Category Archives: Training

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.

Are You Really Seeing What’s Coming Into Your Store?

Have you ever looked at the dashboard and found it showing only a few appointments, yet when you look out onto the sales floor you see your best salesman lined up with one customer after another all day? Maybe you get the excuse that they can’t do this or that because they have a customer coming in but you don’t show anything lined up for them.  This could be due to your sales reps not actually putting their appointments in the system.

Neglecting to schedule appointments through the CRM could be due to them not wanting to show you when they are busy or not or just plain laziness.  It could also be that they don’t actually know how to create an appointment in the program or maybe they are just afraid to put their customers into the CRM until they hit the sales floor for fear of them being skated due to a lack of understanding of how the system works.  The problem with this is that you never get an accurate idea of what’s really going to be coming into your store, which prevents you from forming a game plan to prepare for the days ahead.

There are ways to get closer to the goal of having every appointment logged in the CRM every time. The best way is to make sure your sales rep understand the benefits of having them in there by informing them of all the various ways that we have skate protection built into the system to put them at ease.  Another way would be to have meetings throughout the week asking your team how they are looking for the weekend, or do they have enough people scheduled for the big sale that is coming up.  Asking these questions will make them want to put the appointments that they have in their head or on a post-it note, into the CRM to show you that they are prepared.

Another benefit from having every appointment in the system is to be able to confirm appointments ahead of time.  Generally speaking the more appointments you confirm the lower the number of no shows you will see, or at least you will have the opportunity to reschedule them for another date and time.  Less no shows means more people coming through the door which will always translate to more sales.

Are you Meeting Enough

When it comes to helping a dealership be more successful, a lot of energy and effort is spent on improving their “process” but do they have one? Is it too light or too heavy? Is it scalable and manageable? Why isn’t their process working well in the first place?

After visiting hundreds of dealerships, the pattern is pretty clear, dealerships that have a focused, regimented process end up as top-performing stores and a CRM tool is a great solution to help dealerships create and sustain that process while at the same time providing metrics to help monitor improvements and track hits and misses. It sounds great on paper – get a new shiny CRM, get the staff trained and reap the benefits. So why does it often not work out that way? Answer – lack of enforcement!

A good process is only effective if it’s followed and enforcement falls squarely on the managers’ shoulders.  I can always tell when a store will succeed or struggle with a new CRM by how focused and dialed in their management staff is. While training I ask myself questions such as:

  • “Do the managers understand what these metrics mean to their overall success?”
  • “Do they look like they will mentor their staff and buy into the process/culture change that a CRM requires?”
  • “Do they look like they only want to desk deals, work their dealer trades and take smoke breaks?”
  • “How can I communicate to them the importance of total management buy in?”

The average CRM install looks something like this: Everyone is pumped in the beginning and they use it for the first 30 days.  After the allure of the shiny new toy fades, management stops enforcing it and the sales staff falls back to their old habit.  Upper management concludes “the CRM tool isn’t the solution for them” and start shopping for a new tool, rinse and repeat.

One of the best ways to avoid the 30-day fall off is to communicate! The most successful stores I visit meet, communicate and discuss problems and solutions. People generally hate meetings, they think they’re boring and unproductive but sometimes meetings can be productive and can be useful at finding out where you are vs. where you want to be.

As the saying goes, everything starts from the top!  If you want to be successful with CRM ask yourself questions such as:

  • Do I know what my floor traffic, internet and appointment closing ratios are?
  • Do I know what my be-back closing ratio is?
  • Do I know what my be-back customer statuses are for the week?
  • How many phone ups are we taking that are NOT resulting in appointments?
  • How many floor ups are not going on a test drive or making it to the write up process?

These are questions that the CRM can answer, but only if you create, implement and enforce your process – and you can only enforce your process if you know what you’re looking for.

Can Old School Adapt to Automotive CRM?

“I’m old school.” Three simple words that are the bane of my training existence. While I love the challenge of connecting with “old school” guys, getting them to embrace the CRM culture can be frustrating. Is someone who prefers riding a horse over driving a car old school? What about using an abacus instead of a calculator – “Yea man I’m old school.”

OK – suit yourself

When trying to communicate the value and merits of a CRM system to an “old school” guy, the challenges are numerous. For many old-schoolers, the first hurdle is getting past their pride. If they’ve been selling cars for awhile then they’re probably doing well financially. Their client base is large enough to generate passive income which can occasionally lead to a delusional sense of pride; or if combined with a steady work-ethic, a merited sense of pride. But the hurdle is the same.

  • “I’m already successful – I don’t need this.”
  • “If it aint broke, why fix it.”
  • “Who is this poor, young punk trying to tell me how to do my job?!”

OK so I made that last one up, but I’m an expert at face reading! The way to reach these guys is not to eliminate their pride, but cater to it. Show them how the CRM, through it’s organizational properties alone, can help them make more money! In the words of Gordon Gecko, “Greed is good!” I recently showed an old-timer how the CRM would remind him of his equity calls, of his customer Birthday’s, purchase anniversaries and how he could use our DealMagic marketing tool to mine his database for any customer niche he wanted to reach out to. Everything he already did by hand, only better and faster! His response was mute, but he didn’t complain anymore.


The second hurdle is getting them to embrace the insecurity of change. Not change in and of itself, but the anxiety associated with the unknown, of being a beginner at something- the growing pains. For many old-timers, the CRM appears too techy, too complicated, and they give up on it the first time they experience frustration. The key to plowing through this hurdle is to communicate the CRM in a familiar way and show them that the CRM is not fundamentally different in process to what they currently do.

I recently trained a gentleman who made it known that he did not want to be trained. He had his black book and stack of papers and was comfortable with his process. I walked him through how to add a customer and work his Myday. The whole time he would add notes in his black book and fumble through his customer worksheets. But as the session continued, he started asking more questions and I could see his attitude shift from refusal to curiosity. The breaking point came when I had him go through his process, and then mirror that process in the CRM. It was immediately apparent to him that although his process was comfortable, it was slower and not as prolific as what the CRM could achieve. “It’s like an organizer, yea, I just need to play with it and get used to it” he told me.

Nobody likes change, but when training something new, it’s important to find those hot-buttons and make the unfamiliar familiar, the uncomfortable comfortable and get them to understand that – it’s designed to make your life easier, not make your life more difficult. Training old-timers can be more challenging, but the rewards to the dealership is often more rewarding for those willing to combine their old-school experience, with new school technology.

Intelligent Follow Up for Car Dealers

Throughout my retail automotive career I was always told: “Call them until they buy or they die!” I’ve been in hundreds of stores and have seen thousands of sales follow-up processes for everything from the Internet Department to the Service Drive. A couple of years ago I noticed a large number of stores were exceedingly heavy in follow up calls under that same mantra “Buy or Die.” Recently however, some of the more progressive stores I visit are taking a “less is more” approach and having much success with it.

The philosophy of persistent follow up hasn’t changed but the way dealers use CRM to accomplish it is what’s changing. Scheduling long term follow up with customers is an example. Dealers are now starting to evaluate the performance and execution of the people they hold accountable making these calls. Sales people are not necessarily the best people in the world at follow up as it is, hence the role of effective BDC personnel. Sales people are typically much better in front of the customer than they are with following up with them so why are we scheduling calls for a customer 30-60 days after they have been in the showroom? I’ll tell you, it’s because there’s still a possibility of a sale in this time frame (albeit not with the same likelihood that the customer that visited within the past 72 hours does but there still, there’s a possibility).

When using CRM to follow up with your customers the approach can’t be what the sales rep should do, it has to be the approach of what WILL they really do. Will your rep call a person who was in 60 days ago with the same enthusiasm as he will for the guy that was in 2 days ago? The answer is “No.” Your rep sees very little value in that call, and will make the call primarily to keep you off his back and just to “complete the task” rather than truly “accomplish” the task. That’s one of the most counterproductive approaches in our space. Action plans should be what you really can expect your staff to efficiently and effectively do. There’s less than a 30% close rate on walk in traffic. Think about your extended follow up process and whether your reps’ daily task list will be flooded with people they have an even smaller likelihood of closing. Do you really want to dilute it? What about the mental exhaustion that they’ll experience thus taking any life out of them for the money calls that do require a certain degree of enthusiasm?

Scheduling less, but more effective follow up for the first couple of weeks not only yields better results, it actually promotes better CRM usage. The reps feel the calls on their days are relevant and true opportunities, not just filler or busy calls.

In closing, there isn’t necessarily too much follow up with the customer but there is too much follow up for your sales reps. Remember, it’s not what they should do but what they will do effectively. Set your people up to be successful, not just busy.

Just Get ’em In

Just get them through the door! A common exclamation I hear over the course of training at dealerships. While it’s true that the more bodies that walk through the door, the more vehicles a dealership will sell, the relationship and rapport building between the seller and buyer is often overlooked.

At my last training, I found myself uttering the same line “work your follow-ups, get them through the door,” but after the training I had a great conversation with an Internet Manager on the art of follow-up. You want to pound the phones, but not the customer.” He went on to continue, “If I have to tell my guys to just get a customer through the door, then I did a poor job of training them.”

It was refreshing to talk to a manager that seemed to care about training his sales team, but more refreshing, he cared about the service he brought to his customers. Don’t leave 100 voice mails if you don’t have anything new to bring to the table! Sound excited, act like you have something great to offer the customer, get to know them a little bit, the relationship starts the first time you reach out to them.” Overall, the tone of his advice was ‘put the customer first’ “Car Buyers are more informed now than they ever were, I tell my guys, if the customer has specific questions, answer them, if you don’t know the answer come to me and I’ll tell you what to say.”

Ultimately the sales business is a people business, so it makes sense that on the journey to selling a vehicle, you’re really selling your self – a service. He ended our conversation by going on a tirade on how much he hates auto responders, “To me an auto responder is a sign that we’re too lazy to respond to the customer on our own.” Only to follow that up with “but I use an auto responder that fires late at night with the words at the bottom ‘sent from my iPhone’ – it’s killer.

CRM Best Practices for Sales Consultants

There are innumerable benefits enjoyed by each department within the store by employing successful CRM practices. It doesn’t just stop with the sales department. This is the first part in an ongoing series offering an in-depth view at how to do the basics of CRM brilliantly for all departments within your store. I’ve compiled this “Best Practices” list from my own personal CRM deployments from traveling across the country consulting in a wide array of dealerships.

I’m the first to say that nothing is “one size fits all” and there are several variations that will work wonderfully at one store but fail miserably at another. If you’d like to know specifics or have a question as to whether or not I’ve seen a practice in use before, just email me or post on our forum.

Add every customer into CRM

  • 100% of the people, 100% of the time; without fail.
  • Any system is only as good as the customer information given, so enter as much as possible.

Complete your tasks daily

  • Following through with commitments is Business 101. If you don’t call the customer on the day they’re scheduled then you appear unprofessional to the customer. Especially if they’re expecting a call from you on that day.
  • Time kills deals and by not contacting them they could have purchased elsewhere.
  • By completing your daily tasks you’re ensuring that every customer that you’re supposed to contact actually gets contacted. Thus every opportunity is maximized and nothing falls through the cracks.

Ensure you have correct critical information

  • Vehicle information, stock numbers, is the car a surprise, deal structure, nickname, (Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms. Etc.)
  • Correspondence that is sent on your behalf reflects on YOU and the dealership and if an email or a letter is generated that’s inaccurate everybody looks bad.
  • The show must go on! Life happens, days off happen, stuff happens! A sales manager needs to be able to jump into a deal efficiently and seamlessly without having to make a client wait to contact you on your day off.

Customer Files

Result all of your client contact daily

  • By successfully resulting the outcome of your client contacts you’ll ensure the software schedules the next contact in harmony with that set outcome (what actually happened).
  • There’s nothing worse than a manager doing his/her job and calling a client to ask why they missed their appointment when they in fact called you to reschedule! Or worse… they showed up.
  • The goal is to NOT look foolish and to portray a unified front whereby everybody is on the same page. When a customer has confidence that you and your team are on top of your profession they also feel more comfortable parting with their money and making a purchase.

Reply to customer emails, texts, calls and Internet leads IMMEDIATELY

  • Again, time kills deals!
  • The majority of people are communicating via mobile device today and that means a more immediate expectation. The one that accommodates has a much greater chance of winning.
  • For Internet leads, the first dealership to engage the customer is 5 times more likely to sell that customer a vehicle. There’s a 5x rule for you…

Ask for 2 phone numbers and an email address 100% of the time

  • Follow up is a key component if you want your be-backs to have a better closing ratio you need multiple media to communicate with your customers.
  • According to NADA, 7 out of 10 customers will provide their email address if they are simply asked for it.
  • Mobile numbers are even more critical today! Texting opt-in is a word track you must master.

Place phone numbers in the appropriate corresponding fields

  • You can’t text a land line (it won’t work) or calling the office at 10 am on a Sunday instead of the house or cell!