Leads were going into the dealership's customer-relationship management system, but they were only occasionally looked at.
Special-finance manager Jimmy told our inquiring regional manager the store “didn't have time” to work our lead program. They were too busy with lot traffic.
Our regional rep tried to discover the underlying issues. Here is what he found:
Jimmy knew special finance well. He had a good knowledge of his lenders, their programs and the niches they fill. He knew his inventory and how to structure deals. He controlled the sales process. He set customer expectations during the credit interviews and knew how to “land cars on customers.”
He was so effective, every task associated with subprime became his. He was doing everything but the test drives. It was little wonder that he felt the dealership had no time to work proactive leads.
The dealership needed a subprime team. No one can do it all. Jimmy was carrying responsibilities that should have been delegated. He was overwhelmed.
In establishing an effective subprime department, look at the individual tasks that need to be accomplished to make sales. Break down those tasks into repeatable and trainable processes.
Some to consider include: taking initial customer interviews, making initial phone calls to set appointments, following up on missed appointments, collecting stipulations, printing contracts/packages and packaging deals.
Does that mean these tasks should never be handled by a special finance manager? No. It comes down to your dealership's volume and the individual's capacity. But think through tasks that can be delegated and build processes to accommodate growth.
There's also this: To Jimmy, lot ups were more valuable than leads. He was comfortable with customers that stood before him but had failed to see the value of leads that had raised their hands and asked for help with financing.
Through questions, our representative showed how leads often come with more information than walk-ins. He asked:
“As you greet individuals that come on the lot, what do you know about them? Do you know their name, address, phone numbers or income? Do you know whether you should show them vehicles or walk them inside to secure financing?
“Do you know their credit score or have permission to pull their bureau? Do you know anything about their ability, stability and willingness that your lenders will be evaluating?“
Jimmy saw the point. If proactive lead programs are worked properly, they not only provide additional “ups“ but “ups on steroids.“ They just aren't in front of you — yet!
Here are several best practices that will help you work smarter and make sure you maximize your return on investment with Subprime leads:
- To prioritize workflow, rate your leads based on your perceived chance of a sale. Your rating should be a function of your customer's credit, job and residence history, down payment, trade equity and capacity to repay a loan.
- Use an A through D rating scale. An “A” you would spot deliver, a “B” you'd spot with the right structure, “C” you'd submit first for approval and “D” is a get-me-done.
- Follow up. Work your “A” leads first, then go down the line. Thoroughly work all leads, just like you do your lot traffic. Don't cherry pick.
- Follow up even if you only have a phone number or incomplete information. Many prospects that provide incomplete information are smart enough to not have everyone pull their bureau. With “hand holding” they can become great customers.
- Customer questions and concerns are not unique. Keep a list of frequently asked questions. Train your staff by them.
Feel free to e-mail me for a checklist of 49.5 Best Practices to SUPERCHARGE Your Subprime Sales & Profits.
Tim Shea is President of Great Direct Concepts, a subprime consulting firm to auto dealers. He is at [email protected] and 800-430 5484.
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