Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!
There have been lots of ups and downs in the market and the Automotive Industry this year. However, I know there is so much for all of us to be Thankful for. I hope you all get to spend some time with your families and those you love being grateful for all of your blessings.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Final Post: Automotive Dealer Sales Training Tips Interview with Todd Hudak

After hearing about Todd and checking out his video, some of you might be wondering if he can help you. The final question I asked him was: Q. What type of dealer are you looking to help? A. I've trained in Bentley & Rolls Royce dealerships, all domestics, most imports--basically the product doesn't matter and the size of the dealership doesn't matter. There are some things I look for to be sure I can bring some value to a dealership before wasting their time or money. They have to be willing to learn and willing to make changes. If not, there is no reason to have me in. It's also nice if they have some kind of CRM and a workable BDC set up. Really the best relationships I've formed have been with dealers that are willing to embrace change and understand that change is a long term growth plan and not a quick idea of the month club. If anyone wants to contact me the best way to reach me is typically by email or cell as I travel all over the country. I can do individual dealership consulting, or they could attend my upcoming phone skills training program if they feel that's an area for improvement at their dealerships. The December phone skills session is now fully booked, but we're currently taking reservations for the January session. Contact Info: Todd Hudak Hudak Consulting Cell phone: (859) 992-4166 Email: Website:

Automotive Dealer Sales Training Tips #3 Interview with Todd Hudak

Today I wanted to touch on a simple, yet powerful concept that Todd kept bringing up in our conversation. It isn't anything formal, and it's really pretty much common sense. Todd kept saying "there are really only three ways to get someone to do something." Now, of course he was talking about motivating/coaching your sales staff. He talked about this in regards to tracking leads, and the lead source, but it really works across the board. #1 Ask them nicely. Todd has a feeling that this is typically pretty ineffective in dealerships. In my experience if you ask nicely and explain WHY this method can work with the right people. However... I can relate, my only "child" at the moment is Charley. She'll be 5 in May and is a Retriever/Husky mix. I've had her for three years now and she's never been one to get up on the couch or furniture. Lately though, she's getting pretty snooty and feels like she rules the roost and she's constantly on the couch--in my spot at that! I started out by asking nicely, and a few times it's worked...then I had to move on to the next way of getting someone to do something... #2 Threaten them. Threatening seems dangerous. For one thing, people will only take so much of it, and you have to be ready to follow through on the threat. Obviously, it is sometimes hard to communicate effectively with Charley. Although I'm pretty sure she can understand English she has selective hearing. We'll threaten to throw her Kong toy away, or Andy will threaten to "punch her in the dog face" but we never follow through. She knows she's spoiled and we're not going to punish her--besides, what's the worst I could do--yell? I can't fire my dog. #3 Pay them. I'm technically in sales, and so are most of you, even if you aren't involved in it as much daily. Obviously we all understand that commission based income is the most pure form of this last method. Todd argues this is the most effective way to get things done in a dealership, and I would have to agree. He talks about paying receptionists to find out lead sources, hiring someone on minimal hourly rates and paying bonuses for every lead they count, he's even had one of these people watch for people leaving the lot without coming into the show room--then he would fine the sales person that lost them $150--and give it to the counter! Sales contests, spiffs, bonuses, etc. these are all forms of rewarding people for the behavior you are trying to get from them. Start thinking about the things you wish were happening that aren't within your department, company, or dealership. How can you turn each of these things into specific behaviors that can then be broken down and rewarded upon? Charley could care less about a $5 bill, but she loves treats, people food, and one specific toy. If I make it worth her while to stay on the floor she typically stays out of my spot on the couch. This has also been the way we've taught her all of her impressive tricks, like shake, high ten, speak, and lay down. Andy has also figured out a way to get her to bark the O-H-I-O chant with him during football I just have to find the right reward to get her to say "Boiler Up."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Automotive Dealer Sales Training Tips #2 Interview with Todd Hudak

Continuing where we left off last time, more of the interview with Automotive Sales Training Todd Hudak...

Q. Let's get specifically to one of your specialties, phone training. What is the biggest opportunities dealers are missing in regards to incoming calls?

A. Most are missing two very important things, what influenced them to call, and they aren't gathering enough information. NADA says if a dealer gets 100 phone calls they are closing 3-4% of them--and that's if they are doing a "good" job. That's 96 missed opportunities. There are several things dealerships should be focusing on when it comes to incoming calls:

1. Why they called. In a lot of stores I suggest the receptionist handle this. When he/she answers the phone it is simple to as "Is this your first time calling or are you currently working with someone? Fantastic, what influenced you to give us a call today?" Again, give them a spiff on it--$.50 for every lead source they get. Then the person is logged and it's noted what sales person takes the call.

2. Be accountable. If one person is in charge of logging who calls then a dealer can start to get a grasp on how much phone traffic is truly coming in. They can start running numbers on what sales people are turning calls into handshakes and what ones are missing opprortunities and have areas for improvement. This information, along with the marketing info on what brought them in is invaluable. But the most important part is increasing the closing ratio.

3. Set a solid and specific appointment. Many sales people I've talked to bombard with information. The goal is not to sell a vehicle on the phone, the goal is to have a set appointment with specific info so that the dealership can be prepared for the appointment. I say a lot, "chance favors the prepared mind," it's not just chance if someone buys, a lot has to do with being prepared. So many sales people treat an appointment like a walk in! It's crazy! They know the person and why they are coming in, they should be given the red carpet treatment. Several vehicles should have already been picked out and checked up on, they should already know why the person is coming in. The dealership has invited this person to their "party" at this point, be sure they aren't disappointed when they show up.

We'll wrap up this three part series next time. Below is a quick video in which Todd gets into some of these ideas a little more specifically.

Automotive Dealer Sales Training Tips Part #1 Interview with Todd Hudak

I was introduced to Todd Hudak over two years ago by a mutual dealer client. It seemed Todd had been helping this client with sales and phone training for several years and they were very happy with the results he's helped them achieve. Recently, here at Tri-Auto we've been putting tracking tools into dealers hands, it's been a very eye opening experience both for me and the dealers. Many are saying "I didn't know we had that many people coming in, why aren't we closing more?" I've never sold cars, so I don't have the answers, but Todd has so I contacted him for an interview. Hopefully you'll be able to take something away from this three part series that will help increase your closing ratio. First, a little background. Todd was a Mechanical Engineer for years with the Navy, his first experience in sales came as a Navy Recruiter where he signed up 4 times the average amount of young people to serve. After running several local and regional recruiting centers and taking them all to the #1 spot he decided to retire. As he looked in the paper for new opportunities he saw "Day Off, Draw & Demo" he walked into the first dealership and was hired on the spot, after two years he was the number one sales person averaging 100 new units a year and had several 500 unit years. In '99 the dealer asked him to start a BDC, and by the end of the year the new venture had tripled sales from 89-100 vehicles a month to 300! After getting his feet wet with this experience he was hired by the McCluskey group in Ohio and took the Chevrolet store to the #1 volume dealer in the state. He was awarded the Dealer Innovation Award for 2003 for recruiting, retention and training (of sales people), and featured in NADA and USA Today. The retention rate on his sales floor was 85%. In 2006 he went out on his own and founded Hudak Consulting. He's worked with over 500 dealers, including the famed Towbin group featured in A&E's "King of Cars," and in the past year he's trained over 60,000 sales people. In his lengthy career Todd has proved he knows how to make a dealership successful. This week Todd answered a few questions regarding training and phone training. We started off with a few general ideas about what dealers are facing today.

Q. In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing the automotive industry today--and you can't say the economy?

A. The perception is with the poor economy that people are not buying cars. Which is just not the case, yes it is tougher, but people are still spending money. The problem is that dealers are getting sucked into a bad attitude, with the market being tougher they are not performing at the same level as they were when times were good. They are doubling their misery instead of looking for new alternatives. Instead of going back to what made them successful in the past and looking for new ways to be successful in the future they are giving up and playing flag football in the back, or cutting costs by removing the popcorn machine from the showroom. This is not the way to get ahead.

The other major thing they need to be focusing on is maximizing the advertising they are able to put out there. At the very least they should be hitting their database, even if it's stuffing envelopes and sending out letters in house, or picking up the phone and talking to them. If they are able to continue with more advertising they have to get everything they can out of it. TRACK everything. If dealers are not able to track in an electronic way, hire a retiree and pay him hourly to track every lead that comes in, pay him an additional $1 for every lead source he uncovers-I promise he won't miss a person. Once they know what is working it makes sense to put more money there and quit doing the things that aren't. I do like mail, and I'm not just saying that because I'm talking to you, but it's personal and I have TIVO, Sirius and don't subscribe to a newspaper so it's down to email & my mailbox if you want to reach me. If dealers do a mailer, they should request phone numbers, where available, on the list. Then have their salespeople on the phone before, during and after the sale making sure they received the piece and asking if they have questions. Dealers are not maximizing the money they've invested in advertising. They just put it out there and hope, then wait for traffic.

Start now!

The past few days I've been working on a blog series for next week. In the meantime I ran across this quote and found it pretty meaningful for the current situation in the automotive industry. We really have two choices (and when I say "we" I mean it, do you think the market & media affecting dealers doesn't effect us too!?), we either find a way to fight and become stronger, or we give up. What are you doing different today to make yourself stronger tomorrow?

Do not wait; the time will never be "just right." Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.

-Napoleon Hill

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just where is my mail?

The first few years I was helping dealers with mail, I heard this more than I would have liked. The United State Postal Service can be a hard business to hold accountable. Fortunately over the years we've developed a process to track and keep mail hitting homes on time. However, there are still the very occasional phone call...and to any of you that have experienced late mail in general, I'd like to introduce you to Mailman Steve. It's possible stacks of your mailers may have been sitting in his living room since '99! Just thought you'd enjoy this. I'm working on my next post after interviewing Automotive Sales Trainer, Todd Hudak. Expect it later this week!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tracking Incoming Sales Calls

I'm sure many of you spend some time and money annually training your sales staff. You may have even done some phone training...but do you truly know how the calls are being handled? If not-WHY!? There are several companies out there that are dedicated to helping you track phone calls and record them for "training purposes." We provide them on every single mailer and as hard as I try the vast majority of dealers never bother to log in and see A.) Where the phone traffic is coming from, and B.) How the people are being handled on the phone. What can call tracking do for you? -It can give you good, concrete evidence as you coach your sales people. -Good calls can be great examples for you as you train new ones. -Phone calls should be treated as "ups" and "response" to your campaigns. They can and should be followed up with just as much as someone who walks in the door. If you aren't following up, you're missing deals. -It can show you what markets are responding by phone as opposed to thru the door...and what aren't responding either by foot or by phone. -Finally, and maybe most importantly, it's a great way for you to hold everyone in the dealership accountable for the image they portray of your business every time someone calls in. Today I'm writing about this because tomorrow I have the opportunity to interview Mr. Todd Hudak. Todd has been helping dealers across the country with the customer experience. He's a master when it comes to phone techniques, and has a lot of great ideas and opportunities on how to make the most out of every lead that calls in. If you want to do some homework prior to the interview his website is: Before you can work on taking calls with you sales team you need to know where they stand today. If you already have these tools at your disposal take a few minutes today, to log in and listen to some of the recent calls. I think what you hear will surprise you.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Automotive Marketing during the Holidays

Who's ready for a big fight!? A lot of you may feel like you've been in a fight...all year long. However, that's not the one I'm talking about. I'm talking about the annual fight with Santa Clause. I started at Tri-Auto on June 1st. Throughout the summer months I got my feet wet and put together a couple of promotions for a few dealers. By October and November I was feeling good, like I was hitting my stride..that is-until HE came to town. Who decided Santa was the Abominable Snowman here to take away Holiday cheer and automotive sales? By mid November, all I heard was "call me after the 1st of the year." Part of it was probably just the newest excuse to get a rookie like me off the phone, but part of it is a real fear many dealers have about the holidays. If you are ready to put on your boxing gloves and go toe-to-toe with the big, bearded guy, read on. If not, go tell the sales department they might as well hibernate for the winter because you're doing the same thing you always do which means you should get the same results--an empty show room. Here's a few quick wins:

  • Send something to your customers! ALL of them. Don't forget about the service customers, or people that have recently bought. It's the holidays and it never hurts to give people that know you some warm fuzzies. A personal greeting card from their sales person is always nice, or a letter from the dealership with a legit incentive for service or their next vehicle will be appreciated by those in the market.
  • Capitalize on the fears of others. This doesn't sound very nice, but take advantage of the fact many dealers pull back during this time of the year. Add or replace a zip with one that your competition typically hits, people in their market will respond to a strong, timely hook...which brings us to...
  • KNOW WHAT PEOPLE WANT. It's the holidays, during an economic landslide, what's more important to most people than cash? Offer them cash for the holidays by giving them the manufacturers rebates in the green stuff, put some envelopes with different denominations of cash in them and let buyers pluck them off the Christmas tree as an added bonus, entice the public to stop by with gift cards to stores like Macy's, Best Buy, Toys R Us, and KB Toys, and most importantly, tell them how you can help (not sell!) them by lowering their monthly automotive payments.
  • Think about your timing--ahead of time. Those of you that do continue advertising right through December and January will probably agree that the "sweet spot" when it comes sale dates is the week between Christmas & New Year's. Lots of people are off work, they are generally pretty jolly, and they've been cooped up eating and sleeping for several days straight. They're ready to get out of the house and may even have some Christmas cash for a down payment. Another good time is the first two weekends in December. Start thinking about it now and map out what weeks are best for your market.

Even if your December marketing plan is getting the sales department together for some pizza and an afternoon of signing Christmas (yes I said Christmas, please no hate mail, I can't handle anymore generic "holiday" terms) cards at least you are not moping off into a cave waiting on the ground hog to appear and tell you when to start advertising. We're halfway through November, it's time to start your December planning!

Monday, November 10, 2008

MarketVision in the news!

We very recently let the press in on our little ROI secret here at Tri Auto. This is the first of several articles to be written on the subject: Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the info! Here's the quick word on MarketVision if you haven't heard about it: One of the event team owners I work with recently had this to say about the program:
"Steph this program is awesome, it really slows the traffic down as they come in to the sale and allows us to do our job. The dealers love the new real time data reporting, we know exactly where we are throughout the sale, and it helps us choose zips for the next time we're there. You guys are really leading the way with this!"
-Mike Caledonia, MI

Mr. Direct Mail Diva?

Just a quick note to everyone that works with me regularly... December 13th I'm getting married. We honestly planned the wedding date for the slowest time in automotive land so that it wouldn't disrupt any of your plans too much. :) I'll be out of the office Thursday, Dec. 11th-Monday Jan 5th. Please let me know of anything you know is coming up and we can get a jump start on it before I leave. Otherwise, Katy will be here during most of the time I'm out and she's ready to help with whatever you need. I hope you all enjoy the upcoming holiday season with your families & friends! Steph

Friday, November 7, 2008

Should you quit spending money on advertising?

I just got out of a meeting with our VP. She asked how things were going, and I told her I was struggling with really getting into conversations with dealers that are totally shut off to advertising right now. I've heard things like this from several of you lately: "we're just not spending money right now," "there is no reason to throw good money after bad," and "I can't move my market right not." Once you say it that seems to be the end of the conversation. I do have the pleasure of working with a lot of dealers, event teams and ad agencies that know even if they days of the $300,000 gross profit sale are gone for the time being, there can still be a huge value in investing in advertising. They aren't willing to give up and let the market take them on it's roller coaster with it, they are planning strategic moves to keep themselves profitable. These people are not only "weathering the storm" but becoming stronger so that when things start to loosen up they'll be positioned to be the leaders...while everyone else just starts to ramp up their TV, radio and mail presences again. Most of you have probably read this quote before, but when a colleague laid it on my desk last week it couldn't have been more timely.

“A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time." -Henry Ford

So, if you're one "pulling in the reins," next time you talk with your marketing consultants--in radio, TV, print, direct mail and Internet--just be OPEN. Ask what others are doing, what's working, what new things have they released to help you get through these times? Some might not have any answers, but some will. An open conversation might lead to a solution you never knew existed... “If I had asked customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” -Henry Ford All "Fordisms" aside, I wish you all crowded showrooms this Saturday and Sunday*! *Good wishes only offered toward dealers that choose to and are allowed to be open on Sundays. Any dealer that does not meet this criteria is only wished crowded showrooms on Saturday. Not valid with any other verbal or written tidings of joy or happiness.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Marketing to a Post Election Nation

It's over! I'm so glad! Regardless of whether you partied in the streets on Tuesday evening or cried in your beer, the election has finally come to an end. At least one of the elements contributing to the uneasiness in consumers has a conclusion. The political season this year seems to have divided the nation in a much different way than those past. This time around instead of us being divided into "blue" and "red" states, we were split into "blue" and "red" sides of the dining room table, office, neighborhood, and church. I was born, raised, and still reside in Indiana, and in my memory we've never had rallies here, or Presidential commercials on TV. It certainly added to the excitement here, but also added fuel to debates between friends and colleagues. Maybe the division just has come home to me more this year, but whatever the case, people have one less thing to worry about now that there is a decision. What does that mean for you? Probably nothing immediately as we all know, but maybe a change in perspective will be the first notable difference. We are heading into a new time for the country, a change in leadership after eight years, people are thinking about the future. The things that are important to people now are different than what was important to them the first time G.W. moved into the White House. How can we, as an automotive industry, help the people in your local communities with what is important to them? Things that seem to be more important now than they were 8 years ago:
    • Going green. - Not always the most popular topic to a car guy or gal, but definitely on the top of mind for many consumers.
    • Conservative buying. - Today being "safe" on major purchases typically rivals one upping the Jones for a status boost.
    • Patriotism & supporting our country. - The level of support for our country and Democratic system is probably always higher during election time, but it seems even higher with the current state of the economy and involvement in a war overseas.
    • Credit worries. - The media is having a heyday telling everyone they can't get financed to buy a home or vehicle. Some consumers truly believe if they don't have a 700 beacon or above they can't buy....anywhere.
    • Forward thinking. - For better or for worst the country is thinking about what's to come. When will things start to get better? How will the new Administration handle everything going on? What does all of this mean for them?

As you are starting to plan for your Holiday season marketing keep these things in mind. There is, of course a place for free turkeys & Toys R Us gift cards, but really think about tailoring your message to this new post election nation. Be open and aware to what the consumer is feeling in your own market. Once you have a good idea where the greatest uncertainty and pain is, really tailor your message to focus on helping people, not necessarily selling people. If you can help people, sales will come.