Internet Sales Manager
When the folks at W-K Chevrolet Cadillac Pontiac Buick GMC went looking for an internet sales manager in 2006, they knew just where to turn - Dustin Bailey. He'd joined the store as a detailer after graduating high school in 2003, worked his way up to the parts department and knew a thing or two about selling cars online from his personal experience with eBay Motors.
The only problem was he'd left the Sedalia, Mo., store for a job with a Honda store almost 70 miles away. Bailey was persuaded, though, to return to his hometown by the opportunity to launch W-K's internet operations.
"I love cars - they're my passion," Bailey says." I've had a lot of them; I love driving them, and I love everything about them. I like informing people."
DealerADvantage recently spoke with Bailey to learn more about W-K's online initiatives and how those strategies help to drive sales. W-K operates two stores and records monthly sales of approximately 120 vehicles - roughly one-third of which are attributed to the internet.
DealerADvantage: We often hear from ISMs who make the transition you did - from selling cars to now also being responsible for creating internet sales processes and overseeing online merchandising. How did you get it all done?
Bailey: You have to be extra motivated, I guess, but it really didn't go that well. It seemed like it was going well. We were selling cars off the internet. I was putting out 12 to 15 cars a month, still getting the photos taken and everything done. But I was missing stuff, obviously, because now we're selling, in a normal month, 30 plus. It's obvious we were missing opportunities back then that we didn't really even know about.
It pretty quickly became more than what one person could handle. Seven or eight months after I really got everything going with the internet department here, I was just overloaded. There was no time to take pictures; there was no time to really do anything like that. So I hired an assistant to take all the photos for me, and that helped for a while. But after a few months, I was overloaded with customers. I think anybody that is the manager of an internet department - if you're going to have good quality listings, advertise in the right places, operate a solid website and provide good response times on all your leads, you can't be selling cars at the same time.
That's when we made the transition - about a year and a half ago - to where I am just in a management role and don't work with the customers on a one-on-one basis. We decided that I would direct the process and teach salespeople how to manage internet leads. Every salesperson on the sales floor, all nine of them, they're both internet and showroom salespeople.
DealerADvantage: How did you develop the kind of relationship with your management team that you were able to work through these challenges together?
Bailey: I haven't spent a lot of time in other places, but I can tell you that the difference between us and other dealerships is the great relationships that we all have. The owner is very open to discussion. We have lots of meetings, lots of talks and lunches. Everything is constructive. We're always trying to come up with a better way to make things more profitable, more consumer-friendly. It's nothing out of the ordinary for the owner to come to me with an idea and we brainstorm about it. It's just the way you get things done.
You've got to be able to talk to the person who can give the OK. Having a middleman for everything doesn't really seem to get you anywhere fast. I think it's extremely important to have a relationship with the owner, with the general manager.
I'm basically the general sales manager's right-hand man when it comes to the used-car inventory. If I didn't have anything to do with the used-car inventory - pricing, what we take to auction, what we buy - then I think we'd be missing opportunities there as well. ISMs are the ones with access to the tools that show us what consumers are shopping for. Why shouldn't we be just as involved as the other sales managers at the dealership with important decisions to make about how to run the department, what cars to buy and so on?
DealerADvantage: How do you assign internet leads?
Bailey: That's based on who performs the best and who's the most available. I look at every single lead on a case-by-case basis and try to match the personality of the customer to the personality of the salesperson. If I've got someone coming in to look at a Cobalt SS Turbo, I'm going to fix that customer up with a salesperson who I know has a taste for that kind of thing, likes the fast cars, knows something about them. They can have a conversation. It makes a huge difference versus the other dealerships that assign leads to a random salesperson, someone who might not be able to make as good of a personal relationship with customers as they would if the ISM had done a little research beforehand.
DealerADvantage: How do you manage customer inquiries?
Bailey: As soon as I get the lead in, I'll page for an available salesperson and see who's available. Any of the guys can handle it, but there are special cases where I want to pair up the shopper with a particular salesperson. From there, it's pretty well a rule that when you get a lead, you have to go back to your desk and call. You can't get sidetracked. You can't take a lead from me if you've got a customer waiting or a customer in F & I. You have to be available, just like if you were out on the lot waiting for an up. You can't be waiting on an appointment to get here in 5 minutes and taking a lead from me. It's really controlled in that way so that everybody gets taken care of, no matter what.
From there, the salespeople go pick up the phone and start making the calls. If it's a lead from General Motors Corp., because those shoppers are getting called from every other dealership in our area, it's kind of a fight to see who can get there first. With all leads, it's important to get a really, really quick response time. With third-party leads, salespeople just have to try and try until they reach the customer.
Any time that a telephone number comes up wrong, an address doesn't look right or an email address looks wrong, we double-, triple-check them. We'll look in the phone book and try to match the name to the correct phone number in case the shopper typed it in wrong. We'll Google the name and address to try and find the correct information. Usually, the problem is just a typo.
If the shoppers don't answer or return any of the phone calls or the emails, I put them on a specific schedule so they get a follow-up every few days. Then, if they still haven't contacted us back, it goes to every week. After a few weeks, it goes to every month. After six months, you can call them again in a year.
DealerADvantage: You said that you decide when a prospect is moved to the inactive file. Does that help keep salespeople focused on making the sale and not giving up too soon?
Bailey: Absolutely. That's what sales managers are here for - and internet sales managers should have just as active of a role as the other sales managers. They've got to be involved with the salespeople and the whole process from the beginning to end, to get everything taken care of properly.
DealerADvantage: Do you have challenges holding gross with internet customers?
Bailey: We started market-based pricing awhile back, and it's made a really big difference in holding on to gross. If you start out at a really competitive price, there are fewer reasons for you to have to go down in price during the negotiation process. It's a whole lot easier to hold your ground when the salesperson knows, the manager knows and everybody knows that the car that you're working the deal on is a good deal. It's a whole lot easier to explain to a customer: "We're firm on this price because we we've looked at all the other ones out there. This is what they're priced at, and we're below that - so this is a good deal." It's easy even to say that over the phone to a customer because I know I'm right. I've looked into it in depth. The customer is getting a good deal and, instead of trying to start out making $4,000 or $5,000 - and then dropping down and making $500 - we start out trying to make $1,500 and make $1,500.
DealerADvantage: How do you manage training?
Bailey: I do all the training for the salespeople in the store - internet sales processes, product knowledge and everything as well. Whether it's how to turn on the computer or how we do paperwork here or how to correctly contact an internet lead, it all goes through me first. When I assign leads, whether it's a salesperson that's new or a salesperson that's been here forever, I give them a recommendation: "Here's what I would do with this person. I'd call say, "That Malibu is not available anymore. Good news, though. I've got a couple other ones available. What exactly are you after?" and go from there. They know I'm looking out for them, just trying to help them the most. I'm giving them the ideas and the tools to help them sell a car.
Bailey: Don't sell to them. That's the problem that you run into when you start selling to people who already know what they want. You just take care of them. You take care of the stuff that they don't know about. If they already know the axle ratio on the truck they're looking at, how is it going to help for you to repeat that information? You can go over it, but pull something else out of your hat. You've got to come up with something different to talk about. That's the thing about enthusiasts: They want to buy the car, but they don't want to be sold the car. They want a friend; somebody they can trust. Just be there with information and the help. They're looking for a connection more than someone to educate them about the vehicle they already know about.
DealerADvantage: Are enthusiasts looking solely for the lowest price?
Bailey: To be honest, the majority of the forum members and enthusiasts that I've sold, they've gotten good deals, but they're not out there for the very best deal possible. They have bought from me for $500, $600 more on new vehicles than the competition in their own city offered. They'll drive an hour and a half and pay a little bit more to buy the vehicle from me - instead of from a random salesperson at another dealership. They don't want to do that; they don't want to have to go through the hassle. They want to show up and have it to be, "Hey, it's nice to finally meet you." We gab for a little bit about stuff, and I say, "Here's the car we talked about. Let's go for a spin." And it's done. Those are some of the easiest deals to work, just because you've already gone over everything, they already know that you're giving them a good deal. Yes, they know that they could save a few hundred dollars by going to any other dealership, but then that's the problem. They don't know "you." There's no "you" at the other dealership.
DealerADvantage: What new tools are you using in your sales process?
Bailey: I use chat quite a bit. Customers love it. Even if they email you and you email back in 5 minutes, that's not as good as hitting the chat button and have the salesperson be right there, right then. I think that's a big deal that should get bigger. Chat is really beneficial to the customers and to the dealership, too.
DealerADvantage: Who manages your chat sessions?
Bailey: I do. If I'm not available on my computer, it goes to my Blackberry. If I'm not available on my Blackberry, it would have to be the middle of the night - and then it goes to an email rollover. As chat gets more popular, I'll have requests go to my salespeople's desk because they all have computers.
DealerADvantage: How long did it take you to sell your first car with chat?
Bailey: Two days to get it set up and working on my computer, working on my Blackberry. I'd tested it, and everything worked great. The next thing you know, I get a chat request. The shopper told me some stock numbers, we chatted for a little while, and I got an appointment. The customer was here an hour and a half later - and gone an hour later in a new car, thanks to chat. That worked out pretty good. Chat is so cheap and so easy and such a good tool for consumers. It lets them know that we're right here, ready to help them. I think it's definitely something that's going to get bigger.
DealerADvantage: How did you learn all of the tactics we've discussed? How do you stay on top of it?
Bailey: Trial and error, basically. The tools are all out there. I didn't go to college; I was home schooled. I don't think there's any special training you need, other than to pay attention to the tools that are right in front of you and do a little bit of extra research. Google is your friend. Look stuff up.
DealerADvantage: I also get the sense that you have a passion for your job.
Bailey: Seven days a week. I've got to be. If you want job security, if you want to have a successful internet department and have a successful sales department, you've got to be on top of your stuff.