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July 10, 2001 00:32:24
Field of Dreams

Dennis Rushing
Internet Manager, McNamara Pontiac-Isuzu

Okay now; let's see if we have properly done our homework preparing our dealership to sell cars over the Internet.

Bought a brand new, super fast computer to handle all the leads we will get. Made sure that download times would be faster so we equipped it with DSL. Check.

We went to the web gurus and designed the very best website we could possibly get. It has all the bells and whistles that we have been told should go on an automotive web site. Search the inventory, pictures of the cars, pricing, payment calculator, used car evaluation, credit app. Heck, it even plays a song when it loads and has flashy things to catch the eye. Spent a lot of money on that one. Check.

We found one of our sales guys who is computer literate to sell the cars. He's been on the Internet too, which is what we were looking for. He's even got his own email address, what more could you ask for in an Internet Sales person? This guy has even been with us for a while, and he produces above average sales numbers, so he must be the one! We did have a shortage of people to select from, but he should be all right. Check.

Send our newfound Internet guy to some training. The “experts” from the dot coms and the web site place will give them full and complete training. After all, they know the Internet better than any one else. Check.

We even remember watching the movie “Field of Dreams”. The mysterious voice told the guy “Build it and they will come.” The Internet must also work that way. We have been in business for years, so we'll put our new web address on all of our advertising and let them know we are there for them in the cyber world. Check.

Let's see now. Have we forgotten anything? Nope, I think we are ready to sell cars. We can't wait until that first hit so we sell more cars and make more money…

Unfortunately, this is the scenario that has happened over and over again during the past couple of years, as dealerships have scrambled to meet the needs of the new age consumer. The result for many has been disappointment and little return on their precious investment. The remaining dealerships have not ventured into the cyber realm for various reasons. These include complacency, fear of technology, or the belief that you have to give a car away to sell through the Internet. This makes Internet sales less appealing when it comes to the money left in the coffers at the end of the month.

Dealerships have spent countless amounts of money and man-hours in an attempt to harvest what is promised as the future of selling cars. Often they sit bewildered why their Internet program just isn't working the way they envisioned it to be. Their first reaction, when they find out some one is successful on the Internet, is to have their Internet guy call the successful Internet guy to find out what he's are doing that we aren't. This only adds to the frustration. He's not doing things that much different then what we are.

We did our checklist and we thought we were ready. We did the computer thing, website thing, Internet guy thing, training thing and advertising thing. We even made sure we watched the movie again so we could believe in the voice. Nothing seems to be working all that well. We still spend about $5000 to get 5 - 8 sales. Where did we go wrong that the other guy is doing so right? We even got his same Lead providers. That had to be it. Still, no brass ring.

The answers clearly fall in the preparation and planning of our Internet program. We put all the materials together required to build the house, but ignore the foundation. Before any Internet Sales program is to be successful the groundwork must be in place. If your Internet Department is already operational, it is not too late to implement what makes the most successful dealerships in the nation produce incredible numbers.

  1. Establish pricing policy (adjust only when required but review throughout the model year)
  2. Establish the Internet Sales Department as a separate entity. (New cars, used cars, Internet Sales Department.) The Internet Department cannot answer to anyone but the GM or Dealer Principal.
  3. Establish policy concerning Internet sales and conventional sales forces in regards to the Internet customer. Policies must be in effect to insure protection of the Internet Sales person. This is more than whether they ask for anyone in particular.
  4. Establish separate pay plans for Internet personnel vs. conventional sales staff.
  5. Fully empower Internet Sales concerning decisions based upon pricing guidelines. This provides immediate answers to the Internet customer. The more empowered the ISM, the better the results.
  6. Establish a lead management program that will let you know the ratios of leads vs. contacts, appointments, appointments made, and sales. These are the most important set of statistics of a successful program and will give you the best indications of where you are falling short. Any other stats serve only the purpose of demographics and can be used to determine future Internet strategy.
  7. Internet strategy must be determined concerning 3rd party lead providers, and which providers to use and are available. Track your providers to insure they are producing a quality product for you to work with. You may find that it is usually the procedures in place at your level instead of a bad lead provider.
  8. Consistency. If you do something very well, do it the same every time. This applies to pricing, information obtained from the customer, trade appraisal policy, setting up as much of the sale prior to arrival of the customer.
  9. Only one person touches the customer. The only exception to this rule would be when it comes to the final financing and paperwork portion. The Internet Sales person must be the only closer involved.
  10. Don't let someone who has never sold cars, train you Internet Sales Department.

Here are some percentage guidelines to determine when you need adjustment to your overall strategy. These are final sales closing ratios.
10% - You can stumble in to this many sales. No experience required. Check work ethics.
12% - Check your contact ratio. Enforce stricter follow up measures on initial contact.
15% - Check your pricing policy, but you are doing okay. Follow up with past months leads.
18% - Check overall Internet strategy. Pay close attention to appointment ratio to made appointments.
20% - You are just about there! Double up on follow up and kept appointments.
24%+ - You have finally arrived! Your Internet program is at full sail. To keep it at this level requires extreme vigilance. Don't rest on past laurels or you will go to sleep.

Internet Lead $25     New Web Site $5000     A true Internet Sales Manager: Priceless

Dennis Rushing
2001 AIADA E-tail specialist of the year
Internet Sales Manager
McNamara Pontiac-Isuzu





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