Article

What Gets Measured Gets Done

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by John Carroll - Also by this author

Call it Tasca’s Law: “What gets measured, gets done.”

The first three numbers that Bob Tasca III measures at the family dealership – Tasca Automotive Group based in Cranston, Rhode Island – is the number of leads gathered through the Internet, the number of people who make and keep an appointment, and the number of customers who go on to buy a vehicle.

At the end of the month, says Tasca, a vice president in the family-owned operation, you should be able to show that fully 50 percent of the leads streaming through the Internet can be contacted and set up on an appointment. Of those, 60 percent will actually come to the dealership. And out of that group, fully 60 percent will close on a vehicle.

It wasn’t always like that, as Tasca readily concedes. In the early days, says the dealer, the Internet was a hit and miss channel. Now it’s an interactive marketing portal. The crucial difference for the dealership came six years ago, when Tasca linked up with BZ Results, a digital marketing and sales company that boldly offers to push dealers to the next level.
 
“We were very early into it,” says Tasca about the dawn of the Internet. “I just saw where it was going. It was a natural place for people to begin researching and buying cars.”

Not that the Tascas ever thought the lot operation was doomed to the scrap heap of commerce history. People would always need to come in and take a test drive, kick the tires and get a whiff of what they were actually buying. BZ Results, though, took the basic Internet approach to selling cars and put it on steroids for Tasca.

The sales and marketing group designed a simple Web site for the Tascas that’s easy to navigate. Once online, you’ll be treated to inventory lists, vehicle reviews and special offers that can be found under three primary buttons: research, find and service. You can set up an appointment for sales or service with just the click of a button. You can even ask for a trade appraisal, request financing or take a virtual test drive.

But there’s not too much information. The site is uncluttered, designed to point surfers to the kind of make and model they’re looking for and built with one purpose in mind: Delivering new leads.

At every turn of the Web page, online customers are invited to offer up their contact information. You’ll get a pop-up asking for your e-mail so the dealership can contact you if they find what you’re looking for, or you may choose to call right away with the phone number provided.

Wherever the contact comes from, the process kicks in. “Some dealers have enhanced Web sites and technology,” says Tasca, “but what we have is a system for generating and managing leads, with a set procedure for handling a lead, setting the appointment and confirming the appointment.”

After that, it’s up to the dealership reps to close the sale. And they do. “We’re able to turn the leads into sales and that’s how we’re paid,” adds Tasca. “Nobody pays their mortgage on leads. It’s not just about generating leads; it’s generating leads that turn into sales.”

Leads typically come directly through Tasca.com, but outside leads will be generated as well from the Internet sites of Ford, Mazda and Lincoln Mercury. The Tascas also built a digital marketing campaign, organizing regular – but not irritatingly frequent – special mass buzzmail offers targeting the steady stream of leads that pour in from the Internet. The buzzmail is loaded with animation and sound to get and keep their interest – and build response. All the leads go into Buzztrack, a customer relationship management system set up for the four people in the Internet department that helps them track and categorize each lead.

Another option is a virtual phone manager that can automatically generate a mass calling campaign with other special offers and even custom calls. They use a system call ventriloquist technology to generate calls in the dealer’s voice.

The first task for the dealership is to follow up on a question about a vehicle. Customers are assigned a status based on how likely they are to buy a vehicle; whether they’re just looking or planning to close on a car in the next 30 days. Any new promotional offers are sent out to everyone in the database as each new lead is worked.

And it works, says Tasca. In July, he says, the Tasca Group came up with 850 leads and made 109 sales. It’s all about the 50-60-60 rule, insists Tasca. Stick with the process, follow the phone scripts, work the leads and the dealership can boot up sales in a way they never imagined. But it all depends on making sure that at least half of the leads that are generated online can be persuaded to set an appointment.

“This is the rule we live by: 50 percent we set an appointment with,” says Tasca. “That’s a minimal goal. That’s what we measure our people on. We incentivize based on most appointments made, most appointments that show, and there’s a per-car commission. Those metrics are made every single week.”

“Sell the facts. Sell the dealership. Sell the process: you won’t have to wait an hour; the car will be waiting for you. The whole process is designed to save time and earn their business. It’s really a science.”

It’s also an art. Don’t, for example, provide too much information over the phone. Keep in mind that the customer looking for one vehicle will, four out of five times, leave with a somewhat similar but distinctly different car. The F-150 he’s looking for, for example, may be beyond his budget. Or perhaps he’ll decide he really needs an F-250.

Keep in mind, says Tasca, that you don’t want to sell a car over the phone. You want to sell the appointment, emphasizing that the dealership will be ready and waiting when they arrive. It’s that initial meet and greet, when the would-be customer puts out his hand for the initial pressing of the flesh that will determine if the appointment will lead to a sale.

If the salesman is waiting and knows who is coming and what they’re coming to see, the dealership will be significantly closer to a sale. But, if they aren’t ready, and don’t know what the customer is looking for, the chances are that sale will be lost forever.

Says Tasca: “When they come in, the worst thing you can do is introduce yourself and say, ‘How can I help you?’ That’s like committing suicide. You have to be prepared.”

That’s where training is crucial. Everyone, from the top down, is trained on the process. To make sure the lesson sticks, regular refresher courses are offered to show how everyone has a role in building and managing leads, and everyone is responsible for seeing it all through to the end.

“Honestly, I don’t think they’re any different than any other people,” says Tasca about his Web based leads. “They want to be treated with respect; they want to be listened to. The only difference we see is that they don’t want to waste time.” And if you waste their time, chances are you’ll never see them back on the lot.

Because they’ve already invested time with you, the leads that are developed through the Web are much more likely to want to buy a vehicle and are therefore infinitely better than any other kind of lead.

The big challenge for the dealership is that once you get on Buzztrack, you have to stay on Buzztrack. “Consistently follow the process that we know works, that’s the challenge. The simplest tasks become complex when they have to be repeated over and over,” adds Tasca, “with no shortcuts and no skips in the process.”

Sure, he says, the dealership has fine tuned some of the scripts provided by BZ Results. But they are trained never to stray far, knowing that they’re much more likely to lose the sale if they do.

For the dealer, he says, the challenge is to make sure your staff is trained how to handle the process, and that your staff maintains your lead machine at just the right level. “I’m running a little lean right now,” says Tasca, noting that one person can properly handle only so many leads at any one time.

But that’s also a good sign. The better the process, says Tasca, the higher the sales. Turnover goes down, revenue goes up and customer satisfaction is revved up to a higher level – which in turn creates new leads.

In case you missed it, he repeats, “It’s not just about generating leads; it’s generating leads that turn into sales!”

Vol 2, Issue 9

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