is the founder of AutoRaptor CRM. With over 40 years of experience and with a strong reputation as one of the most accomplished retail managers on the U.S. automotive scene, he is dedicated to sharing his knowledge and leadership experience to help dealers down the path of success. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888–421-6533.