It’s that time of the year again…just like every other day this year…

Budgets, shows, travel and planning for the coming year all while selling and not spending any more money (especially in November and December).  Let’s see…two of the biggest industry Internet events in the same week.  Nobody wins on that one.  Dealers, many already stretched to the breaking point, have to decide what more to do with less rather than spending (read: smarter) in a down market, which is what you need to do.

Rather than jump on opportunity and work more efficiently, most Internet sales staffs out there are still doing the same just-above-average jobs.  And then there’s the floor…well that term itself refers to lowest common denominator and that is what you get these days.  Dealers (and their vendors/suppliers) have to decide every day to work harder, smarter and more effectively, all while leveraging their software, hardware and peopleware before they end up going nowhere.

What is the rest of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 (which is around the corner) going to mean for you?  Are the GMs and GSMs going to start engaging their Internet departments the same way they do ‘regular’ floor sales and service?  It’s time to evaluate and make decisions on so many fronts.  Where are your web strategies and budgets?  If you take away your website (if you pay for one) and lead expenses, you need to spend more than $0 online.  Many are talking about 30% plus of your budget and recently I find myself begging dealers to get to the 10% mark.  And don’t forget the ‘plan’ part because you absolutely positively have to draw out a marketing plan rather than using the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-advertise-it-when-it’s-been-here-78-days-advertising-plan.

There are so many discussions about CRM out there…it’s time to learn how to text customers from email.  Yes, from email.  That is a starting point.  Then, get your staff trained and retrained on the products you pay dearly for.  Then like professional organizations do role play your staff, test your staff, grade your staff, review your staff (objectively if you can) and improve your staff.

It’s time to ask our order takers to become sales professionals again and assist or guide customers through their buying experience.  Customers holding on to their cars longer?  Don’t ask them about an extended service contract, you might just close them on it!

Years ago in the sporting goods industry, I learned a valuable lesson.  Especially partaking in what many would consider completely discretionary expenditures, it was our job to sell our brand, service and expertise when many people were comparing to like products with less than $100 separating our product form the competition down the street (typically $50).  It’s not enough to come in to work in the morning, turn on the OPEN sign, crank the register and sit.  That’s exactly what we do in the automotive retail business and it’s time that we changed that…or we will be selling the proverbial $200 bicycle all day long and talking about the country club a heck of a lot less.

Best practices: Professional Insight, Powerful Results