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Make Me a Better (Online) Car Salesman!

You all may know me for the role I play on TV, as DrFill, world renowned lover of Lexus/Toyota/Honda for their excellent marketing and reliability, and serial-basher of Ford and GM for their.....oppossing stance on quality marketing and product quality.

This forum is to help me, in particular, as I have joined the hated ranks of "Car Salesman", online! Internet Sales Rep for a Dodge dealership in Northwest Houston, TX!

Internet car sales is just starting to take a hold in the marketplace, and an Internet Dept can account for anywhere between 10-35% of a dealership yearly volume!

This forum is to also give advice to salesman in general, on what a buyer expects, in how to treat a buyer properly, how to overcome stereotypes, and exceed a potential customer's expectations, and how to make car buying as painless as possible.

Any best wishes, advice, sales training, and good humor (heavy on the good!) are welcome.

Let us now begin.

DrFill
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Comments

  • I know it's always hard to be the first to raise your hand.

    DrFill
  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,989
    You all may know me for the role I play on TV, as DrFill, world renowned lover of Lexus/Toyota/Honda for their excellent marketing and reliability, and serial-basher of Ford and GM for their.....oppossing stance on quality marketing and product quality.

    Well it's about time you came forward with your TRUE feelings on the Big 3. I sometimes felt you might be walking the fence and wasn't sure if you liked the domestic manufactors.

    Rocky

    P.S. This however looks like a interesting topic.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,051
    sounds like this could be a fun topic. Just make sure you don't accidentally cross the line and come off like you're trying to solicit business, because then they'll shut it down real quick.

    BTW, what kind of deal could you give me on an '06 Charger? :P
  • I wouldn't expect a discount on that, but the SXT should be quite negotiable. :)

    It should be obvious, from my previous post, what my opinions of the "Big 3 out of 4" are.

    DrFill
  • When I made my last automotive purchase, I looked at the MSRP and the Invoice... split the two down the middle (which was very close to TMV) and said I'll pay *that*.

    Salesperson said "ok" and we were done.

    There were no surprise charges or fees and I got a very good rate on the loan.

    It was a pleasant experience. The reason I liked it was because of the honesty. I wasn't trying to screw the dealership out of every penny and they weren't trying the same on me.

    What I'd really love to see from an internet automotive sales contact would be this (assuming I've sent an inquiry):

    1 - A current inventory of the model(s) I'm interested in. Go ahead and let me know that you can get other colors/styles, but don't promise something that doesn't exist (ex: manual w/ sunroof and leather)

    2 - Dates/times I can come in and drive/look at the car (or one of the models). However, I'd like to deal with someone in the iSales department and not a bling-bling, high-pressure salesman.

    3 - When numbers come up, a spreadsheet showing all the numbers. Invoice, MSRP, estimated taxes and fees and possibly even a range of monthly payments dependant on $ down and apr.

    I just want to be treated like an intelligent, informed consumer. I'm not your enemy, I'm your customer... and I'm about to make one of the largest purchases of my life. Don't make me worry that you're trying to scam me.
  • socala4socala4 Posts: 2,427
    Not all customers are alike, so I wouldn't treat each of them the same. I'm going to guess that the vast majority fall into a few categories:

    -Tech Junkies -- These people like to buy everything online simply because they prefer the online experience. They simply prefer shopping via computer, and may actually be put off by the prospect of talking to someone. They are most interested in clicking on a button, and getting something delivered afterward.

    -Too Busy to Shop -- These folks are quite busy (or at least like to think that they're busy) and are most interested in convenience and a hassle-free experience. Price may be an issue, but may be one of many issues.

    -Scared to Death -- Showrooms and bad suits scare the bejesus out of them, and they are afraid of setting foot on the lot.

    -The (Wannabe) Savvy Shopper -- This customer has probably read every review ever written about this car, and has researched the invoice price. They want to get a good deal, and believe that they have the info and smarts to get it (although they may or may not be intimidated by the usual sales process, and they may not know as much as they think they do.) These buyers will be highly price conscious, but may not know what a low price is supposed to be.

    Not sure how you'd do this, but I'd first want to determine what kind of prospect you have, then act accordingly:

    -Give the Tech Junkie an easy online experience. I'd offer added extras such as free delivery to home or office, so that the experience is similar to that of an online mail order business. Offer a reasonable, but not rock-bottom price, until they have counters from others, and try to use email, instant messenger, ICQ, etc., rather than the phone, as much as possible to communicate with them if that's what they might prefer. I'd also have positive reviews, etc. available in email format so that they can get sources of positive feedback from you about the car.

    -Busy also wants convenience, and respect for their busy schedule (even if it isn't really that busy.) Be sure to schedule phone calls with them, and offer to provide them a profile of some cars that are good for them based upon priorities that they give you. (I would get them to give you a list of their highest priorities, then steer them toward cars on your lot that meet most or all of those needs.)

    -Scared is scared, so be nice but firm enough that you can control the deal. Try to address their fears directly, and be prepared to throw them an obvious bone or two to show them good faith and kindness. Try to sort what they want, then provide them with a clear, easy array of options (not just car accessories, but whatever else is their hot button) that don't steamroll over their needs.

    -Savvy knows the numbers, so you may as well accept that fact and go for a quick close based largely on sales price, unless there are other terms that also matter to them. Offer a good low price from the start, and then either sell it quickly or move on to another buyer.

    In any case, I would avoid fighting for every dollar, and work toward "fair prices". That's a waste of your time -- it's better for someone in your position to focus on volume than it is to fixate on maximizing per-vehicle margin on every sale. While you may occasionally hit the home run by squeezing MSRP out of someone, the time spent doing that could have been better invested selling more cars, which gives you better sales numbers and better word of mouth from your customers.

    I'm interested to see how you do with this, so please keep us informed...
  • We are getting a lot more internet traffic now then just a few months ago. We don't have an internet department cause we only have a total of four sales staff for the entire dealership. Two sales Guides, center manager/new car sales manager and a F&I/Pre-owned sales manager.
  • 1. They have a laptop full of Internet leads that the 1.5 sales reps can't keep up with. So I won't be pounding much pavement for business!

    2. The Internet is already 30% of the business, so the GM respects that side of the lot, and said he will invest in our success, and redo the site as I/We see fit!

    3. With Hemis, Chargers, the new Caliber and Nitro, it's a good year to join Dodge.

    4. I was growing tired of my managerial retail job.

    5. Every Sunday off. :shades:

    Shipro

    You sound like an ideal customer! I'm guessing maybe 10% of the customers will be as reasonable and non-confrontational. But, hopefully, I'm wrong.

    DrFill
  • mirthmirth Posts: 1,212
    I would create a standard spreadsheet, maybe by model, where you can just plug in numbers and then cut and paste into a reply. That way you can give excellent replies every time but aren't spending too much time on answering (in case the person emailing you isn't really looking).
  • Don't want to over promise on rate, as most of the sales seem to be finances.

    I think my primary job is to get them on the phone, and into test drive.

    Putting the cart before the horse is not my preference.

    DrFill
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,956
    I bought my latest car from an internet sales guy. The car wasn't even on the lot, but someone I knew told me the dealership had it sitting on a back lot awaiting prep, so I emailed the place. It was pretty painless to arrange everything via email...two days later I took the unprepped dirty car for a drive (I kind of liked it that way, I could see any flaws), it was what I wanted, and the deal was closed then.

    I think the guy is really busy...he's only sent me 2 follow up emails...one about the spare set of keys that the previous owner lost, and another last week 'letting me know' if anyone I know is looking to send them his way. The previous place I bought from sent me cards at Christmas *and* my birthday!
  • How much follow up is TOO MUCH follow up?

    Expecting a Thank You in the mail, and a courtesy call are fine. Where is the line after that?

    DrFill
  • That is typicaly all I do for the most part. Letting them know that if they need anything to just give me a call and I can set up everything. I can get things done much faster then parts or service can if they need something specific. Have the part or service apointment they need set up right away and then generaly after the first visit they are familiar with the parts/service people and are ok on their own.

    I did send little happy holiday/happy new years notes to everyone I sold in the past year. There are a few of my customers that I keep in a little better touch with because we have similar interests and just got along really great. They have given me referals and since a couple of them are CCBA people I ask them their impressions of various vehicles from time to time.
  • How long have you been a Virtual Salesman?

    How long do you tend to take to respond to e-mail (not including autoresponder)?

    DrFill
  • One of e-Dealer's Top 100 in the Nation, for information on availablity on the Civic Si. They didn't get back to me until the next day!

    My dealership was later in the afternoon, but still way too slow! I'll fix that!

    Is within the hour what you would expect?

    DrFill
  • When I looked for a Hyundai almost four years ago, I sent an email request to the closest three dealers. They have Web sites and are 80-100 miles in three differnt directions. One responded within the day with a full vehicle description and a firm price within $50 of Edmund's TMV, one responded two days later saying they have some on their lot that may work for me. One did not answer. Needless to say, I bought from the first dealer. I bought another car from that dealer last year. The process took about half an hour. The salesman knew I had been on the Web, answered my questions, and did not repeat what I found on the Web. So quick email response is crucial, and do not re-hash what the customer already knows.
  • Land Rover randomly sends email requests into all of their dealerships as part of their Land Rover Way audit process. They require us to respond within three hours of all email lead requests. The three hours rolls over from day to day so if an email is send out at 7:00 pm on a Monday we have until 10:30 am on Tuesday to respond to it. I think we typicaly do pretty good about being in the three hour window.
  • logic1logic1 Posts: 2,433
    is that too many dealers do not consider it so much as a sales operation but a marketing operation.

    My experience has been the dealers are all too willing to talk price and content with you. But when you try to nail them down on an agreement, they weasel out, saying they need you at the dealership in person.

    Then, of course, when you arrive at the dealership, the sales people try to push product on the lot that was not discussed at prices not discussed.

    I can, and have, negotiated high end purchases on-line, for everything from watches to real estate. Too many car salespeople are stuck on the classic model of high pressure in person sales.

    Long and short, my advise is that if you want to be a good internet salesperson - from a consumer's perspective anyway - then actually sell. Otherwise, you are nothing more than a hightech huckster, pulling people under the tent where the real sales are closed.
  • au94au94 Posts: 171
    I've had 1 great experience with online car sales and 2 not so great.

    The good: Leased an Accord from a dealer and completed everything on line. Luckily, a supplier of mine had just bought himself one so at lunch one day he let me crawl all over his, drive it etc. After I decided the car worked for me, I e mailed the dealer with my specs and interest level (immediate), he confirmed the car was in inventory and shot back his price which was very good. I countered back with a small adjustment to the lease terms and he accepted and sent a credit app with his reply, which I competed and returned. I was in the dealership only long enough to sign papers and take delivery. I'd say 45 min tops.

    The not so good: My wife was interested in a PT Cruiser when they first came out. I sent off some e mail inquiries to a few dealers and the ones that did respond wanted me to come in before they would give a price.

    A similar situation recently when we were considering the new Passat. Lots of "canned" responses i.e. "Wow that is a great looking car, huh?" "Come on down and take a test drive". Really just turned me off. I'm looking for information first, a sales pitch second.

    Just listen to what the customers are asking you and be straight with them. I think the majority are using the internet to avoid the typical sales experience. Make sure your management empowers you as much as possible to quote final pricing and availability.

    Good luck with the new position. If I still lived in Texas, I'd hit you up for a price on the new Ram.
  • New Ram? "Nice rig, huh?" :P

    Spoke to the other Internet Sales Rep for a while today. He said expect to work "Bell to Bell", Mon-Sat, if you want to make real money. He's doing a lot of $100 over invoice selling. He is one of the top 2 sales reps there. He is a nice guy, and works very hard, but doesn't strike me as Alec Baldwin in GlenGarry Glen Ross. He just is honest, and works hard. Get good vibes from the whole dealership. :)

    Good pay plan, much better than the top imports, anyway.

    We in the Internet dept. can give "out the door" pricing online. I think it is best to check with the sales floor mgr. first, doh.

    Problem with too much pricing online is the customer just takes the price and works it at the closest dealership to them. When they come in, you know they are for real. Or if they do an app.

    They can't "sign on the line which is dotted" if they don't come in. You need a sign of commitment from prospect. The difference between a prospect and a customer is commitment.

    If they are floating around in space, and I'm just handing over #'s, it's probable THEY may not be treating ME right! If they come in, that's me chance to shine. If I blow it, it's on me. I'll take that chance all day, every day.

    Also, need to factor in customers not knowing or changing their minds on options/pkgs. If I quote a price on a car, and you come in and pick a diffferent car because of the color, but it has more equipment, don't ask for the same price as the first truck! I can do without the insults at work.

    Can't wait for the Caliber!! :blush:

    DrFill
  • logic1logic1 Posts: 2,433
    Problem with too much pricing online is the customer just takes the price and works it at the closest dealership to them.

    Getting the best price is the point of working the internet. I will make the trip to a more distant dealer if they make an offer too good to refuse and close the deal on line so I do not have to waste my time at the dealership and all the trips to discuss with the sales manager, etc.

    They can't "sign on the line which is dotted" if they don't come in. You need a sign of commitment from prospect. The difference between a prospect and a customer is commitment.

    You can make a binding (as in legally enforceable) commitment to buy and sell on-line. The question is whether you want to. Check out e-bay. Jewelers regularly sell collectible watches at prices well beyond that of a Dodge on-line.

    Also, need to factor in customers not knowing or changing their minds on options/pkgs. If I quote a price on a car, and you come in and pick a diffferent car because of the color, but it has more equipment, don't ask for the same price as the first truck! I can do without the insults at work.

    Agreed. This can be a problem with some consumers. But there are many others sophisticated enough to figure the options they want and the color they can live with on line.

    With more and more dealers hiring internet sales specialists such as yourself, it should be easier in time to separate the sophisticated internet consumer from the goofballs. Believe me, we want to treat you right. We want internet sales opportunities to keep on growing.

    Futher, if customers are consistently confused, the dealer and manufacturer may want to reconsider their website. As it happens, Dodge does a pretty good job (along with Volvo and Saturn). There are some manufacturer websites where you cannot figure out what goes with what. There is no excuse for that in this day.

    Can't wait for the Caliber!!

    Agreed. I expect the Caliber is going to be a real winner for Dodge.
  • I don't think our dealership is up to e-signature buyer's orders, nor do I expect that anytime soon.

    A credit app, or a test drive, is enough commitment for me.

    Also, people do test drive cars, or try on pants at JCPenney, and not like them the way they thought they would. They may then NEED try another size or feature to sell themselves again. test drives are VERY important, for both the buyer and the sales rep. ;)

    DrFill
  • over either the phone or internet. I have had a few exceptions to this but for the most part any quotes we give to someone over the phone or internet are for full list cars. My first email to a customer is going to depend on what info they give me. Many times all I get is the model name and that is it in the information request. If all I have is the model name, many times with the wrong year selected like asking for info on a 2004 Range Rover Sport when the model was not around till MY 2006, then all I can really respond with is yes we have a couple of those models on the ground and I would love to set up a time for you to drive one.

    The more info they give me then the more I can help them.
  • But I think courting a Rover customer and a Dodge customer is a little different. Supply and demand, my friend.

    DrFill
  • Yeah agreed and I wish our upper managment understood that. We have a dodge store too and sometimes that dodge mentality creeps in when they come visit us. We did a 110 new cars last year which sounds not so good compared to the other stores in our group but that is about 10 more new cars then we did last year and we hold over four times the gross of any other store.
  • 4x the gross? You are talking about Dodge or Range Rover? What is the secret?

    DrFill
  • logic1logic1 Posts: 2,433
    I don't think our dealership is up to e-signature buyer's orders, nor do I expect that anytime soon.

    A credit app, or a test drive, is enough commitment for me.


    Respectfully, this says to me that you are not really selling on the internet but marketing on the internet.

    This is fine, and a step in the right direction. But you need to understand that there are many of us - both consumers and sales outlets - that are a step or two beyond.

    As for test drives, I travel and rent a lot (the main reason I like internet sales is my lifestyle does not give me the time to waste at stores and dealerships). I have preferred customer arrangements with several rentral car companies, meaning I get a choice of rentals. I make it a point to rent cars that interest me in all segments.*

    Those few hot cars that do not make it to rentals usually show up at Spring and Summer drive time events. I find drive time events a much better place to evaluate the vehicle than at a dealer with a salesperson watching your every move.

    The internet is here. Especially with the move for dealer consolidations dealerships will increasingly move to true internet sales models. You are moving toward the vanguard. In time you may go all the way.

    As I said above, I have bought and sold quality watches (at prices above most Dodges) on line. I recently redecorated my townhouse completely on line. I had the companies send me swatches and tile samples. I was even able to locate some great trades people (and get preliminary bids) using a popular on line service.
  • Sorry for the confusion I am talking about the Groses at the Rover store and after looking at the numbers a little more closely our gross is a little less then four times the dodge store not including holdback.
  • socala4socala4 Posts: 2,427
    Respectfully, this says to me that you are not really selling on the internet but marketing on the internet.

    This is fine, and a step in the right direction. But you need to understand that there are many of us - both consumers and sales outlets - that are a step or two beyond.


    This goes back to my point before -- some customers want this experience to be akin to dealing with Amazon.com: provide the needed info and a sales price, and be done with it.

    Trying to rope in a customer into a test drive smacks of the old bait-and-switch marketing gimmick that the tech-oriented customers, price shoppers and terrified buyers all resent.

    Since the customer has already decided that he wants the car, trying to convince him in person seems to be an unnecessary wasted step. Once a customer is sold, you don't need to keep reselling him -- your goal should be to get his money as soon as possible after he has decided that he is willing to part with it.

    If it is possible to get a mortgage online, surely it should be possible to buy a car in the same fashion. I appreciate that your dealership may not be set up to do that, but that is a poorly thought-out process. In the era of overnight delivery, surely a paper contract could be sent via Fed Ex, etc. at the very least? That must be one way that the fleet sales are handled.
  • I am going to post about every internet lead I get on this topic. Luckily we don't do much in the way of internet traffic so this should be easy. I will give a brief description of the lead and how serious I think it is. I will say what they were looking for and how much info they gave me and then report back later if anything came of the lead.

    Ok so for my first lead I actually have two. My Centre Manager held out three different leads in front of me and I do the my tingle test. I touch each lead and feel if it is serious. Does this sound silly? Why, yes it is sill but it does seem to work. I pick the lead that gives me that special feeling and he turns out it is two yes two leads in one. The same person sent requests from two different sites. Ok good already seems more serious.

    Looking through both leads we have a real first and last name on both and a real address on both. Only a phone number on one though. Say they are looking to buy in the next 30 days and are looking for a Range Rover or a Range Rover Sport. They want lease pricing but don't give me any terms to use to figure out a lease. Hmhh ok I guess I give this one a B-. They put down enough info for me to think they are fairly serious but not enough info for me to actually answer their question.

    I explained to them that I need more info to answer their questions and went through a point by point explination of what exactly I need in order to generate a lease quote. All in all my response was about a page long. I sent out the request about 30 minutes ago so lets see if they respond at all. According to the time stamps on the request they were made last night after business hours so I am well within our three hour response window.
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