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This is a blog by my friend Martin D’Amato.  Martin is the Internet Director for Pine Belt Automotive in NJ.  His Internet/BDC department helps account for 250-300+ units sold and delivered from a group of three dealerships that are among the top in the nation.  He really gets it and is constantly perfecting his craft.  Martin is at a level that most dealership consultants only wish they were at.  While others “talk the talk”, my man here “walks the walk”.  In fact, a well known “self proclaimed” Internet Sales guru who claims to be the number one automotive internet sales trainer in the industry claims to have sat in Martin’s seat in the past working for the same group.  However, Martin has really taken it to a level that his so called “predecessor” could only talk about and dream about.



Google Maps App

Google Maps App Changes the Game| by Martin Damato



iOS 6 Google MapsWhile at work I received a text message from a buddy of mine with the new Google Maps App URL. I immediately downloaded the app and began to play around with it.  Currently my cell phone service is Verizon and I have been using VZ Navigator. At only $2.99 a month, it is a great deal for anyone who does not have a navigation system or a vehicle with navigation installed. Google Maps App, being FREE, does the exact same thing so I used that for my ride home from work to test it out. I noticed a few glitches, but with anything new those kind of things are going to happen. The next day I was off and wanted to check out some furniture stores. I typed in the Google Maps app “furniture store” and immediately several local stores came up.

But here is the “GAME CHANGER”…

During my search, it gave me each stores Google Places ranting!! Wow!! I didn’t do any homework before I left the house, and now I didn’t have too! I had all the information during my drive. I was able to see which store had 2 stars and which store had 5 stars. I was able to see who to avoid at each store while in my car, while on my phone driving to the location!

My mind immediately turned to my business, the car business. How many customers are driving to your dealership using this app and notice a terrible review? How many of those same people punch in your competitors store who have a higher ranting through Google and head over there? It is going to happen more times then not.

The majority of buyers in today’s market are Gen X and Gen Y. I, myself am Gen Y. I, myself bypassed a store because of a negative review during my drive to that same exact store.

Google Maps App is going to change the game. It is going to cause customers to detour from their original route and head directly towards a safe place to shop. I did… And I consider myself no different then any other shopper out there.



After seeing the tremendous success that my last series of blogs “Transforming the Dealership” has brought in terms of visibility and feedback I have decided to start a new series to focus strictly on the BDC.  As a dealership trainer and consultant I am sure having an amazing fall and winter season this year because I am working with dealerships on extended full time projects.  I am talking about wrapping up my sleeves, putting in the hours, creating magic, and not forgetting where I came from.  My biggest fear is always that one day I will have been out of retail for so long that I will be out of touch of reality.  There are a lot of people out there doing what I do (or trying to) that have lost that touch of reality.  An example of that is easily seen when you ask them certain questions only to find that they look to avoid them every chance they get because they have no real answers.  I know this because I attend and speak at my share of conferences and I hear what the dealers are complaining about.  They always tell me “Well, when is that last time this guy was in my shoes that they are telling me I need to do this and this?  Do they even know what I am dealing with?”


My goal is to help the industry and be as real as I can be so that I can relate to the dealer and truly understand what they are needing help with.  Since I am still in the beginning stages of growing my company I have decided to dig deep and really place an even bigger focus on the clients and opportunities that I currently have by putting in the hours, trying new ideas, making the “old school” basics work with the new in dealerships 5 days a week.  I have to tell you that this is fun.  Some days I feel like I did 6 years ago learning something new and exciting while other days I feel that my experience is letting me getting things fixed and accomplished faster. 


So let’s begin with this transformation, shall we?


Remember the article that I recently wrote, “The Internet Manager of 2013“?  Well this is the dealership we are going to talk about.


We start out by discovering the BDC room consists of 3 people (1 Manager and 2 Internet Coordinators).  The three people are in a small room with 3 computers, 3 phones, 1 printer, and barely any room to let any air out (if you know what I mean).  They have a great working relationship and do what they can to get the job done.  Everyone is mature and there is no need to make any Human Resource changes.  I see nothing but opportunity.  Here is a BDC that produces an average of 2-3 appointments every day during the week and 5 on a Saturday.


Here are the focuses in order (for now):

1) Establish CRM access and evaluate the CRM.  The CRM is ADP CRM.

2) Establish lead source providers and where they are going.

3) Establish the process in which all internet leads are being followed up.

4) Review all email templates within the process that has been previously setup.

5) Listen to all outgoing phone calls in the room from all 3 of the people.

6) Find out what guidelines the OEMs are expecting the dealer to follow (remember 2 different brands).  Thankfully I am familiar with one brand and the other brand does not have much of a focus as of yet so I am free to create my masterpiece.

7) Learn the demographics of the buyers and shoppers.  This one is easy because I worked in this market selling cars and understand the buyer demographics very well.


There is a lot more to fix and we will discuss over the next few parts.


These first 7 steps explained to me everything that I need to know about the management of the dealership, the level of the people working, the financial budgeting, and where their flaws are. It would take me 1.5 weeks to really fix some of the major problems that I discovered.

Problem 1) all three people log in as the manager and work the same leads.

Problem 2) There is no set guideline on how to handle leads; they just split up who they are calling on any given day.

Problem 3) The email server is very weak and accepts most of the email templates as spam.  We are sending out emails and there is no email engagement going on because customers are not responding.

Problem 4) There is an ILM process but it only lasts about 2-3 weeks.

Problem 5) One member of the team is new but a powerhouse on the phone but needs guidance to learn the industry.  Other members of the team need guidance and lessons to improve what they are doing.  Again, the potential in this 3 person team is phenomenal.


Here is the solution:

1) Every member gets their own log in and email address in the dealership.  However, they will not start using it until I set up the leads to go out in a round robin style based on work schedule.

2) I quickly implemented the “Dealer eTraining” standard process but only kept it to 150 days this time especially since one of the brands only requires 90 days.  The process again includes value building, selling the online reputation of the store (which is decent by the way), and incorporating engaging questions to generate call backs and email responses.

3) It is unfortunate for the dealership but I delete every picture and logo from all of the emails and do a hard check on every single template through various sources to ensure that there is no spam in the email.  In fact, here is a neat source that I used ““.  Unfortunately this CRM does not have a good way to check for spam.  I kept the emails all in text.

4) The process was setup with proper phone calls and emails to be scheduled.

5) I worked with the people on their phone skills.  They needed to learn certain things that they should never say and pick up some powerful word tracks that I normally would use.  They are starting to transition that way.


It has been about 2.5 weeks since I have worked with them.  Our email engagement has improved drastically.  Customers are writing back and starting a conversation that has been escalating to the phone.  This means we are improving out connections with the customers.  We still have days when we start a day with 2 appointments on the board yet finish the day with 4-7.  Last Saturday, the BDC created 12 appointments and had 8 show, 3 sold with 2 more potential deals to happen by Christmas.


Now, this in no way is a pat on the back.  We have much more work to do.  The websites need a lot of work.  We need to improve how we gather reviews for the dealership.  We need to create a strong process for handling unsold showroom traffic.  We get leads from one of the brands that allow the opportunity for retention with customers that have 10 year old vehicles.  This process needs to be polished as well.  I want to see this dealership average 8-10 appointment every day during the week and 20 for a Saturday.  Based on the opportunity that I see this dealership should grow the BDC sales from roughly 30 units to around 50 or 60 per month.  As processes tighten up and proper changes are made, I would not be surprised if they did even better.  I believe that I have only accomplished only 15-20% of what I want to accomplish here.


This is a small department operating on a low budget.  For the dealerships that think they need to invest too much money to make it work, just think again.  It is true that when you invest more you have better opportunity and better trained people making things happen.  However, everyone has to start somewhere and starting on a low budget can ultimately grow an empire that can grow the spending and reap the rewards.


Over the next few weeks I will have more parts to this epic story.  For now, please enjoy this, pass it on to our industry, and please comment.


By the way, if you are looking to learn about some these strategies you can see me speak at Jim Ziegler’s Internet Battle Plan in Atlanta, GA on January 16-17, 2013.  I will also be speaking at the upcoming Digital Marketing Strategies Conference prior to the NADA Convention in Orlando, FL on February 5-7, 2013.


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Stan Sher of Dealer eTraining kicking off the Internet Lead Management workshop at the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association. This is was a three hour workshop with strategies on how to handle automotive internet sales leads properly. Stan Sher is available to train this workshop for any dealer, dealer group, and dealer association. Contact Stan Sher of Dealer eTraining for more information.



Just the other day I was talking to a dealer that was looking for a new Internet Manager.  This is a small dealership that represents two up and coming franchises and sells about 100 units per month.  They have 2 Internet coordinators and are looking to add a manager.  The previous manager left to go work for a vendor for similar pay and less hours over a month ago.

Here is a dealership that has an internet department that is running with no process and no real idea of how to measure the results that come out of that room.  When discussing how much an Internet Manager should make the dealer says “Well, NADA says that an Internet Manager should make $60-65k per year”.  I looked at them and smiled because at that moment I understood exactly where their thoughts were.  I realized that either they are not properly educated on what to expect and measure or they just really do not care to value people in one of the most important positions in the dealership today.  What was even more interesting was how they expect that internet manager to be a working manager and handle everything from answering leads to also handling marketing and managerial efforts.  By the way, this manager for $65,000 will also work a full manager schedule that includes 3 bell to bell days.  I explained my opinion like this, “For $65k, it is obvious why you have not had anyone talented come on board and have not replaced anyone in over as month”.  I added that “$65k will get you a rookie that needs heavy training and a high level person to run the department is a six figure executive.  You can have 29 cents per pound chicken wings and stay at a standstill or you can invest in a high quality piece of steak and really move the needle.”

We have all heard the saying, “The Internet Manager of Today is the General Sales Manager of Tomorrow”.  The reason why some industry experts say that is because it is true.  Once upon a time an Internet Manager was just a sales consultant that personally sold and delivered cars to internet leads without handling showroom floor traffic.  In some aspects the Internet Manager was a sales manager for a group of Internet Sales Consultants.  While, there are dealerships out there that may still operate that way in 2013 there needs to be recognition for a major shift in the industry for what is going on.

The reality is that sales consultants do not have the proper phone skills to handle internet sales opportunities properly.  The other reality is that sales consultants care about what is in front of them now and not what is coming in.  Some more realities, the internet has become a major part of how dealerships market their business.  Dealerships that have been trying to hide from the internet for so many years now have no choice but to at least dabble in it.  This is because some OEM companies are cracking down hard on the dealerships and relying on them to make the appropriate changes in order to stay compliant.

In most cases, a business development center is the way that Internet leads are being handled with professionally trained phone professionals who focus on making lots of phone calls each day to generate appointments for showroom traffic.  These departments are managed by high powered sales managers that have excellent call center management skills, phone skills, and preferably automotive sales and sales management skills.  It is in my opinion that the best BDC Manager knows how to work a car deal and is at the level of a strong desk manager.  Sadly, I have seen people with no care sales experience hold those positions and I still cannot understand why a dealer would settle for that.  But then again, how many vendor reps come in to dealerships to sell a product and tell the dealer how they should sell cars yet they have never been in the dealer’s shoes ones (Yes, it makes me sick and I take it personal).

The bottom line is that the Internet Manager of 2013 must be prepared to be at the level of a General Sales Manager.  Look at the responsibilities of a General Sales Manager.  They are in charge of managing a large team, advertising budgets (sometimes), and training, mentoring, coaching, closing deals, desking deals, managing the finance department, growing their own skills, and reporting to the dealer with full accountability.  Now, look at the Internet Manager.  Internet Managers need have skills that include mastering internet lead management process, managing the CRM/ILM, managing dealership websites, managing social media and reputation for the dealership, handle vendor relations, work with sales department to ensure sales are being properly made, and report to the dealer.  Do not get me wrong in some operations there is more than one person handling the duties and in some cases third party vendors are in place to eliminate some tasks.  However, these vendors still need to be managed by a competent manager.

In essence these are the same job descriptions as the General Sales Manager.  So why does a GSM does make $150,000 per year and an Internet Manager only makes $65,000 per year?  My friend who is a sales manager said to me the other day, “being an Internet Manager today is so much tougher than being a sales manager between all of the marketing, technology, and then managing people and dealing with politics because you are under appreciated”.  The bottom line is that the Internet Manager should have the respect of a General Sales Manager especially since there is a huge chance that they will one day take over that role.   For the dealers that are reading this, if you plan to be a successful dealership in 2013 and hire an Internet Manager make sure that you test their skill level, knowledge at the very least.  Also, be prepared to pay and treat them as a real executive as that is what they will be to you.

—About the author: Stan Sher is widely recognized automotive industry expert with regards to sales and marketing.  He is the President of Dealer eTraining.  Learn more about his background here.


So what is it that makes the Internet Sales 20 Group so great?

Yesterday I spent some time in the Dealer Synergy to get on the 5 week post event follow up call.

What follow up call?  What am I talking about?  You mean a major automotive industry event that hosts a follow up call to hold its attendees accountable?


Seriously, out of all of the fall conferences and events that occurred in October the Internet Sales 20 Group was the only event to really show care for the dealers and the success by implementing a live virtual meeting with attendees to review what they learned and what they implemented at the event.  The moderators for the Internet Sales 20 Group had attendees fill out workbooks and sign official contracts which held them accountable for their action when they get back to the dealership.

My friend, Sean Bradley held a call yesterday and it was amazing to see how many attendees improved business practices in just a few short weeks.  This is powerful stuff that I have never seen before anywhere else.  I have been to numerous digital conferences and workshops where I walked out with information and never a guideline of how to implement my learning.  In fact, I am one of the rare people that have been able to be creative and actually put things into practice.  However, the majority of attendees are overwhelmed when they get back to the dealerships and no one follows up with them.  All that money spent on a conference and the information was barely retained.  Again, the Internet Sales 20 Group ensures success for your dealership.  When people like Ralph Paglia, Peter Martin, JD Rucker, and myself jump on the band wagon to continue making this event more successful you know it has substance.

So…  What should you do next?

Register for the Internet Sales 20 Group March 19-21, 2013 in Dallas, TX by visiting

We pulled off a very successful Internet Sales 20 Group during a major conference week where we drew close to 60 dealers.  Dallas, TX will be taking it to another level where we are going harder with sponsors and will plan to attract up to 120 dealers.  Dealers from the last Internet Sales 20 Group have started to signed up and dealers that missed out are expressing major interest.

I will be representing this powerful event on behalf of Dealer eTraining as well as speaking on topics that dealers need to focus on in today’s business environment.  This fall and winter I am spending time working on major in-dealership projects.  I spent 6 weeks transforming a single dealership with operations that included digital marketing, CRM, social media, lead management, and overall dealership processes in all departments.  I am focusing the next few weeks fixing a small BDC/Internet Sales department that consists of 3 people for a 2 franchise group.  I plan to bring some new data, updated practices, and a refreshing attitude to my craft so that every attendee in the room can walk away with helpful tips to really shine in 2013.

The Internet Sales 20 Group is about industry leaders and top performing dealerships working together to improve the industry.


Welcome to Part 4 of a live dealership case study.  This is the final chapter of a 6 week project.  You can catch up by reading part 3 and previous chapters as well.  In this chapter we will discuss what the dealership is now doing and what they have accomplished in the 6 weeks that I have spent working with them.


The dealership is now up and running with eLead CRM.  The sales department is bought in and are all using the system effectively.  This was one of the best setups and transitions that a dealership has had.  In fact, the only challenges came from DMS integration.  The dealership uses Lightyear which has had updates that made integration more challenging.  However, the problem is being handled.  One thing that was an eye opener for me was setting up a perpetual workflow for a process to handle internet leads.  This is something that I remember doing when I was selling cars as an ISM back in the day at Courtesy Honda where the system was not setup to alert me when I had an action due but rather I had to follow a calendar.  Initially, I wanted hard tasks like emails and phone calls to be setup.  But I was convinced that with less man power and a smaller internet department it will cause the reps to get behind.  So we installed a perpetual workflow using my Dealer eTraining customized processes and guidelines.  It has been working fine and the dealership has not missed a beat.  I have been getting rave reviews and lots of appreciation for making the power move of getting the CRM in place.  This is one of the biggest accomplishments that we achieved.


The sales managers are using eLead to desk deals and appraise vehicles.  It is “a breath of fresh air” as they tell me because they are enjoying the ease.  They were doing all desking in Lightyear and thought it was easy until they experienced what this tool can do especially when you factor in appraisal tools.

Inventory Market Analysis

The dealership never had an appraisal tool or let along a market analysis tools which are evident by the 8-10 units per week that I would change on the website as specials because they were over 100 days old.  In fact the store averages 20-30 used cars per month with 40% of the inventory being over 50 days old.  It was a tossup of getting vAuto which I was suggesting.  I really believe that with the dealership being located on car dealer row and with such a nice lot they should be rolling 50 used cars per month.  Luckily, eLead has an appraisal and market analysis tool which will not allow the managers to do a better job working the used car inventory.  I see used car sales moving up within the next 6 months with better inventory turns.  Being that the finance manager does a great job at this dealership, I am confident that the dealership will see big improvements in gross profits.  The managers are happy about this piece.

Reputation Management

While we still did not get iPads as I recommended, we started to diversify how we get reviews.  I placed an emphasis on being the most important site because they offer a chance to get $100 for signing up to leave a review.  The process that I created involves contacting all customers that bought and serviced cars at the dealership and sending them individual templates based on who their email provider is and sometimes just based on the source that they came from.  For example, if you an email address are a yahoo address I ask for reviews to be written on yahoo or dealerrater.  Another example is a Gmail user; I send them to G+ or yelp.  Some customers will be referred to and others to other sites.  The whole idea is to diversify a portfolio of reviews so that they are scattered all over the web.  We also incorporated as well.

Social Media

The dealer has been impressed with what has been posted and the increasing engagement on facebook.  We have been actively involved in local community news and events.  We have been taking more pictures and videos and optimizing them to create quality content for the dealership.

What does the future bring?

The future brings me back into the dealership for 1-2 days per month to help with content creation.  In addition, I will be handling phone training because that is the next important aspect of what needs to be improved.  The dealership remains to be number one in the district and is ranked as a top 100 dealer for the OEM.  It comes down to management of the people and maintaining quality control.  I think that we accomplished a lot in such a short time and we will continue to focus on growth.

What can dealers do to get ahead in 2013?

Every single dealership needs to create a checklist of what is and what is not working for them and create a plan to fix or adjust their situation.  Examples of what needs to be fixed:

-Sales Process Training: Train the basics as well as modern day standards in order to help mold your people into modern day sales professionals.

-Internet/BDC Training: The CRM needs to be updated with newer email templates and best practices need to be reviewed for all members that are involved in internet sales and business development.

-Phone Training: Everyone needs to improve their skills on the phone and be able to properly handle outgoing and incoming calls with different sets of objections to overcome.  Every process in the dealership has it’s own set of word tracks.

-Hospitality Training:  Managers needs to improve the way their sales staff functions on the sales floor.  Stop tossing around a football or playing games and do something proactive to drive business when it is slow.  In addition, train mannerisms and create a 5 star customer experience so that they are welcome as guests of the dealership.

-Read Books:  Learn to brand yourself and your business.  Learn to motivate yourself and get fired up.  Do the things you need to do to be a success.

Do you need help?

Dealer eTraining has created a limited edition 2 day training program for managers, sales and BDC professionals to “Kick off 2013”.  This program brings back the basics of “old school” and integrates “new school” business practices that will condition your staff to move to the next level and start to 2013 on the right track.  Dealers that want to get ahead need to contact me directly at or visit me on social networks.


Welcome to Part 3 of a live dealership case study in which I am working on.  It has been two weeks since Part 2 was published.  I was away in Chicago consulting another client and also handling the Internet Sales 20 Group.  I came home to a major hurricane which slowed things down considerably.  But here is what we were able to accomplish.


We have been working on pre-installation processes with eLead by installing email headers, templates, and other important parts of the CRM.  It has been a simple process as the CRM company is accommodating.  eLead will be spending the week at the dealership training and installing the CRM at the dealership which means we will be live in a few days.


Once again, the major challenge is that it is OEM mandated and certain things are not able to be done while others are being developed as we speak.  As much as I respect what OEMs are doing to make all dealers in the same brand unified I feel that they make it difficult for a dealership to create a unique image to stand out from the competition.

We are in the process of updating employee pictures.  This is a tough task because the owner wants all pictures to be the same exact size.  The challenge is getting the pictures to show up on the website in the same size.  I am still trying to figure out with the vendor what is going on and this is the one time where I feel they are not helping me as they should.

We drastically improved the way the specials pages look with come great content and even more specials.  We started to add video testimonials to the website which was a challenge also because the videos did not want to upload from my end.  In addition, we made proper changes for the new month and any news pertaining to changes.

Social Media:

I have begun to focus on Facebook this past week.  I have been posting engaging content and getting people responding it.  In terms of twitter, I know we have followers but for some reason I am looking for the login which no one can seem to find.  I might have to setup a new account but I will give it a week before I do it.

I have continued to blog and syndicate content.  The content has been getting some views which tell me that people are reading it.  We had an announcement from the OEM that there is a hurricane relief discount available to people in certain areas that lost their vehicles to flood and hurricane damage.  I was quick to post it and promote it on facebook before any competing dealer can think of doing the same, if they normally do it.


It was disappointing to me that when I left for a whole week and asked sales people to start getting their own videos and pictures that not a single person took an action.  They got all excited about the fact that they can brand themselves but they took no action at all.  I addressed that with management because the process takes all of one minute and I am even here to get the content up.  All they need is to have a form filled out, snap a picture or capture a 30 second video and have me handle the rest.  I hope that they fix the situation and get to it.  However, one person did get a picture for me that is now posted.

I added more content to the Flickr account.

Traditional Advertising:

I have not had to be involved with this.

Online Reputation Management:

I discovered a challenge that I have never had before.  In all of my years doing this I was always able to grow a dealership’s online reputation without problem.  I sat in and listened to reasons why the service department has a hard time getting reviews and I am noticing from the sales department why they are not doing.

The sales department is not pushing for it at all.  The service department explains that whenever they ask for a review to get posted that customers do not want to post it.  The understanding that I am getting is that a lot of the customers here are generally in aged in the mid 40s and range as high as 70+.  They do not want to leave an email address and they prefer to leave a survey in pen and paper.  This raises a challenge to me, a social and digital warrior that believes that everyone and everything should be online.  I am thinking that we need an iPad in service and sales with a 4G connection and we should work closely with the customer to get what we need by guiding them or assisting them.  It is obvious that post cards with links to review sites do not work well for the customers as they do not pay attention to them.

I have never been a fan of spiffing customers for reviews.  However, has a really neat format of how to generate reviews. offers to place customers into a contest where the customer has a potential of getting $100 for leaving a review.  There is an email template for it.  I am thinking of also creating a process strictly for to let customers know about the offer not just as delivery but also after delivery where they can be guided through.  I mean, “Who wouldn’t want a chance to get $100?”  It is also my goal to learn from if the review can somehow be syndicated just like the way DealerRater does it with google.

If anyone has suggestions of how to get reviews from customers that are more mature and not as computer savvy, I am open to some responses on here.

Dealership Process and Operations:

While walking around the dealership looking for things that needed improvement I noticed a binder with parts specials that looked sloppy.  I took it upon myself to let management know about this and created a new professional looking binder with better specials and more transparency.

I have been spending time watching how the sales department functions from how sales managers are managing their people to how they work deals.  I have to say that when it comes to working deals and selling cars they do a great job and they have decent grosses.  The managers get involved in deals and are aggressive to sell cars.  This dealership is generally number one in its district.  The other things that I have been observing are how the one internet coordinator functions throughout the day.  The GSM complains about the coordinator because he finds him playing on his cell phone a lot.  The fix to the problem was that I monitored CRM activities in the old CRM and read comments along with emails that were being sent to the customers.

I noticed something interesting and disturbing.  When an internet appointment comes in the internet coordinator sits with them and talks with them sometimes as long as 20-30 minutes.  When I approached management they agreed and said that it needs to be fixed.  I had the perfect fix for that.  At the Internet Sales 20 Group, Ralph Paglia introduced the “Showroom Appointment Reception Agenda”.  This form is a professional way for the coordinator to meet the customer that they communicated with.  What is amazing about this form is that it explains in a quick and transparent fashion what the customer will accomplish on this visit which is a 4-5 step process.  The coordinator turns over the customer to a sales consultant and moves on with their job.  This takes 1-2 minutes.  We are implementing this as of this week as the new CRM is installed.  There were major changes made to the document that Ralph provided which I will describe in the next section.

Call monitoring is not very strong in the dealership.  The dealership relies on and their website provider to have toll free numbers.  It is amazing that the newspaper always had a local number.  No one really ever listened to phone calls.  In fact, all sales calls are being handled by sales consultants and not the internet coordinator.  This is a whole other issue that I will be tackling soon if I get the chance to.  The way I monitor the calls is I stand in the showroom and listen to the sales consultants talk to phone ups.  I then log into to my limited tools and listen to the conversation.  My plans are to do the same with service and parts soon.  While taking many notes, I have discovered flaws in phone skills and will be planning on phone training sessions at this dealership after the CRM is installed. 

Ownership Challenges:

The only real challenges in the improvement and transformation of the dealership are dealing with ownership in this case.  The dealer principle is not hands on yet has very interesting opinions to how things should run.  As far as sales and service is concerned, she lets the managers do their thing and make money for the store.  But when a highly paid expert that has built numerous success stories is brought in a challenge is created.  Now, I am not saying that challenges are not fun.  This is a unique challenge where I am working with a personality that involves me trying to figure out how they think. 

Every best practice email installed needs to be edited because the writing does not work for them.  This stalled the processes of installing emails into the CRM by two weeks.  Take website content, wording of some serious best practices just never work and they need to be changed.  My challenge is that I need to change content and write it as if I was this other person.  Again, it is an interesting challenge.

The best practice implemented by Ralph Paglia was another example where 60% of the content was rewritten and another 20% was omitted just to satisfy their feelings.  Now I am not saying the document became a bad document but it had changed the TO process from internet coordinator to sales person in a way that I personally would have done differently.

I respect the challenge and although at some point it is frustrating it is what makes me better at my job and what ultimately brings more success to the dealership.

That is all for Part 3.  If anyone has questions, always feel free to contact me.


As I write this article, I am in literally sitting at an Internet Sales 20 Group where my colleagues and I are sharing best practices with over 50 dealers.  It seems that auto dealers are concerned more about their online reputation now than ever before.  While it is great to see dealers place a focus on it there still needs to be a structure in place that will create a strong reputation for the dealership.  Once a structure is in place, managing an online reputation is actually a very simple process.

The big issue that dealers are having is that they are losing their Yelp review visibility.  They have been focusing so much on Yelp those they had a lot of reviews get posted and then taken down.  This is a similar problem to have been going on with Google.  Let me explain the problem.  We all know that our industry has been labeled in negative ways by consumers for many years now.  Well, just like the consumer put a label on us, the review sites have done something similar by being cautious with what gets put out there.  When dealers are getting a lot of reviews coming in within a short period of time, sites like Google and Yelp get weary of the situation and question the validity of the reviews.

Yelp has been archiving reviews and showing very few.  It has been really upsetting dealers and I have heard this numerous times in the last two days.  I am here to tell you that there is nothing to stress over.  There are many schools of thought of how to manage the dealership’s online reputation.  I believe that dealerships need to diversify their reputation.  What do I mean about “diversify”?  Just like when you’re building a financial portfolio to manage investments of stocks, equity, money markets, and your bank account.  You need to have a strategy for managing reviews.  While Yelp and Google are great; they are only a few key players.  Take a look at, Yahoo local,, AutoTrader, DealerRater (it still works),, City Search, and Merchant Circle just for starters.

It sounds like a lot of sites to be on but hear me out.  Create a strategy where every week or two the dealership focuses on having reviews posted on a different site.  For example, week 1 reviews are to be put on Google, week 2 we focus on DealerRater, week 3 we focus on Yelp, week 4 is for Yelp, and so on.  Now that you diversified your reviews take it one step further, create numerous blogs using platforms like Posterous, Tumblr, WordPress, and Google’s BlogSpot.  Once they are created, you can tie them in with facebook and twitter.  Now you can copy over the reviews into the blog format and repost them.  These build a huge buzz online while spreading your content all over the internet and improving your search engine rankings.  Take it even one more step further be developing a strategy to get live video testimonials from customers who buy and services vehicles at the dealership.  That strategy is simple and will go a very long way.  These videos should also be syndicated on blogs after posting them on Youtube and other major video sharing sites.


Welcome to Part 2 of what is a major real live hands on case study.  Last week I wrote Part 1.  For those of you that missed it, click here to catch up on what you may have missed.

We ended last week with starting to get more social media plans installed.  We also started a picture and video policy.  However, The major thing was CRM and digital marketing this week. 


I narrowed down three choices of CRM companies that integrate with the DMS that dealership is using.  It is not a common DMS like ADP, Reynolds, or Arkona even.  We learned that the DMS only works properly with only 3 CRM companies.  The CRM Companies are eLead, VinSolutions, and CAR-Research.  All three companies have something great to offer.  We made the decision to stop being the pilot for the DMS company that was using this dealership to develop their CRM.  They are light years away from where everyone else is in the marketplace.  I came to a conclusion that we have no accountability in the dealership and nothing can be measured.  I noticed that the sales desk does a great job and so do F&I.  Now with processes, accountability, and reporting I think that this store can sell and additional 10-20 units per month.

After numerous conversations and demos of CRM products we decided on eLead.  I have been a customer of eLead in the past and have great relationships.  I wanted VinSolutions because Vin had some cool features that no one else has.  However, the owner of the dealership liked the functions of eLead and felt that it was simpler for the showroom.  Their opinion was that Vin worked well for someone on a high level like me.  I liked CAR-Research too but we all agreed that for what we need eLead would be the right fit.  Also, eLead has agreed to do install in the beginning of November where no one else could accommodate the owner’s quick need.

Next —>


So we signed a contract for the CRM and that is in the works.  The next aspect that is important is to really make the dealership website great.  The challenge is that it is OEM mandated and certain things are not able to be done while others are being developed as we speak.

We have begun the process of changing and updating employee pictures and bios.  The way that we get employee bios is that we have a questionnaire in their employee packet that they need to fill out when they start employment here.  I revised the questions to make better bios.  The owner liked how another dealership on the West Coast had their staff page so we started to research how we can get a similar page built.  If I can get the owner to agree in the near future, I would like to add videos next to the employee picture and bio of each employee.

We are reconfiguring buttons on the website to make it easier to navigate and have better call to actions.  We want to stand out from competitors and really be unique.

Other best practices that I started working on are basically because I love the way that Checkered Flag in Virginia Beach has their website providing major transparency with things like a “women’s page” or a page explaining “taxes and fees”.  This dealership is active in the community so we are working on making these efforts stand out as well.  I have been working on content because I do not want to be a copycat but I love the ideas and would love to use them since very few (literally) dealers on this planet are that much outside the box.

I noticed that the dealership had no specials for pre-owned and service.  I got with the used car manager and we had 8 vehicles that are aged units that he wants to just sell and move on.  I created specials with comments.  The page got filled up nicely and now the site has more great content.  After that I got with service manager and went over some promotions that he gave me.  The site now has 7 service specials.  That’s right I said “SEVEN”.  Dealerships miss out on opportunities by not updating service specials or keeping 1 generic special.

Social Media:

I have not begun to focus on Facebook, twitter, and G+ but will add my focus when I get back from Internet Sales 20 Group next week.  However, I have created a blogging strategy that I love.  It includes content syndication and it spreads the content virally.  For those of you that would like to know how I do that, just take a look at how I have been marketing my own business (Dealer eTraining).  I believe that content needs to be visible and easy to find.  I have employed the same strategy to brand my own name and get known by industry people at conferences in the last 4 years.  The strategy is to connect multiple social networks and blogs together using one platform.  For blogs, I use posterous, blogspot, wordpress, and tumblr.  I will have the dealership outsourced graphic designer work on designing these blogs so they look amazing.  We have been adding content that includes videos, pictures, spy photos, community events, celebrity information, interesting news, dealership information, and just anything that will catch people’s eyes and create engagement.  It has only been 1 week so I cannot report changes yet.  However, over time we should see a big increase.  Every blog is optimized with proper keywords, backlinks, and content.

I got the dealership signed up with Pinterest and read a lot on it.  I saw what Jim Ziegler has been teaching and saw how major Pinterest players operated to drive traffic.  I implemented the strategy and it took me all of 2 hours.  The Pinterest profile now has over 50 images and some were re-pinned while others were originally and strategically posted to drive traffic to the dealership website.  As time progresses we will continue to optimize the profile even further.


I got started on a basic cost effective VSEO strategy.  Last week we implemented a strategy to have sales people fill out a form.  We revised the form to have 8 questions with a waiver.  We have started gaining traction and filmed a few happy customers.  The testimonials got uploaded to not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 of the most power video search engines out there.  We took these testimonials and created blog content on our syndicated channels as well.  We used sites like youtube, vimeo, daily motion, and metacafe.

I did some research the other day to see which photo sharing sites are best for seo and everything else and as always Flickr was the choice.  I started a Flickr account and had 40 pictures optimized for starters.  I also connected Flickr with Pinterest as they work well together.  I discovered this by researching it and reading about it.  We take pictures of guests at delivery time.

Traditional Advertising:

The dealership advertises in the local newspaper on weekends.  Last week when I was given the advertisement I saw a few major things missing.  The dealership advertised their local number and there was no call tracking to see how many calls we get off the advertisement.  Well I noticed that our current call monitoring solution has 2 extra phone numbers not being used so I placed one of the numbers to start tracking those calls.  I also saw no QR codes (no surprise).  A lot of dealerships still do not know much about it.  I looked over the ads for all competing dealerships in the area and no one else had QR codes.  I created a QR code for new car inventory on the dealer website as well as a separate one for used inventory and placed them on the add next to new and pre-owned.

Local Brochure:

The owner of the dealership was getting her nails done and saw a plain brochure at the salon.  She brought it to my attention and would like something similar but created.  I started working on ideas on how to digital enhance it with QR codes, social media, and an online reputation, all in a fold-able brochure.

Dealership Process and Operations:

Last night I was handed a book from the OEM that goes to the owner of the dealership.  It talks about performance of sales, internet lead management, and service.  It has national averages, store averages, and goals of what needs to be accomplished.  I even got to read the customer comments to gather an idea of what practices that I need to fix and train on in the store so that we can improve the customer experience in the store while creating better communication.  In the next few weeks I will be training various departments on CRM, communication, and best customer practices.

So far…that is all we have for the first 2 weeks.  I feel like we have already come a very long way.  It is exciting for me because I get back to my roots of not only digital marketing and managing Internet operations but I get to focus on store processes.  I really love what I do and I am passionate about it.  If anyone has questions, always feel free to contact me.


Welcome to Part 1 of what will be a major real live hands on case study.  Less than 2 weeks ago, I was contacted by a dealer principal of a dealership within an hour from my home.  The owner is a female and a real entrepreneur that is a partner in two other dealerships and also owns a wireless retail business with multiple locations.  The store is a family environment and has been in business for over 30 years under her control.

She was looking for someone to come in and really help the dealership with all of the marketing efforts.  This includes communications, vendor relationship, and advertising budget and oversees the internet sales operations of the store.  This was because she wanted to get a better grasp on things and make improvements.  The person in this role would also be in charge of events for the store as well as local events.

As we make progress in the dealership, I think it would be great to document and write out the changes on a weekly basis.  Consider it like a new chapter of a book to entertain yourself and learn how you can make positive changes in a dealership that bring improvements on many levels including profitability, accountability, a better brand for the OEM, and a better image for the dealership as a whole.  This will include helping to create more proactive employees.

We will not be disclosing names of employees, or the dealership for various reasons.  I want to keep it exciting and new.  When the time is right all will be revealed.

So let’s get started…

It has been five days since I got involved with working with the dealership.  Here is what I gathered so far.

The sales department:

1 General Sales Manager (3 Years longevity))

1 Sales Manager (9 years longevity)

1 Finance Manager (few years longevity)

8 Sales Consultants (1-5 years longevity)

1 Internet Coordinator (was 2 but 1 quit during the week) – Here for over 1 year,

The dealership sells around 100 units per month with 60-65 being new and 30-40 being used at around a $2,000 average per car.

Website: (OEM Mandated)
Digital Marketing: OEM Mandated
Social Media Presence: Facebook and Twitter with limited engagement
CRM: A test pilot CRM for this dealership.  The CRM is a new product that comes as an add on to the DMS.  The DMS is not a well known common company.  The DMS works great but the CRM gives nothing but trouble.  It is missing more than 50% of the features that it needs to be fully functional.  In addition, it is server based.

Process: No set process.  No tracking of phone calls, internet leads, appointments, set, show.
Sales Process: Sales works well as the GSM does a great job putting deals

The Service Department

1 Service Manager (over 13 years here)

3 Service Advisors

1 Parts Manager

2 Parts Counter Reps


The first order of business:

1) Fix and properly optimize Website

2) Fix and properly optimize CRM

3) Get involved in all marketing and advertising initiatives (meet the vendors)

4) Create plan to measure advertising activity

5) Get sales department on board with reputation management and video testimonial strategy


What have we accomplished in the first 5 days?

Website: We did a full scope of the website and communicated with the rep.  We started to make plans to make certain changes and additions based on some best practices that we found from other dealers on a national level.  Right now we are creating content to be approved by the owner of the dealership before we push it to get setup and go live.

CRM: We discovered that the CRM has been holding the dealership back for over 1 year now.  Everyone in the store complains about it and for the first time we see why.  We had internet leads not coming through.  We had server crashes.  The tool does not allow for certain functions to happen.  I was able to convince the owner to look at options.  We started evaluating other options and will soon come an agreement.  Meanwhile, a major conference call with the current CRM Company included the development team and key executives.  This call allowed me to tell them everything that I need; I used examples from VinSolutions, iMagic, eLead, HigherGear, WebControl AVV, and a few others.  I was told that they will build it for me and within months I will see changes while other changes will take place within a days.

Advertising: Had numerous conference calls with OEM, local newspaper representative,, Digital “Behavioral” Marketing services reps, and CRM to review and learn analytic reports.

Management: Work closely with General Sales Manager to help take his mind off of a lot of advertising issues.  Create a plan to work together and help each other in building the success of the dealership further.  The GSM is fully on board with everything and is also a key decision maker in the store.

Owner: Very open minded and over worked.  She is involved in tell me what she wants to accomplish.  When trying to setup proven email templates and process she got involved and made opinions of her own where some of the templates she was not fond of and others we made changes together as a team.  As the relationship grows she will relinquish more power when she feels comfortable.  Based on our conversations and my actions with vendors she is starting to understand that I am the real deal and I know what I am doing.

Internet Department: Once the CRM situation stabilizes we will be able to get processes in place and know what we are dealing with in terms of lead count, tracking, and performance.  We will then try to build up the department accordingly.  The current Internet Coordinator explains his views and hope for better changes,

Sales People: They are excited to see a marketing initiative come into place that will help them market themselves at a level they never thought possible.  It is an easy going environment and when it is slow no one is being proactive.  As we implement digital strategies and train them on effective prospecting techniques we should see them become better modern sales professionals.  Eventually we will train them to use their digital tools in order to be better.

Social Media: We are creating video channels on various networks (YouTube, daily motion, metacafe, video).  We are also starting to gather images and create a flick account.  The twitter and facebook page is being managed by our graphic designer.  We met and will be creating neat logos and advertising campaigns.  We will soon take over managing the facebook and twitter while planning on creating syndicated blogs in the next few days.

Reputation Management: Created Quality Control Survey that every customer in Sales needs to read and fill out.  The Survey has 7 questions that includes rating dealership experience, commenting on it, recommending the sales professional, and learning what they liked the most about their experience.  In addition, we ask for permission to take a photograph of them with their new car to be emailed to them and used in social media.  We also ask for permission to take a video testimonial.  It comes with a disclaimer notice which the customer will sign.  Afterwards, we will either take a picture and video or we will not based on the customer’s permission.  I had explained to the sales consultants how some of the most successful sales people in the business do it and they were very much excited.

So far…that is all we have for the first week.  Stay tuned as we make forward strides in the dealership.