Juan Teran, the 42-year-old sales director for Dewey Ford and Dewey Dodge Jeep, both located in rural Ankeny, Iowa, takes his inspiration where he can find it. He freely admits to converting from a typical “bricks and mortar” car guy to an Internet sales enthusiast after watching his young son Carlos using his XBox chat feature to figure out his next move during a fast-moving online game. He says he knew then that the world had changed and the dealership’s approach to online sales had to ramp up to meet the challenge. A year of Internet initiatives followed and so did the sales. Today the Dewey stores’ Internet teams account for 20 percent of overall sales and Teran and his team are working to increase 2010 sales from 700 to 1,000. We talked with Teran recently about how he achieved that success and what he plans in the days ahead.
Juan, tell me what first attracted you to the auto industry.
After my immigration from Nicaragua in 1984 at the age of 16, I finished high school and enrolled in college the following year. I worked and went to college at the same time. With funds running very tight, I answered a car sales ad that seemed promising since it offered more income potential than what I was earning. My intention was to save money to finish college. As it turned out my education is still ongoing in the car business.
How did you land as sales manager at Dewey Automotive?
I started selling automobiles in 1987 at Hub Chrysler Plymouth South in West Allis, Wisconsin. My automotive career almost came to an end after a couple of weeks of wondering how I was to going to make a living only on commissions. The answers came thanks to a Zig Ziglar tape given to me by my general manager and Zig’s See You at the Top book, which I purchased with what I felt were my last dollars. After working at Hub South for two years I was recruited by a former manager to sell cars at Best Ford and Mazda. It was at Best Ford where I earned the opportunity to join the management team. Since then, I have been blessed to have teamed up with great partners and mentors in all aspects of dealership operations. Today the greatest blessing is the sales and management team we have at Dewey Ford and Dewey Dodge Chrysler Jeep, which include the warriors, as we called them, of the brick and mortar sales operation – my colleague and friend Dan Boettcher (general manager), Chris Glen (Internet sales director) Rob Hinds (Internet business manager) and our e-Internet sales managers, Mr. Green, Bruce, David, Andrew, Peter, Jaime, Steph and Sherry.
Give us some background on the company.
Dewey Ford has been in business for over 40 years and has been a pillar of the community with a strong reputation for easy dealing and great customer service. The impressive thing about Dewey is the fact that there are team members who’ve been with the company since the beginning. Thanks to everyone’s efforts in sales and service, our parent company, the Ken Garff Automotive Group out of Utah, was able to expand with the acquisition of Dewey Ford in 2007. That’s also the year I joined Dewey Ford. By August 2008 the Dodge Jeep brands were added to the Dewey name and today we sell Chryslers as well.
Was the store using technology smartly when you arrived?
I believe technology was being used adequately, but the use of it and the process was more BDC style, where leads were handed out to the sales staff and not directed to a specific Internet sales team.
Even in this tough market your stores are improving Internet sales. What are your total unit/dollars sales this year versus last? What portion is from online sales?
I am humbled by the effort that every team member has put forth to make this a successful year. It gives me great joy to say that as a team we will have delivered over 3,500 vehicles this year. In comparison to last year, sales are up 8 percent at Dewey Ford and 7 percent at Dewey Dodge. It is important to mention that in 2008 the number of online sales was only 7 percent. For 2009 the Internet sales team has been responsible for 20 percent of the overall sales, which translates to 700 online sales.
How did you manage to improve?
I had an epiphany when I saw my 9-year-old son, Carlos, playing his X box against other players around the world. My son was discussing via chat an attack strategy with his friend Patrick and his cousin Scott…all of them miles away from each other…but all of them connected on the Internet. The revelation was this…that if we did not radically change our Internet sales strategy, just like dinosaurs… we would also be extinct. I realized right then, that in the long haul we would not survive with brick and mortar sales initiatives alone, because the world today lives, plays, shops and interacts on the Internet. I shared this realization with Dan, our general manager, and we agreed that our managers’ buy in was necessary to change our e-commerce strategy. Together, we set forth a plan that involved revamping our Internet sales process and our brick and mortar culture toward it. We made improvements to our web site on a daily basis; we brought in world class Internet trainer Jennifer Suzuki with E-Dealer Solutions to share new ideas with our dedicated Internet sales managers; we asked our marketing partners at Carrera and Fiorini to host a new web site and to manage SEO and SEM. From the onset, even though we stare at cornfields from our dealerships, we are all committed to a strategy of continuous improvement to ensure our success. The formula was simple: the right people plus a new process equaled desired results.
Are you doing anything else to build on your success?
2009 was a great year and we are excited about the opportunities that 2010 will bring. We know that our Internet team will help us increase sales this year. Our goal is to sell 1,000 vehicles just via the Internet. We know that in order to accomplish that goal, we must embrace change so that we can excel as market leaders. As we speak, we are changing, starting with a series of marketing initiatives at the regional level. In addition, we are also visiting with our partners to set in motion the initiatives that will help us serve and have a larger national market reach.
How critical are Internet sales at Dewey?
The importance of what the Internet sales department means at Dewey can be summarized in a simple statement… they are as essential as oxygen…they are the difference that makes us profitable.
What’s the process for receiving and distributing Internet leads?
All of our Internet leads go through a round robin process to our dedicated Internet sales managers.
Do you have one or several web sites?
We have four web sites: DeweyFord.com, DeweyDodgeChryslerJeep.com, DeweyDodgeJeep.net. We also have DeweyTube.com, which is a hybrid between a home page for the other web sites and a social network site.
What lead-generation tools work best on your sites?
We have a high closing ratio with our credit applications and we also do very well with our Blackbook appraisal tool.
How do you use SEO?
Our partners at Carrera and Fiorini help us with SEO so that we can drive traffic and generate leads to our web sites by ranking high in the search engines for phrases that surfers use when shopping for cars, service, parts, etc.
How are you finding those ‘better’ keywords for SEM?
We are finding key phrases by examining weblogs for converting key words, by using a little intuition, which sometimes goes a long way, and by having discussions with our marketing partners at Carrera. Our experience and their expertise has been a good mix. For phrases that do not rank high organically, we then use PPC.
How do you use e-mail campaigns?
We e-mail campaigns throughout the month, which mirror the messages we have on traditional media. We utilize our CRM for client collection of specific target vehicles we need for our used car departments. We target clients in equity, we send service reminders and we also keep in touch with our customers with e-newsletters. We also borrow the idea of sending “teasers” to help us build excitement before a new product is coming out or before special events. It is very rewarding to see customers show up with their invitations and seeing them take delivery of their new or pre-owned vehicles and thanking us for the hassle-free experience.
What about your marketing expenses? Are they increasing or decreasing?
This year has been about practicing extreme expense control discipline. Our Internet sales team has had a tremendous impact in helping us reduce expenses while gaining sales in comparison to last year.
What’s the marketing mix between traditional and online?
In 2009, the mix was 70 percent traditional and 30 percent online. This data is helping us realize that the dollars spent to generate a sales and overall Internet presence give us an ROI with components that are easier to track and manage…which begs the question… do we flip the ratios? For a brick and mortar car guy this could be a bit frightening, but in this fast changing environment, it has become a serious consideration.
Are you big in the social networking arena?
This is an area that we encourage our entire sales team to utilize from the comfort of their homes. We are careful, however, because of the sensitive contents that can be viewed or the language that sometimes gets posted on those sites. We understand the exponential marketing power it has, nevertheless, we thread cautiously in those waters.
What new technology trends are you spotting?
Mobile web sites, software to automatically post updates and load content to social media networks, and software to host dealer’s inventory on the social networks might be the next big idea. In conversing with our partners, we wonder about the future battle of the portals…who will win? Google or social networks?
How does the group manage pre-owned inventory?
We do not stress new over pre-owned sales. Ideally, we would like to see a one-to-one ratio. The hard data indicates a 60 percent used and 40 percent new ratio. Our inventory policy is 60 days for used vehicles and there have been months that we have managed the same turn in new Fords. Today both Ford and Chrysler goals, as well as ours, is to have a 60-day inventory across the board…which we all know…takes a great deal of work…but it is becoming the paramount discipline to remain profitable.
What else – technology or sales philosophy – sets you apart as a dealer group?
I do not attribute our success to technology. I do believe that technology is important, but it’s like the newest set of irons or the newest and biggest driver in golf, both supposed to make you a better golfer when the reality is that if the basics of the swing are messy, the score at the end of the round will be just as messy and the game not enjoyable. That said, I believe that it is our people and our teamwork, coupled with our Internet sales process, that has delivered and will continue to deliver great results, as long as we always go the extra mile for our customers and for each other.
What’s your typical work week like and what do you do to relax outside of work?
For most of our team, we get to see great sunrises and great moonlights over cornfields from the windows of our showroom on a daily basis. We reward ourselves by spending time with the people we love and motivate us to work hard…our families. For me to relax it’s as simple as a watching sports, listening to an up-and-coming musician play the piano, or a game of chess… and for all of it, I am thankful to my inspiration and the greatest love of my life, my son Carlos.