Whenever I work with dealerships to improve online sales operations, I ask if the dealer understands the role of the Internet and what's expected of the Internet manager.
The answers come back in multiple forms but generally suggest that the dealer understands an Internet department is necessary, but he or she is unfamiliar with how it all works and doesn't know how to help the Internet manager be more successful.
Both the dealer and the Internet manager agree on a goal of higher sales and profits. But confusion seems to occur in how the department should work and why the results often don't happen in a predictable fashion.
Time and again, I've found the most basic of explanations for that: the dealer has never experienced the role of an Internet manager.
A typical dealer works in various departments during the climb to the top. He or she integrates those first-hand experiences into being a better leader.
Veteran dealers have generally been sales people and sales managers, but the Internet role was not even available when they came up through the ranks.
The same situation occurred when finance departments first started and many dealerships had to integrate these new profit centers into their sales department. Since the automotive Internet started coming of age in the late 1990s, most present-day dealers were in more typical sales management positions and did not learn Internet department skills first-hand. Nor did they ever manage Internet leads.
This is a big concern.
When you manage your dealership staff, you can refer back to when you were in a particular role, and subsequently offer support based on that experience.
I often hear sales managers say, “When I was on the floor…” or dealers say, “When I was the used-car manager…” It gives their sales teams the reassurance of experience. I can only remember a few instances where a sales manager said, “When I was the Internet manager…”
Why is this lack of operational experience with the Internet an issue?
For one thing it means Internet managers are typically working blindly to set up or improve a department.
To their credit I find them trying to read everything they can get their hands on to soak up the best processes and practices.
Secondly, the Internet manager does not have a supervisor who knows how to judge a good or bad performance or whether progress is being made except by the most basic standard of selling vehicles.
Imagine how nice it would be for the Internet manager to hear, “Relax, this will all come together just fine. I remember having a similar issue when I was running this department.”
When a dealer gets involved and supports a department, the manager and the department usually operates at a high level. The opportunity to work with your Internet manager first-hand is available to you and your managers each day.
I recommend working a few leads, responding to some emails and making some calls.
When we first started our dealership's Internet department I handled all the leads myself just to find out what we would need as we tapped into this growing opportunity.
This was great experience and allowed me to help shape a successful department. Selling over the Internet is something we all need to experience. And I think you'll find it enjoyable and rewarding.
David Kain is president of Kain Automotive Inc. He can be reached at [email protected] 859-533-2626.