Monthly Archives: February 2014

CRM: How Technology changed the Dealership

So many changes have occurred in the car business in the past 20 or so years.  Take CRM for example, what did salespeople do 30 years ago?  20 years ago?  Maybe even 10 years ago?  I guess some things have changed for the better while many things have stayed the same.

I have been around the car business for approximately 20 years.  My uncle sold cars and managed at a couple of dealerships when I was younger.  I would go with my father when he went to buy a car and I would just be bored.  I was too old to play in the kids area and too young to test drive cars.  I would just observe everyone around me.  I would see the service department, it looked busy enough.  I would watch the salespeople in fascination.  I thought, it must be cool to be around all of these new cars.  Jump ahead a couple of years and I would stop by my uncle’s dealership (not his but the one he worked for) and see if there was anything I could do to help.  Occasionally, he would send me out to pick up a car, dealer trade or body shop.  Usually, I was just there to see if he ordered lunch and I could have some of it.

One of the last times I was there, I was trading in my piece of crap car for another clunker.  It was cold, I remember that much, and it wasn’t busy at all.  Most of the salespeople were sitting around desks having meaningless conversations.  There were a couple of salespeople playing cards, another one throwing a mini football around, and a couple more outside smoking.  It wasn’t at all what you see today.  I didn’t hear anyone telling these people to make calls or making them do any sales training.  As a matter of fact, I think my uncle and the salesperson working with us were the only two people doing much of anything.

Fast forward a few years and I am working for a “buy here pay here” company.  I am a cashier/collector.  This was my first experience with a CRM of sorts.  I used it as place to log our payment receipts.  The girls in the back would leave me a note when I logged into customer accounts.  Most would say something like, verify the next payment will be on time or call me when this person shows up.  When I started making collection calls, this was where I would note when I spoke to someone, what amount was agreed to and when it would be in, etc.  It was good to know it was in the system and not left on a piece of paper somewhere to be misplaced or tossed out later.

A few more years have gone by and I am in the thick of it all.  I am selling cars and using the CRM tool that my dealership uses, to the fullest.  I would put notes in for every customer about everything we ever discussed.  What message I left, what info I sent in an email, the numbers we discussed, the kids names, everything.  I was a little OCD when it came to this but I did this so there was no guessing at a later date.  I knew, on that slow day, I could go into any of my customer records to find a deal.  I could go to people that were in the store 4 months ago and see why they didn’t buy at that time.  I could see what I needed to do or say to make them consider buying now.  I also did this because of my managers.  I hated re-hashing deals.  I knew if I noted everything, I wouldn’t have to waste 45 minutes of my life on a Tuesday morning answering the same question over and over again.

All of this makes me wonder, what did car salespeople do before CRM?  I lived by the system, making notes, scheduling calls, sending emails.  Would sticky notes and legal pads have worked for me?  Would I have been successful in this business before all of this wonderful technology?  I am not sure about you but I am happy I don’t have to worry about it.

Training: “Do we really have to be here?”

Statewide Onsite Pic

On this my second installment of my “ReThink” series I want to address something that is near and dear to my heart. Training. Over the past 4+ years here at iMagicLab I’ve been deeply immersed in training dealers on our tool, as well as the industry best practices, that I have picked up from my personal experience and being onsite at over 400 dealerships to date. The point of this article however, is to discuss the debate on whether we have to actually come to your dealership to effectively train you to use our product, or is our responsibility to you to make a product so easy to use that you can nearly “plug and play” to launch your store successfully?

There are two schools of thought here. Some believe absolutely, unequivocally that you must be onsite to train/launch any new system no matter what type of system it is, but ESPECIALLY a CRM at a car dealership. Others feel a properly built tool with solid informative videos and well thought out interactive web training sessions are equally effective and certainly far less expensive. Let’s break down each from my perspective and also the arguments I have heard on the topic over the years. I have a good feel for both and each of their levels of effectiveness based on my aforementioned travels as well as conducting thousands of webinar sessions, and producing several videos for dealer training.

Onsite Visit – Realities

We come out to your store, and some of your staff are seeing the system for the very first time. Some of your staff watched some videos and attended some web training online but a fair amount of your staff did not and some were not even aware that they were switching CRM systems. We hold a kickoff meeting with the GM/Owner, or which ever power player is available, to get a feel for his/her overall expectations for the visit and also to gauge the level of support and involvement we will get throughout the next 2-3 days of our visit.

Next we conduct classroom training sessions with anywhere from 3-15 people at a time based on the size of the dealership. Again a good amount of these participants have never seen a button in the system so its all new to them, and about an hour later we release them to begin their journey in their new CRM. Now in this class we are not deep diving into all the intricacies of how to use the tool, we are just touching on basic overall operation of the tool, i.e. adding customers, calling, emailing, texting customers, handling your workday etc. Very often, in my classes, I am also doing some level of sales training, on techniques, word tracks, best practices, that often have nothing to do with our CRM, just really to do with the car business as a whole.

Then after a round of classroom sessions we attempt to spend one on one time with as many sales reps and managers as we possibly can before leaving your dealership and allowing you to fend for yourselves for a while as you proceed to get your staff certified as “trained”. What is really learned in the visit? I would say about 40% of the information presented in the classroom session is retained. Not because the information is so deep and high level, but because anything new, thrown at anyone that fast is bound to cause some level of consternation. Fact is, it’s like drinking from a fire hose and we really expect dealers to be effective with the tool thereafter. I am considered a top level trainer and I can’t say that even my numbers, as far as onsite effectiveness, on the first time visit are much higher than the ones I’ve stated. Why because the approach is flawed. However, when I revisit a dealership after initial roll out, my effectiveness (at minimum) doubles, because the dealer has been exposed to the tool and has tons of feedback and questions to build upon. On the first time out, they just don’t know what they don’t know.

WebBased/Video Training – Realities

There is nothing we can do onsite that we cannot do online through video conferencing or web based training, aside from make the personal connection with people that we do onsite. The problems with web or video sessions is the ability to hold a users attention long enough to properly deliver the information needed for a dealership to be successful. In our space it has become so commonplace to have a trainer onsite that we often discount the idea and value of true effective online resources. Fact is online/video/web based training is more cost effective, easier to schedule and execute, and if properly managed, possibly more effective than onsite training. What?? Did I say that out loud? This is the lion’s share of how I made my mark in this business but I am saying it’s not as effective as web-based training?

Let’s not get too carried away. There will never be a total replacement of the need to have a trainer like myself or any other trainer come out to your stores to get your teams rev’d up or re-engaged or even hand held, but onsite trainings are no longer the only option. If properly prepared via video course training, and web based training, along with interactive video Q&A training, you can successfully launch a CRM product, if the CRM product is easy enough to use. Then if you decide as a dealership that you want to have a Jay Barr, or another dynamic trainer, come out to your store to connect the dots or just get your people excited, it will be a much better more effective use of your investment than it would be to have anyone out on day one. Because even the best of us will turn in numbers mentioned in the Onsite realities section.

I personally, will always love the onsite visit, you get to make bonds and connections and tie in the real world experiences to the CRM. Make non-believers, believers. I am not suggesting the onsite visit go away. I am merely suggesting that we “ReThink” the way we use our onsite visits so that they are most effective for your stores. Let us focus on training you how to use the tool to help you be successful through all means and you can go back to training your teams around how to sell cars.

I welcome your thoughts and/or comments.

“At iML, as part of this new rebuild of our company, we’ve also changed the training model.”
– Richard Keith Latman, Chief Executive Officer/Co-Founder of iMagicLab

In Sunday’s blog from Richard Keith Latman, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of iMagicLab, he discusses iMagicLab’s redesigned training philosophy.

Read the whole Article on Richard Keith Latman’s blog

What Kind of Salesperson are You?

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In sales (as with most careers) you are a product of your environment. There are so many factors that go into a salesperson. Personality is an important factor. Are you likable? Not everyone is. People may like to speak to you but can you speak to them? Can you push their hot buttons? Can you make someone feel something about your product?

We all learn from our surroundings. We are a product of our environment. I owe a lot of my success in the car business to the people I have kept near me along the way. I surrounded myself with people that could teach me something. I wanted to learn, to grow, to thrive, and to make money. Not everyone in this business feels the same way.

However, I feel you learn by example and here are just a few sales personalities who I have run into along the way:

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The Top Dog –

First and foremost is the top dog, the big shot. Regardless of how he gets there, he never loses. He is the producer that everyone is gunning for. He has the top numbers every month. He speaks to no one. He works his own numbers, writes his own deals, and usually has more pull than any of the managers in the building. This is the one you can learn from, if he lets you. Most people in the dealership have nothing nice to say about him and he could care less. He is focused and it shows in his numbers.

Mr. Sunshine –

Then, there is that happy-go-lucky person. The one that seems to always have a rainbow shoved somewhere. You can never piss him off, no matter how hard you try. He is usually just average, not bad numbers but not great. He is likely stuck in the middle somewhere and perfectly content to be there. He will happily help you with anything you ask him to do. He won’t go out of his way but will help when asked. This also is the person that the top producer will lean on as he won’t screw him over.

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Old School Pro –

The next one is the former great. That one figure who has been with the dealership since before the rebuild. He has surpassed most of the managers in the store in time in with the dealership. He used to be the top dog but changes in the business have left those days in the past. He had the most sales with the happiest customers and the best gross averages. Time has gone by and he isn’t so great anymore but the place keeps him around because he has few to no issues and his customers are loyal and thrilled. This is the one that will sit and talk all day long about the past. You might learn something if you can stand to listen to him long enough.

Capt. Blamer –

What dealership doesn’t have that negative salesman? This person blames everyone else for his failures, lost leads, missed opps and never accepts blame personally for anything. He has a terrible attitude and usually sells very few cars. When asked about his sales, the reason they’re so poor is because the manager didn’t T/O him when asked. It could be that the numbers sucked or the customer was stupid or “not in the market”. Either way, it is never his fault. This person is usually good for a pathetic laugh every now and then. Mostly, you will just want to keep your distance.

The Probie –

Who doesn’t love the newbie, green pea? Of course, we all know there is a ton of turnover in the car business. There are usually a few of these people running around. Some may be good for helping dig a car out of the snow and others you just want to run over with that car. Most won’t be in the business long and will move on to other endeavors, usually chased away by the blamer. Beware, however, sometimes you will find they become the next top dog.

When entering the car business (or any business), the important thing to remember is you are a product of your environment. Who would you rather be? The top dog or the blamer. When in the dealership, surround yourself with the best. Guarantee yourself a spot at the top.

Can you think of an individual who fits each personality type above from your store? How have you navigated your place within your dealership to ensure your success?

“Yes, you heard that right (well, technically you read it right) I scrapped the entire policy of giving time off and replaced it with a flex policy that has no limits.”
– Richard Keith Latman, Chief Executive Officer/Co-Founder of iMagicLab

In today’s blog installment Richard Keith Latman, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of iMagicLab, discusses iMagicLab’s new salary and PTO strategy, as well as reforming our accounting and billing structures.

Read the Article in it’s entirety on Richard Keith Latman’s blog

“We don’t just change or tweak things, we blow them up when they are broken. Retrofitting an old tired bridge doesn’t do nearly as much as building a brand new one with new ideas and plans. I know it can be an adjustment for people but new ideas by smart people lead to great things.”
– Richard Keith Latman, Chief Executive Officer/Co-Founder of iMagicLab

In his most recent blog installment Richard Keith Latman, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of iMagicLab, details our recent shift in Customer Support and the thought process behind InstaHelp.

Read the Article in it’s entirety on Richard Keith Latman’s blog