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October 15, 2019
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Dealership Interviews:

Episode: #10

Greg Iverson with Felix Chevrolet

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:07] Hello, everybody. This is Kelly Kleinman. And you are listening to the DealershipNews.com podcast, where we spotlight the who’s happening in the automotive industry. It’s footsoldiers, visionaries, salesmen, GM’s, owners, service managers and industry vendors alike. Our guest today is Mr. Greg Iverson, the Internet BDC marketing director at Felix Chevrolet. Good afternoon.

Greg Iverson: [00:00:31] Good afternoon. Kelly.. How are you, sir?

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:33] I am doing great. And I am very happy to be speaking with you this afternoon. Before we get into how cool your job is. Let’s talk about what got you into the car business to begin with. Was it something that you always loved? Are you a marketing guy or did you sort of slide in the auto business organically and make the most of it?

Greg Iverson: [00:00:53] That’s a great question. You know, I for years I’ve heard that the car industry is kind of an accidental business. And for me, it was just that I was working for Sony Records and was in Australia bouncing back from Los Angeles to Sydney. And I met Holden Reps. Holden is a General Motors car down in Australia. And I met some American guys working down there. This was 1993 and there was a certain pub that we would all frequent.

Greg Iverson: [00:01:20] It was the only place to get good cranberry juice in Sydney. And we were drinking it straight just so everybody knows we weren’t mixing it with anything. But just over two or three months of conversing with these guys and the opportunities, I ended up signing up with General Motors coming on board as a rep to teach people about the cars just kind of, you know, walk around knowledge and basic. They were going to train me. Three months later, I moved to Sydney. And within three or four months of being on the job and visiting eight or nine dealerships in the Sydney area, I had two or three owners telling me that not that I was wasting my time, but that would make more money and have more fun selling cars. So in 1994, I ended up going to a Holden group, Hunter Holden, which is in Sydney, St Leonard’s, North Sydney, six dealerships. And that’s how I started selling Holdens in Australia.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:12] Holy cow. Do you. I should say holy wombat. You do you miss in Australia? No.

Greg Iverson: [00:02:18] Yeah, I tell you what, for any American that is looking to vacation, definitely make sure you go there. But if you’re ever looking for a place to live, you know, not that I would live anywhere. I’d lived there for five years and was happy to get back. It is a fantastic place for Americans. There’s a lot of American culture there. We kind of come from the same cut of cloth. And it’s it’s kind of the Americans that I met down there that were living there said it reminded them of California in the 1950s. So very clean. You really don’t see homeless people. But one of the most fantastic places on earth.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:51] Yeah. My brother in-law lived in Perth for a while. I think he still lives here, but he works in Singapore. He opened up the Nobu in Perth. So he’s a sushi guy. Yeah.

Greg Iverson: [00:03:01] So you see Perth as a fantastic city, the most the most isolated city in the world with over a million population. So it’s a it’s a bit of a trek. So. But it is a beautiful place.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:03:12] Sounds good to me. I wouldn’t mind spending a little bit of time. Actually, we plan on that two years from now. We’re going to be going there, Maui, next year to celebrate my kids graduating from high school. Then we’re gonna go to Perth. So congratulations.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:03:24] Thanks. We’re going to fast forward. You spent you spent five years at Norm Reeves Honda, the top Honda dealer in the world. Pretty much setting the bar for Internet BDC in the industry. You went on to turn a number of other dealerships around and now you’re at Felix pretty much doing the same. Talk to us about your career path and how you’ve turned Felix Chevrolet into the fifth fastest growing Chevrolet dealer on planet Earth.

Greg Iverson: [00:03:50] Well, yeah, I mean, when I stayed in Australia for five years, pretty much stayed as a salesman, but was lucky enough to meet Tom Stooker and Tom Stooker, you know, has a training Australian Training Institute in Sydney. And going to his training, I kind of hooked up with him being the only American in the group and was offered a job in ’98. When I got back from Australia to work with him out of Hoffman Estates, Illinois, I ended up going to Toyota of North Hollywood, which is I live in Burbank and I kind of put Tom off for a year or two. So when I got back in ’98, Internet was kind of just starting and my general manager, I was hired as its sales trainer, wanted me to delve into Internet, which I did. It was I would say everything is kind of the same. It’s a it’s a people business. The margins are definitely different. And the way it works is different. But from North Hollywood Toyota, I followed my GSM to the Keyes group, spent five years with the Keys Automotive Group at a Toyota dealership in running the Internet and in nine excuse me in 2008 went to Norm Reeves Honda was recruited by them. And as you said, yeah, we used to joke. It’s the biggest Honda dealership left of Jupiter, you know, doing a thousand to twelve hundred cars a month. They hit in ’08 with the economy.

[00:05:04] And then the following year with the tsunami. Honda took a hit on imported cars and the market took a hit. But the store was still managing to do seven, eight hundred cars a month and spent five years there. From there, I went to CarPros, Kia, the largest KIA group in the country, spent two years there and was recruited by Darrell Holter, the president of downtown L.A. Motor Group, two years ago. So two years ago, they own pretty much all the dealerships in downtown Los Angeles from Nissan to Porsche, Audi and Volkswagen. And they had a Nissan dealership in Carson. And I was brought on board as kind of a platform manager for Internet. And within six months, they decided to sell pretty much all of the stores except the Felix store to the Lithia Auto Group, which now owns the dealerships, not the land, but the land is held by the family. And two years ago, I came on board at Felix Chevrolet to a store that I don’t want to say was left to the wayside. But the past 10 years, the Seamus group had spent a lot of money refurbishing all the dealerships, new buildings. And Felix, in a sense, was left to the wayside. So when I got here two years ago, the store was really underperforming and was in a bit of a ditch.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:06:23] Yeah, it’s not in the ditch anymore. We before.

Greg Iverson: [00:06:26] No, sir,.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:06:27] Not at all. You’ve done a great job. But before we get into that, let’s talk about when you do get into a dealership, you’ve been brought on for whatever reason, obviously for a turnaround. What are the essentials in creating well to Internet sales department? And what does your checklist look like when you are called on to turn things around?

Greg Iverson: [00:06:47] You know, I guess, you know, everybody out there listening, you know, you have mentors and you learn along the way and, you know, hopefully you have some smart car people teaching you. And I was very fortunate. The people in Australia, the operators down there were very the Kaplan family, which ran Hunter Holden, and they always talked about what they said, the triple P’s policy, processes and people. And that kind of stuck with me and Tom Snooker had a different version of that. But my first thing is I first thing I want to see is I want to see the policies in the store, what they implement, what they want done. Second is processes. And then finally, we get to the staff, the people, and look at how those people are performing within those processes and policies. And that’ll give you kind of an indicator of a few things. Maybe we don’t have the right people, maybe our process isn’t right. And, you know, definitely from what I’ve seen in 24 years, 25 years, is that, you know, you really need to have all three in line for things to work.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:07:44] It’s the perfect the perfect segway for our next question. You talked about the three P’s policy, processes and people. It’s talk about people for a moment in that would be what kind of attention is spent on cultural diversification, your online marketing. Can you even do that in online marketing?

Greg Iverson: [00:08:00] You know, that’s a great question, and, you know, it’s it’s really, I guess, first of all, is going to be based geographically where you’re at. I mean, you know, America is a multicultural country where we are located in Los Angeles. We’ve been in the same place since 1955. You know, over the years, the demographics have changed. In this part of L.A., we’re actually right across from USC to college. Currently, about 75 percent of the people that live within 15 miles of our dealership, which is the highly most densely populated area in L.A., 75 percent are Hispanic. And that can be a combination of Mexican Americans. That can be a combination of Central Americans. And then you start delving off into different things. We have advertising 70 to 75 percent of our sales people speak Spanish. 75 percent of our advertising is Hispanic, whether it’s TV and radio. And then you kind of go into little subcultures, too, because, you know, the Spanish is different in El Salvador than it is in Mexico. And you kind of have different tactics as far as language in certain words. So it gets a little bit more complicated than people think. But, you know, one thing, too, is 85 to 90 percent of Hispanics do speak English. And I’d say a good half of them would rather speak English. So it’s kind of a fine line. You’re trying to cover all your bases without insulting people. But ultimately, you know, you have to make sure that your message gets out there to everybody.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:09:26] And we actually have a article and a series of articles going out about cultural diversity. And we are in the process of putting that together, both from a marketing standpoint, in a hiring standpoint. And we all know that for any dealer to have success, it needs to be a cost effective talent acquisition process in play. Obviously, you have that. I’m curious as to what system or vendor do you use to attract candidates and what characteristics do you look for when seeking talent that can effectively execute said game plan?

Greg Iverson: [00:09:57] Ok. Another great question. Well, I mean, we’ve got multi levels. You know, all dealerships now are probably online with their H.R. in their store. And most of these companies will use a company called H.R. Hot Link do have the ability to do recruiting for you. I do work with a company that is GM recommended called Pro’s PR OS and they do recruiting for me. And fortunately, in the last two years, in the last year, we’re the fastest growing Chevy dealership in the country. And this year, we are fifth in the zone, which is basically 75 dealerships from Santa Barbara down to San Diego. So getting to the last point, you know, professional salespeople, guys that are Chevy guys or gals, too, that are GM, you know, experience, you know, they look at the top stores in L.A., you have a real class of professional salesmen. I don’t wanna say that bounce around a lot, but when they are looking to go to another store, they know what stores are performing. So in the past two years, that has helped us, you know, basically have walking applications. My H.R. company does a great job, you know, basically online platforms, whether it’s through Monster and there’s other platforms for jobs. We do that also internally with our pros recruitment. And, you know, as far as what I’m looking for. I mean, you know, California is pretty litigious. I have to do background checks on everybody, which is a combination of their driving records. So there’s DMV checks involved and they have to have sales license in California, which ties in the DMV again. And then ultimately we do drug testing. So, you know, our first kind of hurdle is to make sure that those those tests are passed and then we can move on to the interviewing stage. And, you know, depending on the store, normally up we looked at, you know, for the lack of a better term, Greenpeace people new to the industry.

Greg Iverson: [00:11:40] But we had a training, a little college where they would go for five or six days. And we had a group of trainers that spent their time doing that. So I always look at onboarding new people if it’s possible. I think smaller stores and I just feel it’s in a sense would be a smaller store. It’s a little bit harder for us. So I do look for GM experience, you know, as far as a language, you know, once again, most of our business is Hispanic, but most of the Hispanic speak English. So if you don’t speak Spanish, it’s not you know, it doesn’t really change anything. It’s not going to kill you. Obviously, if you do speak Spanish, that’s an extra asset that you have. And, you know, everybody interviews a little bit different. I’d like to kind of role play and go over what the job entails. And for me, it’s all about driving traffic. If you’re selling cars in an Internet department and you’re in front of your CRM and you’re getting leads, really what makes it happen is your phone calls and your phone skills. So I’d like to do a little bit of roleplaying. You know, I’ll play an easy customer. I’ll play a tough customer. I want to see how they handle objections, how they swept Segway into the next area. And, you know, in checking references, you know, it’s it’s it’s something that I don’t think a lot of people do, but it’s a good thing to check references. And then I think tied into the background and the drug testing and the DMV checks gives you a pretty good indicator of somebodies character.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:13:00] Yeah, no, I agree. And it is a fact that most people don’t check references. It’s tough to find good help, especially now in automotive, especially in certain towns. I know that a group that I just interviewed out of Colorado, out of Denver, I believe we’re discussing that issue. It’s where they were and there was no unemployment issue whatsoever. So they have to you have to hire from other dealerships or they go out there and trying to find people who are newbies, basically, but have the I mean, the the wherewithal and the desire to kind of take a look at the opportunities that that are with them and that dealership. So let’s talk about media sources which provide you with the best traffic and or leads. Who do you use? What are some of the vendors that you’ve brought into the dealership that you feel to do a good job by you?

Greg Iverson: [00:13:51] Well, you know, that’s another great question, sir. I’m tied to Fox dealer. They’re based out of Pasadena. I like it that their local fox dealer is a Web site provider.

Greg Iverson: [00:14:03] They do. They have all aspects of my search as CEO, ACM, ACIM paper click. You know, being with Chevy, you know, certain OEMs want. Yeah, you know, Chevy does a lot of stuff with C.D. K. I believe they signed up naked lines, naked lines. So it’s kind of like all the car manufacturers. You’ll get a list of who you can work with. And generally, it’s all about co-op, who you can work with. That’s co-op. And from there, you move on. I’ve worked with dealer dot.com. I’ve worked with SDK. I’ve worked with, you know, pretty much all the big ones out there. Fox dealer in the past five years has kind of become hot news in Los Angeles on the West Coast. Their Web sites are, you know, have a different feel to it. They’re FCO and SVM is unbelievable. They are actually GM certified and have that co-op ability. And I think infinities pick them up and also Harley-Davidson Davidson. So, you know, with with 20 years of doing this, I’ve kind of had experience with all of them, but I really look to Fox for most of my stuff. Obviously, I have OEM leads like I think all dealerships now are buying leads from the manufacturers. So there’s a certain quota that I have to get from Chevy. And to be quite frank, they’re really not that bad of leads as far as third party vendors. You know, it’s kind of across the board. I tell people you’re never really gonna get the same closing percentages. I try to look at lead providers or third party lead providers as kind of like a buffet.

Greg Iverson: [00:15:31] You know what? I’m going through the buffet line. Some of this stuff is going to be a little bit more expensive than the other. But ultimately unfold, you know, not to expect. Yeah. Ultimately, you know, my my paper, my cost per sale might be a little bit different. My cost per lead. But you’re never gonna find all of them. And what I want to do is I want a buffet of lead providers, because my job is you know, I’ve been told this for 20 years to sell me all the cars for all the money with all the good CSI. So the third parties up and down. I’ve had good luck with cars, dot.com in certain parts of Los Angeles and in other parts. I haven’t. They’re tied into the newspaper, The L.A. Times. So some of that’ll make a difference based on subscription areas. I’ve dabbled with TrueCar on and off. It’s you know, there’s some legal issues going on with TrueCar that this company really can’t get involved with at this point. But I’ve worked with car gurus who I really do like their used car leads and their platform and their back in tool is really kind of whiz bang. And and I enjoy working with them. I also have cars direct. I do a little bit of spy fi with cars direct. My store inherently is kind of a special finance store just because of the location. And, you know, that is basically it.

Greg Iverson: [00:16:44] My quest, all you see is me auto trader. Hey, I’m sorry. I’m pulling up my provider, sir. I do have auto trader that when I kind of set it and forget it, our general manager, who is actually an excuse car guy and is good with auto trader, kind of loves to handle that himself.

Greg Iverson: [00:16:57] And we do have the Edmunds platform. So I do enjoy Edmunds. I think Edmunds is one of the better platforms out there that that maybe has been lost in the shuffle recently.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:17:07] Question about the type of traffic and the type of leads now. You mentioned that you you’re a fan of car gurus. We did a we have a magazine coming out actually. We’ll be getting it. It’s going out to sixteen thousand seven hundred dealers. And it does a comparison between car gurus and cars dot.com. So you might find that interesting. It’s strictly based on what I consider the six main metrics based on traffic onto the Web site and how that traffic behaves. So we think about it, right. It’s a pretty, pretty holistic look at, I’d say about a hundred seventy five car dealers when we came down with a conclusion. But there’s not that much difference between them, frankly. Here’s the question. Would you prefer direct paid into organic traffic? Where do you get better closing metrics from those third party providers? Those cars that Gonski argue is auto traders.

Greg Iverson: [00:17:58] You know, the one thing regarding organic because of who we are, Felix Chevrolet, and we instill it into our employees. I mean, there’s history in the walls. You know, when you look at our our great organic numbers, I mean, they’re off the chart. People are literally just going and looking specifically for us. And for a number of reasons.

Greg Iverson: [00:18:15] It’s not you know, we we have, you know, Felix Chevrolet gear, the t shirts, the hats. I mean, we place orders. You know, people are ordering stuff from China. So but as far as you know, it’s kind of a weird mix. I our CEO and SVM work very well. Ultimately, you know, my third party providers are probably two or three percentage points, meaning six, seven, eight percent closing ratio compared to my pure organic stuff coming through my website and stuff coming through. So. So Cal Sevier.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:18:45] Interesting. What about Facebook Marketplace?

Greg Iverson: [00:18:50] Yeah, we’re involved in that. We’ve got here two years ago and like I said, the store was lacking in a lot of areas. One of it was Facebook. They did have a program where they were posting pictures of people who who bought cars next to the salesman, which I think is all great. But I you know, I try not to use a platform as like a hard sell for me. I try to look at it as like I’m in somebodies backyard at a barbecue and I’m trying to make friends. Sure. So we do a number of things because of who we are. You know, our Felix the Cat statue is at the L.A. Museum for a national show. And we try to, you know, incorporate a lot of the community stuff. We work with the local police departments. We sponsor Special Olympics down here. We sponsor events at USC. We sponsor events with the downtown L.A. business corridor, the Figaro, a business corridor. So we try to you know, we try to kind of stay away from a hard sell on Facebook, but we do kind of incorporate where we just have a lot of Felix Chevrolet fans. People want to know what we’re doing in the community. They want to see what new T-shirts we came out with. They do like to take a look at the new blazer that came out with. But I would say about 75 percent of our content on Facebook is is not directly sales related to buying a specific car.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:20:06] I look at the pictures that salesmen have, they’re posing with somebody that just sold a vehicle to. That’s sort of the spin. It is a big game display here, the head of the right head display in the man cave.

Greg Iverson: [00:20:22] But nonetheless, I mean, I remember the day where people would take the Polaroids. This is in the 90s and put it in their workstation. And yeah, I mean, I think that stuff is effective. You know, you got you got somebody sitting at your desk and they see a few hundred pictures of happy people. It can’t hurt you. But I think with the diversity of Facebook and the amount of people that it reaches, you know, there’s a better way to do it as you gauge the efficacy of your marketing efforts.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:20:47] How deep a dive do you take at the analytics in determining what really works and what you perceived to be working?

Greg Iverson: [00:20:53] Thank you once again, sir. That’s a very good question. You know, a lot of people say they look at stuff and I’ve been in a lot of these, you know, monthly ad meetings and, you know, a lot of people look for the numbers that they want to look for. We delve down pretty deep. Foxes is their support team is really good. They they come out, you know, being that they’re 12 miles away from us. My rep comes out every month and we sit down for an hour and we look at my spend and we look at how much my cost per click is. So I would advise, you know, to people in the beginning, I had no idea of what this what any of this stuff was. And I learned along the way for a number of reasons. One is just I just wanted to know myself. But, you know, my advice is, you know, if you if you’re not sure about it, have your rep explain things to you. And it is the Dells or the dive is well worth it. You really want to go.

Greg Iverson: [00:21:41] And when you’re spending, you know, 10, we’re spending upwards of twenty two thousand a month, you know, on all this stuff. It’s well worth to look into what’s working, what areas are working. Where am I pulling my traffic from? Maybe I can pull back in this area and add to another. So instead of sitting in the meetings and just kind of nodding your head, you know, agreeing with what your rep is telling you, you you might want to, you know, go another way.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:22:06] Are you familiar with auto flight by any chance? No, sir. They have metrics broken down like you can’t believe they’re actually we’re doing an article on them in our magazine. I’m out. I’ll send you a link. You could check them out. What they can provide for marketing purposes to any dealership is unbelievable. They know who’s selling what. How many they’ve sold, what they’re selling for price wise. You know what your competitors are doing, not only rather shabby dealers, but other car dealers. It’s out there. I think they get it from urban science, but they have an impressive array of of data sets up.

Greg Iverson: [00:22:41] What does that kind of use to be auto? Yeah, we kind of use vAuto for the used car side of that. Certainly interesting to see how that plays on the new car side.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:22:47] Yeah. Yeah. I’ll send you a link. Talk to me about what the dealership does to give back to the community.

Greg Iverson: [00:22:55] You know, this dealership. I mean, the history of this dealership could almost be a made for TV movie. And, you know, I think it’s actually gonna be on 60 Minutes in about a year and a half. We’re coming up on our hundredth anniversary in 2021. Sell even more. It’s really interesting. But no. It’s a family owned business. The Sharma’s family has owned it since 1955. And from that, they built it into an empire. And they come from rather humble beginnings. I mean, the original owner, Nick Seamus, bought the dealership from the owners in the 50s and and was curbing cars in front of his house during high school. So the kid was a born salesman. He immediately got involved with the community. As far as donating to Christmas funds, the homeless problem really wasn’t as bad as it was in the 50s. But I think he started the way for the daughters and Darryl Holter, who have taken over in the past 20 years. So we’re involved with the LAPD, the Southwest Police Division. We donate cars to them for events. They do these runs every year.

Greg Iverson: [00:23:56] Baker to Las Vegas. We donate vehicles for the police officers. Involved with the L.A. car show, which actually the original owner, Winslow Felix, was one of the originators of the L.A. car show over 100 years ago. And you know, Darrell are CEO and president, you know, always talks about the only reason we’re here is because of our community. These people come in and spend money with us and we have to make sure we take care of them. So, you know, we are really all over the place. We’re getting ready to do a golf tournament. Once again, Southwest Police Division over in Rancho Cucamonga. We go out there at 7:00 in the morning and two days of golf for the police officers, the Special Olympics. We just finished about two months ago. We’re involved with USC. The students, the fraternities and sororities have these events on campus where it’s kind of it can be anything from a book fair. Last year, they did like a book fair tied into a Harry Potter costume event. We donated cars, you know, for the event. We do a raffle.

Greg Iverson: [00:24:55] So, you know, being where we’re at and downtown Los Angeles, I just mentioned it a few minutes ago. Our Felix the Cat statue, one of the originals in our showroom is at the Italian American Museum. We donate money to the museum down there for a number of events. And the owners are truly philanthropists in many ways,.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:25:13] Why do I suddenly feel like buying a car from you, sir?

Greg Iverson: [00:25:18] Don’t worry. We can we can work that out for you. And here you go. Well, you know.

Greg Iverson: [00:25:22] You know, I got into this business for a number of reasons. But, you know, it’s really a people business. So, you know, going back to the interview process, you know, you got to be into. I mean, cars is one thing, but you have to be into, you know, talking to people and having a conversation and having it be real. And and, you know, Officer, if you bought a car for me, I promise that I take care of you. OK. No worries.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:25:42] I do believe that I’m not so satisfied with the last couple folks that bought a car from Mother’s Day that I might be looking for a pickup here soon. I’ll let you know. Hey, it’s funny.

Greg Iverson: [00:25:51] My mom my mom’s 75 and I sent her out last year to go shopping and she called me about two dealerships in. And she goes, now I know why you do pretty good. I go, why she goes, these car salesmen. They keep wanting my phone number and I telling them no. So as I tell people, we don’t have people from Stanford or M.I.T. knocking down our doors. It really is kind of an accidental business. And I think if you have, you know, a combination of good people skills and you’re genuine and you’re willing to work, you’ll do fine.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:26:18] Yeah. Where do you where do you see the automotive business in 10 years? Well, the percentage of online sales match or exceed on site sales by then. Any idea?

Greg Iverson: [00:26:30] You know, that’s an interesting question. I get that ask that a lot. I mean, other than how things are gonna be, what cars are going to be Iran, are they all going to be, you know, hydrogen or they’re going to be electric or. I think one thing is that you’re probably going to see less number of dealerships. I think that you’re going to see bigger and bigger groups buying up stores and maybe making it less competitive. It seems to be happening in L.A. where you had, you know, the 0 8 crash was kind of it where you had, you know, 50 GM dealerships within 30 square miles and now there’s maybe 22.

Greg Iverson: [00:27:01] And I think with devices, I mean, for me, it’s you know, and I tell my retail guys this, you know, 95 percent of your customers have been online. They just have not submitted a lead. So pretty much everybody is shopping online. The number I think is going to change in a sense. I think like Roadster is one of the companies out there that’s kind of interesting. And and drive AECOM logistically, you know, doing this online business where you’re at home, you know, companies like Car Varna. I am skeptical about that. And I think it’s for a number of reasons. One is liability. You know, I mean, you know, if all 30 of my deliveries, you know, on a Saturday meant that I had to send people to somebodies houses. You know, that’s. I mean, there’s going to be an accident every now and then. So I are the car. Maybe there’s something wrong and then they’ve got to come back. I think the way it’s set up now where people want to come in, they want to kick tires, they can get all the information in advance, which is what they have right now. But I think from a standpoint of liability, I really don’t see these companies like Roadster taking over half the business where people are sitting at home eating a sandwich, waiting for the car to be delivered. I think there’ll be a percentage of that. And as far as online sales. Yeah, I think, you know, incrementally, it’s just going to go up and up. And as devices change, you know, everyone is on smartphones. Who knows what’s around the corner in 10 years or 20 years as technology changes and makes things easier for people to gather information. I think there’s going to be a point where probably 100 percent of every car sell the customer has been online. They’ve done the research. And, you know, the question then will be just what percentage are submitting leads.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:28:35] Well, I want to thank you so much for spending some time with us today, folks. That’s Greg Iverson. Greg, great interview.

Greg Iverson: [00:28:43] Thank you, sir. You have a great day. And hello to everybody. Hope everybody good out there.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:28:46] All the best to you. He is the Internet BDC marketing director at Feeling Chevrolet. I am Kelly Kleinman. This is the DealershipNews.com podcast signing off for a Monday afternoon. Have a good day, everybody.

Episode: #9

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Felix Chevrolet Greg Iverson.wav

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:07] Hello, everybody. This is Kelly Kleinman. And you are listening to the DealershipNews.com podcast, where we spotlight the who’s happening in the automotive industry. It’s footsoldiers, visionaries, salesmen, GM’s, owners, service managers and industry vendors alike. Our guest today is Mr. Greg Iverson, the Internet BDC marketing director at Felix Chevrolet. Good afternoon.

Greg Iverson: [00:00:31] Good afternoon. Kelly.. How are you, sir?

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:33] I am doing great. And I am very happy to be speaking with you this afternoon. Before we get into how cool your job is. Let’s talk about what got you into the car business to begin with. Was it something that you always loved? Are you a marketing guy or did you sort of slide in the auto business organically and make the most of it?

Greg Iverson: [00:00:53] That’s a great question. You know, I for years I’ve heard that the car industry is kind of an accidental business. And for me, it was just that I was working for Sony Records and was in Australia bouncing back from Los Angeles to Sydney. And I met Holden Reps. Holden is a General Motors car down in Australia. And I met some American guys working down there. This was 1993 and there was a certain pub that we would all frequent.

Greg Iverson: [00:01:20] It was the only place to get good cranberry juice in Sydney. And we were drinking it straight just so everybody knows we weren’t mixing it with anything. But just over two or three months of conversing with these guys and the opportunities, I ended up signing up with General Motors coming on board as a rep to teach people about the cars just kind of, you know, walk around knowledge and basic. They were going to train me. Three months later, I moved to Sydney. And within three or four months of being on the job and visiting eight or nine dealerships in the Sydney area, I had two or three owners telling me that not that I was wasting my time, but that would make more money and have more fun selling cars. So in 1994, I ended up going to a Holden group, Hunter Holden, which is in Sydney, St Leonard’s, North Sydney, six dealerships. And that’s how I started selling Holdens in Australia.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:12] Holy cow. Do you. I should say holy wombat. You do you miss in Australia? No.

Greg Iverson: [00:02:18] Yeah, I tell you what, for any American that is looking to vacation, definitely make sure you go there. But if you’re ever looking for a place to live, you know, not that I would live anywhere. I’d lived there for five years and was happy to get back. It is a fantastic place for Americans. There’s a lot of American culture there. We kind of come from the same cut of cloth. And it’s it’s kind of the Americans that I met down there that were living there said it reminded them of California in the 1950s. So very clean. You really don’t see homeless people. But one of the most fantastic places on earth.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:51] Yeah. My brother in-law lived in Perth for a while. I think he still lives here, but he works in Singapore. He opened up the Nobu in Perth. So he’s a sushi guy. Yeah.

Greg Iverson: [00:03:01] So you see Perth as a fantastic city, the most the most isolated city in the world with over a million population. So it’s a it’s a bit of a trek. So. But it is a beautiful place.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:03:12] Sounds good to me. I wouldn’t mind spending a little bit of time. Actually, we plan on that two years from now. We’re going to be going there, Maui, next year to celebrate my kids graduating from high school. Then we’re gonna go to Perth. So congratulations.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:03:24] Thanks. We’re going to fast forward. You spent you spent five years at Norm Reeves Honda, the top Honda dealer in the world. Pretty much setting the bar for Internet BDC in the industry. You went on to turn a number of other dealerships around and now you’re at Felix pretty much doing the same. Talk to us about your career path and how you’ve turned Felix Chevrolet into the fifth fastest growing Chevrolet dealer on planet Earth.

Greg Iverson: [00:03:50] Well, yeah, I mean, when I stayed in Australia for five years, pretty much stayed as a salesman, but was lucky enough to meet Tom Stooker and Tom Stooker, you know, has a training Australian Training Institute in Sydney. And going to his training, I kind of hooked up with him being the only American in the group and was offered a job in ’98. When I got back from Australia to work with him out of Hoffman Estates, Illinois, I ended up going to Toyota of North Hollywood, which is I live in Burbank and I kind of put Tom off for a year or two. So when I got back in ’98, Internet was kind of just starting and my general manager, I was hired as its sales trainer, wanted me to delve into Internet, which I did. It was I would say everything is kind of the same. It’s a it’s a people business. The margins are definitely different. And the way it works is different. But from North Hollywood Toyota, I followed my GSM to the Keyes group, spent five years with the Keys Automotive Group at a Toyota dealership in running the Internet and in nine excuse me in 2008 went to Norm Reeves Honda was recruited by them. And as you said, yeah, we used to joke. It’s the biggest Honda dealership left of Jupiter, you know, doing a thousand to twelve hundred cars a month. They hit in ’08 with the economy.

[00:05:04] And then the following year with the tsunami. Honda took a hit on imported cars and the market took a hit. But the store was still managing to do seven, eight hundred cars a month and spent five years there. From there, I went to CarPros, Kia, the largest KIA group in the country, spent two years there and was recruited by Darrell Holter, the president of downtown L.A. Motor Group, two years ago. So two years ago, they own pretty much all the dealerships in downtown Los Angeles from Nissan to Porsche, Audi and Volkswagen. And they had a Nissan dealership in Carson. And I was brought on board as kind of a platform manager for Internet. And within six months, they decided to sell pretty much all of the stores except the Felix store to the Lithia Auto Group, which now owns the dealerships, not the land, but the land is held by the family. And two years ago, I came on board at Felix Chevrolet to a store that I don’t want to say was left to the wayside. But the past 10 years, the Seamus group had spent a lot of money refurbishing all the dealerships, new buildings. And Felix, in a sense, was left to the wayside. So when I got here two years ago, the store was really underperforming and was in a bit of a ditch.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:06:23] Yeah, it’s not in the ditch anymore. We before.

Greg Iverson: [00:06:26] No, sir,.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:06:27] Not at all. You’ve done a great job. But before we get into that, let’s talk about when you do get into a dealership, you’ve been brought on for whatever reason, obviously for a turnaround. What are the essentials in creating well to Internet sales department? And what does your checklist look like when you are called on to turn things around?

Greg Iverson: [00:06:47] You know, I guess, you know, everybody out there listening, you know, you have mentors and you learn along the way and, you know, hopefully you have some smart car people teaching you. And I was very fortunate. The people in Australia, the operators down there were very the Kaplan family, which ran Hunter Holden, and they always talked about what they said, the triple P’s policy, processes and people. And that kind of stuck with me and Tom Snooker had a different version of that. But my first thing is I first thing I want to see is I want to see the policies in the store, what they implement, what they want done. Second is processes. And then finally, we get to the staff, the people, and look at how those people are performing within those processes and policies. And that’ll give you kind of an indicator of a few things. Maybe we don’t have the right people, maybe our process isn’t right. And, you know, definitely from what I’ve seen in 24 years, 25 years, is that, you know, you really need to have all three in line for things to work.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:07:44] It’s the perfect the perfect segway for our next question. You talked about the three P’s policy, processes and people. It’s talk about people for a moment in that would be what kind of attention is spent on cultural diversification, your online marketing. Can you even do that in online marketing?

Greg Iverson: [00:08:00] You know, that’s a great question, and, you know, it’s it’s really, I guess, first of all, is going to be based geographically where you’re at. I mean, you know, America is a multicultural country where we are located in Los Angeles. We’ve been in the same place since 1955. You know, over the years, the demographics have changed. In this part of L.A., we’re actually right across from USC to college. Currently, about 75 percent of the people that live within 15 miles of our dealership, which is the highly most densely populated area in L.A., 75 percent are Hispanic. And that can be a combination of Mexican Americans. That can be a combination of Central Americans. And then you start delving off into different things. We have advertising 70 to 75 percent of our sales people speak Spanish. 75 percent of our advertising is Hispanic, whether it’s TV and radio. And then you kind of go into little subcultures, too, because, you know, the Spanish is different in El Salvador than it is in Mexico. And you kind of have different tactics as far as language in certain words. So it gets a little bit more complicated than people think. But, you know, one thing, too, is 85 to 90 percent of Hispanics do speak English. And I’d say a good half of them would rather speak English. So it’s kind of a fine line. You’re trying to cover all your bases without insulting people. But ultimately, you know, you have to make sure that your message gets out there to everybody.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:09:26] And we actually have a article and a series of articles going out about cultural diversity. And we are in the process of putting that together, both from a marketing standpoint, in a hiring standpoint. And we all know that for any dealer to have success, it needs to be a cost effective talent acquisition process in play. Obviously, you have that. I’m curious as to what system or vendor do you use to attract candidates and what characteristics do you look for when seeking talent that can effectively execute said game plan?

Greg Iverson: [00:09:57] Ok. Another great question. Well, I mean, we’ve got multi levels. You know, all dealerships now are probably online with their H.R. in their store. And most of these companies will use a company called H.R. Hot Link do have the ability to do recruiting for you. I do work with a company that is GM recommended called Pro’s PR OS and they do recruiting for me. And fortunately, in the last two years, in the last year, we’re the fastest growing Chevy dealership in the country. And this year, we are fifth in the zone, which is basically 75 dealerships from Santa Barbara down to San Diego. So getting to the last point, you know, professional salespeople, guys that are Chevy guys or gals, too, that are GM, you know, experience, you know, they look at the top stores in L.A., you have a real class of professional salesmen. I don’t wanna say that bounce around a lot, but when they are looking to go to another store, they know what stores are performing. So in the past two years, that has helped us, you know, basically have walking applications. My H.R. company does a great job, you know, basically online platforms, whether it’s through Monster and there’s other platforms for jobs. We do that also internally with our pros recruitment. And, you know, as far as what I’m looking for. I mean, you know, California is pretty litigious. I have to do background checks on everybody, which is a combination of their driving records. So there’s DMV checks involved and they have to have sales license in California, which ties in the DMV again. And then ultimately we do drug testing. So, you know, our first kind of hurdle is to make sure that those those tests are passed and then we can move on to the interviewing stage. And, you know, depending on the store, normally up we looked at, you know, for the lack of a better term, Greenpeace people new to the industry.

Greg Iverson: [00:11:40] But we had a training, a little college where they would go for five or six days. And we had a group of trainers that spent their time doing that. So I always look at onboarding new people if it’s possible. I think smaller stores and I just feel it’s in a sense would be a smaller store. It’s a little bit harder for us. So I do look for GM experience, you know, as far as a language, you know, once again, most of our business is Hispanic, but most of the Hispanic speak English. So if you don’t speak Spanish, it’s not you know, it doesn’t really change anything. It’s not going to kill you. Obviously, if you do speak Spanish, that’s an extra asset that you have. And, you know, everybody interviews a little bit different. I’d like to kind of role play and go over what the job entails. And for me, it’s all about driving traffic. If you’re selling cars in an Internet department and you’re in front of your CRM and you’re getting leads, really what makes it happen is your phone calls and your phone skills. So I’d like to do a little bit of roleplaying. You know, I’ll play an easy customer. I’ll play a tough customer. I want to see how they handle objections, how they swept Segway into the next area. And, you know, in checking references, you know, it’s it’s it’s something that I don’t think a lot of people do, but it’s a good thing to check references. And then I think tied into the background and the drug testing and the DMV checks gives you a pretty good indicator of somebodies character.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:13:00] Yeah, no, I agree. And it is a fact that most people don’t check references. It’s tough to find good help, especially now in automotive, especially in certain towns. I know that a group that I just interviewed out of Colorado, out of Denver, I believe we’re discussing that issue. It’s where they were and there was no unemployment issue whatsoever. So they have to you have to hire from other dealerships or they go out there and trying to find people who are newbies, basically, but have the I mean, the the wherewithal and the desire to kind of take a look at the opportunities that that are with them and that dealership. So let’s talk about media sources which provide you with the best traffic and or leads. Who do you use? What are some of the vendors that you’ve brought into the dealership that you feel to do a good job by you?

Greg Iverson: [00:13:51] Well, you know, that’s another great question, sir. I’m tied to Fox dealer. They’re based out of Pasadena. I like it that their local fox dealer is a Web site provider.

Greg Iverson: [00:14:03] They do. They have all aspects of my search as CEO, ACM, ACIM paper click. You know, being with Chevy, you know, certain OEMs want. Yeah, you know, Chevy does a lot of stuff with C.D. K. I believe they signed up naked lines, naked lines. So it’s kind of like all the car manufacturers. You’ll get a list of who you can work with. And generally, it’s all about co-op, who you can work with. That’s co-op. And from there, you move on. I’ve worked with dealer dot.com. I’ve worked with SDK. I’ve worked with, you know, pretty much all the big ones out there. Fox dealer in the past five years has kind of become hot news in Los Angeles on the West Coast. Their Web sites are, you know, have a different feel to it. They’re FCO and SVM is unbelievable. They are actually GM certified and have that co-op ability. And I think infinities pick them up and also Harley-Davidson Davidson. So, you know, with with 20 years of doing this, I’ve kind of had experience with all of them, but I really look to Fox for most of my stuff. Obviously, I have OEM leads like I think all dealerships now are buying leads from the manufacturers. So there’s a certain quota that I have to get from Chevy. And to be quite frank, they’re really not that bad of leads as far as third party vendors. You know, it’s kind of across the board. I tell people you’re never really gonna get the same closing percentages. I try to look at lead providers or third party lead providers as kind of like a buffet.

Greg Iverson: [00:15:31] You know what? I’m going through the buffet line. Some of this stuff is going to be a little bit more expensive than the other. But ultimately unfold, you know, not to expect. Yeah. Ultimately, you know, my my paper, my cost per sale might be a little bit different. My cost per lead. But you’re never gonna find all of them. And what I want to do is I want a buffet of lead providers, because my job is you know, I’ve been told this for 20 years to sell me all the cars for all the money with all the good CSI. So the third parties up and down. I’ve had good luck with cars, dot.com in certain parts of Los Angeles and in other parts. I haven’t. They’re tied into the newspaper, The L.A. Times. So some of that’ll make a difference based on subscription areas. I’ve dabbled with TrueCar on and off. It’s you know, there’s some legal issues going on with TrueCar that this company really can’t get involved with at this point. But I’ve worked with car gurus who I really do like their used car leads and their platform and their back in tool is really kind of whiz bang. And and I enjoy working with them. I also have cars direct. I do a little bit of spy fi with cars direct. My store inherently is kind of a special finance store just because of the location. And, you know, that is basically it.

Greg Iverson: [00:16:44] My quest, all you see is me auto trader. Hey, I’m sorry. I’m pulling up my provider, sir. I do have auto trader that when I kind of set it and forget it, our general manager, who is actually an excuse car guy and is good with auto trader, kind of loves to handle that himself.

Greg Iverson: [00:16:57] And we do have the Edmunds platform. So I do enjoy Edmunds. I think Edmunds is one of the better platforms out there that that maybe has been lost in the shuffle recently.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:17:07] Question about the type of traffic and the type of leads now. You mentioned that you you’re a fan of car gurus. We did a we have a magazine coming out actually. We’ll be getting it. It’s going out to sixteen thousand seven hundred dealers. And it does a comparison between car gurus and cars dot.com. So you might find that interesting. It’s strictly based on what I consider the six main metrics based on traffic onto the Web site and how that traffic behaves. So we think about it, right. It’s a pretty, pretty holistic look at, I’d say about a hundred seventy five car dealers when we came down with a conclusion. But there’s not that much difference between them, frankly. Here’s the question. Would you prefer direct paid into organic traffic? Where do you get better closing metrics from those third party providers? Those cars that Gonski argue is auto traders.

Greg Iverson: [00:17:58] You know, the one thing regarding organic because of who we are, Felix Chevrolet, and we instill it into our employees. I mean, there’s history in the walls. You know, when you look at our our great organic numbers, I mean, they’re off the chart. People are literally just going and looking specifically for us. And for a number of reasons.

Greg Iverson: [00:18:15] It’s not you know, we we have, you know, Felix Chevrolet gear, the t shirts, the hats. I mean, we place orders. You know, people are ordering stuff from China. So but as far as you know, it’s kind of a weird mix. I our CEO and SVM work very well. Ultimately, you know, my third party providers are probably two or three percentage points, meaning six, seven, eight percent closing ratio compared to my pure organic stuff coming through my website and stuff coming through. So. So Cal Sevier.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:18:45] Interesting. What about Facebook Marketplace?

Greg Iverson: [00:18:50] Yeah, we’re involved in that. We’ve got here two years ago and like I said, the store was lacking in a lot of areas. One of it was Facebook. They did have a program where they were posting pictures of people who who bought cars next to the salesman, which I think is all great. But I you know, I try not to use a platform as like a hard sell for me. I try to look at it as like I’m in somebodies backyard at a barbecue and I’m trying to make friends. Sure. So we do a number of things because of who we are. You know, our Felix the Cat statue is at the L.A. Museum for a national show. And we try to, you know, incorporate a lot of the community stuff. We work with the local police departments. We sponsor Special Olympics down here. We sponsor events at USC. We sponsor events with the downtown L.A. business corridor, the Figaro, a business corridor. So we try to you know, we try to kind of stay away from a hard sell on Facebook, but we do kind of incorporate where we just have a lot of Felix Chevrolet fans. People want to know what we’re doing in the community. They want to see what new T-shirts we came out with. They do like to take a look at the new blazer that came out with. But I would say about 75 percent of our content on Facebook is is not directly sales related to buying a specific car.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:20:06] I look at the pictures that salesmen have, they’re posing with somebody that just sold a vehicle to. That’s sort of the spin. It is a big game display here, the head of the right head display in the man cave.

Greg Iverson: [00:20:22] But nonetheless, I mean, I remember the day where people would take the Polaroids. This is in the 90s and put it in their workstation. And yeah, I mean, I think that stuff is effective. You know, you got you got somebody sitting at your desk and they see a few hundred pictures of happy people. It can’t hurt you. But I think with the diversity of Facebook and the amount of people that it reaches, you know, there’s a better way to do it as you gauge the efficacy of your marketing efforts.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:20:47] How deep a dive do you take at the analytics in determining what really works and what you perceived to be working?

Greg Iverson: [00:20:53] Thank you once again, sir. That’s a very good question. You know, a lot of people say they look at stuff and I’ve been in a lot of these, you know, monthly ad meetings and, you know, a lot of people look for the numbers that they want to look for. We delve down pretty deep. Foxes is their support team is really good. They they come out, you know, being that they’re 12 miles away from us. My rep comes out every month and we sit down for an hour and we look at my spend and we look at how much my cost per click is. So I would advise, you know, to people in the beginning, I had no idea of what this what any of this stuff was. And I learned along the way for a number of reasons. One is just I just wanted to know myself. But, you know, my advice is, you know, if you if you’re not sure about it, have your rep explain things to you. And it is the Dells or the dive is well worth it. You really want to go.

Greg Iverson: [00:21:41] And when you’re spending, you know, 10, we’re spending upwards of twenty two thousand a month, you know, on all this stuff. It’s well worth to look into what’s working, what areas are working. Where am I pulling my traffic from? Maybe I can pull back in this area and add to another. So instead of sitting in the meetings and just kind of nodding your head, you know, agreeing with what your rep is telling you, you you might want to, you know, go another way.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:22:06] Are you familiar with auto flight by any chance? No, sir. They have metrics broken down like you can’t believe they’re actually we’re doing an article on them in our magazine. I’m out. I’ll send you a link. You could check them out. What they can provide for marketing purposes to any dealership is unbelievable. They know who’s selling what. How many they’ve sold, what they’re selling for price wise. You know what your competitors are doing, not only rather shabby dealers, but other car dealers. It’s out there. I think they get it from urban science, but they have an impressive array of of data sets up.

Greg Iverson: [00:22:41] What does that kind of use to be auto? Yeah, we kind of use vAuto for the used car side of that. Certainly interesting to see how that plays on the new car side.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:22:47] Yeah. Yeah. I’ll send you a link. Talk to me about what the dealership does to give back to the community.

Greg Iverson: [00:22:55] You know, this dealership. I mean, the history of this dealership could almost be a made for TV movie. And, you know, I think it’s actually gonna be on 60 Minutes in about a year and a half. We’re coming up on our hundredth anniversary in 2021. Sell even more. It’s really interesting. But no. It’s a family owned business. The Sharma’s family has owned it since 1955. And from that, they built it into an empire. And they come from rather humble beginnings. I mean, the original owner, Nick Seamus, bought the dealership from the owners in the 50s and and was curbing cars in front of his house during high school. So the kid was a born salesman. He immediately got involved with the community. As far as donating to Christmas funds, the homeless problem really wasn’t as bad as it was in the 50s. But I think he started the way for the daughters and Darryl Holter, who have taken over in the past 20 years. So we’re involved with the LAPD, the Southwest Police Division. We donate cars to them for events. They do these runs every year.

Greg Iverson: [00:23:56] Baker to Las Vegas. We donate vehicles for the police officers. Involved with the L.A. car show, which actually the original owner, Winslow Felix, was one of the originators of the L.A. car show over 100 years ago. And you know, Darrell are CEO and president, you know, always talks about the only reason we’re here is because of our community. These people come in and spend money with us and we have to make sure we take care of them. So, you know, we are really all over the place. We’re getting ready to do a golf tournament. Once again, Southwest Police Division over in Rancho Cucamonga. We go out there at 7:00 in the morning and two days of golf for the police officers, the Special Olympics. We just finished about two months ago. We’re involved with USC. The students, the fraternities and sororities have these events on campus where it’s kind of it can be anything from a book fair. Last year, they did like a book fair tied into a Harry Potter costume event. We donated cars, you know, for the event. We do a raffle.

Greg Iverson: [00:24:55] So, you know, being where we’re at and downtown Los Angeles, I just mentioned it a few minutes ago. Our Felix the Cat statue, one of the originals in our showroom is at the Italian American Museum. We donate money to the museum down there for a number of events. And the owners are truly philanthropists in many ways,.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:25:13] Why do I suddenly feel like buying a car from you, sir?

Greg Iverson: [00:25:18] Don’t worry. We can we can work that out for you. And here you go. Well, you know.

Greg Iverson: [00:25:22] You know, I got into this business for a number of reasons. But, you know, it’s really a people business. So, you know, going back to the interview process, you know, you got to be into. I mean, cars is one thing, but you have to be into, you know, talking to people and having a conversation and having it be real. And and, you know, Officer, if you bought a car for me, I promise that I take care of you. OK. No worries.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:25:42] I do believe that I’m not so satisfied with the last couple folks that bought a car from Mother’s Day that I might be looking for a pickup here soon. I’ll let you know. Hey, it’s funny.

Greg Iverson: [00:25:51] My mom my mom’s 75 and I sent her out last year to go shopping and she called me about two dealerships in. And she goes, now I know why you do pretty good. I go, why she goes, these car salesmen. They keep wanting my phone number and I telling them no. So as I tell people, we don’t have people from Stanford or M.I.T. knocking down our doors. It really is kind of an accidental business. And I think if you have, you know, a combination of good people skills and you’re genuine and you’re willing to work, you’ll do fine.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:26:18] Yeah. Where do you where do you see the automotive business in 10 years? Well, the percentage of online sales match or exceed on site sales by then. Any idea?

Greg Iverson: [00:26:30] You know, that’s an interesting question. I get that ask that a lot. I mean, other than how things are gonna be, what cars are going to be Iran, are they all going to be, you know, hydrogen or they’re going to be electric or. I think one thing is that you’re probably going to see less number of dealerships. I think that you’re going to see bigger and bigger groups buying up stores and maybe making it less competitive. It seems to be happening in L.A. where you had, you know, the 0 8 crash was kind of it where you had, you know, 50 GM dealerships within 30 square miles and now there’s maybe 22.

Greg Iverson: [00:27:01] And I think with devices, I mean, for me, it’s you know, and I tell my retail guys this, you know, 95 percent of your customers have been online. They just have not submitted a lead. So pretty much everybody is shopping online. The number I think is going to change in a sense. I think like Roadster is one of the companies out there that’s kind of interesting. And and drive AECOM logistically, you know, doing this online business where you’re at home, you know, companies like Car Varna. I am skeptical about that. And I think it’s for a number of reasons. One is liability. You know, I mean, you know, if all 30 of my deliveries, you know, on a Saturday meant that I had to send people to somebodies houses. You know, that’s. I mean, there’s going to be an accident every now and then. So I are the car. Maybe there’s something wrong and then they’ve got to come back. I think the way it’s set up now where people want to come in, they want to kick tires, they can get all the information in advance, which is what they have right now. But I think from a standpoint of liability, I really don’t see these companies like Roadster taking over half the business where people are sitting at home eating a sandwich, waiting for the car to be delivered. I think there’ll be a percentage of that. And as far as online sales. Yeah, I think, you know, incrementally, it’s just going to go up and up. And as devices change, you know, everyone is on smartphones. Who knows what’s around the corner in 10 years or 20 years as technology changes and makes things easier for people to gather information. I think there’s going to be a point where probably 100 percent of every car sell the customer has been online. They’ve done the research. And, you know, the question then will be just what percentage are submitting leads.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:28:35] Well, I want to thank you so much for spending some time with us today, folks. That’s Greg Iverson. Greg, great interview.

Greg Iverson: [00:28:43] Thank you, sir. You have a great day. And hello to everybody. Hope everybody good out there.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:28:46] All the best to you. He is the Internet BDC marketing director at Feeling Chevrolet. I am Kelly Kleinman. This is the DealershipNews.com podcast signing off for a Monday afternoon. Have a good day, everybody.

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Heather Bailey is the Dealership News Salesperson of the month for January at Paradise Chevrolet in Ventura, Ca. You’re in good hands with Heather!

Episode: #5

Carlos Hernandez with Ocean Honda
Carlos Hernandez explains why he is the salesman of the month(s) for February at Ocean Honda in Ventura County! It all adds up, he cares about the customer having a great experience!

Episode: #4

Johnny Mikhail with Crown CDJR
All Hail Johnny Mikhail, salesman of the month at one hot car dealership; Crown Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram!

Episode: #3

Jonathan Uhlman with 1st KIA

Episode: #2

Alice Hausig with Schomp Auto Group

Alice Hausig of Schomp Subaru is our Salesperson of the Month in Aurora Colorado!

Episode: #1

Jesse Peña with Bonander Buick
Sales Manager Jesse Peña discusses how they do things over at Bonander Buick GMC

Vendor & Influencer Interviews:

Episode: #53

Tom Murray with WebBuy reveals his advanced state-of-the art digital retailing solution company

Tom Murray talks about how Digital Retailing is a trend that is only getting bigger and that it can either bury a dealership or they can get out in front of it.

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Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:14] Hello, this is Kelly. Kleinman.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:21] You are listening to the DealershipNews.com podcast, where we spotlight the who’s happening in the automotive industry. It’s footsoldiers, visionaries, salesmen, GMs, owners, service managers and industry vendors alike. Our guest today is a veteran of the car biz battles for many years and a person who I believe has his finger on the pulse of today’s online buyer. His business is digital retailing, and he is Mr. Tom Murray of WebBuy. Tom, thanks for docking with us today.

Tom Murray: [00:00:52] Hi, Kelly.. It’s a pleasure to be with you. And thanks for taking a few moments to visit.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:56] Well, thank you. I’d like to ask each of our guests how they got into the automotive industry and what makes them stay.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:01:04] So let’s ask you the same.

Tom Murray: [00:01:05] Great question. Started out as a college summer job in the late 80s selling Fords, and it was just supposed to be a break right during the summer. I was doing construction work and went through the training class. My second month, I sold 41 new Fords, won a trip to the Bahamas. And at that time that the amount of money that I made was astronomical. And I was taking pre law classes. I wanted to be an attorney and I said, I really like this this business. And 30 years later, I’m still here and I’m still passionate about our industry.

Tom Murray: [00:01:42] So a long and crazy journey. I spent the first third of my career in retail almost 15 years. Every job in a car dealership, including, you know, fixed operations, went on to be a general manager of some high volume stores and then was a partner in a dealer group. And in 1999, when there was a little family feud I bought, they bought me out my equity back. And I went to work for the old Pat Ryan company.

Tom Murray: [00:02:10] Today it’s Assurant, it had many names over the years, but I spent 13 years there and was the President and Chief Operating Officer of North American operations up until 2012, when Texas Pacific acquired our company. And I decided to put this word in quotes “retire”.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:28] But you never really do. You got pulled back in.

Tom Murray: [00:02:32] I did. I did. I met a fellow I did meet years before that.

Tom Murray: [00:02:38] Steve Zabala, my co-founder, owns a number of dealerships. And in Billings, Montana, it’s called the Rimrock Auto Group.

Tom Murray: [00:02:47] And he was actually a client. He sat on the board of one of my old companies, Captive Reinsurance Company. Actually, I think he still sits on that board today. But that aside, we started talking. We got to know each other professionally, you know, in those reinsurance meetings and then socially. And we came together meeting of the minds and said, nobody’s doing Amazon for the car business and why in 2012.

Tom Murray: [00:03:12] So here we are seven years later and we decided to create and build a dealer centric tool to be able to allow dealers to engage that CarMax, Carvana demographic. And in my old life, CarMax was was one of my biggest customers and learned a lot from them about how they approach that niche of the conflict averse buyer. My time’s too valuable buyer and and the differentiation points that they employed, right. To engage those people and then ultimately sell them.

Tom Murray: [00:03:44] And as a quick aside, to finish the story they make in their annual report excuse me, they make a lot more money. Gross profit wise. And a franchise dealer does. And I think they figured out a long, long time ago that if you are transparent with a customer, your gross is actually go up, not down. It’s not that hard concept for people in the automobile automobile industry who’ve been in it a long time to get their head around where we’re going. My my background

Kelly Kleinman: [00:04:11] We’re going to that’s that’s that’s a background that’s perfectly suited for what you’re doing now. Now, let’s imagine that you and I are in an elevator together. We’re getting to the 30th floor of the DealershipNews building in Miami Beach, Florida. And you’ve got to give me a 30 second elevator pitch, not a 30 floor elevator pitch, but a 30 second elevator pitch. And you’re on.

Tom Murray: [00:04:34] No pressure there. I guess I would say that that, again, Carvana and some of these other disruptors have literally launched an all out assault on the franchise dealer to engage that demographic that I alluded to a moment ago. That’s literally exploding as we speak. Those buyers that are demanding a self-guided vehicle buying experience and you’ve got a couple options. You can stick your head in the sand and pretend that’s not happening or you can get out in front of it and be an active participant in your own rescue, WebBuy was created by dealers for dealers to provide that that path of engagement to that niche of people that want to do it digitally and are all inclusive solution allows you to engage these customers at the end, they can actually enjoy a complete digital journey with an Amazon proceed-to-checkout experience at the end, and even if they don’t complete the process digitally, they have knocked out the vast majority of the time consuming elements prior to arriving at the dealership. And that creates much lower funnel, higher quality and higher closing late closing rate leads for you and your team.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:05:37] So we’re talking about folks just in case you don’t know, just in case you’re living in the Stone Age and you shouldn’t be at this point because people don’t necessarily want to have to go to a dealership to buy a vehicle. I think a lot of them would like to do it online. Again, you’re talking about the Amazon experience. So why do dealers need a digital retailing solution on their websites? What are they missing? And why don’t Web sites come fully loaded with the same features? What you’re offering seems a little bit like a retrofit for Web sites that are out there currently.

Tom Murray: [00:06:11] That’s a terrific question. I guess the level set expectations, I would first say to you that the vast majority of franchise dealers in the United States today don’t have any digital retailing solution currently. Why do they need it? I kind of alluded to it a second ago. And again, you know, when I’m talking about people who CarMax is original, you know, go to market strategy with a conflict averse person. Right. Today, people forget about negotiating. There’s there’s a big subset of buyers who don’t even want to talk to another human being.

Tom Murray: [00:06:45] Right. They’re so precondition with a phone or tablet to do everything digitally, everything online that they they won’t even engage with you if you don’t have a path and a welcome mat of sorts. Digitally to say you’re you’re welcome here. Right. You can do business with us and you can do it your way on your terms. And and I think that’s a big foundational tenant to kind of start with. Right. So what are Web site providers missing, I guess, is the is the question you’re asking me, why don’t they come loaded with the same features? And I’ll answer that in a way that I answer some of my competitive.

Tom Murray: [00:07:28] Differentiation points. Right. One of them is that most of the people in the industry. And I’m not casting aspersions here. Right. But let’s face it, if you’ve never sold a car, you really don’t understand what it’s what it’s like on a blocking and tackling basis to do that and then to try and digitize that experience. It takes a lot of industry knowledge and those there’s granular points and then there’s micro granular points.

Tom Murray: [00:07:58] Right. And again, I’m not casting aspersions, but the vast majority of these people are either tech people or they’re vendors, software vendors, and they don’t really understand Kelly.. At the end of the day, what those micro granular impact drivers are transactionally. Right. And then how to transpose them from a green sharpie marker and a four square worksheet to a digital experience and kind of replicate it. Right. So that’s that’s challenge number one. And then when you look at the digital retailing companies, some of them are also Web site providers, by the way. And and that’s okay. But again, I would apply the same thing. And then the other differentiation point is that most of them came to the world as something else. Right. And again, not casting aspersions, but there’s a couple out there that came as lending apps. Right. We’re gonna triangulate the consumer and the dealer and the bank and we’re going to create a lending opportunity or we were a lead gen company or we were a, you know, fill in the blank Web site company. And now to transition to a digital retailing experience. I can tell you after seven years of Steve and I grinding this thing out and all of the things we’ve learned and the impact drivers in it.

Tom Murray: [00:09:12] There’s a million moving pieces and parts. And so for these folks who are trying to pivot now, right in the last six to 12 months, when they recognize that we’ve got a solution that’s not A to Z, it’s maybe A to D, or A to M, they’ve got to pivot and and backfill. Right.

Tom Murray: [00:09:32] All of the missing pieces and parts. And it’s a heavy lift. So I guess that’s a long winded answer to your question.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:09:37] Well, that’s OK. I understand that there are a lot of moving parts to it and it is very well suited for being an efficient funnel. And I like and I folks, I’ve seen it. I have been witness to the demo and it’s well thought out. It’s as well thought out of not more well thought out than some of the competition. But let’s talk about those guys. So what are the primary I mean, and you mentioned going A to D. You know, I had a conversation with Nick Marconi, Taylor Auto Group, right? Yeah. And and we were talking about your solution. And he said that he has had the conversation whereby people who just go as far as the credit app and the trade appraisal tool and then pull out, they don’t finish. The rest of the process are still closing at 40 percent, which tells me something. So let’s let’s talk about the primary features of WebBuy that separates it from some of the other digital retailing solutions like MotoInsight. You mentioned some companies who actually do make Web sites like DealerInspire, who also have a digital digital retailing solution. Make My Deal, let’s say Modal.

Tom Murray: [00:10:53] Another great question, let me back up to your to your point about Nick and Taylor Auto Group.

Tom Murray: [00:11:02] When you say it’s not a small point, right. If you’re talking about third party leads, the industry average is give or take 8 percent, 8 to 10 percent close rate. Right. Organic leads is somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 18 industry wide.

Tom Murray: [00:11:17] So when you say that you have a 40 percent close rate on an Internet lead, it’s I. I’d like to take a second and take a victory lap there. Kelly. to be very transparent with you because it really is impressive.

Tom Murray: [00:11:32] And we like to share those kinds of success stories, right. With the world and our current dealer partners and our prospective dealer partners. It’s it’s something that when you. Now back to your question related to competitive differentiation points. Right. So. So I think you said that he said that just the appraisal tool in the credit app features really contribute a lot to that 40 percent close rate. Right. So the first thing and I mentioned this, I think in my elevator pitch, maybe I use the words all inclusive. Okay. So I was a used car manager. I was a general manager. I bought thousands of cars at, at auctions at Manheim and DSA, right all over the country. And when I when I looked at the appraisal component of this, again, this has been a seven year journey. And I’m gonna get to your to your question in just a second. But so as part of this development process, as we’re engineering our solution, I kissed every frog in the industry, so to speak, because, frankly, we didn’t want to build a trade appraisal tool. We thought we would integrate with others. And the deeper I dove having a lot of experience in that area personally. Right. The more I found that the vast majority of these tools have pretty big holes in them. Right. So at the end of the day, the short story is we built it ourselves. We created a customized back-to-dealer centric trading appraisal tool with a dealer, controls all of the input drivers in the trade appraisal process. They decide how much they want to deduct for breaks. They they decide how much they want to add for chrome wheels, whatever. Pick your your impact drivers in the process. In the process. But what differentiates us from everybody else is that everybody else has a sandbox. And there’s four squares. Right. And you can’t go outside those walls to have any input or or personalization or customization at the dealer level. Right. And that’s one of the most important profit centers, right. In a dealership, because you not only make the new car deal, but then you want to make a big profit on the used car when you sell that as well.

Tom Murray: [00:13:43] And that I had a I had a dealer long time ago when I first became a used car manager, he said, you make your profit and a used car. Not when you sell it. When you buy it. When you take it in, that’s when you make your profit. So we wanted to customize a tool that that would be a dealer centric functionality. And then all inclusive have that reside within and as part of the solution. So at the end of the day, if a dealer can put someone into a sandbox. Right. And let them play, so to speak. Right. Have them have the control, have them kind of self-desk their deal and have all of these input drivers. The trade in the credit personalization piece where there’s there’s only one other company that I’m aware of that in less than 60 seconds can take a full credit application, not a soft pull, not a pre authorization, preapproval and ping the lenders and take a call back and display it with a deal that’s approved, done, paper hung ready to go. Right. So it’s an it’s an all inclusive process. And you ask me what differentiates us. I could I could spend an hour and we don’t have the time for me to go through each of those other companies and what pieces and parts they are missing as compared to WebBuy. But we’re the only one that I know of. Kelly. that right this minute can take a consumer from hello the 10 steps to the sale. Right. We’ve just digitized them. Prompt, friendly, enthusiastic greeting to Amazon proceed-to-checkout.

Tom Murray: [00:15:19] And I’m not aware of anybody else that can do that right now.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:15:21] It seems as though a lot of people are just right now beginning to devise ways of appealing to a buyer that they don’t know, but that there’s some generalities about. And those are younger buyers, millennial buyers we can call millennials why not who don’t want to talk to to sale.

Tom Murray: [00:15:40] Don’t call it a Gen Z person, a millennial. They get a tendency of not getting.

Tom Murray: [00:15:46] So just as that aside, I learn I’ve learned some lessons through this process of gauging a young. Younger demographic. Yeah, go ahead. I apologize.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:15:55] Well, it makes sense. You know, I’m sure video plays an important role in your solution as well, because people want to take a look at it. Maybe, maybe there’s other ways of implementing video. I think people are more open to taking a look at how a good video for the kind of product that they want to buy if it’s a new car. There’s plenty of it out there, if it’s a used car. Obviously, we’re talking about it’s hard to make videos through literally every piece of inventory that comes to the dealership. But let’s let’s get into it. Let’s get into that. Let’s get into what percentage of consumers finished the sales process online. What’s the time frame factory in stops and starts? Because that’s a unique feature that your solution has in. So what is the general time frame that it takes? To, to complete the transaction? And by the way, there’s the start and stop assembly line. Famous for my family while starting the application. I’ll come back to it three days, four days later after that. Finally I finish up and it’s done on my time. I feel a lot more comfortable with that. And I left to know that my data is already in there. It has literally saved. So go into that.

Tom Murray: [00:17:01] Yeah, well, one of the things that we provide is that saving functionality. Right. So when you enter your information and the baby’s crying, you get distracted, whatever. You can come back later, pick it up right where where you left off.

Tom Murray: [00:17:19] You can start in in in your sweats at your house and finish in the dealership. You can start in the dealership. You can you can finish at home. A lot of our dealers find a lot of value in what we call a showroom mode. So in let me back up just from the differentiation point, there’s only just one other thing I’d like to add. Sure. That really differentiate differentiates us. And that is to the dealer centric kind of theme. We allow the dealer to run their business digitally, just like they do manually in in an in-store process. So they control every aspect of the transaction. We don’t tell them what we have best practices that we share and will help and train and all of those things. But at the end of the day, you decide how you want to price your car. You decide how you want to appraise your trade. You decide, you know, the F&I metrics in terms of marking up loans and F&I product solicitation. You do all of that yourself. So you you’re still running your business just like you would if someone walked into the store. But to the to the value prop of this, where I’m going with the showroom mode is a lot of these tech companies and quote unquote, disruptors want to eliminate, frankly, dealership employees. So one of the biggest challenges that dealership has, as you well know.

Tom Murray: [00:18:40] Right. If it’s a Saturday afternoon at 1 o’clock and I have 15 salespeople, invariably I’m going to have 20 ups. Right. It’s just it’s how it works on a Saturday afternoon. So today, the way the process works is a Kelly.. I know you drove that Cherokee. You’ve already been here. You want it, you’re ready to buy it. I’m just finishing with the Smiths. If you want to have a seat or customer waiting area, I’ll get your coffee, a water, a soda, and I’ll be with you in 20 or 30 minutes. I’ll check back. Right. That’s what happens today. And half of those people, it’s not 20 minutes because we set a bad time expectation level to start with. Right. It’s 45 or an hour. And then they end up walking out the door and leaving and you never see them again. Option B is, hey, Kelly., I know you drove that that Cherokee. You’re ready to go. I’m just finishing up with the Smith. And a quick question for you. I don’t know if you’ve been in a Wal-Mart or a Target in the last couple of years, but if you have, you probably seen that at either end of the store there’s these self-service checkout kiosks. Well, you know, here at Kleinman Motors, we’re piloting a new program. In fact, I’m one of the coaches. And if you would have an appetite and interest, we could probably get you out of here a lot faster. A and B, you could do a lot of this yourself. Right. So at the end of the day, does that sound like something you would have an interest in doing?

Tom Murray: [00:19:53] What’s the answer gonna be eight, nine, 10 out of 10 times, right? Sure. You sit him down at a desk and they work that that they’ll just like CarMax.

Tom Murray: [00:20:02] Right. And your salesperson, instead of getting rid of salespeople, because we know how incredibly difficult that is today and in today’s world to recruit salespeople to begin with and then retain them as a dealership right now with WebBuy your salesperson can handle three ups at one time. Right.

Tom Murray: [00:20:24] You have your phone. And here we go. We open up the application and we start selling your car. So the answer to your question is a couple of questions you had there. It takes less than an hour start to finish. Again, it’s a small percentage today Kelly. of people who go all the way through the application. But as I said in that elevator pitch, what it does is it A) opens a door, puts out a welcome mat to that to that millennial. Gen Z, Gen X buyer that wants that self guided experience that probably you would probably never meet. Right. They don’t want to do business with you. If they have to go through that six hour root canal on a Saturday, they’re just not going to do it, True, and they’re going to find another way to do it. And that’s why CarVarna, frankly, is having so much success. Forget about whether you believe that their business model has sustenance long term. That’s not even a debate. What what they have validated is in 2017, give or take. They sold 40,000 cars in in 18, they sold 94,000 cars became number seven in the automotive list. Biggest retailers in the country. And this year, if my math is correct and the data I’ve read, they’re on pace to do almost two hundred thousand. So whether you whether you believe in their business model or not. One thing they’ve done is to validate the fact that this demographic is exploding and there is a tremendous number of buyers out there that want to do business this way. So again, I begin finished where I began. Do you have a path? You have a welcome mat that says, come on in. We can let you do it your way. We can. We can let you take control. Right. And so at the end of the day, even if you don’t sell them a car, the long winded moral of my story is the leads become lower funnel. They become higher quality. And as Nick told you when you spoke with him on the phone, it’s a 40 percent closing rate. Right. Versus eight, 10, 15.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:22:23] Yeah, it’s the old Burger King. Have it your way, right?

Tom Murray: [00:22:26] Yes. Well, that’s exactly what it is. Yeah.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:22:29] So when will online buying become the norm and when will we hit over 50 percent of the consumers going that route?

Tom Murray: [00:22:35] I think it’s going to be sooner than most people think. I think you have to have a saturation rate of digital retailing tools. And I’m not naive enough to think that we’re the smartest people in the room or we’ve got the only good mousetrap. I think you’re going to have to have consumer confidence where they believe from a trust factor. It’s becoming like Amazon, so to speak, right? Right. And I think that when you look at speaking of Amazon and the competitive threat to the franchise dealer, if you’re not aware of it. One of the articles I read in terms of their strategy, they want to get in the car business. Right. They’ve tried insurance and they’ve tried other businesses. And I think they really have an appetite to get in the car business. What I read was that they intend to partner with larger dealer groups. Right. With a lot of inventory. And to find a way to utilize Amazon as a as a selling service, augmenting using the dealership because a franchise law is right to be able to fulfill that. I’m just here to tell you, if you’re a franchise dealer and you have your head in the sand and you don’t see this train coming down the tracks at you, we need to wake up as an industry. Right. So you can either get out in front of it and create a path to engage with these people on your own accord. Right. Either as a dealer or in conjunction with an OEM or these disruptors are going to continue to chip away and attack the franchise dealer model.

Tom Murray: [00:24:06] It’s gonna happen sooner than than most people think. I think I think it’s going to be a couple of years and you really see the pendulum start to swing to the digital.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:24:17] Well, you know, it’s my opinion that everything is well, it’s not my opinion, the fact that everything starts in the search engines. So if you’re the first inclination, somebody has to go online and jump on a search engine and look for a model, your dealership better show up. So, your SEO better be tight. And once they get to that Web site, you better be able to take them into a funnel such as your offer, because that’s probably what they’re more interested in, that you’re going to keep it if it’s if it’s compelling and that’s it’s going to keep them on the Web site. You know, you get your retargeting and now, you know, they already have some confidence because it’s a simple solution. Suddenly they’re used to doing it. Is the Amazon model, so to speak, and they’re not being put off by a pushy salesman or anything like that. I’m with you. I’m with you. A hundred percent. And I really did enjoy the demo that you that you provided for me. It makes a lot of sense.

Tom Murray: [00:25:16] Thank you again. And you clearly get it right.

Tom Murray: [00:25:19] We still go down a rabbit trail for another hour on an optimization and advertising and digital versus traditional. And but at the end of the day, you summarized it very well. That’s where the world is and and where it’s heading. Yeah.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:25:31] Now, here’s another thought. Would you be interested in teaming up with a Web site provider, a developer whereby is one of their choices, when their menu options would be a full digital retailing solution, you know, buy, web buy or even white labelling for someone like that.

Tom Murray: [00:25:51] Well, it’s a it’s a it’s a fantastic question. I’m going to table the answer on that on the partnering part of that of your question. But but I will share with you that we currently white label a number of things. We have pulled out our car valuator trading tool because we’ve had so much success with it.

Tom Murray: [00:26:11] We have over 60 percent of the people Kelly. that start the appraisal and finish it. Over 60 percent of those people accept the wholesale offer like an MMR minus minus, minus minus.

Tom Murray: [00:26:26] And I think it’s because they’re in control of the process, right. They’re appraising their own car as opposed to Tom or Kelly. telling you we got to deduct 500 for this and 300 for that. And you’re the messenger. You’re the bad cop. Right. So we white label that, for example, with a trade association in the Chicago area where they’re just using that because there’s so much value in just the trade appraisal tool.

Tom Murray: [00:26:50] We’ve white labeled it for dealers, dealer groups and we’re in discussions with OEMs and others to we don’t need to be the front facing. We’re not looking for the glory and and and the logos. Right. We want to have our partners succeed in if that if that includes, you know, being in the back end or nobody notices us and white labeling it. We’re already doing that?

Tom Murray: [00:27:18] So I hope that answers your questions

Kelly Kleinman: [00:27:20] It answers my question. But I have another one. Do you know what this weekend is, Tom?

Tom Murray: [00:27:27] I give I’m I’m a immersed in work, so forgive my ignorance on the calendar.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:27:33] Tom, it’s the last weekend of summer of 2019, OK? And so because of that, I am now playing one of my favorites.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:27:44] It’s by the Beach Boys and it’s Pet Sounds because I’m going to catch a wave out of here work in California.

Tom Murray: [00:27:53] Enjoy the last weekend of summer and in whatever you in whatever you have planned. And it’s it’s a genuine pleasure to visit with you. Thank you for your time. I appreciate your voice and our industry.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:28:07] You are a bright guy and people I know a lot of people look to you for counsel, for advice, for guidance. And and you’re a terrific ambassador for our industry. I appreciate you.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:28:19] Well, thank you very much, folks. Tom Murray of WebBuy look into it. It makes sense. This is Kelly Kleinman. This is the last weekend of summer. Go out and enjoy it falls right around the corner, folks. It’s the DealershipNews.com podcast. I’m signing off time to catch a wave.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:28:50] That’s a wrap. We’re done.

Episode: #52

DealershipNews.com Speaks with Austin Ledgerwood

Austin Ledgerwood talks about innovating insurance coverage by giving the dealerships the ability to process insurance coverages for car purchasers alongside their purchase, saving time and money for the consumer.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:17] Hello, this is Kelly. Kleinman, and you are listening to the DealershipNews.com podcast, where we spotlight the who’s happening in the automotive industry. It’s foot soldiers, visionaries, salesmen, GMs, owners, service managers and industry vendors alike. Our guest today is a fellow that I had the pleasure to meet at the Digital Dealer Expo a few weeks back. He elucidated me on how Cover Genius Co-creates insurance policies and experiences for customers of the world’s largest digital platforms for mobility and home car sharing to retailers, Fintechs and more. As business models have changed, so has the insurance industry and the way they cover assets.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:58] And I’ll tell you what, guys, I’m just so happy. Happy as a lark to have with us Mr. Austin Ledgerwood

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:01:06] Thanks for having me, Kelly..

Kelly Kleinman: [00:01:07] It’s a pleasure. It’s a pleasure talking to you. Let’s start off with the typical question. I ask it virtually everybody, because everybody has a different route to get to where they are. And I’m just kind of curious as to how you got attached to the automotive industry. Of course, in your case, it might have nothing to do with the love of cars. What was your path into automotive?

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:01:27] Absolutely. Well, I did grow up with a love of cars. My dad is an avid car buyer. He’s done everything from restorations to driving new cars. Is his big favorite, was always Corvettes. So I kind of got that early feeling about cars when I was a kid.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:01:50] And then when I got out of college, I had a great opportunity to go work for CarMax, which I learned more about cars then I ever really wanted to know as a buyer. And it really just kind of fueled that that real interest into this whole crazy auto industry.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:02:11] It’s it’s it’s a lot of fun. I had to tell you that there’s never a boring day in automotive. And whether it’s working at a dealership, which I did for a while or sitting in a corporate office, it’s never boring. Kelly..

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:22] What was your dad’s first Corvette?

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:02:24] He had a I want to say it was a 74, 74, but his most favorite one was that he bought and restored a ’61 Corvette red with the white inset panel on the sides. It is gorgeous. I mean, he even had a T-shirt made with it on it.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:45] Oh, sweet. They still have it.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:02:47] No, he got rid of that probably…You know what? I’ll tell you what it was after a graduated from college because I remember I got the drive it for the first time. Oh, so he got I bought 20 years ago.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:58] You’re an old man. Well, let’s let’s let’s get into the meat and potatoes. How about the 30 second pitch make it an elevator pitch? Pretend that I’m the president of Fire Forward Auto Group and you want to sell me?

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:03:12] Absolutely. You know, like any dealer, you ought to be sitting there thinking about how do I truly acquire that sticky experience that everybody’s talking about. And really, the one thing that you still have your customers jumping outside to take care of is insurance. Either that or you have an agent in your on your property that you’re renting out necessary space. So for us, it’s really how do you treat that environment and actually we provide that environment where you can offer your customer that’s sitting in front of you auto insurance at the time of sale versus them having to go out and have a separate experience.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:03:51] Yeah. Okay. I’m sold now to best elucidate how Cover Genius works. Compare because you brought up a good point there. Compare the standard insurance purchase process employed now by most dealerships with customers for that matter, with how Cover Genius streamlines the process because it’s all about the process. From what I remember a conversation being and how you customize. But let’s get into the differences between the two standard and the Cover Genius method.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:04:20] Absolutely. Well, if you think about it right now. As soon as you buy a car, you have to have insurance. You can’t drive it off the lot without insurance. So you do have a scenario where some insurance companies have a grace period. But realistically, the dealer needs you to have that car insured before you even leave a lot.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:04:36] So right now, the setup is either you go on your phone and you look up quotes via an app, you have to your current provider or you go to an aggregator like the General or you know, there’s this couple different ones out there, there’s zebra or you have to make a separate phone call.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:04:57] And what I would find funny is that regardless of what the path is, you have to provide the insurance company with the same information you’ve already provided to the dealer. And what I’m talking about is personal information, your address, your credit information, your driving history. Your type of car. All this information, the dealership has most of it. Because you’ve already provided it.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:05:22] So now you have to take all that information again and send it to the insurance agency. And what they’re going to do is plug all that information in and then they’re going to send that same information repackaged back to the dealer with insurance approved. Which to me is just a crazy added step.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:05:43] You know, if you think about it, the F&I, the name F&I came from finance and insurance and it was about securing auto insurance for your car. So that’s where, you know, the original F&I name came from. And now it’s morphed into other things in the real differences with the Cover Genius experiences that we now enable an F&I manager or a sales individual to actually show the retail consumer insurance quotes right there on the spot because they have all the information and it could be everything from the customer being able to self select all the particular different parameters for insurance or even if something as simple as good, better and best options for insurance. And that’s the real difference with Cover Genius is that with our API, we’re able to take that information and actually return products that are tailored to that customer, not the generic. Hey, here’s what it could be. Hey, here’s what it is for Kelly. as you’re buying in your car that you know Kelly.. That’s the real difference between us and the standard process now.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:06:53] Yeah. I’ll tell you my experience. Yeah. It starts with having had the same coverage I think for the last few years. I go through Costco, I’m about to add an old Audi into my fleet. I’ve got two sons. They’re both 17 years old. And I called Ameriprise, I believe so insurance company through Costco. And I had to give them all of the information mileage that I was going to drive, who is going to be assigned to which vehicle? And it still took. And I’ve been with them for a while. It still took about 40 minutes to get a final quote. So if somebody has a current provider, how do you compensate for a situation such as that? Somebody walks into a car dealership. They just want to add the car to their current policy, to their current policy and get a quote for adding that vehicle. Now, I’ll tell you, when I did call Ameriprise, they set it up to where I’m actually paying only twenty five dollars per month for this for this car, in addition to what were my normal payment was. So they were able to go in and sort of manipulate the numbers and give me a much better deal. You’re talking about possibly doing something like that, but certainly getting the consumer the best possible deal that’s out there in insurance for their vehicle. It is. What’s what’s the time savings and what do you find overall might be the dollars savings in something like that? I know. I know. They didn’t skip that question to you. I don’t want to throw you a curveball, but but I would like to hear what your answer is on something along those lines.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:08:31] No. Absolutely. So we talk about time. You yourself just mentioned it right there that, you know, you’re looking at 40 minutes. So imagine that you’ve been in the dealership. For what the average time is, what, three and a half, four hours that people spend in a dealership. Yep. So you’ve been in the dealership. You’ve, you know, you’re negotiating to get the price you’re comfortable with. And now you’ve got to go have a separate conversation that may take you 40 minutes. That’s a pain in the butt. And then also taken to to the fact I think you hit on it. You went with the company that you’ve always had. Right. Correct.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:09:10] You have without looking you have no idea that you’ve got the best rate, that you’ve got the ideal coverage for you. You went and this I do the same thing. You know, I have State Farm. I just called State Farm and said, hey, State Farm. I need to change our policy. I just bought a new car. Like, okay, no problem. Let’s go through the information. I don’t know if I’m getting the best deal now. I’m assuming I am because I’ve been with them forever. So for us, it’s that ability for you to see quotes that are particular to you, that are particular to this car, that are actually live in real time. So we can reduce the 40 minutes. We can reduce the effort of, you know, like you just said, having to provide all this information, spending time we can cut down or actually eliminate the need for you to do any research, because we’re going to go and get the particular rates particular to what you want. And then when you talk about in just terms of cost savings and money savings.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:10:15] It could very well save you all kinds of money because you’re able now to shop and look for the best rate, you’re able to get particular details and see what you’re getting immediately. So in terms of time savings, huge. In terms of money savings, there’s absolutely an opportunity to save money through this process.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:10:35] Transparency and trust go hand in hand. No question. Absolutely. So one of the things that Cover Genius boasts is coverage customization. I would love to learn more about that. It sounds fascinating.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:10:53] Absolutely. So a little backstory on Cover Genius.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:10:56] You know, originally it was started, as you know, for the in the rental car market and travel market to where if Kelly.. We’re going to book a trip or Kelly., we’re renting a car, you know, hey, do I need to get a, you know, extra coverage for my trip?

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:11:13] And our founders were seeing was just consistent, this box mentality. You know, that, you know, no matter who it is, you’ll pay this. So it’s 50 bucks for me and it’s 50 bucks for you.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:11:28] And I might have never had a claim and have all kinds of stellar credit and everything you could think of in my favor and you could have it better or worse. We would still pay the same price. That doesn’t seem like the right thing. So Cover Genius developed XCover, which is this is this really dynamic API that takes all of these different data points related around the customer. We’re related around the transaction in the related around the coverage parameters or desired coverage parameters, and it might even take previous purchases to help determine what products would be best for you. And that’s where we’re the real differentiate for us, is that we’re able to return real time customized products. So if you were to go through the just the simple auto coverage piece to where you like. All right. I want to do the state minimums, but I want to have rental car coverage and I want this. Hey, here’s a price immediately. And a key thing. Kelly. is you’re not going to get a phone call or e mails saying, hey, do you want to buy this? Hey, do you want to buy this? Which is a horrendous part. You know, if I go and put my information into some of the insurance aggregators, I may get 12 different emails and 12 different phone calls from 40 different people and they may all work in the same office. I have no idea that I’m going to get so many different phone calls that it just doesn’t make a bit of sense. I have. How do you sort through that to find the best deal?

Kelly Kleinman: [00:12:59] Right. Yeah, it becomes a jump ball of your personal data. It happens with classified auto shopping. Same exact thing. That’s problematic.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:13:11] Absolutely. So when we talk about customization, it really is returning a product that is specific to the end user and it’s based on their data points and then other outside data points that they’ve contributed.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:13:29] Let’s chit chat about XCover. Break the concept down for us, complete with a value added proposition to businesses who jump in with.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:13:39] Absolutely. So I kind of alluded to earlier XCover really this dynamic insurance API and, you know, I’m probably selling it short by saying just insurance, but it really is this dynamic API that can truly provide products that really are specific to the individual.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:14:02] You know, there’s a lot of different platforms out there that say that they can, you know, fully understand what what the end user wants, what the retail customer wants. And they use all this different data and they use all this market data. We’re really focused on providing the individual data. You know, it’s not only bundling insurance policies that are relevant to that person, but our platform form helps support multiple currencies and languages. And that’s something key that as you’re travelling or as you move from different markets, you know, with auto insurance, it doesn’t hit so much. But let’s say that it is a Spanish speaking individual in South Florida or in Texas or California or New York or wherever they live, and they want to interact with Spanish. We have that ability to return products in the right language when there’s an issue and they converse with us. We have the ability to return information in the right language. And then also it starts to project out farther down the line, taken that customer level information. And looking at what they could be worth over the lifetime, what’s the loyalty? So not only does it let’s say that an individual uses purchase insurance through our platform at the dealership, which is integrated with the dealership’s DMS, that it also will help them understand, hey, you know, these products may help you down the line, too. Or also help them when they go into another engine. Let’s say that, you know, we have a strong partnership booking, it’ll recognize that this individual also bought this product here. This insurance product through this channel. Now, when they come through this channel and they’re using XCover, it recognizes their information again and gives them even better detailed product and information that’s really, you know, XCover’s real push.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:16:13] Now, you’re a global company. You guys have been around a while and you actually insure people and products all over the world.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:16:23] Yes. What? You know, I joined Cover Genius in February and it is just such a fun, outstanding company to work for. I’ve been very fortunate my career to work for outstanding large companies like Cox Automotive, Southeast Toyota, Chain Family and then CarMax. And I generally have to tell you that there’s there’s so much excitement in this organization and there’s so much that I have learned from it being a truly international entity. You know, we have offices in Europe, offices and the Asian market.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:16:59] And it’s really you know, one of the things for me that’s been really interesting is to understand how the automotive industry operates outside of just the U.S.. It is a fascinating how quick, you know, an industry like subscription is taking off in India and in Europe. I mean, just blowing up. So Cover Genius. We have the skill set and now we really have the knowledge base internationally to light this world on fire.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:17:32] Well, you know, that’s that’s actually a question that I did not include for this particular podcast, but it’s something that needs to be talked about. And that’s the fact that the ride share in that the ride subscription is something that is other mobility solutions and something needs to be considered. And you provide insurance for all of those solutions. You’re very much a forward thinking company on that level.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:18:00] Absolutely. You know, one of the things that I love most is that, you know, my focus is mobility. And it’s really, you know, the the way for someone to get from point A to point B. And that would include everything from scooters, which I think is a very interesting market ride share subscription. And then, you know, the rental cars and the automotive and, you know, the general automotive market. I think that it  is such a wildly dynamic industry right now. And I’m genuinely excited to see how it progresses. I think that, you know, from an insurance standpoint, you’re going to start to see products that evolve into covering an individual regardless of their mode of transportation. So if I’m on a scooter, I’m covered. If I jump into a rental car, I’m covered or a subscription I’m covered, or if I’m in a ride share car, I’m covered. It’s really evolving.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:19:04] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. No. I own these things called trikes. Trikkes. Yes. And they’re a mobility device. They’re a you stand on it. It’s a three wheeled vehicle. It’s electric. Goes about 17 miles per hour. It gets about an hour’s worth of ride time on it. And we had it took us a little bit of time to find the proper insurance for something like that. That was about I want to see now about three years ago before they dropped all these little scooters down in Santa Monica, we were actually doing pretty good with it. Let’s let’s talk about claims because it can be a clunky process. I know. You know, usually. Oh, by the way, you mentioned being in rental car insurance. I was in the rental car industry myself. That was my first job out of college, my first real job. So I’m very familiar with it, to say the least. But let’s let’s get into the claims, because that’s basically what we were focusing on, putting people in rental cars after they’ve been in an accident. Usually you’ve got the incident that the vehicle gets towed to a preferred body shop and adjuster shoots out. The claim is processed. Customer gets a few quotes, maybe two to four weeks later, you have resolution. Is there anything different in the coverage genius world that provides a faster process as far as claims are concerned?

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:20:23] Oh. Absolutely. I’m glad you brought that up. No. You know, we have a platform. XClaim is our platform, our API for processing claims? And one of the things that we’re really proud of is that our MPS score is over 65. And what that means is and you know, some folks I had to look it up, you know, that’s how willing is a consumer going to refer you spend with you again, shop with you again, trust you.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:20:56] So for the insurance industry, the average MPS score is probably in the high 20s. So for us to be over double that is amazing. And it really gets back to that.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:21:11] We make decisions quickly through our claims process and we pay you quickly. And again, I mentioned it earlier with languages, you know, currencies. We process payments in 90 different currencies. And it’s all you know, it doesn’t matter how it comes through. We can do it to bank transfers, virtual card store credits, anything would do it.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:21:37] E wallets in the communication in which we process the information to you is at lightning speed. And it really goes back to how do customers want to interact and how do they want to get paid. Because if they’re making a claim and it’s been approved, they won’t be paid immediately because odds are they’ve already come out of pocket, right?

Kelly Kleinman: [00:21:58] Yeah. Absolutely. What do you guys have for us? Plan. I’m sorry. I’m sorry he’s gone. No, I was. I did know that you were finished. I wanted to find out what you have in store for us for 2020. Certainly you’ve got something in the oven.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:22:12] Absolutely. So I think that, you know, one of the key areas of where we’re seeing a lot of growth is around the scooters. Like we just mentioned. And then also subscription as we seen in Europe and India. It really is that market is exploding and it comes down to the needs.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:22:35] You know, I hate to say it’s millennials. I think it’s everyone gets to a point where if I don’t have to own something, how to pay for it, you know, maybe I can get it. You know, Netflix is a great example. You know, maybe I can just subscribe to it. And for us, we’re really moving headstrong into this new mobility market and having coverage on demand, which is there’s a huge need for and there’s not a lot of opportunities.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:23:02] And, you know, for the consumers, not a lot of not a lot of products for them to get a hold of. And then also, you know, integrating with DMSs to continue to push auto insurance is really going to take off. There’s a lot of digital retailing companies that like Cavana, vroom, Tesla that are really taking off. And one of the things they’re missing is having insurance as part of the process. And so we see that as a huge wide open space for us as well.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:23:35] I have one. One more question, and that would be your insight again into the future, probably a little bit beyond 2020. But is there the possibility that we could at one point have blanket coverage where I am covered in any mobile device or mobility device that I choose to ride and drive and ride on whatever I offer one price. So I’m going to spend X amount of dollars to go into an autonomously driven taxicab or vehicle, a scooter, a motorcycle, a car, whatever. Do you see something like that happening or is it always going to be itemized?

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:24:19] I would tell you this. Kelly. that you’re going to see it sooner rather than later. It is one of the top priorities that I have. And yes, you will see that. And I don’t think that’s long term. I think that’s in the short term, you will see great companies like coverage industry offering just that.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:24:37] Well, I want to say thank you so much for joining us. Folks.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:24:42] That was and is Austin Ledger, where the company is Cover Genius, and Austin, I want to I want to wish you a ton of continued success moving forwards. We’re working, folks. Reach you for more information.

Austin Ledgerwood: [00:24:56] Absolutely. They can reach me at Austin, A-U-S-T-I-N dot L at Cover Genius dot Com even through our Cover Genius dot com website. LinkedIn page, Twitter. All the good social media. We are out there. Just ask for Austin.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:25:11] Look, folks, that’s one of my new best friends. Austin Ledger with this is Kelly. Kleinman. You’re listening to the DealershipNews.com podcast. Actually, we’re done with for the day. We’ve got a couple more scheduled this week. So stand by for those, meanwhile. Have a great afternoon. I love that hokey 70s cheesy music.

Episode: #51

DealershipNews.com Speaks with John Sevier

John Sevier and Kelly Kleinman talk about his upcoming automotive strategy podcast that will be hosted on the www.dealershipnews.com website. John has been a BDC Director and Internet Director for the majority of his career in automotive and has a a lot of information to share based on his experience and those other automotive professionals within his network. John definitely brings Automotive News you can use.

John Sevier Podcast.wav

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:18] Hello, this is Kelly Kleinman. And you’re listening to the DealershipNews.com podcast, where we spotlight the who’s happening in the automotive industry, its foot soldiers, visionary salesmen, GM owners, service managers and industry vendors alike.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:34] Our guest today is John Sevier of the soon to debut severe strategy broadcast, which will be available right here on DealershipNews.com. John has sharpened his sword as an Internet/BDC director for Northgate, Ford, Lincoln Kings, Toyota and most recently the Kenwood Dealer Group. So he knows a thing or two about working the web and getting results. John, welcome to the podcast and welcome to DealershipNews.com.

John Sevier: [00:01:02] Hey, Kelly, how are you today?

Kelly Kleinman: [00:01:04] I am doing great. It’s sunny in Southern California. We’ve got mid 80s. We’ve got sun and surf and bikinis. I couldn’t ask for more.

John Sevier: [00:01:13] I was going to. It’s hard to stay in an office today like today.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:01:16] One thing we don’t have is Kings Island. We have something called Disneyland. I’m teasing.

John Sevier: [00:01:23] Not really on the same playing field there. But, you know, we do love Kings Island.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:01:27] Kings Island is fantastic. I went to the University of Cincinnati, folks, and of course, Ohio State for the Ohio State University. For anybody who’s listen to the podcast before, you might have heard me mention that. Let’s let’s start off by finding out how the heck you got into the automotive industry. John, was it something you were attracted to or did you suddenly wake up to new car smell and stale coffee?

John Sevier: [00:01:50] You know, I kind of got pulled into the automotive industry. I used to run it and help manage a call center for a large bank. And, you know, managing around 100 people, doing customer service, a little bit of outbound sales on the phone.

John Sevier: [00:02:09] And, you know, there was an Internet director position that opened up with an automotive dealership. That was Northgate Ford at the time. And, you know, kind of went over there and get my toe in.

John Sevier: [00:02:22] And I’ll tell you what, I I don’t know that my love for this business can can ever be changed. You know, when I started there, it has been wonderful ever since. And I just got addicted to everything automotive, jumping in and making sure that, you know, it’s just a wonderful world to be a part of in sales.

John Sevier: [00:02:46] It’s competitive. And it’s kind of pulled me in ever since. And I don’t think I’m going anywhere anytime soon.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:53] Well, we hope you did well. We know where you’re going. You’re going up to one of the sharpest Internet guys in the industry. So why don’t you share with us, your industry timeline since you were hired? You mentioned Northgate, Ford, Lincoln. And what is it that you’ve learned in the years that you’ve been in the industry? And what do you need to teach to dealerships?

John Sevier: [00:03:12] You know, I I’m a huge data nerd, and I will fully admit it. You know, I started a while ago as an individual store. So just one dealership, one rooftop where I was managing a small staff of about three Internet sales representatives. And from there, I, you know, grew into sales manager role with a with a large dealership selling about six hundred cars plus a month. So that was definitely very interesting. And from there, I decided to take on the role for a centralized BDC for 14 dealerships and build that from the ground up. So, you know, as as you get started there and building that that whole foundation and hiring 20 plus people, writing all the processes and doing all of that, it definitely made me rely on some of the great minds that are out there because I told you I’m a huge data nerd. But the other thing is I will never stop learning. So there’s a lot of great content out there that I was able to really dive into and implement some of those ideas and strategies that helped me become who I am today. And in turn, you know, I think it’s important to realize your strengths and your opportunities. And one of my strengths is definitely the BDC world, the digital side of things, as well as a little bit of operations. And so I wanted to kind of give back and offer a place and a podcast for somebody to listen into to get some really strong information without all the fluff, just to be able to walk away after they listen to this podcast with actionable information and strategies that they can implement at their dealership. The same way I was able to learn and educate myself on some of the other platforms or forms that were out there before.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:05:14] Before we get into the pod. Yes. Which is something we’re all really looking forward to. Tell us what you’re doing now that allows you to fill up your shopping cart at the grocery store.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:05:27] I love that question, by the way, you know. You know, what I’m doing now is I am the current CEO of a company called Dealer Advantage BDC. So it took all of all of the information that I had. And, you know, the progressive tactics of shooting video, you know, really communicating with the customer and making an unbelievable BDC department. And I wanted to make sure that we could offer that to other dealerships that may not have the time or the capability to build their BDC and train them constantly and stay progressive. I mean, it is a lot of work and it’s definitely successful if you do it in the story, you know yourself. But let’s face it, you’ve got to get expert in there to really run it. You don’t want to just get some random person. So just like with everything else, we wanted to offer a solution to, you know, one of the problems that’s out there is handling your online customers. And, you know, we take pride in doing that and making sure that we deliver exactly what we say we’re going to deliver, which is a great online customer experience to get them to communicate with us and get them into your showroom.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:06:41] Sometimes you’re just not going to hire the greatest talent. Let’s face reality. It’s sort of a hit or miss. You try to get the best people in there. But if it’s a processes game and it works and I think you’re more than halfway there. So it’s important, as you mentioned, to have a solid BDC strategy. And that’s I guess that’s what you’re doing. You know, it’s just a matter of whether or not the dealerships want to go along with the program in getting everybody to buy it. But when they do talk to me about the results, they can expect.

John Sevier: [00:07:08] Yeah, I think it all starts with, you know, culture. And the reason I’m going to start there with your question is because, you know, you talked about hiring people and retaining them. One of the you know, you talked to a lot of Internet managers or BDC managers or just managers in general in the automotive space. And they they love to talk about their accomplishments or how many cars they saw. One of the big things that I like to discuss and, you know, wears a badge of honor is in the BBC world. When I was running a centralized BDC, which is just very recent before starting this company and offering a solution, we had around 25 to 30 employees for BDC wrapped handling these Internet lead. And in 2018, when we closed out the end of the year, we had a turnover rate of 9 percent. And that’s going to include involuntary, involuntary. And so we promoted people up. We really built a strong culture. So we have those experience BDC reps that honestly are trained and educated on the product, more so than some of the salespeople we even have in the dealership. And so what that’s allowed us to do is deliver, you know, a lot of response back to the customer that they’re talking to, somebody that’s actually educated and knows what they’re doing and going through a training program. We make training mandatory.

John Sevier: [00:08:32] And, you know, when you build a culture of success and, you know, the Internet level, what happens is you really get some strong results. You know, we talk about training. We talk about process. We talk about operations. But the biggest win for us is setting those clear expectations and building a culture where people actually enjoy coming to work, because as you know, you’ve heard it before. If you talk to somebody and they’re sitting up in their chair and they’re smiling and they’re having a great day or they’re enjoying what they’re doing, that conversation, that inflection and the tone, all of that comes across. And that’s some of the things that set us apart. And what we’re able to deliver for dealerships, you know, we’re shooting personalized videos for every single Internet response. There’s no excuse. Every single Internet lead that comes in, we’re gonna shoot a personalized video where we hold up a sign. Right. The customer’s name on it. And we see about a 70 to 80 percent click the rate.

John Sevier: [00:09:30] And that is what we’re able to deliver. We’re able to deliver a customer experience that they want to work with. Whatever dealership that we’re representing when we’re answering the Internet leaves for these, you know, other dealership, which right now where we’re growing with an intern, you get all the wonderful stuff from that.

John Sevier: [00:09:51] You get the appointments that show. You get the sales that come with it. But it starts with, you know, your team and building a strong culture and process around being able to deliver upon appointment, set and shown and visits and deliveries.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:10:07] Great answer. Well, let’s Paolo on the podcast. What do you want to accomplish? What’s the theme and how often are we going to be listening in?

John Sevier: [00:10:17] I again, I appreciate the question. The. The main thing that we want to do is try to get out a weekly podcast. We’re going to shoot or Tuesday or Wednesday of every week. We’ve already got some podcasts started that we’re really excited about. Just to touch base on something, I am definitely what I consider her an expert in the BDC world. But by no means am I an expert in every facet of the automotive industry, and I don’t think I should sit there and pretend to be. So what I’m really excited about is delivering a weekly podcast to where we are going to have industry experts on. We’ve got David Cain, who’s going to be on there. We got Sean Kelly. And I’m not trying to name drop, but these are a lot of people that I have a ton of respect. Well, we have Steve Wrestler. I mean, we just did a podcast on video and video engagement with customers. So when you listen in every single week, whether you’re on break, your lunch, you know, your drive. We want to be able to deliver that podcast that you can walk away and have great information and new techniques and strategies to implement at your dealership.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:11:28] Well, you’re mentioning Sean Kelly and Steve Roessler. I have no idea who those guys are, but teasing unbelievable individuals. My favorite people in the industry. So you’re going to be working out of a skit. Are you going to be working out of a fashionable podcast studio in beautiful downtown Burbank, or have you repurposed your uncle’s tool shed in Beaver Creek or something in between?

John Sevier: [00:11:51] You know, it’s funny. We are in the BDC that we’ve built for Dealer Advantage BDC. We are in an old dealership. So we’ve got the glass front. That’s where we have the podcast. So we want to make sure we did this right. You know, we definitely have our studio, but it’s not where you are. We don’t have the sandy beaches and the wonderful weather. You know, you’re around. I mean, I’m in Cincinnati, Ohio, where, you know, I could I could go into work. And if you 60 degrees and, you know, by the time I leave is 20 and, you know, by the by the time I decide to go to bed, it back up to 80 degrees again. You never know what’s going to be what the weather is going to be out here.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:12:29] Well, it all sounds fantastic. You have my full support. I want to thank you for popping in and give us giving us the lowdown on severe strategy. I consider it a must listen for any dealership looking to get an edge up and then some, you know, good luck with that. When are we going to be here and. What’s what’s the timeframe?

John Sevier: [00:12:45] So we’re launching next week.

John Sevier: [00:12:48] We plan on today is the eight. We plan on getting our first podcast out so everybody can listen to it. And that’s the one on engagement around how to implement video into your dealership. Best practices around video. That’s going to be launching on the 13th of August 2 next Tuesday, 13 of 13th of August.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:13:09] That’s right. I will be flying to a beautiful Columbus, Ohio. Oh, by the way, I’m sorry. I’ll be flying into Cleveland, then into Columbus on the 16th, and then I’ll be in Las Vegas at the Digital Dealer show. You’d be going digital dealer by any chance.

[00:13:27] I am not. I promised the family that we would go on a vacation before we kick off everything for, you know, full court press full steam ahead with the podcast, because I want to make sure that you know what we say, we’re giving the content out that we deliver upon that. So we’re going to be taking a vacation during that time. So I’ll be missing digital dealer.

John Sevier: [00:13:50] But I will be at every other conference of teams that coming up within the next year.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:13:55] Maybe we’ll do a podcast together. Well, folks, you’ll be able to hear him on DealershipNews.com very soon. So stay tuned for severe strategy. The podcast is up and coming. Well, that’s off for today. I’m headed to the beach. Going to catch the last waves of summer. See you soon.

Episode: #50

Dealership News Speaks with Andrew Sweet & Tyler Hall with Drivably

Drivably helps dealers acquire the right cars they need without the stress they don’t need! The look at all of the cars and recommend the right inventory for your lot We’re in the age of data driven decision making. With Drivably you’ll harness your intuition to make calculated buying decisions and feel confident that the cars on your lot will sell. It’s match making between dealerships, available used inventory and the folks that are most likely to buy that inventory!

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:12] Hello, everybody. This is Kelly Kleinman, DealershipNews.com. This is our podcast where we spotlight the who’s happening in the automotive industry. It’s foot-soldiers, visionaries, salesmen, GM’s, owners, Service Managers in industry, vendors alike. We have two of those today. Our guests are none other than the founder of Drivably Mr. Tyler Hall and co-founder and Chief Rev Officer Andrew Sweet. Welcome to the show, gentlemen.

 

Tyler Hall: [00:00:40] Kelly.. Thanks for having us. Now we’re happy to be here.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:43] A pleasure to have you. I like asking our guests the same question on each podcast because sometimes they come up with some pretty unique answers in. The first question is how did you get into the automotive industry? It’s an accident for some people. Some people were born into it. It was manifest destiny. Tyler, you’ve got the floor.

 

Tyler Hall: [00:01:03] I would say mine falls into the accident category. When I was a 20 year old kid in college, I was working full time. I was going to school full time and I was broke as a child. And I finally saved up enough money to buy my first car. And after I did that, I realized that the car I purchased was worth quite a bit more money than I paid for it. So like any smart or dumb young college grad, I turned around the salt that I made a couple thousand bucks and I didn’t think a whole lot of it at the time. Kelly.. But I went ahead and I bought another car. So I needed mode of transportation. And the same cycle repeated itself. And so over the next 90 days or so, I bought and sold about 20 cars. And one day I’m at the DMV and I’m going to title one of these cars that I that I was flipping. And the nice old lady there said to tolerate, I see and hear quite a bit. Now, what are you, a dealer by chance? And I said, no. She said, Are you a wholesaler? I said, no. Are you a broker?

 

Tyler Hall: [00:02:04] No. Did you ever give any license of any kind? And I told her, no, I didn’t. And she said, I said money. And she said, well, you know that what you’re doing is very illegal things. And. And that was that was a rude awakening for me. And so I started trembling. I got scared and I asked her, am I going to go to jail? And she said, no, you need to be careful. And if you want to keep doing this, you have to get a dealer license.

 

Tyler Hall: [00:02:30] And so I wasn’t going to become a dealer at that time. I didn’t really have the motivation and the passion to want to do that as a full time student. And so I went started knocking on dealerships doors and I got one guy to commit to letting me use his license. And so I got even smarter. I was somewhat technical in nature growing up. I developed an application that helped me source private consumers inventories better. So essentially, I had automated that process for me. And I had no plans of licensing this technology to dealers. But one day I was in the dealership at the dealer whose license I was using. And at this point, I bought and sold about 100 cars. And he said, Tyler, you’re actually you’re actually outpacing me this month. You’re buying and selling more cars than even I do as a licensed dealer. And he said, what are you doing? And I showed him the program and he said, why don’t we trade? I’d love to use your tack in exchange for my license. And next thing you know, over the next 30 days or so, I licensed that software to a number of dealerships in Utah. And the one thing that I learned to be true across the board was that for these guys to acquire the right used car inventory to sell quickly and be profitable, it was getting harder and harder. And this was there’s about eight or nine years ago. And so now you fast forward to today. And we formed Drive Away at the beginning of this year to solve precisely that problem. Help dealerships have make better decisions on the inventory that they’re buying. So that’s that’s my story.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:03:58] And we’re going to get more into your story as it is currently here in a moment or two after we find out what got Andrew sweet into the business.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:04:07] Outside of stealing cars. No, No. For real though. Never, never stolen any cars. Complete accident. My brother’s in the car business, but more in the service and bodywork side.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:04:19] So outside of that and meeting Tyler about three and a half years ago, complete accident. But it’s been an amazing journey over the last few years. Learning, learning the business, learning all the players and all the opportunities that drastically can help.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:04:34] Let’s get into an elevator pitch and that I think we ought to give it to the sales guy. And that would be Andrew. Year. Your 30 second elevator pitch. You’re trapped on the 20th floor of dealership news in beautiful Miami, Florida, and you’re with the owner of a large dealership group in. Like I said, you’ve got 30 seconds to blow my mind.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:04:56] Yes. So assuming this gentleman inquires and asks what I do, I would tell him that I prefer a company called Drivably. We help dealerships acquire inventory and we get inventory. And when we say get inventory, we. We help dealers acquire it. We help them. We help them understand it. Our customers have come to us and they tell us that at any given time, they are 25, 30 percent of their inventory is not being positioned to sell correctly, especially if they have multiple, multiple locations. It’s not because they’re they’re not trying to deploy that inventory correctly. That’s to do it. That inventory isn’t being looked at or evaluated day to day and that that problem manifests itself on the buying side. Human beings don’t have enough time to go through all the information. And buyers traditionally from our observations, maybe look at anywhere from one to five hundred cars a day at Max. We look at all the cars every day, all the time and recommend the right piece of inventory for their particular business. So buyers can spend more time making decisions versus acquiring and finding data to make those decisions.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:06:14] That was about a minute and 20 seconds.

 

Tyler Hall: [00:06:16] Fail.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:06:19] But you sold me.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:06:19] If you let me if you let me talk, I’m going to talk, Keep going.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:06:24] I do, actually.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:06:25] We had a couple of staff.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:06:28] Well, look, I mean, I think that might have gotten into a little bit of our next question, and I like to frame it with this. If you could share with us some of the issues that are inherent with the accurate price information. And you’re sort of sort of touched on. You already are framing the question with the answer. So, again, if you can share with us some of the issues that are inherent with inaccurate pricing information, I know it’s a big problem and how it not only paints the industry in a bad light, but has a snowball effect on the process of moving inventory. You know, on a monthly basis.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:06:58] Yeah. Well, all I’ll start to answer that question on what I think the supply side of the answer is, and then I’ll let Tyler talk about perhaps all that how the problem pertains in other areas of the business.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:07:11] You know, naturally we think dealerships should be competitive in their pricing strategies. We’re more focused on understanding what’s available on the supply side and how that compares to our clients customer segments and their business models.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:07:27] And when we understand those saying we can expose them to the best opportunity that fits all three areas, the supply side, the customer side and their business model. And sometimes when a what a client is trying to do it from a retailing strategy isn’t always in alignment with those two things, which is why we’re so passionate about understanding what the wholesale market can provide.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:07:48] Next, batter.

 

Tyler Hall: [00:07:49] So I think I think Andrew is right. We don’t spend a whole lot of time focusing on an inaccurate pricing when it comes to pricing or inventory as a dealership or as a retailer as much as we do helping you have access to the right information to make the right decisions on how to stock your loss or optimize your market is the way that we would call. And so for me, I think a lot of the inaccurate pricing comes from. I think there’s there’s a number of reasons, but namely the fact that no dealerships use tools today that help them understand specifically what’s available in and around their market. And it’s quickly pigeon hole dealers into undercutting their prices and it’s become a race to the bottom in order to be competitive within your market. And so a lot of that has to do with the fact that we believe each unique dealership is precisely that they’re unique and that the way that we recommend inventory is not solely based on a market or what’s happening within that market, but it’s more so based on your store’s historical sells and the history of the type of consumer or the demographic of consumer that’s going to walk into your store. And so inherently, we believe a lot of the issues around retail pricing have to do with the fact that people are being misguided with information that’s forcing them to sell the cars cheaper than they did to make.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:09:19] You have an ability to match inventory with your dealership partners, correct and correct. So the question obviously the question is how does that take place? What’s the criteria behind the matching of the inventory with any specific dealer other other than historically? Because new models come out, demographics change from PMA to PMA over the years. How does the criteria evolve over time?

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:09:45] It’s good. Good question. I’ll give you that. I’ll give you the summarized version that we don’t necessarily really think about in terms of criteria for saying we think it took about more. How did we wait an algorithm to quickly process information similar to how how a human buyer would do it? We can call that a directional recommendation. So it’s really more about speed than being perfect. And at least for at least. In our case right now. So let me give you a great example of how to do that so we ingest all of the wholesale data we can get our hands on. And I must say that’s anywhere from 90 to 95 percent of the wholesale market. We clean that data. We normalize that data and then we process it. And when I say crosses, I mean that we essentially rank all of those cars from top to bottom weighting the same five metrics, five day metrics that a human would do. So you could call it price MMR, market supply, wholesale, retail listing data, etc.. And the main difference being that human could use a few hundred times a day. We can do it. We can do it a million times a day. Every day. That first preliminary ranking is what we call are drivable score.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:11:03] And that score directly correlates with how we think that card perform within the business that the dealer is operating under. So if you’re trying to achieve a higher profit versus a quicker turn time, then all the variations in between. And that’s our that’s really our core recommendation. After that, some I think Tyler’s mentioning when we get access to historical data from from our partners in the forms of sales data, customer data, et cetera, we then start building what’s called a custom recommendation engine for each individual. Clients are really at the end of the day, we’re building we’re building models that recommend specific inventory for each client we have. So an example that could be you get two customers or excuse me, we get up to clients on the opposite side of the street from one another who may be on the service, look like their businesses are the same. But once we dig into the numbers, the way that our system would be generating recommendations for their businesses would be completely different due to the intricacy of how the business performs, how their customers look and feel, and historically what what makes them models have worked for them.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:12:16] So the metrics are the criteria basically more than anything. And then the historic. Okay, I get it. I think that’s fantastic. I’d like to see a demo at some points on how this all works if you guys are up for it sometime next week, maybe because it’s interesting. Now you just parted with Black Book. I know that very well. How do you leverage black box data to bring a better, more accurate product to the dealer?

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:12:41] Yeah, great question. We really we really like those guys. By the way, a shot out the black book, Gerard and Neal specifically. They’ve been they’ve been really helpful over the last four or five months as we’ve started to engage with them. And so, you know, as you talk a little bit more about the criteria that feeds the recommendation engines that we build for our customers know really it’s it’s a couple of key data sets that when married together provide precise the precise ability to rank among the right inventory. And those data sets are a few things. Book valuations. And as you know, those book valuations are you know, a few of them are being generated through black box data. You can probably think of the other books that any given dealership would care about in the US. And those are the same valuation, the same valuation data that we bring into the platform. The second thing is understanding intimately. Any given regional market. So we want to know what’s happening from a retail and wholesale standpoint, not only what’s listed on the retail market and at what prices, but also what’s transacted on in any given retail market and ending up in wholesale market.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:13:55] The next layer of data that’s critically important is what we call demand sensing. And demand sensing is, you know, us partnering with the largest search engine companies in the world like Google to really understand what consumers are looking for within a given market. And so if there is if there’s a high demand for a certain type of vehicle, but the supply within any given market is low, it’s obvious that there needs to be more of those readily available to consumers. And one last thing, and the most critical element of us providing recommendations back to the customer is historically understanding precisely what they bought, where they bought it from, for how much, when they sold it, how much they spent on reconditioning, what car they sold it to and for how much. And by measuring that in a real time manner from 12 months previous leading up to the present day and marrying that with the other core data sets, including Black Book, it really helps us, you know, provide the right recommendations that ultimately lead to more profitability and faster term.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:15:04] So, you know, and it brings to mind is the idea that a convertible Jetta in Minnesota. He isn’t going to be worth as much as a convertible Jetta in Los Angeles, California. You just can’t use the convertible if you’re not. Right.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:15:18] And I love your call out on that Kelly, because so many of these things are so obvious, right. To too many people and so many of you know, what we would call like arbitrage opportunities are also obvious. And I’ll give you one example.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:15:36] Most dealers in Arizona know that they say buy two wheel drive trucks in a snowy climate in Utah in January and they put them on a truck for three hundred dollars and they send them to Arizona. By the time they arrive at their door, they’re going to buy that car roughly 10 percent cheaper than they could acquire that car in their own backyard. That’s obvious arbitrage scenario. But there’s hundreds of thousands of other opportunities that exist in being able to identify cars in markets that have a low demand for that car. And in parallel markets that have a high demand for that same car, and that opportunity precisely provides opportunity and potentially more profitability for the acquiring dealer. And so nobody today understands why 2012 Ford Focus is in Des Moines, Iowa, are worth 10 percent more than 2012 Ford Focus in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:16:34] But they are. And we only know that because that’s what the data tells us. So in a word, we’re uncovering opportunities for dealerships to acquire inventory outside of their own markets that they wouldn’t have ever been able to see without having access to the level of data that we have.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:16:52] How does this data driven technology help improve our dealers, bottom line? I mean, you’ve touched on it. It’s probably the obvious question, but just fire away.

 

Tyler Hall: [00:16:59] That’s good. Good question. I mean, depending on each dealers specific scenario, it’s obviously different across the board. But really the right inventory and the front end translates to efficiency and other operational advantages throughout throughout the business, which I’m sure is. No, no. Peter, new information to you. Historically, the clients that we’ve worked with in the past six months, they’re going to generally see an increase in front end gross profit of anywhere from five hundred to twelve hundred dollars per unit. They’re going to see a reduction in time spent sourcing and buying anywhere from 70 to 95 percent. And time spent at physical and online options nearly eliminates itself completely. Having all the all the information at your disposal, you don’t need to spend time watching what runs through the lens. And better yet, price went. The theme that we didn’t expect to hear from our clients was no more no more shocking surprises, meaning hey, we needed X, Y, Z for the next month, and for whatever reason, we can’t identify the ones that we need fast enough. And maybe we get to the party late and we have to overspend for a particular set of inventory. Our goal is to ensure that doesn’t happen.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:18:16] Where do you feel your brand new company? Where do you see yourself three years from now? And what’s in the pipeline, say, for 2020? And we know you with Black Book. That’s going to be an amazing lift for you. But there’s probably some other stuff that you have planned, and I’d love to know a little bit about what that might be.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:18:33] I mean, I’ll I’ll take that one first. I mean, right now or we’re just laser focused on producing the right recommendation for each customer that we have. And I know that maybe sounds like like a vanilla boring answer. That really is our short term focus. But that means you’re asking me a lot of things over time. And if we do that right. That gives us gives us endless opportunity.

 

Tyler Hall: [00:18:57] There could be some out of it. Go ahead. I’m sorry. Kelly.. That’s OK.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:19:01] Yes. I mean, I think for us to, you know, maybe maybe give you a sound. We have a we have a long term goal of making the entire wholesale market is just more efficient, General. And we see a day where dealerships fall log into tribal play. They’ll set essentially a limit for the number of cars that they can hold over that next week or perhaps even the next month. And then autonomously, those cars just show up. And we believe that we can get to this point. That’s going to take time. It’s going to take some some serious shifts and in the general automotive market to happen.

 

Andrew Sweet: [00:19:39] And it’s going to require significant bite. But we believe that based on the accuracy of our recommendations, dealers will buy into that with time. And so, you know, we’re off to being six months out of the ground. We’re off to an amazing start. We’ve got a number of really exciting partnerships in the works right now. A couple of the biggest independent franchise groups in the US where we’re working closely with, obviously can’t get really share too much too many details on that. But we feel that 2020 is going to be. We were very up, you know, optimistic and opportunistic about the potential opportunities there. And, you know, in short order, anybody and everybody who the dealer that struggle is worth acquiring the right inventory. I’ll be off to sign up for a solution. It’s going to be extremely competitive from a pricing standpoint. So much so that independents and franchise dealers alike across the U.S. will be able to afford it. And we see a vision of this becoming the one source of truth where people go to acquire wholesale inventory.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:20:44] Well, I want to thank you for your time, gentlemen.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:20:46] That was none other than the founder and co-founder of Drivably Tyler Hall and Andrew Sweet. Guys, thanks again. Hold the line as I bid everybody farewell. This is Kelly Kleinman DealershipNews.com. That was the podcast for a hump day at the end of June. Talk to y’all soon. Stay tuned.

Episode: #49

Dealership News Speaks with George Chamoun of ACV Auctions

George Chamoun is the man in charge of the fastest growing auto auction on earth. he sits down with Kelly Kleinman of Dealership News and gives some great background and insight into the business as it grows by leaps and bounds from coast to coast.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:27] Hello, everybody. This is Kelly Kleinman and you are listening to the DealershipNews.com podcast where we spotlight the who’s happening in the automotive industry. It’s foot soldiers, visionary salesmen, GM’s, owners, service managers and industry vendors alike. Our guest today is the driving force behind ACV Auctions. Mr. George Chamoun. George, welcome to the show.

George Chamoun: [00:00:52] Thank you, Kelly. Thank you for having me. Really appreciate it.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:55] Oh, so happy to have you. Now, we haven’t spoken in a while. It’s actually been about a year now. And we first met it’s the NADA. We spoke in September. I want to say perhaps it was late August, but when we did last speak, you were moving 5,000 units per month and he had some 400 dealers coming on-board monthly. Where are you guys now, almost a year later?

George Chamoun: [00:01:16] Sure Kelly, so we are selling over 19,000 vehicles a month. So obviously from we spoke last at five thousand. The growth here continues to climb significantly. And we have well, well over 2000 dealers selling cars on our platform and well over 6000 dealers bidding for cars in our platform.

George Chamoun: [00:01:41] That’s a guide to significant scale.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:01:44] It’s amazing. Now, I know you received the healthy injection of capital at the end of last year. How is that being utilized to keep expanding and get to the next level? You seem to be getting to the next level pretty quickly and whenever that next level is.

George Chamoun: [00:01:58] Sure. Yeah.

George Chamoun: [00:02:00] There’s two key areas where we’re investing. One is growing our our partners and teammates across the country, both here and in Buffalo, where our headquarters as well as in all the territories that we entered and are entering. So think about it. First are hiring and we’re where we’re hiring over 40 people a month here at ACV. And second, we’re building and investing in technology that will allow us to further increase the transparency we’re providing in a vehicle and ultimately focus on being the most trusted way for a dealer to purchase a vehicle.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:47] Who are some of your other technological partners, so to speak?

George Chamoun: [00:02:53] Well, we’re let we’re licensing data from a few folks out there.

George Chamoun: [00:02:58] I’m not sure if I’m privy to be sharing all the names, but the typical folks that are in the are in the business of providing data to companies like ACV.

George Chamoun: [00:03:08] And then we’re just now starting to integrate with third party dealer systems. So, you know, dealerships have systems that they’re managing their wholesale and other assets. And we just kicked off really getting API and other ways of integrating with third parties.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:03:32] Well, let’s get into that here in about a second or two. But meanwhile, you’re growing you’re growing fast in things called growing pains. So what are some of the challenges to on-boarding more dealers in scaling up in general as far as hiring is concerned, finding seats, finding desks? I mean, there’s there’s a million things, I’m sure that they’re on that checklist.

George Chamoun: [00:03:54] Yeah. So it’s fun, right? I mean, when you’re bringing on over 40 new teammates a month, I believe last month we brought on 50 new teammates.

George Chamoun: [00:04:03] First, you need a rather large recruiting team. So we’ve got, you know, several folks that are recruiting and we go through a process. Everything from how we were interviewing online, how folks are submitting their resumés and how we’re really making sure that we’re interviewing folks that fit in with the culture and the ACV way.

George Chamoun: [00:04:29] We do believe the ACV way is a unique way of approaching this.

George Chamoun: [00:04:34] The wholesale and in automotive sector.

George Chamoun: [00:04:37] So one is the recruiting you need, the manpower you needed technology into the process to recruit. Then it’s training when you’ve got every month the class of 40 to 50 or more new teammates coming on board. You need a whole system from training from day one to two, month three. You know, you need a whole platform to train and we’ve built that and keep making that system better and better. And then to your point, you need either whether they’re going to be housed or where they’re going to be or if they’re going to be on the road to make sure everyone’s, you know, is is comfortable. And so we’ve got a whole process and methodology to do that as well.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:05:17] Let’s get to a look. You’re out there. You’re doing your thing on a daily basis. You’re growing. There’s a lot of issues out there with dealerships and the issues that they face with buying and selling used inventory. Let’s find out a little bit about what HCV has as far as a solution to some of those concerns.

George Chamoun: [00:05:36] So what we believe is there’s plenty of cars out there for dealers to buy.

George Chamoun: [00:05:42] The question is which one should they and every vehicle belong somewhere in the country?

George Chamoun: [00:05:49] If you just take a step back and make that assumption, every vehicle has a home. But really, what the industry was missing was transparency, because Syrian dealers don’t have the shop time to go in there and repair certain thing. So if you if you take a step back and say the transparency on the vehicle and knowing you’re expected reconditioning cost and reconditioning time.

George Chamoun: [00:06:19] Will be the most important thing for dealers to keep up with their sourcing objectives.

George Chamoun: [00:06:26] And we continue to build technology and hiring the best people to solve that problem. For example, AMP, which is our audio motor profile. We’re listening to the engine in the industry. Never had a way to digitally have it. A high definition audio. It’s better than a human being going to and listening to a car themselves in person, not equivalent, but better. So when you take a step back, it’s really all about insourcing. What is the condition? The car? What is my dealership look like from my ability to purchase inventory? Bring it into my my dealership. What is my time repair? And we’re helping with the transparencies of dealers are making the right choices.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:07:15] So you’re basically saying that you have technology. It will actually listen to the car engine and be able to diagnose any particular issue?

George Chamoun: [00:07:24] It doesn’t diagnose yet.

George Chamoun: [00:07:29] But a strong yeah. But but dealers can hear a ticking sound.

George Chamoun: [00:07:34] Sure, it’s a main thing by just providing the information to dealers. What that does.

George Chamoun: [00:07:41] But I did use the key word was.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:07:46] Ok. Well, you know, the next question and I gave you these questions beforehand, but it’s the big one, which what differentiates you from the trade revs and dealers link to the world, its dealers thinks of the world. And this is this is the kind of thing that I’m trying to get at this kind of a technology. I’m sure they don’t have that. What does differentiate you between the competition and yourself?

George Chamoun: [00:08:10] Sure. I. I believe with every business we all we all have to have.

George Chamoun: [00:08:18] What’s most important. And you really need to know what your North Star is. And when you we have today 800 teammates across the country. And if you were to ask any one of our 800 teammates, what are the two most important things? I believe almost all of them will tell you the same thing. And the two most important things here are being the most trusted and transparent way for a dealer to buy a wholesale vehicle. And number two, being the best place to work in America. Not just about the place to work in automotive or in technology, but the best place to work in America. And when you focus on those two things, Kelly, you drive a culture and innovation that is really unique because everyone here understands what we what we’re here for, what is our mission. And we. That’s really what’s unique about a CV. It’s a real clear, you know, goal, clear, objective. And now we’ve got a hundred teammates growing by 40 to 50 a month, all of us out there to accomplish the same thing.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:09:32] I would strongly suggest that other folks out there looking to start a business. Listen to what you say, write it down, stick it on the wall and pay attention to it because you’re growing this company at an exponential rate. And those words are wisdom. So with that said, what is the plan for the rest of 2019? Well, most of the be muscling up internally. Where will there be more of a marketing push to open more dealerships now? Other shoe marketing look. How does it work?

George Chamoun: [00:10:01] Sure. So think about it as there’s several lovers here, one, we need additional markets open.

George Chamoun: [00:10:09] These are territory managers need to hire in each territory. A manager needs to hire vehicle condition inspector. So we’re approximately one hundred and fifteen territories are open and running today. We’ll have over one hundred and forty by year end. So one is opening additional territories to growing additional vehicle condition inspectors. We have over 300 teammates in the country today. We need more. And so we’re hiring additional folks that we can, you know, be across the country and be able to be in every dealership across the country, whether it be one day a week, two days, a week or more. We’re going to have the footprint to do that. And then three is when you think about what we do. There is both a supply and demand, making sure we have the resources to to really be that strong account management and be there for the dealers as they call us. So building up the resources here to be great. When a buyer needs something, they’ve got their one partner on the phone, whoever may be over here and they’re here to answer whatever are our partner that dealer needs. So those are that’s what we’re doing. It’s really the same thing we were doing last year. It’s just more of it.

George Chamoun: [00:11:31] And continuing to invest in technology in parallel to all that so that we can, you know, not only make incremental strides being the most trust and transparent way, but we’ll also be making which we’ll be announcing our next couple of months.

George Chamoun: [00:11:47] Major strides like things that are going to change the way we can even see a vehicle compared to today.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:11:55] Well, let’s go back to the hiring criteria. What kind of people are you looking for? There might be people out there listening to this right now who would be a great addition to your team. And we’ve said ballclub. You know, I’m a manager. I’m a coach of the Chicago Cub Scout team out here in Southern California. So sorry if I can play that, too. But, yes, you’re looking for teammates. What are some of the criteria for hiring? Somebody wants to be an area manager. Region manager? What what are you looking for that person?

George Chamoun: [00:12:21] Sure, at one.

George Chamoun: [00:12:23] This is the role is going out there and building relationships with dealers, so folks that understand what you know or hey, had the experience or understand what it takes to build relationships with dealerships across various territory or DMA. So proven experience would be great. Most important is that sort of winning happy culture type of mindset. There’s all different types of folks out there and we want the happy ones. So you want folks that, you know, love the challenge you’re up against every day. And, you know, are excited to go out there and be challenged and doing it with a smile and three pie folks that have a level of curiosity that think, you know what? Let’s. We understand that dealerships are doing a certain way today, but they like the challenge of changing process and methods. We all get kinda stuck in whatever we’re doing today, whatever process we have, whatever system we’ve been doing it the same way for one year or ten years changing. It’s hard. Well, certain folks we bring on board, they they like that challenge are going in and saying, hey, Mr. Dealer, I understand you’ve been doing it the same way for the last five or 10 years. We’ve got a new way for you and here’s why it will help you. And so the folks that enjoy that and enjoy helping dealers can be part of tomorrow, not just stuck in the past.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:14:01] Sure. You know, change is a good thing. And although car dealers have been reluctant to change, I think they are looking for better solutions. And I would speak to them all the time. So I think you’re definitely on the right track. Are we going to be able to slot you into online auction as the year for 2019 90?

George Chamoun: [00:14:21] Well, thank you, Kelly. We love debate. You know where I’m very proud of the team.

George Chamoun: [00:14:27] Proud of what we’re accomplishing here. So we’re just keeping our head down, doing what we do. But thank you.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:14:35] Let’s see what happens. Hey, George.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:14:37] It was a pleasure chatting with you. Best of luck moving forward. Certainly seems like ECB options has become a major player. It’s great to see, quite frankly. This is Kelly Kleinman for the DealershipNews.com podcast. That was George Chamoun. Certainly hope I pronounced his name right, giving you the greatest information in the latest, greatest automotive news that you could use from ECB auctions. Have a great Fourth of July, folks. Hope you have a blast. See you next time.

Episode: #48

DealershipNews.com Speaks with Sandy Zannino with IAHR

Dealership News and Sandy Zannino Discuss Cultural Diversity Challenges for HR

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:14] Hello, this is Kelly Kleinman, and you are listening to DealershipNews.com podcast, where we spotlight the who’s happening in the automotive industry, its foot soldiers, visionaries, salesmen, GMs, owners, service managers and industry vendors alike. Our guest today is Sandy Zannino of Innovative Auto H.R.. And our topic is a very controversial one regarding cultural diversity in the workplace and how that diversity can be used to a dealership’s advantage. But with a big warning label attached, people tend to want to buy from those they feel most comfortable with. This can mean that language and shared culture, lifestyle or beliefs play an important part in a customer’s comfort level.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:01:01] In buying from a car dealership. With that in mind, is it wise for a dealership to hire accordingly? Can we embrace polarization, diversity and tribalism and turn it to our advantage without negative consequences? Sandy, welcome to the show.

Sandy Zannino: [00:01:16] Thank you, Kelly.. I’m happy to be here.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:01:19] Happy to have you finally. Hey, I love asking all of our guests the same question.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:01:23] How did Sandy Zannino get into the automotive industry? Was it something you’ve always loved or did the door of opportunity to sort of swing open for you?

Sandy Zannino: [00:01:33] Well, it was definitely more of the door of opportunity swung open and I kind of fell into it. It was back in 1998 and I was actually working for a commercial property appraiser. And I got to know the people next door. Little did I know that it was the corporate office for a an automotive group. And so that’s really where it started. They asked me if I wanted to interview for an office position and it grew from there. I fell in love with the car business pretty much right away.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:02] Here you are. So what would so your company is innovative auto H.R. It sort of explains itself. But before we get into our subject, what would your elevator pitch sound like if you were trapped on the 20th floor of the DealershipNews.com building there in Miami with the owner of a large dealership group?

Sandy Zannino: [00:02:18] Well, I am the automotive H.R. expert, and what I do is help dealers protect their profits through H.R. compliance training and coaching.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:28] That was 15 seconds. You’ve got 15 seconds more. Go. Just kidding.

Sandy Zannino: [00:02:32] Well, I’d say elevator pitch.

Sandy Zannino: [00:02:35] It needs to be fast for four dealers. The attention span for H.R. is very short.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:39] I can’t even give you a number as to how many podcasts I’ve done, but that was the shortest, most precise elevator pitch I’ve ever heard that went from the first floor to the second floor and it was done. I’ve had folks get out for five minutes. How big was this building anyway?

Sandy Zannino: [00:02:56] So what’s now got to be quick and it is clear, you know exactly what I do, right?

Kelly Kleinman: [00:03:02] Exactly. When dealerships in your sphere of influence hire personnel, do they generally hire personnel to reflect the cultural makeup of the area? Or is that not as important as finding somebody could simply show up on time? So to fix a car, work the deal that’s going hopefully stick around for a little while.

Sandy Zannino: [00:03:17] Kelly.. I love this question. I am still trying to get most hiring managers that I know to hire for organizational and characteristics. And you know, in my experience, hiring managers are, as you say, more concerned with getting that body in the bay on the sales floor, which I understand, you know, so. So, no, they’re not necessarily at least in my sphere. They’re not necessarily looking to reflect the community that they operate in.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:03:51] It was sort of a loaded question, because that’s exactly where we’re gonna go with this. Let’s say they start doing something along those lines and we’ll dig in here as we as we go or sort of shoot from the hip. But if they started hiring, let’s say, for example, there you have a large Asian and Spanish makeup. You start hiring people who speak both languages or parts of both culture. What happens to the concept of the fear? Next up, rotation system. If dealers decide it’s match walk ins calls in other leads with sales personnel’s, that person either match the ethnicity of that potential customer. And we know it makes sense, but does it open the door to potential H.R. issues, in your opinion?

Sandy Zannino: [00:04:32] Well, yes, I think that it does. And I think we’re really kind of talking about two different things, creating a workforce. And that that looks like your community is very important and making sure that that workforce is, you know, diverse through all of your department levels. You know, vs. matching clients with salespeople for you know, that’s what we’re talking about, salespeople. I would leave that, you know, in in the realm of the salesperson building their own. Clientele within their community. You know, when we talk about a tribe, a tribe isn’t necessarily just ethnicity or language. It could be a tribe of soccer moms. It could be, you know, it can. It can. So when we’re talking about diversity and we can’t leave women out of this picture as well. Obviously, I’m a woman that’s been an automotive for the last 20 years. So it’s a you know, it’s an issue and a movement. Now, your question to what are the problems that I would see if the dealers decided to match their Spanish language or whatever ethnicity you have? Language, I think is very important to have people to speak the same language in order to communicate as your customers coming in the door. But when you’re talking about matching ethnicity, I think that the main H.R. issue to see on the employer side with that is that the ethnicity clearly is going to be a minority. So in H.R. speak, you’re talking about a protected status. The dealer can should if they’re going to do something like that, should make sure that they’re not creating an atmosphere where the minorities on their sales force are not receiving as much opportunity for income as everybody else. Does that make sense?

Kelly Kleinman: [00:06:42] Well, yeah, it does. What are some of the options to work around potentially here? H.R. issues that you have when when you know that culture, ethnicity matching is effective, but possibly taboo. Could it be in a fashion dynamic? Has that appeal to specific affinity groups with a call to action, including maybe the appropriate contacted the dealership? In other words, run, run some ads that pertain to specific lifestyles or again, you know, diversity lives, diverse lifestyles and then contact so and so at this particular dealership and then everybody gets sort of a fair shake at it. And I’ll give you an example, a current Korean language ad with the contact point being a Korean salesperson or perhaps a Jewish oriented ad being funneled to a Jewish salesperson and without bloviating like crazy over here. I would just tell you that my wife is part Korean and Japanese. And when she’s done, I mention this to you early, when she goes to a Japanese or Korean restaurant or store and we find out that she’s Korean or Japanese, she gets deals and they feel comfortable talking to her. So aside from that other work around, so everybody does get a fair shake.

Sandy Zannino: [00:07:51] Well, you know, I am definitely not a marketing guru. It’s not what I do. But what I would question if I’m I’m really a do things in moderation kind of a person. So, you know, when when we’re talking about language and you have a Spanish speaking market for sure. You know, I’m in Florida. There’s a big Spanish speaking market. So if you’re going to do a Spanish language ad, of course you’re going to you know, you would have that again. I would. Also, it’s important to teach R and train our salespeople about building the relationship because, you know, you can speak the same same language as someone and still not build a relationship. And they might not come back just because of this, you know, just because it’s someone that that speaks their language. So the client relationship ends up being, for me, the most important and where where employers can can focus their resources in connecting, really connecting perhaps through having sales people that that, you know, speak the same language or come from the same background. But then building on that I think is is really important. Kelly. I think the one thing that I that I see about this that kind of gives me them is, you know, we don’t want to. We want to attract our our customers, but we don’t want to profile them. We don’t want to make them feel profiled. And that’s why I think I lean more toward helping our staff build their own clientele base within their community and within their whatever tribe it is and leaving it in in their realm. And the customer realm.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:09:39] So potentially through social media. And they do it in their own on their own prerogative.

Sandy Zannino: [00:09:45] Absolutely, I mean, that’s really becoming kind of a trend I see. I see sales people all over building. You know, they’re branding themselves, as you know. I mean, we all know, Ali, right? Right. And the number one sales person in the country. And, you know, he has a brand. And, you know, it’s pretty amazing how that works. And I think that that dealers can help their their sales staff to do that. And in that way, bring a whole new market into their dealership.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:10:23] Yeah, that makes the solution a lot easier when you think about it. Social media is really simple. It’s done privately. I mean, it’s done socially, obviously, over the platform. But nonetheless, it’s the other folks in the dealership aren’t being left out. It’s really up to their own efforts. But there are issues also. So when you see a dealer leadership and they don’t have a diversity or cultural sensitivity training program in player, they’re just not that. They’re not about that. How do you prevent bad seeds from poisoning the workplace with unwelcome opinions, attitudes and biases? Because again, you’re you’re still hiring. And it really could be anybody. But you look at your hiring conservatives, liberals, blacks, whites, New York Yankee fans and Boston Red Sox fans, they don’t get along very well either.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:11:10] Right.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:11:11] So with that said, what are some of the issues that come up? What are some of the solutions and what steps can an H.R. person take to make sure that things go relatively smooth, smoothly? I know that wasn’t in the written questions I submitted before. But let’s see if we can go off script here a little bit, because I think an H.R. person and we know the H.R. person that we use here is very, very cognizant of differences and is very sensitive to everybody’s needs and concerns.

Sandy Zannino: [00:11:41] Well, you know, that’s really a it’s an awesome question. It’s also a very broad question and could go. The answer could go different ways. I think the first part of that is, is having just training in general. And some of that can be incorporated in what I hope every employer does annually, and that is anti harassment training. You know, because when we’re talking. About, you know, biases. We’re talking about unconscious bias. OK. This is we don’t think about it. It just it’s unconscious. So we don’t realize that we’re doing it. And we all happen. We all happen. And so the first part to do that, you could incorporate some, you know, maybe cultural sensitivity training right. Within your annual harassment training could be one. One way to bring this to the forefront of of people’s minds in the workplace. And as far as bad seeds, you know, that’s cultural. And the management from the top down has to be willing to bring these things to light. I think that sometimes it’s a very natural. It’s a natural thing to want something to go away, you know, especially in our business. Managers are so busy and you never know what’s going to pop up. So if someone says something inappropriate, either about a client to or about or to another employee.

Sandy Zannino: [00:13:28] The I think sometimes that we just want it to go away. Right. You know, I think that’s a natural inclination when what we need to do is train our managers to know how to respond to these things that happen. It’s when we don’t and when we don’t train that not only lawsuits within the organization can happen on an employment level, but also all you have to do today is look at Starbucks most recently for what has happened on the client level, you know, and and how. So their response, both those companies response was to close for a certain period and, you know, nationwide. And do you know, some training, do some diversity training and sensitivity training. And once we just like every problem, you don’t know until you know. And I think that it’s the same as far as this and as far as, you know, understanding what other people who don’t look like, you don’t sound like you didn’t grow up like you have in their life. And once you do that, then you can put yourself in other people’s shoes. And when that happens, then you have some real and meaningful ways to communicate and and, you know, get along in the world.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:14:57] Are you familiar with any cultural diversity or cultural sensitivity programs that are out there that are directed strictly towards car dealerships?

Sandy Zannino: [00:15:07] You know, not. I was going to say, yes, I do until you got to strictly for copulation. Yeah, yeah. No, I I don’t know of any right away. But this conversation will make me research that. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be another another vertical.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:15:23] That’s like thinking, you know, we’re I’d love to discuss with you a possibly writing an article on this. You know, Devin Rouff over there in. We had a conversation with him. He’s out of out of New York. And they were worried you were co earth authoring an article, him from a marketing standpoint and myself from a just an overall view of diversity in how it should be. Considered an important tool to use and to understand in in a car dealership, so maybe from an H.R. stamp what you can help contribute to that as well. And who knows, maybe we’ll have a panel someday write.

Sandy Zannino: [00:16:06] Well, you know, there’s a real business case for creating a more diverse workforce. You know, you can look up studies and and you will see that that the bottom line increases the more diverse the workforce is. You know, so growing it organically, I think is what is really important and not trying to force it, not not not creating an atmosphere where where you are profiling your customers and putting them with with certain people, but letting that grow naturally by simply creating a more diverse workforce.

Sandy Zannino: [00:16:48] And one thing that I think is really important, there is a way to start doing that and that that dealers can can check their workforce. You know, the right now everybody’s doing it. No one. So they’ve got their demographics right there. Yeah, they know who. They know what their demographics are. If they are an employer with over 100. So it’s pretty easy to find on your you know, in your state Web site or the DL, what the demographic is for the area in which you live. So it’s a good match. It should really kind of mass in the other. The other part of that is that I always caution is to make sure that it’s matching across departments, make sure that you’re minorities are not all in car wash or, you know, make sure they’re on the sale for.

Sandy Zannino: [00:17:35] And wouldn’t it look like in your management staff? So if if dealers that it’s going to naturally create higher, higher bottom line.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:17:50] I’m with you on that. Hey, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that. Devin Rouff is the vice president of business development at DigiSphere Marketing, and we did a podcast with him. I want to say about two weeks ago, Sandy, I want to thank you for joining us. Well, thank you for having me, Kelly..

Kelly Kleinman: [00:18:05] And I was going to have you guessed the band is playing this music.

Sandy Zannino: [00:18:10] I do not know.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:18:11] Chicago.

Sandy Zannino: [00:18:12] Sadly I don’t know. I think it’s like a 70 thing.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:18:15] It’s Chicago.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:18:17] It’s actually from the 70s. You nailed it. That’s good. OK, so you get 2.50 not Five dollars. Hey, folks. Cities in the you know of Innovative Auto H.R.. This is Kelly. Kleinman. This is the dealership news podcast for Friday, June 7th, 2019. Summer’s right around the corner. Sandy, again. Thank you for joining us. And have a great weekend, everybody.

Sandy Zannino: [00:18:41] You have a happy day. Thank you.

Episode: #47

DealershipNews.com Speaks with Diego Martinez and Liz Cardenas with Easy as 123

We had the pleasure of interviewing Diego Martinez and Liz Cardenas of 123 Easy As and came away with high-value insight into the world of two automotive vets with over 30 years of experience between them. iego is a dynamic individual, a force of personality if you will, who has done it all in the world of car dealerships. His insight should be taken seriously. Calls are considered high-quality leads. Having an extremely proactive BDC optimizing the phone bank – basically mining gold out of a dealer’s CRM – is exactly how Diego and long-time BDC boss Liz Cardenas approach the business.

Easy as 123.wav

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:11] Hello, this is Kelly Kleinman, and you are listening to the DealershipNews.com podcast, where we spotlight the who’s happening in the automotive industry, its foot soldiers, visionaries, salesmen, GMs, owners, service managers and industry vendors alike. Our guests today are the forces behind the company car dealers really need to know about. They specialize in a set of services. They can have a substantial impact on the overall success of any car dealership. And they are here today to talk about it. I’d like to welcome Diego Martinez and Liz Cardenas of Easy As 123. Hi, guys.

Diego Martinez: [00:00:49] How’s it going?

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:50] It is a pleasure. Thank you for coming on board. Now, it’s the first question I ask virtually every guest. And we love finding out how the heck y’all got into the automotive industry. Was it something you’ve always loved or did the door of opportunity just sort of open for you at a car dealership and there you were. What got you into it?

Diego Martinez: [00:01:10] You know what I’ve got to injured one day, and that’s how I got into car sales about 20 years ago and started as a salesman at a local GMC Pontiac Oldsmobile dealership, and then ever since.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:01:24] You said you got injured?

Diego Martinez: [00:01:25] I got injured. My other job is to be a heavy equipment operator.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:01:30] Oh, lord.

Diego Martinez: [00:01:30] So I couldn’t operate equipment anymore. So I had to find a different career. And I saw this ad. It was kind of funny because back in the days, I was a little fat guy running down with a suitcase and money falling out of the suitcase that, hey, you sell 10 cars, you can make X amount of money. I’m like, shit, I could do that. So here I am.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:01:49] It didn’t work. You never said. That’s great. How about you, Liz? Well, what happened with you?

Liz Cardenas: [00:01:53] Well, actually, I worked for a bank for almost 10 years and then stopped working to take care of my folks. So when it was time to go back to work, the bank felt I went out the bank industry too long. You know, it was hard to get a job. And then I interned at my Internet Manager and I accepted it. And within a couple of weeks we opened a call center and they put me on salary and I had a staff of twelve under me. So I started running their BDC department for a few years. That’s how I got into.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:02:23] We’re going to get into that call center business here in a minute. Now, if you had a 30 second elevator pitch, let’s say you’re trapped on the 20th floor of the Dealership News building in Miami Beach with the owner of a large automotive group. What would that 30 second elevator pitch sound like?

Diego Martinez: [00:02:39] It’s simple, you want to make more money, lower your overhead, give Easy As 123 a shot. We have a call center. We have experienced people making all the phone calls for you. Every one of your guests gets called out. We don’t nit pick. We don’t drills. We call everybody. That in itself will bring in more revenue. If we could just pick up one car dealer at an average of three thousand dollars a month, there’s 3000 more than you have that barely covers our costs. Do you imagine if I could actually make the same thing every day and get you 10 to 20 appointments a week? How much more money can you make and leaving yourself to available to do what they need to do? Would you sell cars or make more money?

Kelly Kleinman: [00:03:17] Well, you know, I mean that that’s actually an outstanding 30 second elevator pitch. You might be one of the best ones that we’ve heard here. Quite frankly. Usually our 30 second elevator pitches go to about a minute and a half or two minutes. So, you know, outstanding. Let’s let’s let’s let’s talk about some of the biggest issues that you see facing car dealers today. And you mentioned call center that are we’re going to get into that here shortly. But when you walk into a dealer, what questions do you ask them in order to properly assess their needs?

Diego Martinez: [00:03:44] Well, the first thing you do is you walk into a dealership. And one thing that we have lost, we have order takers. Now, we really don’t salespeople and a lot of owners and a lot of GMs, and GSMs who’ve been around the block to understand what I’m talking about. You walk into a car dealership right now and a lot of them like to go to another system. A lot of them don’t even up you or you have the crazy how to set an upfront. It’s funny. You walk into a dealership, you don’t get a proper meet and greet anymore.

Diego Martinez: [00:04:13] We understand that it’s all digital and people come in on a digital. But I don’t care where you go or what you shop on. You want somebody when you meet somebody to welcome you to their dealership, introduce themselves and find out what you want. ??. I believe in the last five to 10 years, the auto industry has lost that we have depended so much on digital how low our prices can be. I’m still a firm believer that people buy by value. I don’t care if you’re the cheapest price in town. People will not buy it if you don’t show them the value for what they’re paying. So it’s back to the same old thing. We don’t reinvent the wheel in the car business. We just relive it. It is going back to doing value. So once you get to a car dealership, you walk around the dealership for a little bit. You get to see what kind of experience you get from their sales staff. So then you know which way to pitch. You know, I was out at a dealership for 30 minutes. Not one person comes out and says hello to me. I walk in the showroom. I ask somebody where the restroom was. And they didn’t have a problem pointing what happened to walking the guests over to the bathroom and showing them where they’re at, getting to know them and all that, just building a small portion of rapport. I believe that our work ethics and our work habits have gone out the window. So that’s the first line of business that we need to address, is how people address us not only online but in person.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:05:26] I was just going to say, you walk in there and you’re almost immediately assessing their culture. I totally agree with you. I’ve noticed some of the same same problems that that you’re that you’re explaining to us here right now. It’s an issue. It’s definitely an issue. How about making the phone call and it just goes to a message, right? That’s a that’s a big issue.

Diego Martinez: [00:05:47] You know, that’s a hard thing at a dealership when you call and you have 20 different places, dial 1 for here, dial 2 for here, dial 3 for there, in it when it first came out sounding like a great way to show that we were professional. But in the reality, there’s nothing better than a light voice picking up the phone and say thank you for calling ABC Motors. This is Rebecca. How may I direct your call? Yeah. How about the worst part is that when you try to get a hold of a Sales Manager, you call him 10 times, ten times you go to the voicemail and they don’t even call you back. Our training has gone by the waysides from where I came in the car business to where it’s at today. And that goes all the way from managers all the way to sales staff, because also we worry about what’s the lowest price. How can I get this deal instead of worrying about customer wants and needs and doing the customer relationship that we have lost?

Kelly Kleinman: [00:06:32] Go over some of your call. Well, you have several services that you offer. Why don’t you go over a brief outline of what those services are and then let’s go into the call center capabilities have got a question regarding that and several others. So if you’re walking in, say, Mr. Car Dealer, this is what we have over at Easy As 123.

Diego Martinez: [00:06:52] One of the basic things that we have that everybody knows about is now digital broadcasting. We do digital. We do a lot of digital marketing for car dealerships such as their banners. We do email blast for them. We also make sure that if they’re in our latent Internet leads come in, that we stop the clock by a proper response with a human live person doing our response. So digital is very important in today’s market. I don’t care who you are, where you’re at. And I come from the newspapers and television and radio ads. But I also had it developed at 98 percent of our people go online before they come to the dealership. So how you present the ad, what’s in the ad? What’s the best way to get the best for your money on what you just sent out there? So our services start with digital. We do a full digital marketing system for them. We do a weekly broadcast for them. We have our own in-house graphic designer. Our turnaround time is within 24 to 48 hours at the most. And that’s after all the changes. We actually understand compliances from different manufacturers. So we we do our best to be in compliance the first round around, even though there’s always one or two things that we have to adjust.

Diego Martinez: [00:08:00] The more communication that we get from the dealer, the better it is and the easier it is for us to get it right the first time. But our goal is to have a digital marketing strategy, our broadcasts, our newsletter or whatever we’re sending out in front of the dealer within 12 hours and out in the public within 24 hours. We also offer websites, anything that has to do with digital marketing. We take care of such a social media. Social media is such a big part of everything nowadays. So we do help you advertise and we do help you answer your social media. We do have a sticker that we put on every place that we go to says check in on Facebook. The reason you want people to check in on Facebook because the more activity you get, the more Google recognizes you. So the more interaction you get with people, the more comments, the more that Facebook will run your ads. So the idea is to get interaction from your clients, from people that work with you. Pictures always have worked.

Diego Martinez: [00:08:55] You always ask permission for the salespeople to ask their clients to take pictures, because that’s the best part of social media that you’re ever gonna have, is the part where your clients are getting involved and they’re sharing it.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:09:09] I couldn’t concur with you more. I’ve seen that on Instagram as well. Where the salesman will post a picture with the happy customer and it goes quite a ways actually. The engagement levels are pretty high with that. Well, let’s let’s go over your call center capabilities. We know that car dealers missed calls for a number of reasons, and that means missed leads and obviously dropped sales. But how does your company address those relatively serious issues regarding call center?

Diego Martinez: [00:09:37] We call them what you guys call them issues with us. It’s just our daily work. We come in. We have established 10 phone operators who go through each account that we have and call every single person. The beautiful thing about the Internet is if you’ve ever worked at a car dealership or if you understand what I’m talking about here is if you go into your call log today and if you’re a GM, GSM right now and your listening to this, as I encourage you to do this, once you’re CRM, go in there and look from a lead. Where are we at? Today we’re at the 22nd of the month. Right. Go back to the first of the month and I guarantee you’re going to find 10, 12 leads that nobody’s talked to after three days. They dropped them. I encourage you to pick up the phone and call those people five out of those who are going to be in in the market still. And the other five will tell you that they went in bought somewhere else because they didn’t get the proper response. Our job is to make sure that those calls don’t fall of the loop. We go in and we call everybody, we email everybody and we get a hold of everybody. Now, let’s forget about that. What was the last time that everybody made sure that 100 percent of your guests walked into the door, got put into CRM? Because that doesn’t happen. You don’t know you. You put them in a CRM when you go on a test drive. When you do this or when you’re working a deal, have a log in. Everybody end and lead us.

Diego Martinez: [00:10:52] Follow up and call and everybody who was there yesterday finding out what happened today. The one thing you’re getting from us is you’re getting a true fact of exactly what happened. Which salesman needs help, Which salesman doesn’t do follow up. We can look at a CRM and within a couple of hours tell you which salesmen are doing a follow up and which ones aren’t. If you’re like me, you look at the board at the dealership and find out who’s making the phone calls or not, because you know how many units they got out. We got into an industry where we think 10 cars is good. I remember when 10 cars got you kicked out of the dealership. If you were in a 20 car guy or better, you didn’t have a job. But now was we’re OK with mediocre salespeople because we don’t take the time to train them. We don’t take the time to train them. We don’t take the time to show them how to do the proper follow up. And the truth is, our sales managers these days are so busy doing three or four different jobs than what they used to have to do when I was on sales. So you need somebody to go in there and help train your sales staff, get help, keep them accountable for what they’re doing. And that’s what we do. We don’t just keep them accountable for their phone calls, but we give you a monthly log. What kind of activity that salesperson has done, because we can see all that through the CRM, technology has helped us with that. The only thing technology has hurt us is that they forget that we need to train these people.

Diego Martinez: [00:12:04] We need the basics that meet and greet the building rapport, the selecting the right vehicle. They’re going on a test drive and letting these people know and feel the car. Well, how about that either. I know I saw that on the Internet. I know I’ve got the best price. But let me show you why. And forget about price, because price is an important you’ve got to remember that price was important. Nobody would be a Starbucks at 6:00 in the morning getting a five dollar cup of coffee. There’s value. We have got to go back to building value in these vehicles because then you can outsell then you can sell the value you’re back in our back ends should be about twenty three hundred dollars average. I know dealerships that one even employee if you can’t hold that because that’s where the money is at these days. We all understand that. But how do you get there? You set it up on the meet and greet from the sales staff. You set it up from the sales staff and that’s how you keep it going. Visit the sales staff. If they like you, trust and believe you, they’re going to liking Treasury Finance manager or your business manager, whatever title we want to call them today. Reality is a car dealerships is a profit center. We have let that go wayside. And that’s why a lot of good sales staff have left the industry. It’s time to bring it back and build value and build a little bit of pleasure in what we do for a living every day. You get hyped about the car biz.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:13:19] You get my vote. And I appreciate your insight. Let’s talk a little bit more about the call center, because other than somebody walking into a dealership, the phone call is perhaps the most potent and strong lead that you could possibly get. Is it bilingual? And then does it also take overflow calls? Because, like I said, I’ve called dealerships for a number of different reasons. Obviously, we interviewed quite a few of them. And I either get the the the menu or nobody picks up the phone at all and asked me to leave a message. So how do they deal with over overflow as far as that’s concerned? Do you have live operators to handle that or is it mostly just getting back on the phone and and providing some attention to those people whose calls fell through the cracks?

Diego Martinez: [00:14:10] The beautiful thing about our company is, that we can cut into what the dealership needs. If a dealership says, hey, you know what, I don’t have a receptionist till 10:00 in the morning, take for the phone calls to our office. Now we could take life phone calls any given time, day or night. We’re all but seven days a week. I know people on the East Coast are closed on Sundays, well Sunday, when you’re closed, we’re still working for you. We’re still making the follow up calls. We’re still answering your Internet leads to stop the clock to make sure that your client gets a first response from a human person. So one of the beautiful things about our call center is the world open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And we have the ability to go ahead and take your live calls and call forwarding. You let us know, hey, we’ve got for you the calls we’re going to take and we’re going to answer them and we’re going to either send you an email with what needs to be handled or we’re going to transfer them to the right department because we have the capability of doing all that. There is nothing worse than having the phone ring and nobody answering it. It used to be, you know what, you’re making money and always answering the phone because it sounds like you’re busy. Well, guess what? These days, when you don’t answer the phone, somebody else will. And our job is to make sure that we’re the first to answer the phone for you and get you that appointment you need today. Now, we’re talking about calls, sales. We also do the call center for your CFI.

Diego Martinez: [00:15:25] We also do the call center for your service department. We’re capable of doing the phone calls throughout your whole dealership and making sure that your service gets got the best experience that they need it. Making sure there’s something wrong, that we address the problem and we get it over to the right person at your dealership before the client goes in compliance, before the client goes on social media and blows everything up. So to answer your question, we are very flexible. We can custom tailor any of our services to any dealership needs specifications. We also do trainings. We go into the dealership and we’ll help you train your BDC Room. We’ll set it up for you and then we will help you monitor them month to month basis with that. So there’s a lot of flexibility on what we can do. I’ve been a salesperson, finance manager. I used car manager, a GSM, a finance director, special finance manager, a GM. So we can go in there and even train yourself sales to be able to perform this. A lot of people say, how do you get more money out of the back end of selling value of a slowing down? How about stopping a pencil pusher and actually take the time to get to know your guests and their needs? Today’s profitability is set on the back end the front end has to be able to help you get it. But it also does with service and parts. So our call center will direct all those areas to make sure that we get the most out of all your guests who have been in your dealership.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:16:47] Let’s let’s talk about another area. The Easy As 123 specializes in. And you’ve touched on it a couple times in broadcasting e-mails. Good e-mail marketing can be very successful for car dealers. We know that. So talk to us about the importance of a robust e-mail marketing campaign and how you guys approach it.

Diego Martinez: [00:17:02] You know, the best thing about an e-mail campaign and the way we approach is freshly every week. We don’t send out the same broadcast over and over again. One of the biggest problems dealerships face today is aging inventory. Why?

Diego Martinez: [00:17:15] Because the projects so competitive that the only way you’re going to get out and sell that old age vehicle is with price. Well, how do your guests know that you have that vehicle? How this other markets know that you have that vehicle? We all use the traditional Cars.com, TrueCars, vAuto does a great job helping us apply stuff, but it’s not getting in front of your guest. So just because I send you an e-mail today doesn’t mean you’re in the market today. But if I send you one next week or next month, you might be in the market so our strategy is to take your old inventory of what you have going on now and blasting that out to the thousands of clients that you have in your database. And that’s how we address it. We address it fresh with the first set of eyes and not repeating the same message all the time. It’s not always about price. Sometimes it might be a discount on your oil change to get the people into service, because once we get them into service, we have going into dealerships. If our sales stops train right, they’re going to take that e-mail blast that I sense of service clients and bring them up front. And show them a brand new Ford Focus. Chevy Cruze, Nissan Altima, or whatever you have on your life that those people are currently driving. 98% of the people walk in our service department will buy another car from us because they already like us. Trust us and believe us. We just have to go and do the legwork to get it back. Our job as Easy As 123 is to get him into your dealership with the e-mail. Our broadcasts with the e-mail blast. If advertising something to get him back into your dealership once we get him in there, if the dealerships job to flip him, get him into a different car, get him a test drive or upsell him something and service. So we take a logical look at how we’re going to get the best of our clients back into your dealership by assessing their needs.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:18:56] Well, I love how you specifically mentioned e-mail campaigns for service departments. Which campaigns have been the most successful for you and what kind of service department specials seem to be working the best across the board?

Diego Martinez: [00:19:10] You know, the ones that seem to work the best is when you’re doing an oil change and you’re open for lunch. I don’t know what it is. Car dealerships these days, but everybody wants to close down and close your service department for lunch. A lot of us, because a lot the service departments are running skeleton crews. I’ll make some models. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Ford dealership, Chevy dealership, Dodge dealership. We can change oil on any car that it’s available. So one of our biggest things is a quick lube, fast and easy get in and out during your lunch hour. We’ll shuttle you to lunch and bring you back and pick you up in your car. Be ready to go. That seems to be one of our best service as they have gone out and draw the most people. If you’re a working person and you don’t work in a car dealership, when do you get your oil change? Usually what when you get off work, when you’re going home? Or is it on the weekend? We try to make with a service departments open at lunchtime and makes it convenient for a doctor or a lawyer or somebody who has lunch and a specific time a banker that they can go drop off their car, go to lunch, come back and move forward. One of the dealerships that we did a broadcast for service has a deli in there. So they offered an oil change for X amount plus a deli sandwich. Now you’re getting lunch and changing your oil for the same price. You’re not you’re not wasting any time. It’s actually helping you accommodate your lunch hour. So there’s different programs, again, depending on what the dealership is doing and what they’ve been working this focusing on them. So a lot of it is convenience to your client, convenience to the guests that walk into our dealership.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:20:40] You know, I like that. I like that a lot. I appreciate a dealership that does take by the importance of my time into consideration. I haven’t seen a lot of that, quite frankly. And I think that that would be a great approach. What sets you guys apart from your competitors? I mean, you’ve mentioned a lot of that. I hear a lot of really good things, and I’m going to address it in my closing comments. But, you know, you’ve you’ve had an experience at virtually every level of of a car dealership. So you’ve got this great experience and then you’re passionate about it. But there’s got to be a couple other things that sets you guys apart from your competitors. And we want to hear what those are.

Diego Martinez: [00:21:18] You know, one of the best things that sets us apart from our competitors is, first of all, we have firsthand knowledge of the auto industry from start to finish. You’ve been in the sales and service parts.

Diego Martinez: [00:21:29] I have all the experience that you can ask for in the BDC realm. I have left was house ten, eleven years of BDC experience. So you’re not getting somebody who thought of an idea, said, hey, I can sell this. I can actually go behind your desk, sell car, get it financed. And that’s what we do, we go into a car dealership. If you need help in the management stops, we can go in there and do it. In California, we have California sales license in other states. You don’t need them. We can walk in there and sit behind a desk and know what we’re doing and help you make profit. So that sets us apart from most anybody out there trying to do this in the market. We actually know what it is. We’re not ELeads who’s making phone calls because they own your CRM. We are actual people that have been in the car business who understands our customers and our guests that walk in.

Diego Martinez: [00:22:17] So what you’re getting from us is a guy that is tomorrow a car dealership. And this happened to me and one of our local Ford dealerships here. They said, hey, my sales manager called in sick. Do you have anybody to come in? I said, yeah, I’ll be there in 20 minutes. So guess what? I got suited up. I went to work. We sold five cars that day and we kept making profit til the sales manager got better or til they actually replace that gentleman that kept calling them sick. The problem these days is that I love the calls and I just believe that there there’s nobody else that could do their job until you bring somebody else that really. I have no, no, no stake whether they keep the person or not because I don’t care. My job is to make sure that the dealership gets the best service that they need at that moment.

Diego Martinez: [00:22:57] But that sets us apart from everybody. You need an F and I manager. I can hop in there, wing a deal. It’s like the best of them. So with us, you’re getting the experience and you’re getting the best staff that you need. We also help you hire the right sales staff and we train ’em for you. How many of your other competitors are making phone calls for? You could say that.

Diego Martinez: [00:23:16] So no one wants to shop for just about anything that you need.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:23:22] Where you guys gonna be in three years? You’re looking in your crystal ball and I want a forecast.

Diego Martinez: [00:23:28] You know what, in three years, I’m hoping that we’re at about 50 dealerships helping out nationwide and moving forward and growing this company right now we’re a staff of twelve. I’d like to triple that in the next three years. Are add more call centers, helping more dealerships. I like to get more involved in the day to day operations with all of the dealerships and our partners that we have right now so that we can help their business grow.

Diego Martinez: [00:23:53] The more they grow, the more they stay with us. And we understand that. So our forecast for the next three years will be triple that. About 50 units, 50 dealerships as our partners are just BDC portion of it in about another 75 on the digital part that we do because our menu is a la cart. We could do we could just do the digital was addressed to the BDC realm or we could do a whole complete package for you.

Kelly Kleinman: [00:24:16] Outstanding. Diego, I want to thank you so much for joining us, folks. That’s Mr. Diego Martinez and Liz Cardenas as well. Easy As 123, comprehensive best practices solutions for dealerships. They have the passion. The other solutions are they have the experience to back it up. I highly recommend you take a look at them if you want to succeed. They’re going to help you along that along that road. Kelly Kleinman here. DealershipNews.com, you’ve listened to the podcast. You’re going to play it back in your free time and get educated. That’s what we’re all about. We’ll talk to you soon. Diego, Liz, thank you very much. Thank you for having me. Thank you.

Episode: #45

Devin Rouff with DigiSphere Marketing

Our very own Devin Rouff was showcased on DealershipNews.com in an enlightening podcast about multicultural marketing and ethnic diversity in the #automotivemarketing world. If you are in the automotive Industry you NEED to check this out!

Kelly Kleinman: [00:00:15] Hello, this is Kelly Kleinman and you are listening to the DealershipNews.com podcast, where we spotlight the who’s happening in the automotive industry. It’s footsoldiers, visionaries, salesmen, GMs, owners, service managers and industry vendors alike. Somebody get me some oxygen. Our guest today is one of the digital marketing forces behind Brooklyn’s car king Rudy ‘El Patronn’ Tremonti out of Brooklyn, Mitsubishi, as well as Yonkers, Kia, Security Dodge and many others. Today’s discussion is going to go in a different direction than most that we have on this podcast. It’s a sensitive subject, but it’s a very real factor to consider is your car dealership is likely to face an increase in cultural, political age and gender diversity, unlike ever before. As we move into the next decade. Here to discuss his take on this issue is DigiSphere Marketing Zone, Devin Rouff. Devin, great to have you on.

 

Devin Rouff: [00:01:11] Thank you very much for having me, Kelly. Really appreciate the opportunity.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:01:15] Well, I’m really glad to have you on board and glad you joined us. I love asking each of our guests how they got into the automotive industry. Was it something you’ve always loved or did the door of opportunity just opened for you at a car dealership and there you were.

 

Devin Rouff: [00:01:30] Well, great question, actually.

 

Devin Rouff: [00:01:34] You know, obviously, I do love cars. What’s not to love about them? Especially fast ones. And but we’re really, really started off my career as I was always in sales. I’ve been told by my mom and many others that I was always blessed with the gift of gab. So I’ve always been in sales my whole entire life. I was 16, 17 years old, selling shoes and had a real knack for it coming out of high school.

 

Devin Rouff: [00:02:03] I started to do mortgages because we all knew that the market was booming back then around 2000. And unfortunately, that market took a turn for the worse and crashed and then had to look elsewhere for employment. It wasn’t working out anymore, and so had the owner of our company, Adam Rossen, who’s also my cousin, was already in car sales and dabbling in Internet sales.

 

Devin Rouff: [00:02:35] And at that time, that was something that most dealers didn’t even have a clue of what that was. So giving me an opportunity to get in with the Atlantic Auto Group, which is a 1.1 billion dollar auto group based out of Long Island, New York. And I really owe a lot to my opportunity, my experience there, because they were a group that really, really focused in on training. Extensive training and learned a lot from from my years there. So that’s really where it all started. Just came up through the ranks, did everything from selling cars, desking deals, hiring, training, BDC departments, implementing and creating digital strategies for some of the top selling dealerships in the country.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:03:26] Well before we get into our subject, I want to hear a 30 to 30 seconds DigiSphere marketing elevator pitch as if you were trapped on the 20th floor of the Dealership News building in downtown New York with the owner of another large dealership group. So you’ve got 30 seconds. Fire away.

 

Devin Rouff: [00:03:45] So DigiSphere marketing is a boutique digital marketing agency. We specialize in everything digital, but our core product lineup is mobile responsive websites, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, social media marketing, and reputation management. So as I said before, we do everything that’s under the digital umbrella, but those are our core products. And part of the reason why we are talking today is because we have seen a need in the industry for a focus on multicultural marketing. So while most dealerships are are implementing strategies across the board for English, we noticed that they’re not really doing so for other languages and in the country that we live in right now. There are there’s a big, big need for that type of strategy. So that’s really what we bring to the table. We focus on driving quality traffic that converts to your business and or website.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:04:50] Well you come from a very ethnically diverse market. You yourself are an interesting mix of cultures being part Polish and Puerto Rican. Would you call yourself a Polar Rican?

 

Devin Rouff: [00:05:02] It’s now. Yes, yes, you know, they are a term that my aunt coined and trademarked, but yeah, kind of stuck. And most people laughed when I stopped when I tell them.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:05:12] Well, tell us about Brooklyn and its overall ethnic makeup. So we get an understanding of the elements of play. I know that you work with El Patronn over there in Brooklyn. And since he’s one of your clients, it’s sort of it’s a melting pot. So if you can give us a little bit of an idea of what that ethnic makeup looks like, it’ll give us sort of a good based it could do the interview with.

 

Devin Rouff: [00:05:32] Sure, sure, and you know, we we definitely work with Brooklyn Mitsubishi, we help them with their with their cultural marketing as well as their English marketing. But, you know, not just Brooklyn, but just New York as a whole is truly a melting pot. There’s so many different great Web sites out there that can give you the data on your particular area. And what you’ll typically find is that there is a very, very, very large population of Spanish speaking individuals. Now, that’s not to say that there isn’t also, you know, very large Asian communities that that are, you know, around here that you should be taking a look at, Italian, you know, even Russian. So there’s so many different opportunities there that I feel, or we feel that are a lot of dealers are kind of missing the boat on. But for sure, Spanish definitely needs to be your your second priority, aside from English.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:06:36] Well, how would you approach cultural diversity within the scope of a marketing campaign that you would manage?

 

Devin Rouff: [00:06:44] Great question. So really what we do and whether it be English or Spanish, we always have to think of Google first. Google really does run the Internet. Anybody who is going to take a look at a product or service, one of 1 and 2 people will do a Google search on that product or service. So we really, really focus in on Google’s algorithm and what it takes to make sure that your website comes up on the first page of Google for when people are searching for those relative keywords or geo locations. So with that said, if you take a look at your your overall marketing strategy in English, you pretty much need to double that in whatever language you want to target. So for instance, if I see that Spanish is that is the culture that I then I want to start targeting, then I have to make sure that I’m not relying on a English Web site with Google Translate. I’ll do it when you choose to translate the Web site into Spanish and actually gives you the dialect that comes from Spain. And if you are a New Yorker or from this area, you’ll know that that’s not the typical dialect of Spanish that’s spoken here. We have a lot of you know, as I’m Puerto Rican, there’s a lot of Dominicans, Mexicans, Venezuelans. I mean, there’s so many different dialects that are spoken here. We want to make sure that we’re catering to the right dialect for that market. So research into your and knowing your PMA is crucial and making sure that you’re actually translating all of the content that’s on your Web site for that particular dialect. You have to make sure that your keywords that you’re targeting on Google are also written in that dialect because that’s how they’re going to search. So if you’re not targeting the correct keyword phrases, you will not come up correctly. Now, what most dealers are under the impression that they have Google Translate on their Web site that they’re that’s sufficient. And it actually isn’t. So if you have your device set to Spanish, for instance. Google can tell the language setting of your device, and if it is not. If your website is in English and I am searching in Spanish, your website actually won’t come up on Google searches.

 

Devin Rouff: [00:09:01] The only way I would come up is if I was actually searching for the dealership name itself. So if I’m looking for used cars near me, you’re out. Your website won’t come up unless it’s in Spanish, unless it’s in that language.

 

[00:09:15] So if you want to be able to capitalize on that traffic, you have to make sure you’re marketing separately in that language. So Spanish website, Spanish search engine optimization, focusing on those particular keywords and locations, Spanish ads across Google, Bing, Yahoo!, as well as social media marketing, you know. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had dealers that say, you know, I’m interested in pursuing marketing for this culture, but I don’t want to build a whole another Web site. Well, why are we going to serve Spanish ads and then land them onto a Web site? That’s all in English. That person won’t be able to read through the content or know how to navigate the Web site. So it doesn’t really make sense. So we have to make sure that we know our market, know the type of dialect that we’re that we’re that we need to market to and then implement a strategy accordingly.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:10:09] Well see, that’s that’s interesting because, you know, you’re bringing up the advertising aspect of it. It’s going to be in Spanish, so land on a website that is Spanish as well. Particular to that dialect. Same with walking into the dealership. You’ve been around a long time. When dealerships in your area hire personnel, do they generally hire personnel to reflect the cultural makeup of the area? Or is that not as important as finding someone who can simply show up on time, seller, fix a car, work the deal desk and hopefully stick around for a while?

 

Devin Rouff: [00:10:39] Well, I think we can all agree that those are all qualities of an employee that we all want. Right. We want to make sure that they’re going to show up on time. They’re punctual, that they’re going to do their job. But it’s it’s it’s equally as important to know you’re getting your PMA and you obviously can’t market to a particular culture if you don’t have the staff to accommodate that traffic once they come in. Not to mention it definitely helps because some individuals might feel more comfortable working with somebody who speaks their same language. There’s a trust factor there. So it’s definitely important to know your cultural makeup of your area and to staff accordingly. But without a doubt, they should have those they should have those those particular features and as far as their resume is concerned.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:11:34] What happens to the concept of the fair next up, rotation system. If dealers decided to match walk-ins and other leads with sales personnel that actually match the ethnicity of that potential customer. I mean, it makes sense, but does it open a door to potentially HR issues in your experience?

 

Devin Rouff: [00:11:52] You know, I don’t really think so. You know, as far as my experience, the dealerships I worked in, it wasn’t always a fair rotation system. It was, you know, if you’re doing the right thing, you’re gonna get your opportunities. So as far as, you know, matching up to the ethnicity of a potential customer with an employee. I mean, you know, Kelly, we all have the opportunity to learn a language, right? Sure. We decide if I wanted to if I wanted to start learning how to do accommodate, particular culture in that area, I could take courses. I could learn. I can. I can. And then I can. I can be included in that rotation. So I believe it’s just a matter of making sure that our customers feel at home and trust our our our staff and our in our dealership to do business with us.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:12:43] So other than learning the other language, which I still think is great, if you could greet somebody in their own foreign tongue, which is me perhaps alien to you, but certainly not for them. You know, what are some of the other options that to kind of as a work around, could it be this is something that I was thinking about? Could it be to fashion dynamic ads that appeal to specific affinity groups within what was called the actions, let’s say, that include the appropriate contact at the dealership? For example, if you do a Korean language ad with the content, be a Korean salesperson or maybe a Jewish oriented ad being funneled to a Jewish salesperson. Is that a way to work around? And have you ever done anything like that?

 

Devin Rouff: [00:13:25] Sure. I mean, we always want to make sure that we have the right call to actions on our marketing ads. But I would usually recommend funneling the traffic or, you know, or the phone number. You can either have a particular tracking number that that goes to or to a specific line for that language. You can have a prompt when you when you call into the dealership, you know, press 2 for Spanish. Obviously, it’s in Spanish. But, you know, and then it would get to the appropriate the appropriate salesperson or BDC rep to field that call. It’s definitely important because, you know, for if it for marketing a particular language, it all needs to work together. We got to make sure that they have the opportunity to speak to that person on the line when they come into the dealership. We make sure that we have the right personnel to to accommodate them when they get there. As far as putting somebody whose actual name on there, I mean, that’s really at the discretion of the dealer and the employees. I don’t know if that’s really going to necessarily make a make or break your your ads or the successfulness of the campaign. But definitely making sure that you are have the correct staff and systems in place to accommodate that traffic for sure.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:14:39] Huh. See, I’m thinking that that might be an approach to a dealership where you have sort of a cultural optimization package that includes putting in the steps that you just mentioned. It’s sort of sparked my interest. I think it’s kind of a cool idea, actually outlined some you would do. We’re talking about training here. Real quickly, I’ve got one question that deals with it, and I wonder if you could outline some of the issues that you see when dealer leadership doesn’t have. Do we call it cultural sensitivity training in play and how they could prevent bad seeds from poison in the workplace with unwelcome opinions, attitude and biases? And by that I mean there’s always people out there who would prefer not to serve certain people because they don’t believe that that person is a buyer or they’re cheap or that there are issues like that. I’ve actually experienced that before. How would you approach that? And do you think there is a niche out there for something like a cultural optimization or a cultural sensitivity training for strictly for car dealers that maybe has gone unnoticed?

 

Devin Rouff: [00:15:49] I would agree, definitely. So I’ve been in this business a long time and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a dealership implementing any kind of cultural sensitivity training programs or of the sort, but I would definitely see how it could be useful. We’re we’re kind of in an industry where I think most of our focuses are more on marketing than training. And that’s why I say I’m so grateful to have gotten my start in an auto group that does focus on training. And I think it’s really important. And, you know, these days we are definitely in a in a in a market or in a world where we do have to be sensitive to those types of issues. So I think it will generally fall to your leadership. Right, to make sure that they are aware of the employees that they have on their staff, you know, who who are their aces and who are the ones that are maybe sensitive to certain subjects and making sure that those are the people that are facilitating or working with this particular market that’s going to start coming into your dealership once you start implementing these marketing strategies. So for sure, it’s definitely missed. And thanks for bringing up. Maybe we’ll start looking into implementing that.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:17:09] You and I should have a conversation. Maybe it would be the basis for a speaking engagement that we could do together at some of these trade shows, because I think both of us have done enough research on it, where it could be fairly pertinent, maybe we could call it cultural conversion optimization. Just a thought.

 

Devin Rouff: [00:17:28] Agreed. I mean,.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:17:30] Lots of syllables in that one. OK. This one’s gonna be our last question is very esoteric, but, um, I like throwing President Reagan in there whenever I can. He once suggested that the only way to keep earthlings from squabbling over petty differences was to unite against the common enemy. In his example, was an alien force. I think he used it three or four times until the intelligence forces said, were you quit mentioning aliens? We don’t want anyone to know that they exist. Aside from that, what could that cultural gender, political age difference unifying force be? Could it be team sales incentives, monthly bonuses, awards, promotions? You bring a team together instead of the older guy against the young guy and said Italian guy. We’ve got this diverse sales team. We’ve had these diverse service advisors. You know, how do we bring them together? So we unify against one force or for one cause?

 

Devin Rouff: [00:18:22] Well, I think that that still falls down to leadership. Right. And how we run our teams. We definitely those are great examples. You know, sales incentives, bonuses, even awards or promotions. I think also point that you brought up before about making sure that you have a fair environment. You don’t want people thinking that there’s any kind of bias, favoritism in there. But if it’s done correctly and management is putting a focus on making sure that, you know, they have a staff that that is working together and happy, it will ultimately be a successful business. I think we need to I think a lot of times we don’t put a focus on, you know, our our staff. And I am a firm believer that our staff is one, if not probably is not. Cost is one of the most, you know, effective tools that we have at our disposal. So making sure that we have a happy, happy staff and that works together is definitely a formula for success.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:19:25] I’m thinking we’re going to call it the Cultural Diversity Award, the dealership news cultural diversity award. Does that make sense? I like that.

 

Devin Rouff: [00:19:33] I love it. I love it.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:19:34] Listen, I want to thank you for joining us today, folks. Devin Rouff, DigiSphere Marketing. Devin, thank you.

 

Devin Rouff: [00:19:41] My pleasure. Thank you again so much for having us. And I look forward to speaking with you a little bit more about those those speaking engagements. Kelly,.

 

Kelly Kleinman: [00:19:49] It sounds like a great idea. Folks, you’ve been listening to the DealershipNews.com podcast. I’m Kelly Kleinman, and we bring this to you several times a week. Stay tuned for the next one. Meanwhile, it’s Hump-day. Have a happy one.

Episode: #44

Julie Douglas with DealerPay

Julie R. Douglas President and Sales Extraordinaire of Dealer Pay spends some time with Kelly Kleinman of Dealership News breaking down how Dealer Pay is a lot more than just processing payments.

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