Greenway Chrysler Jeep Dodge is among the top 125 dealerships nationwide in sales volume, with sales of more than 4,500 vehicles in 2012. And, 72% of Greenway Chrysler Jeep Dodge’s business is Internet sales.
The dealership’s Internet sales in 2012 totaled 3,242 new and used vehicles, with 301 vehicles sold as a result of Internet leads in December, compared to the store’s total December sales of 424 vehicles.
HispanicBusiness.com named Greenway Auto Group – of which Greenway Chrysler Jeep Dodge is one of 19 stores – as the Number One Hispanic Auto Dealership Nationwide in 2012, with a growth rate of 105% from 2010 to 2011. Frank J. Rodriguez is CEO of the group.
Known as ‘Internet Ricky,” Greenway Chrysler Jeep Dodge’s Internet Director Ricky Lopez recently shared with Dealer magazine, some of the secret sauce to his success.
First, Ricky, how did you get into the car business?
I had my own limousine company in California for seven years and my customers included a lot of tours, “The Price is Right,” and some of the players for the Los Angeles Lakers. My wife was asked to transfer to Florida for her job. When we moved here, in 2005, a friend of mine working for a Nissan store was trying to set up an Internet department and he asked me to join him.
At the time, nobody wanted to handle the leads that were faxed in. So that’s how I started. The first month, we did 50 cars out of the Internet department and all of a sudden they wanted to invest money in it.
Then, I joined Greenway Chrysler Jeep Dodge as Internet Director five years ago. At that time, the store was selling 30 new units and about 60 used units per month. Of those, only a dozen were Internet sales for annualized Internet sales of 144 units.
So, I focused on Internet sales and in 2009 the dealership sold 766 Internet units. 2010, we saw growth to 1,735 Internet units and in 2011 we hit 2,730 Internet units. In 2012, we drew in more than 16,000 Internet leads and sold more than 3,200 Internet units.
How do you account for your phenomenal success?
Conrad Letson is Greenway Chrysler Jeep Dodge’s general manager/partner; he brought me in and asked me what I needed. And he’s been behind me 100%.
Our salespeople are phenomenal. Our dealership is open seven days a week from 7 am to 8 pm. Shifts are staggered for the inbound and the outbound team and members are on a pay-for-performance basis. We have 21 Internet salespeople and 12 salespeople on the floor. I’ve only lost four of my salespeople in five years, and I’ve lost them through promotion within the dealership. They’ve become managers at our Greenway Fiat store and they’ve become F&I managers.
Our sales group enjoys each other and does well and makes money. We hire well and we train them intensively. First thing we do is train them for a month before they work with customers. They spend the first week in the BDC answering incoming calls. The second week we do internal training with myself and my assistant, and they are updated with Chrysler certification. The third week, new salespeople shadow an established sales person and learn how to work a deal from beginning to end. The fourth and final week, they’ll have two days with me.
Another factor in our success is the stability and continuity of our processes. I’ve stayed with 90% of my same technology vendors for Internet sales and marketing for over five years. Some people have changed wives or husbands more often than I change my vendors.
Tell us how these vendors have helped contribute to your success.
Our DMS is Reynolds and Reynolds. The dealership has had them forever and really appreciates the company; they are in a sense, a real foundation for our success.
Two additional strong vendor partners are NCM Associates and Kain Automotive. A few years ago, I joined an NCM Associates 20 Group for Internet and BDC managers in collaboration with Kain Automotive. Led by David Kain, the group helps members find solutions to the challenges faced by their Internet departments and improve their performance and closing ratios. We’ve tripled our Internet sales since joining this group and we are on track for a 19% closing ratio on Internet leads.
The 20 group I’m in meets three times a year and gives me the chance to ask questions of my peers concerning how they handle leads, manage their CRM process and about coaching methods they use for their employees.
Last year, I asked David Kain to visit us and audit our lead handling processes. One of the things that came out of this was a significant improvement to our BDC process.
We have 19 stores in our Greenway Auto Group in Florida, Louisiana and Alabama, and a central BDC, which is located at our rooftop, that handles all the calls for all these stores. We have 50 people working up there and they handle service calls as well.
Customers will call in and the BDC person will try to answer as many questions as each customer has. If they can’t answer the question, they will send the call down stairs to me.
After studying our BDC and Internet sales group’s process, David Kain and I recognized that the leads coming in were being “cherry picked” and some of the sales staff were not following up on what we felt were sales leads with good potential.
So, together, we came up with the idea of a “Nurture Team” to do the follow-up on these leads that we needed. I sat with our dealership’s owner and recommended that we hire a couple of people and let them do follow-up after the first three days on leads that nobody has gotten in touch with. Then, Daniel Colon, the head of Greenway’s BDC, and I created a specific group to work these leads and nurture these potential customers during their auto shopping process.
Now, any lead not being actively pursued by a salesperson after three days in the system automatically flows to the Nurture Team. The Nurture Team then works these “cold leads” and brings many back to life. We started with two and now have seven individuals on the Nurture Team calling and e-mailing these leads until the customer either says: ‘Don’t call me anymore,’ or they buy a car or set an appointment.
Since instituting this program, deliveries for these “throw-away prospects” have never fallen below 40 units a month and many times are closer to 50 units.
Once a lead is given to your sales team by the BDC, how is it handled?
VinSolutions is our CRM and hosts and maintains our website as well. I have everyone’s schedule on VinSolutions – so as the leads come in, they are distributed round-robin style to the salespeople on duty.
If they don’t respond within nine minutes, I’m alerted by VinSolutions and I call the customer myself or give the lead to someone else. VinSolutions is actually a new vendor partner for us. Three months ago we switched our CRM to VinSolutions. We wanted a CRM that would also host and maintain our website and that would interact well with vAuto and AutoTrader, and other solutions that we have, and VinSolutions does all that. Now we can track a lot of things on our website that we couldn’t track before. We can tell now when and where the customers are going on the site and what they are looking at.
This is important, because sometimes you get a customer that comes to the website looking at a Grand Caravan, and then, he’ll leave the site and come back a week later and look at a Challenger. Knowing that gives us insight into how to interact with that customer. It gives us an excuse to call or e-mail this customer and say that we saw that he or she switched from a Caravan to a Challenger, and offer them information on the new Challenger coming in.
VinSolutions does a great job of hosting and maintaining our website, and that’s where we get the majority of our 16,000 Internet sales leads per year.
How do you drive so many leads to your website?
We’ve done very well with our in-house SEO and we don’t feel we need an outside vendor. Three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I have one of our employees shoot a video for me and I edit and post it on YouTube. Then on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, I do a press release on PRLog — a free press release distribution site — and we tie the press releases and videos together. Every time we do this, we rate high on Google’s page one search engine results.
The videos are either about a new or used car. Starting in April, I’m going to ask customers to give us permission to use their testimonials in press releases and videos. Right now, we have over 1,000 videos on YouTube.
We use Haystack Digital Marketing for SEM and they do a good job. However, I believe pay per click helps the manufacturers more than the individual dealers. The manufacturers have such big budgets, compared to the individual dealerships, that I feel dealerships don’t get the return on investment we’d like. You can’t outbid Coca Cola in pay per click. The manufacturers increase business overall at the national level. We focus on getting business at the regional level. We get a lot of business from Tampa, Clearwater, Daytona and Jacksonville, Florida, which are a couple of hours away.
How much have third-party lead providers contributed overall to your Internet sales leads?
Cars.com has done a phenomenal job getting leads for us. I’ve been so enthusiastic in my praise of Cars.com and the results that they’ve brought us, that at NADA, Cars.com had my photo on their booth, as their Number 1 satisfied Internet Director in the nation.
They asked me to talk with their customers and explain how well Cars.com works for Greenway Chrysler Jeep Dodge.
Dealix has also provided us with a phenomenal return on our investment. I keep our totals on the wall here of our sales each year.
Do you generate Internet sales leads in any other way?
Yes, we’ve used One Command, based in Mason, Ohio, for almost a year now for our eNewsletter and email blasts. We love Command One because it does a great job for us in generating leads, and it’s co-oped by Chrysler.
Once a month we do a newsletter blast to all 100,000 customers in our database — giving them an update of what we are doing, what’s on sale, what other incentives we may have and what Chrysler is up to.
In addition to that, our targeted newsletters can go out to anywhere from to 7,000 to 25,000 customer addresses. We vary it so we don’t hit the same people all the time.
One group that we target is the customers who have equity in their vehicles and would benefit from trading them in. Selling new cars to these customers is a win-win for them and the dealership.
We use another great vendor, AutoAlert, to help us reach these customers. AutoAlert extracts all the equity customers from our database; it shows us all the customers we can put in the new car for the same payment as their old car, and so it enables us to email or call these people and make them that offer. Not only does the customer save money, but we make money. We’ve only been doing this for a couple of months, but we’ve done really well with it. The first month, we sold 37 cars with AutoAlert and the second month we sold 50 cars with AutoAlert.
These trade-ins can happen without a down payment for 92% of the customers, because they have equity in their vehicles. The customers are ecstatic with this! They love it; they’ve got a new car while staying with the same monthly payment.
The price is less than $2,000 per month to use AutoAlert, so it’s a great investment for the dealership.
How are you handling social media and online reputation management?
We put testimonials from customers on Facebook. Right now we are concentrating on Yelp, which is becoming really popular. A lot of dealerships have bad reviews on Yelp, so we’re trying to get ahead of the game on Yelp. Yelp is the newest voice out there and consumers are listening to it. If you go to Yelp to research a car dealer, nine out of 10 of them will have bad reviews. On DealerRater, we’ve got over 600 reviews and On Cars.com, we have close to 600 reviews. We also have some reviews on Google.
A hot new tool that we are exploring to create leads is Instagram. It’s a free app for your phone. For ages 16 to 25, it’s the hottest thing in the market. It took Instagram only six months to get to the popularity level it took Facebook two years to get to. With Instagram, you put a photo with your information and send it out. It will piggy back your message to Twitter and Facebook automatically.
I use Instagram all the time. And, I get customer referrals through Instagram. The other day one of my son’s friends bought a new orange Wrangler here. We took a photo of her with the car and posted it through Instagram to Facebook. Then, a couple called her and asked: ‘Where did you get that car?’ She told them Greenway Chrysler Jeep Dodge. Now, we can’t keep the orange cars in stock. They didn’t make that many of them and everybody wants one.
How do you stay so current with technology?
I go to the Digital Dealer Conference & Exposition every year, and I read Dealer and Digital Dealer magazine, and other industry publications. And, as I mentioned before, I’m a member of The David Kain Internet group – the top 20 Internet dealers in the nation – and we meet three times a year. Our next meeting is in June, in Washington DC. There are a lot of good people in that group. A little dealership in Abilene, Kansas, might be doing something I’m not doing. So we learn from each other and everyone helps everyone else.
What do you see for the future of the industry?
I think the future is mobile and videos.
Every year people are buying tablets and iPhones. The old desktop and laptop are going by the wayside little by little every month.
I’m either going to e-mail you from my iPhone or my iPad, because that’s what I have on me all the time. It’s amazing. I’ll be in line at the coffee shop, and I’ll look around and everyone either has a tablet, or an iPhone, or a Droid, but no one has laptops anymore.
A lot of dealerships don’t understand that mobile marketing is different from regular marketing. The dealers that know this and take it into account are doing so much better, because they are not bouncing viewers who are trying to look at their website with a mobile device. So, that to me is the future.
Videos are a strong part of that future. There’s a company called Eyejot. It’s a free app and you can use it from your phone, laptop or desktop. We use it to set appointments and we also use it for letting customers know who we are. Once I set an appointment with a customer, I send them an Eyejot video of myself thanking them for setting the appointment. I’ll say: My name is Ricky. I’m the Internet director. If you need any help when you are at the dealership, or you need any help with our sales person, Adam here, you know what I look like now, so look for me in the showroom and let me help you.
It’s also great for getting reviews. When a customer buys a car from us, we send them a video message through Eyejot. People get blown away because we are sending them a video after they buy a car. It’s really cool.
We ask them in the video: “If you enjoyed the service you got today at the dealership, please give our salesperson a review on Google, Yelp, etc.”
What is your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is to get more salespeople. The average sales person is going to sell between 15 and 21 cars per month. If I had 30 salespeople, we could sell 400 to 500 cars a month. Once you get to a certain level, to grow sales, you need more people. Our goal is to sell 4,000 cars on the Internet this year.