You’re the Dealer Principal of a Dodge dealership in Winnipeg.
It’s 3:07 pm on a Tuesday afternoon.
You’ve had an exceptional busy day and are running late.
You’re on your way out of the showroom to catch a 5:00 pm flight to Toronto for a 20 group meeting when your iPhone vibrates for what seems like the 63rd time today.
You’re tempted to ignore it but take a quick look as you reach for the door. It’s a text from Bill, one of your oldest friends. He’s driving up from Morris tomorrow morning to buy a used car for his daughter. (A graduation present).
What are you going to do about Bill?
You could ask one of your sales managers to look after him but they are buried and you don’t want to pull them away from the desk to spend a couple hours on one deal. You can’t ask Bill to drop by when you return from your performance group meeting because he said in his text that his daughter was heading to university in 2 days. (He needs a car now).
You quickly grab a note book from the receptionist and and scribble down Bill’s contact information. You walk into the sales managers office. He’s on the phone arranging a dealer trade, working what looks like two deals, and has a lineup 4 deep at his door. You need to give the lead to one of the sales people so you can run to catch your flight. You look up at the sticker board.
Who gets the deal?
Bill is your friend. You want him to be treated like a VIP. You want somebody who will take their time and ensure the experience is a great one. You also want to make a fair profit.
Do you give this to the top of the board, or the bottom?
When I was a dealer I would often turn over a friend or relative to one of my sales people when I didn’t have the time to help them myself. I never had to think about who got the lead. The choice was obvious.
I fed my Eagles.
There are sales people who are amazing on the floor. They light up when they have a prospect in front of them.
There are sales people who can get deposits over the phone from customers they have yet to meet.
There are sale people who can convert almost any Internet Lead into a sales call and ultimately, an appointment.
There are sales people who never need an up, sales call, or Internet lead. They prefer to work their own list and consistently produce results, month after month, regardless of market conditions or what might be happening around them at the store.
And then there are those rare professionals who seem to have mastered it all. You know them well. They are at the top of the board each month. You know the name of their spouse, their kids, their pets, and they’ve been a guest in your home more than once. They are the highest paid employee(s) at your dealership and a couple times a year a competitor will try to steal them from you. These are your Eagles.
When I started consulting 4 years ago I would often ask Dealer Principals how they would handle a situation like the one described above. The answer was the same 95% of the time. (The deal goes to the top of the board).
Then I would ask how they distributed Internet leads at their store. Most answered with some variation of the following;
1) We have a guy who handles all the Internet stuff. (Website, pictures, and sales).
2) The leads go to the sales manager who distributes them to the floor.
If they answered, “we have a guy….,” I would then ask, “how many does he sell?” Usually the answer was something like “5-8 a month” or “not many.”
If the leads went to the floor it was likely the dealership was not tracking how many Internet leads actually got delivered. (They were estimating based on observation. There was no ridged process in place for following up the leads).
In the past four years internal processes have improved considerably however, many stores are still trying to build a separate silo in the sales department for the “Internet Department”. While I think building a separate infrastructure can make sense for very large stores, (and some groups), for the average size Canadian Dealership, in my opinion, it does not work.
Few Eagles will work in such a “silo” if it means having to give up sales calls, walk-ins, or in anyway change what they know works for them. Why would they?
If you asked your Eagles to work in the Internet department there is a good chance they would say, “no thanks”.
If you instead asked, “would you like to have a few extra leads each month?” (A few more deals) There’s only one answer to that question.
It’s much easier to help a salesperson selling 15 a month sell 20 than it is to take someone from 5 to 10. Also, 5 car a month guys are not long term employees. The 20 car guys tend to stick.
If you want to dramatically and immediately increase the number of deals you are getting from your Internet Department, (without spending a dime on a new system or hiring another manager), try “Feeding Your Eagles.”
While the “Internet Departments” at your competitors stores are creating beautiful emails and building elaborate processes to help them stay in touch with prospects, your Eagles will be the phone actually talking to them, converting Internet leads to appointments, taking deposits, and closing deals.
This does not have to be complicated. Internet leads are like phone messages. Are they not?
Great sales people (Eagles) know how to sell cars. They don’t need a Masters Degree in Computer Science to do so, they just need a prospect.
By the way, you’ll find after your Eagles are selling a couple extra cars a month from Internet leads, everyone on the floor will take notice and start asking “hey why are they getting all the leads?” (A suggested response might be, “because they are closing them.”)
Will “Feeding Your Eagles” disrupt the tranquility on the floor?
Perhaps. But the Eagles will love it, you will sell more cars, and you will establish clear benchmarks for all. (“We now know the closing ration on Internet leads should be….” etc)
Finally, I have personally never seen a better way to give your top producers cement shoes and recruit more just like them. When you help great sales people make more money with little additional effort, (by feeding them a few extra leads each month), everyone wins. (Your Eagles, your customers, and you).
CAVEAT: To be clear, I’m not suggestion you dismantle your Internet Department. I’m saying if you don’t have one, you may not need one. (A process for distributing leads will suffice). And if you do have one but the department is not made up of Eagles, (or you are not satisfied with the result), this is a simple alternative that works.