• November 1, 2005
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Leads and Sales Hum for a Car Dealership

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About two-thirds of new-vehicle buyers use the Internet as part of the shopping process, according to J.D. Power and Associates. The Lou Fusz Automotive Network is a dealership family that's using that fact to its advantage, to the tune of a 50 percent increase in lead handling capacity, faster response to customers, and greatly increased sales of the quintessential big-ticket consumer good. Jasen Rice, the Internet director for the network of 15 dealerships, identified a need to increase the stores' ability to manage the leads they received from all sources. "The solution had to be flexible and easy enough to serve each dealership separately," Rice says, as each shop is an independent operation. It also had to allow easy sharing of information between dealerships in case a customer wanted something not offered at the particular shop. "I also wanted to be able to accurately track sales activities across the network, to identify which lead providers were generating the best leads and the sales tactics that were proving most effective." Fortunately for Rice, the answer to the lead management question came from one of the sources of those leads: Autobytel. Autobytel is a nationwide information resource for automobile dealerships, and 14 of the 15 Fusz stores already used the company's services. "Dealerships get leads from a multitude of sources: the factory, magazines, Web searches, Autobytel, and of course walk-ins and referrals," says Ed Braunbeck, director of national sales for AVV, a subsidiary of Autobytel. "AVV Web Control is a management control system that pulls in and collates leads from more than 300 sources, sorts them according to whatever criteria the manager requires, and delivers the qualified leads to the sales agent who can best handle them." "Web Control gives me great visibility into the activities across dealerships," Rice says. "For example, the system tracks which prospects were lost in the sales process, so I can review all activities and advise that salesperson to improve his or her outreach strategy in the future. I also can manage our lead providers better, by tracking where our most productive leads come from each month and quarter. Overall, I can use the system to constantly evaluate how best to use our resources." One of the most important elements of Web Control is Internet Sales Management (ISM), which manages complete histories of customers so sales teams can schedule targeted, personalized email campaigns. This personalization is an important aspect of Rice's program, as is the ISM organizer, which allows users to easily schedule follow-up phone calls and emails. "Many of the leads we receive have no phone number," Rice says. "Using the automated email tool from Web Control, we now can establish personalized email contact using automated, regular broadcasts with preformatted templates that create a compelling customer experience. Customers are responding very well to the personalized email campaigns." It all starts with the leads, and that is where the real ROI begins for the network. Decreasing response time to 10 minutes (the goal in general is 30) has enabled Internet managers in the dealer group to increase the leads they are managing from 80 to 100 per month to 125 to 150 leads per month, an increase of 50 percent. "Web Control has allowed us to increase both the number of sales leads we take in and the number of leads that we close," Rice says. "Our sales managers can automatically generate coordinated, customized communications to each of their prospects. This personalized service is extremely important to our customers. Since we implemented Web Control, we have significantly increased our bottom line sales." Though 2005 wasn't over Lou Fusz had already sold 334 more cars in the first three quarters of 2005 as compared to 2004's first three quarters. In dollars, this equates to more than $467,000 in additional profits, based on the National Automobile Dealers Association assumption that a dealer's profit on each vehicle sold is $1,400. The Payoff By implementing AVV from Autobytel in its dealership network, the Lou Fusz Automotive Network:
  • sold an additional $467,000 in nine months compared to the same period the previous year;
  • increased lead throughput by 50 percent;
  • improved average response time to 10 minutes, from a goal of 30 minutes;
  • generated 25 percent of its sales through Internet contacts; and
  • held a place in the top 20 dealerships nationwide in terms of Internet sales.
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