5 Ways Dealer Tech Has Failed Us

When managers rely on technical training and statistical analysis, sales and F&I pros lose their ability to think critically, respond genuinely, and make meaningful — and productive — connections with customers.

May 2018, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Phillip Hellstrom

When managers teach to the computer and grade performance by statistics, sales and F&I professionals focus on form-filling and lose the ability to think critically and converse honestly. Photo by rawpixel via Pixabay
When managers teach to the computer and grade performance by statistics, sales and F&I professionals focus on form-filling and lose the ability to think critically and converse honestly. Photo by rawpixel via Pixabay

The surging tide of technology has permanently altered the way we buy and sell. The automotive industry has been a contributor to and a victim of the digital gold rush. We all know that technology can automate parts of our marketing, sales, and F&I processes and make certain tasks easier, but it also restricts the uniquely human process of critical thought.

The modern sales and F&I professional needs job training and technical training in equal measure. Neglecting the former in favor of the latter has set our industry back in a number of ways, including:

1. Language Barrier

Too many managers spend their entire workday in conversation with their computer, encouraging and enforcing its directives. Sales consultants and F&I managers spend most of their time in front of customers, engaging in human discourse. Speaking different languages makes communication difficult and improvement impossible.

2. Weak Improv Skills

Tech-driven sales consultants focus on getting customers to give them the answers they want to hear, rather than asking the questions that spark open discussions. Steamrolling through the CRM and credit application with predetermined, jargon-filled scripts creates an unmemorable customer experience.

3. Virtual Reality

I have walked into more than 80 dealerships in the Chicagoland area. At more than half, as a guest, I had to “up” an employee. Have we forgotten that fresh ups (a) don’t need to be converted into appointments, (b) are physically present at the dealership, and (c) are open to expert advice regarding their vehicle selection and financing options? If your sales team is too distracted by your virtual customers to watch your actual door, you need to put a body on the point.

4. Comfortability

Even those sales consultants who have succeeded by prioritizing their desktops and mobile devices are missing opportunities. Every second of “downtime” should be spent self-promoting. Unless the dealership’s lead-generation infrastructure fills their pipeline, they need to circle back with sold customers, ask for referrals, and work on their social media skills.

5. Skewed Stats

Technology offers a great upside for dealers who love gathering data: percentages, ratios, metrics, progressions — you name it, there is a way to capture it. But statistics can be deceiving for two reasons: First, there is always a margin of error, because most of that data was entered manually. Second, the higher your turnover, the more likely some data sets are missing or otherwise compromised. Convey the importance of reporting but don’t rely on stats at the expense of common sense.

Technology can be a powerful tool, but you can’t let it run your dealership. Success in sales and F&I still depends upon the ability to examine past results, make adjustments, and improve your performance.

Phillip Hellstrom is founder of Phelcan Group LLC and a 17-year automotive retail professional with expertise in sales training and customer relations. Email him at

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