Article

Figures Never Lie

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Seth Ridgeway - Also by this author

One thing I do enjoy writing about is the success stories of people and dealerships that rise from relative obscurity to prominence through their own efforts. The demand that this class of people put on themselves is far more demanding than any employer requires. In the same light, if the management core requires extra of themselves, that same behavior flows downward to the employees. This is about a dealership and its people that exemplify going beyond expectations.
Nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado is the beautiful city of Colorado Springs. Within that city is a dealership that provides a tremendous service to the customers of south central Colorado catering to all levels of automotive needs. Saturn of Colorado Springs, their General Manager Greg Zindorf and the Internet department headed by Tom Schnelle, are that special group. Normally I wouldn’t associate a Saturn Franchise with monster special finance and Internet dealerships, but here they are. A great man I know once told me that “liars always figure but the figures never lie,” and you can’t ignore these figures. Half of the dealerships 300+ sales every month are special finance, and a third of all sales are generated by the Internet department. Zindorf says that all the credit goes to Schnelle and his crew. They put it all together and make good things happen every day.

Saturn of Colorado Springs opened its doors for business in 1992 and has grown to flooring around 140 new and 370 used vehicles. Until late 2003, the Internet department consisted of just one person, Ron Snider. It really wasn’t a department; Snider was the chosen one who was adapt at working leads provided by their own Web site and Saturn corporate Internet advertising. Snider was a happy person working the leads selling 15 to 20 cars every month. Zindorf, however, had a greater vision. He knew that if Snider was having that much success by himself, increasing Internet advertising and adding more people to the department could double or even triple Internet sales.

Zindorf is a calculating man, and he planned to pair Snider with Schnelle, an up and coming salesman. Schnelle is someone that loves a challenge. In the old west he would be labeled as a man with “grit.” He’d worked himself up from auto detailing and the paint shop while attending college to become one of the top salesman on staff. The choice was clear, and Schnelle was on board. The duo added two secondary Internet lead providers the first month and closed 18 percent of the leads for 36 sales. Schnelle then sold Zindorf on a business plan to hire additional sales people, and they’ve never looked back.

They rapidly outgrew their small work area and the GM allowed them to move to the unused waiting lounge in the new car showroom. Schnelle and Snider built walls and desks out of stuff they found in storage piecing together enough to hire four new salespeople. The following month they produced 44 sales. Now Zindorf was convinced the department was the “real deal” and let them purchase new computers and increase their advertising. They’ve grown to nine salespeople and push over 100 units a month. Here are more figures for you to mull over. The average gross is $2,400 with an advertising cost of $175.00 per deal. Keep in mind this is Colorado Springs, not Philadelphia or Chicago. It almost brings a tear to your eye doesn’t it?

When asked about Internet lead generating sources, Schnelle said that Customerfunding.com and Driverloans are their top providers, with Customerfunding.com giving them the highest closing ratio at 18 percent. He stated that pound-for-pound, Customerfunding.com is the best based on closing percentage, average gross per deal and their exceptional customer service. Drive, Centrix, Triad and Americredit top the field of lending sources critical to the department’s success. Their key to getting deals done with the least hassle is matching a lender to suite customers’ situations, with the emphasis always on the customer.

From auto detailer to Internet manager in a span of four years is an exceptional accomplishment. The most amazing part of the story is that Schnelle never saw it coming. It was something that happened because someone believed in him and his talent. He became a terrific manager is a true testament to his resolve. Zindorf knows that Schnelle would be good at whatever he tries, but for right now he’s pleased that Schnelle is answering the challenge for Saturn of Colorado Springs.

Vol 2, Issue 8

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