Best Ways to Manage Leads and Build Customer Relationships

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 or 888–421-6533.



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