Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Black Hole of Lost Internet Sales

Who Services Internet Sales Leads When Your Internet Salespeople are Busy with Customers?

by Keith Shetterly,,
Copyright 2009, 2011.  All Rights Reserved

What happens to your dealership’s Internet lead coverage while your Internet Salesperson leaves their computer to sell a vehicle, taking the time needed to confirm the customer’s needs, test drive, negotiate, close, and deliver?  In the average dealership, this process creates several hours of a “black hole” of aging Internet leads—lost sales!—needing attention.  We all know that “speed wins” sales on the Internet, and the black hole can happen even with a large Internet Department on a busy day.  So what’s the solution to prevent these lost sales?  We have at least three approaches to chose from:  adopt the best and right technology tools to assure the most attention possible from the Internet Department to the leads; train the entire sales team for Internet sales in order to create an “Internet Dealership”, not just an Internet Department; or use a Business Development Center that fields sales calls and Internet leads and sets appointments for the floor sales staff.
Which one of the three works best will depend on how you already handle Internet leads at your dealership.  For dealerships with a dedicated Internet Department (even one person), the easiest approach is the technology:  Provide Internet/email-enabled phones for your Internet sales staff so that answering customer’s inquiries via email/phone can be done in a few minutes away from their current customer (including inventory/quotes), instead of requiring much longer attention to a particular computer in a particular location they can’t get to; acquire Internet Lead Manager (ILM) software that provides for multiple escalation paths and alerts, so that you can make sure other available Internet salespeople can cover the leads and/or management can take action as leads age; and provide solid lead autoresponders that set the right positive customer expectation for the subsequent quote/sales response from the Internet salesperson.
However, just using technology properly does not remove the black hole of aging leads, it just reduces it.  Another approach for strong, internet-savvy dealerships is to become an “Internet Dealership”, where the larger set of sales floor staff (all of them, if you can) are qualified for the Internet—which simply means that, instead of a limited Internet sales staff that can be busy, every salesperson knows how to get the Internet customer in to the sales floor.  Done well, no lead waits very long at all, and this is very successful at reducing the black hole (and some form of Internet Dealership may well be the future of all retail vehicle sales floors).  However, it can still be difficult to achieve and maintain success of the Internet Dealership approach within the pool of talent and organization available to many current dealerships. 
Lately, with the Internet “finally” delivering on the more-than-ten-years predicted “big change” in retail vehicle sales, something else is being resurrected as an approach to the black hole at dealerships with just about any level of existing Internet sales success:  a Business Development Center (BDC) that focuses only on getting appointments that are then given to floor salespeople to meet and sell.  The BDC staff is trained to use email templates and phone scripts that will get appointments, and they are provided with just enough product, program, and inventory knowledge to ensure the customer is comfortable with making the appointment.  And then the sales staff handles taking the appointment to the sale.
Note that this usually works best with a “soft turn”, where someone presents themselves at the appointment as the person who set the appointment (whether they are actually them or not) and turns them to another salesperson for the appointment.  A “soft turn” is actually a successful and familiar practice for many years already in the car business, for example when a salesperson today ends up with more “live” customers than he or she can handle, and it still works well here.  A few minutes of good impression for the customer with the salesperson they expected to meet is very valuable in settling the customer’s mind that they won’t have to re-establish what they want with someone new.  And, even if that actually happens, the customer still gets started with a more positive mindset than “Jerry isn’t here, can I help you?”  I personally used this approach in a BDC that consistently did 35-40% of a dealership’s business.
As already noted, Internet leads don’t constantly show up, so in order to really get the best sales benefit from staffing such a BDC then it should also handle the inbound sales calls.  This is a very good thing:  How long have we tried to train all salespeople to be good on the phone, and how long have we been disappointed by most of them?  For decades.  How much have we spent on phone training, scripts, etc. over and over again, then found from our recordings that the salespeople passed the training but failed the sales calls?  Millions total for all of us, surely.  A well-trained BDC staff will give Internet and phone responses scripted to consistently get appointments, and the sales floor staff can then focus on getting the sale from the appointment.  And there is absolutely NO black hole for Internet Sales or recurrent issues with handling sales calls with a staffed and fully-trained Internet/phone BDC!
Many other questions come up when considering an Internet/Phone BDC focused on setting appointments:   Should you staff and train the BDC yourself or seek a third party?  Should your BDC handle both new and pre-owned, or just one or the other?  Which vehicle makes get BDC coverage, or is it all of them?  Is this a marketing expense for the dealership, or should it be offset and/or paid for from a commission reduction for the salespeople since they no longer answer the phone or the Internet leads?  These are business decisions based on your dealership’s size, needs, expectations, market, and experience—as is also,  really, the decision on which of the three approaches detailed here (or others) that you will use to reduce your losses from the black hole.  These questions have to be answered by each dealership, but the answers and decisions will yield very worthwhile results.
So, to review, the first (and most common) step to reduce the black hole of aging Internet leads and lost sales is to provide your current Internet Department with the right technology toolset to minimize time away from leads.  Or you can create an Internet Dealership where all salespeople sell Internet leads is really the next evolution from that and will likely see more success and prominence in the next few years.  Or, finally, another great answer is an appointment-setting Internet/phone BDC, with appointments going to the sales floor.
Regardless of which approach you choose, just don’t wait any longer while Internet leads age at your dealership—pick the Internet sales approach that’s right for you, and put a stop to the black hole of lost Internet sales today!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Speed Wins: Making the Most Sales from Vehicle Internet Leads

by Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2009, 2011 All Rights Reserved

For online vehicle sales, the Internet is the modern incarnation of the old saying “the early bird gets the worm.”  Customers will come to the dealership of the first salesperson answering quickly and effectively to their needs. Are you that dealership and salesperson?  You need to be if you want the most sales. 

To respond the quickest, you must have the right processes and tools.  For processes, guess what?  You need to CALL an Internet lead FIRST. The objective is to convert the Internet lead to the phone and then to the floor, anyway, so if you can cut directly to the phone call you’re already faster than much of your competition. If you reach the customer via phone, email them a confirmation of the call and of the appointment. If you instead reach their voice mail, leave a message with another person, or get no answer, adjust your email to mention that fact along with your response on the customer’s needs and questions. And answer as many leads as you can during your off hours, too, by the way—don’t let all those just linger on the auto-responder. And don’t be afraid to call on a Sunday afternoon. 

That brings up a common challenge that I hear to this point:  What if the Internet lead you get says not to call?  Don’t put a lot of faith in that:  Most often, a lead showing “email only” is actually generated that way by some default selection that the customer never even noticed or it is a selection that the lead provider decided on behalf of the customer.  Over the years of doing this and making a lot of sales, I’ve always called customers first then emailed—and it has only been a handful of customers who’ve ever been put off by my call.  My point is that we should always manage our business to our core customers and not to the exceptions—most folks take the call, and if you’re not making that first call then you’re not going to win your most sales.  You’re going to get beat.
Your desking managers also need to know to always give the best Internet price the first time. You won’t get a second chance. And a good Internet sales staff should get a lot of access to pricing and program information to support that effort, so that they know what to ask for from the desking managers in order to get the fastest and most-competitive quotes.
And tools are very important:  A good Internet Lead Manager (ILM) and Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) will alert you via phone, email, etc. that you have a lead, and then provide tracking of the lead through the sales process, starting with the autoresponder and on to email templates for pricing, appointments, etc.  Those templates are very important, as they greatly reduce spelling and grammar errors.  Errors like that can turn off even uneducated customers—everyone wants great service, and great service on the Internet starts with proper language.
And those email templates need to do more than just provide information:  They need to be aimed at getting the customer on the phone and into the store.  Fewer words and more calls to action will get that done.   And don’t be shy about asking for the appointment, for their best contact phone number, for them to call you, and for their business.
After all, you want customers into your dealership and buying a vehicle as soon as possible. So, to get what you want—lots of Internet sales!—give them what they want.  And give it to them fast!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How to Sell Technology Products to Dealerships

By Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved

Technology products:  CRMs, websites, SEO/SEM, Social Media, telephony, and more . . . Well, it’s still very easy for a technology person to get excited by a technology sales pitch—but the days when the bulk of non-tech people running dealerships just bought new technology on feature/benefit in the blind hope to somehow, someway advance their business are gone.  In today’s marketplace, dealerships need a solid sales return on any technology purchase.

I’ve sat through many technology presentations given at dealerships and hosted at GM and Chrysler meetings and then listened later in the hallway to every dealer principal and sales manager say “What the *&^@$! did that guy say??”  What you’re seeing on the faces in that audience when many of you sell technology is polite (mostly!) confusion, not a real comprehension of your product or your fancy acronyms.  I guarantee it.

I often use my “Golf Example”.  Think about which would be most successful after a dealer principal makes a great tee shot:
A: “Jerry, we will put more sales on your books by making more buyers come to your dealership!”, or
B: “Jerry, we can show in Google Analytics the improvement in website hits from SEM and SEO efforts that use our tools.   We can also show you how to tell how ‘sticky’ your website is and how to improve that.
C: “Jerry, our CRM will automatically accept XML Internet leads into our ILM from any lead provider.”

All are true statements about products.  Which would get the principal’s attention?  Example “A” would, of course, no doubt about it.

So, are “B” or “C” then the second step at the next golf tee, or maybe later at the clubhouse, where you explain the technology?  NO.  You never want to explain feature/benefit/technology to a principal or executive unless they specifically ask about it.   And in those cases you say things like “Our product’s proven and exclusive XYZ technology gets more people to your website, to stay on your website, and to come in your door for sales!”  Or “Our product’s XYZ technology will rapidly put you far ahead of your competition in actual sales.”  Or “Our XYZ CRM will get you far more sales from referrals and be-backs!”  And so on.  And you save your full feature/benefit/technology pitch for the dealership's Internet manager, BDC director, etc. you will probably find at the dealership.  Your champion.

And relying only on the those champion contacts inside a dealership (even at director level) to persuade the dealership's GM, executives, and owners to make feature/benefit/technology purchases from you is the wrong approach.  Why not make the non-tech principals and sales managers your strongest proponents?  Your biggest fans?  Business results--car sales!--excite these folks, so stay on that point:  “What is your impact on improving their sales?” is the rule of technology sales to dealerships.

So maybe you know an exception to this rule, a true “geek” that runs a dealership set?  Good.  Sell them!  However, why would you ever use exceptions of any kind to drive your approach to the bulk of your sales?  If you’re doing that, maybe you’re also somewhat a “geek”, and technology is your comfort zone—and that’s perhaps the most common mistake in any kind of sales effort, to try and pull a customer into your own comfort zone rather than working inside theirs.  

And have faith in your product:  Dealerships well know that they actually own their own vehicle sales process, and your product still has to be used properly to product positive results.  Even the worst sales floor can and will benefit from your product when applied correctly—right?  Otherwise, why are you even trying to sell it to them?

Exactly.  And now you’re ready to sell your product to a dealership!

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Digital Divide – Thoughts from NADA 2011

by Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved
There I was having a great discussion at NADA with some high-powered folks in the digital realm, when I realized that they didn’t get something very important:  Many dealers are not “leading edge” for Internet sales and marketing.  Nor are they anywhere near the edge, for that matter, evidenced by some "what the &^%$! did he say??" Tweets to during some of the pre-conference technical sessions.

“Digital Divide” is a broadly-used term to describe things like disparate educational systems where some school districts have lots of computers and others have none, and the crack between the "digital haves" and "have-nots" seems to be widening.  The source of “Digital Divide” in dealerships is not education of youngsters, however—it’s education of the elders:  Dealer Principals and GMs.
The GMs and Dealer Principals can, and do, understand all the gears of a car deal:  the phone call, the ten steps to the sale, finance, leasing, inventory, holdback, step money, etc.  Many to the “nth” degree.  However, ask them about their Internet, and you’ll see them scramble to throw their Internet Manager at you.  And/or some list of third-party vendors that “handle it” for them.
And that is not a successful strategy.  They need to understand what they are expecting or their subsequent inspection is not productive, and we need to help them with that.  If the dealer has 20+ websites, shouldn’t each sales manager know to look at the sites that cover their makes?  Shouldn’t the GM understand his/her PPC  cost,  SEO strategy, and online pricing and inventory?  Shouldn’t the Dealer Principal  hold these folks accountable for all this, and more?  Well, how can all this happen if he/she isn’t educated on what they need?  And how to measure and manage it?
In the Digital Divide discussion, I was reminded of a day on Galveston Beach long ago, when my friends and I were partying with a beer keg.  Lots of fun all day!  As the sun went down, however, we noticed a young woman alone on a blanket nearby who was getting hassled by three guys.  We talked about that being wrong, and so we started over to talk to the guys and help her.
Feeling strong and bullet-proof, of course, I led the way, and, as I approached yelling, the three guys looked my direction.  They sulked a brief moment, said a few words, then fled the scene.  And I turned to my friends to congratulate us all on how we took care of that problem for the young lady.
Except I was alone!  My friends had not come with me and were still drinking beer across a divide of at least fifty feet of beach.  My guess at the time was that the three fellows who had been hassling the young woman were so shocked when this shouting, lone individual came on so strong that they figured I was either crazy, a kung-fu master, or both.  The woman thanked me, and I went back to my friends and gave them a hard time for not paying attention.  Even though I hadn’t done so, either!
"Pay attention"--that’s the caution for vendors and consultants about the "Automotive Digital Divide":  Are you reaching your customers (GMs and Dealer Principals), or are you expecting them to reach you?   If you look back across the divide on the digital beach, do you see those left behind?
They may not know it, and they may well resist it, but they need you to come get them, too.

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Social Media Generates Sales: CONTENT Baby, CONTENT!!

Content is the answer to how to sell via social media. Although content has been important since gossip was invented, the easiest modern example of the evolution of content-driven media is in the history of radio: In order to monetize the new medium, advertisers gave people reasons to listen to the radio by using interesting content and then did commercial announcements between the content. This "hook'em and sell'em" device later transited nicely to TV. And it's transiting to social media now, as well! Give people a short and interesting mini-article, funny video, human-interest story, and THEN give them a link to your site/inventory/contact form/what-not.

My point is that if we are all showing inventory or always talking about your dealership experience using social media then we are "doing it wrong".  Would folks throwing a party like to see us staple pictures of our cars to the walls of their house?  NO.  Would somebody want to watch a thirty minute show about our dealerships instead of looking at photos of their grandchildren? NO.  However, TV has proven that they WILL watch a 30sec commercial on your dealership while watching a 30 min popular show.  So, moving to the modern media, will they keep you as a friend on social media if you send them weekly content they are interested in, even if it ties (via link and content) to your retail vehicle sales?  SURE.

It's that simple: We monetize social media the same way we did the old media, by driving "viewership" with content and then culling leads from folks who are interested in our message.

I'm not saying this is where your own content should go, but if you can imagine this being passed around Facebook . . . well, it was. This Suzuki dealer is now #1

Not every TV advertiser bought time on The Gong Show or Jerry Springer. Dramas and news get viewers, too. And why do people pay attention to the advertisers?

Content, baby, content!


P.S. Check out Ed Brooks' blog post about how the live news feed dominates Facebook now . . . guess what? That's CONTENT, baby, content of interest! :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sales-Murder Forensics — Enough is Enough!

By Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved
Something that has often struck me in vehicle retail are the “forensic vendors”, all providing CSI-like “after the sale was prevented” services and information ("CSI" is Crime Scene Investigation, not Customer Service Index).  Recorded calls that show how badly the call was bungled.  CRM reports that list customers who weren’t called back for the last three days.  And the latest, Reputation Management reports that show you how much folks have already disliked you all over the Internet.  And this perspective comes not only from vendors but also from OEMs that regularly provide you Internet lost-sales data from THREE MONTHS AGO.  All this is information that’s useful, but these are all “CSI Reports” about the sales killed by the “Sales Prevention Department”!  We’re all standing around the body of the dead sale examining what happened, when instead the sale should still be alive.
And that’s why I like a dedicated Business Development Center (BDC) for dealerships, either in-house if you can afford it or outsourced if you desire (or if that better-fits your budget).  That type of BDC can be monitored nearly real-time for leads and phone calls, and can also yield fast reaction to reputation needs and contact from the Internet and social media.  And it is staffed by dedicated phone and Internet professionals whose only goal from every call or lead is a solid appointment that your sales staff can sell to! 
So, what do you want to do?  Train, as you have for decades, a sales department that will bungle the phone calls and will still, at best, have trouble keeping up with your Internet leads in a “cradle to grave” sales scenario?  So you can perform yet another “forensic analysis”, talk to yet one more sales person about how they mis-handled your inbound sales calls, and ask them why they are not doing follow-up--again?   Do you want to always find out someone slammed you on the Internet too late to make a difference?  And face another OEM who wants to know why you didn’t sell their make from Internet leads you received a month or more ago? 
Do you really want all that CSI on the Sales Prevention Department after the sales are dead??
Or do you want to know what’s happening NOW in a totally measurable fashion for calls, leads, reputation, and more?  And get the most sales possible?  Of course you want this.
Effective.  Successful.  Measurable.  And SALES ENABLING.
A dedicated BDC.  That’s the department you really need!

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Mediocrity is a habit. Excellence is a choice!

By Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved
"Mediocrity is a habit. Excellence is a choice!"
                                              -- Keith Shetterly, 2010

There are certainly many people in the automotive industry who pursue excellence, and it is my welcome grace to call a few of them friends, even though some of them I have never met in person. My thanks to all of them!

A key modern issue we all commonly face, I believe, is that--despite these folks and others pursing excellence--there remain many-fold more that habitually accept the murky silt of mediocrity we have built up in this industry for so many decades. Well, we never had to do that in the first place--and, in fact, now we simply cannot do that any more because our customers demand that we don't!

So much talk of the Internet falls to the specifics of items like SEO, PPC, 1st party and 3rd party leads, response times, email campaigns, Facebook, etc.--and yet none of that will survive mediocrity at a dealership and really advance the business. For all of us, what the Internet has really done most strongly is expose our glaring shortcomings in processes, decision making, planning, and customer service. And these shortcomings are exposed, more and more and more, by CUSTOMERS USING THEIR NEW VOICE OF THE INTERNET.  And they often shout, just like that.

And that voice of the customer is never, ever turning back; it's just going to accelerate.

So, we must change our habits: Drop Mediocrity! Embrace Excellence!

To those who already pursue excellence, I salute you, I admire you, and I will work to rise to your level. For those needing a boost, just look to your customers for direction--they'll tell you, and are in fact telling you now as I write this (and in plain and sometimes salty language) all about what they want, 24x7xInternet.

They want excellence. Let's provide it!!

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Coordinated Marketing - from "One Piece at a Time" to "Bang for the Buck"!

Marketing for dealerships:  The question is, how do you put it all together in the digital age?  Do you have a plan for it all, from traditional to digital, and staff to run it at your dealership?  Or are you still making ad hoc decisions to juice up a month with something like a saturation direct mail piece?  Do you sometimes send some chitzy mailer with a service coupon, or maybe a last-minute email blast to get folks in?  Or have a sales manager run around with the salesperson-scattering cry of “Manifest list to call!!!”?
Overall, we operate marketing at dealerships like the fellow in Johnny Cash’s old song about a car factory employee snuck out an entire car in its parts:  “One Piece at a Time”!  And we get the same result, having to use an adapter kit to make things work, or finding out that we have one tail fin and our headlights are 2 on one side and 1 on the other.  And we drive it around town all proud as a peacock while our customers—who might laugh if they notice—get tons of information from us, from OEMs, from our individual departments, and at all times of the month and in all kinds of media.  And at all kinds of cost!
The answer is Coordinated Marketing:  The marketing parts should play in harmony in a song so sweet no car shopper could resist.  And SOMEbody has to own that process.  And it has HUGE returns for sales, in both vehicles and in service.
How do we do that?  Follow these examples:
  • An in-market email blast recipient visits the dealer's Holiday Gift Card site via the link provided in the email and downloads a certificate to receive a $300 gift card with purchase of any new car at your dealership within the next five days. While at the site, he/she also sees on the certificate site a link to a funny video you provided on your Facebook news stream that advertises this program--and he/she forwards that into their social media. And/or he/she sees an inventory link that allows him/her to push the info on and short video of the car(s) he/she is considering to their.
  • An in-market newspaper reader (there are still some) sees your ad with a link to the site for the gift card, and once there his/her process is the same as above.  Or they just come in from the ad.
  • An in-market driver hears about your site on the radio while driving to work, remembers your easy-to-recall website URL for the certificate site, and once there his/her process is the same. TV ad works the same.
  • An in-market recipient of your direct mail postcard with the gift card punch out notices your website URL, logs in, and finds out that he/she will get an additional $50 on the gift card it he/she brings it in to your dealership and buys within the next five days.
  • An in-market Google searcher finds your website and sees "Click here for $300 gift card!" and clicks. And sees that he/she will get an additional $50 on the gift card it he/she brings it in to your dealership and buys within the next five days. And he/she notices there is another $100 available later if they can refer a friend to the sale, and they pick up the phone and call their uncle who is car shopping . . .
Sales and service can both be marketed this way, and with further coordination even between them (Sales efforts that include service coupons, etc.) the impact of the campaigns is even stronger and leverages all the funds available much better.
Coordinating all the marketing into a coherent message and effort inherently raises sales.  Which would you, as a consumer, like:  A disjointed and hard-to-comprehend singing rabble, or a harmonious, pleasant, and compelling chorus?
You’d like a Coordinated Marketing approach, of course.  More bang for the buck!  And you wouldn’t even notice it, except that suddenly you wanted to purchase a new car!
P.S. I love Johnny Cash and his music!  And his last name J.  Wayne Kemp wrote the song "One Piece at a Time" that Johnny Cash recorded, and, if you've never heard it, here's a video of the song if you want to listen:

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Blur of Internet Marketing & Sales is Costing You Money

Using Your Salespeople to Market Your Dealership
on the Internet Loses You Sales
by Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

What happens if your website needs maintenance, your SEO/SEM needs attention, your pictures and vehicles need launches online, and your Internet Salesperson is busy answering leads and calling customers?  What happens to your dealership’s Internet sales lead coverage while your Internet Salesperson leaves their computer to sell a vehicle, taking the hours needed to confirm the customer’s needs, test drive, negotiate, close, and deliver?  What happens to your vehicle sales when your Internet Department is also your Marketing Department?

You lose sales.  Period.  And that’s likely happening right now at your dealership.
Nearly 90% of our customers shop the Internet now, whether they call or email or come in:  So, whether we accept it or not, we don’t have “Internet Customers”, we just have customers!  However, the Internet Department can serve very well now as a needed rally point in order to modernize a dealership’s marketing and sales approach—too many dealers, however, risk their business by trying to do Internet sales and marketing with the same people.  I also worry some dealers use an “Internet Department” as a “set it and forget it” strategy that is palatable to some of the dinosaurs in sales who resist change, but that’s a subject for another blog.  Mostly.
Starting at the “classic” marketing strategy for a dealership in the past, we have had print ads that a sales manager would often author, and radio and TV that a GM or Principal would talk and appear in.  None of these marketing efforts are interactive, and what customers they generated were easily put in “silos” of the phone-ups or floor-ups for sales.  And not marketing at all.  If we were very lucky, we even had a Marketing Director that coordinated all this to be effective.
Now, however, the Internet is the “newspaper” that interacts with shoppers from marketing well into sales, first providing information and pictures—and speech, when appropriate—and then attempting to get shoppers to give up contact information on their product of interest.  Or at least call or come on in.  In other words, marketing now participates in lead maturation down the sales funnel as never before.
Unfortunately, to some this just sounds like sales doing marketing, again, just like the sales manager creating the ads.  Nothing new for vehicle sales, right?  Should be fine, right?
No.  First, the old way had the sales managers doing the ads, if not the GM/Principal.  NOT the salespeople!  With the rise of the Internet, many sales managers (and higher) didn’t follow the technology or know what to do with it, so they hired (or anointed) “Internet” folks who would sit at the computer and answer those pesky customer emails.  And so the first doomed “set it and forget it” strategy for vehicle Internet Sales was born.
The Internet needs much more attention than “set it and forget it” to properly generate sales:  Crisp, pleasant, direct, and single-click-to-Inventory websites; SEO/SEM, microsites; blogs; social media management, reputation management; specials,  email blasts, coupons, pictures; eBay, CraigsList, AutoTrader; and more.
Exactly how is your “Internet Salesperson” supposed to do all that AND sell a vehicle through the process, from lead, to test drive, to negotiation, to close, to delivery?  All without missing sales?  Or without missing the necessary efforts on the Internet to generate more leads and sales?
Simply put, they cannot.  And, by the way, print and radio/TV ads, greatly reduced though they may be, are NOT going away.  They need attention, too. 
What you really need, first, is a marketing person who understands classic media AND the Internet, and who can be effective in both arenas.  And, second, you need an entire sales force—not just an “Internet guy or gal”—who can meet and close the most educated vehicle buyers in retail vehicle sales history who now walk your floors.  And who are driven to you by all your media efforts, but who are product-educated and sales-matured by the Internet.
And that is how you stop losing, and start getting, the most sales!

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Smarter than the Internet

by Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

To GMs and Principals:  I’m going to explain the Internet to you for dealership business, and you’ll understand it all when I'm done—because you’re smarter than the entire Internet, although you probably don’t know it because Internet-savvy people needlessly complicate it.  It’s really simple!
Smarter than the Internet??  How is that, you ask?  Start with your ink pen:  Consider it, and ask yourself a simple question, “Am I smarter than this pen?”  Of course you are.  And you are also smarter than any ink pen ever made, without question.  Well, a computer is just a smart pen!  It’s the smartest pen in human history, yes, but still a pen.  And, since you are wayyy smarter than any pen, you are also clearly wayyy smarter than any computer.  And you always will be.
And, as noted already, the Internet is made of computers.  Just smart pens.  Get it?
Yes, the Internet, the World Wide Web, Web 2.0, Social Media, websites, internet leads, email, chat, and buzz words and new features all told . . . you’re smarter than all that!  In fact, for your dealership the Internet is the same business you’ve been doing for decades, just done differently.  And here’s how to understand that point:
For you, the Internet is, first, marketing and advertising—and with far more reach and impact than anything ever in print.  Or ever in history, really.  Your newspaper ads and TV/Radio spots can’t react and talk to your customers, but the Internet can, and nobody even opens the Yellow Pages for a phone number any more, they do an Internet search.  And the Internet is your marketing—live!—where you can run weekly (or even daily) specials on your website, email all your customers (as often as is smart) with the latest vehicle sales and service specials, and also help your business reputation with their peers (your website, autoblogs, Facebook, and such).  There are more pieces, but there’s nothing NEW in the Internet except in how the pieces interact with your customers.  And that interaction is the huge advantage of the Internet in advertising.
And the Internet is also sales, as your strongest sales now come from it:  90% of your modern shoppers first visit your online showrooms (website, AutoTrader, etc.), compare your inventory and pricing there, submit a lead or offer, chat on your website live with staff, call your store, or—still!—just come on in.  The Internet just expanded the way you talk to your customers—and also matured your shoppers further towards a sale than ever before.  When shoppers hit your showroom, the percentage of buyers is higher than ever before.  You just have to get them to buy from YOU!
So, this is it, simply put:  We’ve had showrooms for decades.  And a sales phone line.  And advertising, marketing, and sales.  All that the Internet has really done is provide us with new and better ways to do the same old things!
The impact of those “new ways” born from the Internet should never be taken for granted, however—because the Internet has permanently altered key parts of your business for the modern market concerning where you spend your advertising budget, how you do your marketing, and what staff and processes you use in sales.  In both variable and fixed ops, for that matter.  So, now that you understand the Internet, you need to be as smart as possible about how you use it.
You will need Internet marketing, sales, and management training, the right hired skills, and the right purchased services to drive business in the Internet Age, all of which together is not a small task to be profitable these days.  Are your managers able to create effective ads and specials for your website?  Are your salespeople able to close the most educated car shoppers in history?  Is your marketing staff creating and maintaining the most effective and compelling website interaction and social media presence for you?
Maybe now you worry that no one at our dealership really understands the Internet enough to do your business properly in the Internet Age.  Well, perhaps they need you to explain it first!  So, start that today by walking into their offices and the sales tower and saying:
“Look at my pen . . .”
Because, regardless of the Internet, as always they—and your business—go where you lead.

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From the Mouse Click to the Driver’s Seat

By Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved
Dealer floor traffic has tracked steadily downward since 1995, while Internet shopping has concurrently risen—and that drop in floor traffic and rise in Internet shopping has dramatically sharpened in both directions since 2005.  So, in the last six years, shoppers have confirmed that if you’re waiting for the “UP Bus” and watching the lot through the window, you’re just a dinosaur waiting to be encased in rock. 
And, yet, so many dealerships populate their sales floors and thinking with just that strategy!  We no longer get them at the door and take them to the driver’s seat, customers are interacting with us first from their mouse click—and we have to engage them there, where they are, in order to get them into the driver’s seat later.  And that takes a lot more “doing” on a dealer’s part than any sales manager’s preparation of whatever ads used to be put in the newspaper.

For example, Social Media is still a new Internet “undiscovered country” for most dealers.  I was recently struck by two rather-successful industry consultant icons and their different assessment of the vehicle sales impact of social media:  One thinks it’s the next great thing, and one thinks it will never be a lead generator.  For the next couple of years, I’d have to say I agree with them both.
The easiest way to currently get direct impact from social media is not in leads, but instead in using it to get attention from interesting content (funny videos to pass around to friends, not still pics of your inventory!) and then also to create back links to your website.  That’s not lead generation, that’s shopper direction, and it shows up, for example, in higher organic ranking in search engines—which leads even more shoppers to find you!  And shopper direction is all what SEO and PPC (some call SEM) really are, purposed efforts to promote your dealership’s website for shopper inventory review and ultimately lead submission (via forms, email, chat, or phone).  In that way, social media is not a lead generator but certainly is “the next great thing” for sales enabling.  For now.
And understand that we no longer so easily restrict the information about the vehicle, as with the fuller bloom of the Internet now our shoppers control it—really, the OEMs have made sure of that, and we have followed right along because competition made it necessary.  Any efforts online to restrict information (for example, empty email responses) just frustrate shoppers, creating opportunity for competitors.  Control of information is another thing altogether, and that has always been a hallmark of good car sales because it means a conversation that is sales enabling and still is.  For example, on the phone:  “Yes, we have the car, but I have several others to choose from that might save you even more money.   And with the differences in options, the ride of each really needs to be evaluated in a test drive.  When can you come in, this afternoon or this evening?”  This still works very well in a conversation.
And also beware of giving too much information:  Internet or phone responses that are full of answers to questions but are without enticements for the customer to write back (or, better yet, call back) do not yield conversations.  And conversations are still what lead to visits and sales!  So, what dealers need online is their inventory to be easily and quickly found on the Internet, to then provide website motivation for customers to interact (Make an Offer forms, Email Us, Facebook, Chat, etc.), and to then use that interaction to create conversations which provide avenues to sales.  Really, the whole conversation part of car sales hasn’t changed—it’s just that the Internet has changed how and when people decide to actually visit your lot.  And, you need to get that conversation started to get that visit!
Vehicle shoppers, via the Internet, are maturing their purchase decision on their own much further down the sales funnel than ever before.  And every step in that maturation has to include enticements, incentives, and information control (NOT restriction) from the dealer aimed at continuing the maturation to a sale.  That is why the lot traffic has trended downward for 16 years:  "Window" shopping is all done on the Internet now, and the folks arriving on your lot--though there are fewer--are more ready to buy than ever before
Now you can see why the floor and Internet traffic have proceeded in the last sixteen years as they have:  How do we get folks from the mouse click to the driver’s seat?  We accept the change the Internet has brought us—that shoppers are further along in the sales process and more educated than ever when they contact us or come in!—and we use all the tools, from email to the phone to social media, to get better at what is still as true it has always been:  Conversations lead to sales.
So, everybody:  Get clicking, get emailing, get calling, get talking--and get selling!

The Five Mystical Ways of Digital Kung Fu 數位功夫的五種神秘的方式

By Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved
1. “Quiet Panther” 
Websites Should Be Seen and Not Heard
You wouldn’t set off loud sirens just as a customer opens the door of a brick and mortar business—so don’t do it on the Web!  Remember, customers with jobs don’t need the “Boss I’m Web Shopping Instead of Working” alarm to go off at their own desk.  Use sound where it makes sense, but let the shoppers choose when to turn it on:  Make friends with your site, not unemployment!
2.“Running Tiger”
Driving Traffic to Your Website is More Than Just Meta Tags and Page Titles and Ad Spends
Don’t expect your current success via yesterday’s SEO to last—are you creating and posting online video on your site?  Do you YouTube?  Are you pursuing back-links from Social Media? Do you blog?  Have any micro sites?  The Internet isn’t a RonCo “Set It and Forget It” appliance, so don’t treat it that way.  Stay on top of it!  And are you thinking of PPC?  Any effort for search engines not including PPC is leaving money on the table—PPC is proven, measurable, and very valuable.  Use it smartly!

3. “Dancing Monkey
Live Chat to a Dead Head is Only Good at Concerts
The mega fans of the Grateful Dead should never provide live chat services—are you checking what you’re getting with your online chat service? Make sure they answer well and successfully set appointments by “mystery chatting” them yourself.  And do it often.  And if you’re not using chat or not considering it, you’re missing a very valuable sales conversion tool—you worked hard to get the shopper to your site, so start the sales engagement there!

4.“Lightning Snake”
Hosting Short Videos Means Never
Having to Say We Suck
Twenty seconds is a long time on the Internet.  Don’t be afraid to edit down your customers’ video testimonials before you post them, or better yet tell them briefly how to “get to the meat” when they talk.  Even the most positive but too-long testimonial says “We Suck!” out in the wilds of the Internet.  And also get any product video down to the “Quick and Powerful” level.  And one more thing: Be sure to scroll your website and phone number across the bottom of all videos—don’t waste those precious few seconds of a customer's attention by not doing the right self-promoting.
5.“Knowing Crane”
The Buzz of Social Media Might be From the Chainsaw You’re Taking to Your Business

You need to get past buzz words with Social Media, and in a hurry--you shouldn't just "buy services" for this, you need to understand and plan what you're doing.  Do you know how to monetize Tweet for your fixed ops, how to respond to issues, and how to create business for yourself on Facebook and other Social Media?  You would laugh at a dork who walked into a party and shoved his business car rudely under everyone’s nose—so don’t be that dork in Social Media! Learn how to interact or you'll get ignored, or, worse, derided in business-killing ways.  And Online Reputation Management is a modern and very real business need, encompassing both Social Media and the Internet at large (can you say “Google Business Reviews”?).  Do you manage your Facebook fan pages several times a day? Do you watch Twitter for your business’ name—what are people saying about you?  And there's so much more!

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Published Articles and Other Writing . . .

I'm a published author on these subjects, such as in Wards Automotive ( ) and Auto Dealer Monthly ( ).

I publish my blogs here at, and I am one of the editors of the #1 site for automotive professionals

Thanks for stopping by!

Keith Shetterly

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