By David Kain, Kain Automotive

Perhaps the greatest mystery to me when it comes to managing internet operations at a dealership is why the used-car manager is not in the middle of the mix. Over the past several years, it has become apparent to me that dealers who have their used-car managers actively involved in online marketing and sales have benefited more than other dealerships. This does not mean that most used-car managers are not working hard and using imaginative ideas to market and sell their vehicles – of course they are. I just think if they apply these efforts in the online world, their rewards in sales and profits will be even greater. Let’s review two key tasks and how the internet can increase results in both areas.

Inventory Acquisition

There is no more important task the used-car manager has than that of inventory acquisition. Yes, salespeople sell cars, but you can’t sell what you do not have – most of the time anyway – and the used-car manager is typically charged with finding and purchasing or trading for the vehicles that are eventually sold by the sales team. For years, the preowned inventory at our dealership was dependent on the next potential trade-in or the Thursday auction. I can remember telling plenty of prospects that I would be going to the auction on Thursday with a list of vehicles I needed to buy, and I would be glad to “handpick” one for them while I was there. Prospects truly appreciated this approach, and, on many occasions, I actually was able to match their needs to an actual vehicle. More times than I care to count, though, I came home empty-handed and frustrated, both for myself and for the prospect. Prospects appreciated the full-service approach and still do today. This is still a solid approach, yet with today’s open inventory architecture of the internet, the customer can pretty well complete this task themselves unless they find it’s better to work through a trusted and reliable dealership with an internet-oriented used-car manager.

Imagine saying to a prospect on Saturday morning that you are going to the auction next Thursday and telling the person to wait until then to see if, by chance, you can find an appropriate vehicle. I would feel more confident if the used-car manager came in on a turnover and completed an interview with the prospect, found out the customer’s likes and dislikes and then asked for a few minutes to check out the store’s “inventory network” for suitable matches. The “inventory network” is, in actuality, the same internet that the prospect can access each and every day. The difference is the prospect lacks the experience and the confidence in many cases to do what a used-car manager can do in minutes. Once a vehicle that fits the bill is “located,” the presentation can be something as simple as: “We have found one that closely matches what you are looking for at one of the dealerships in our network. We will go over all the details with you now and make sure it is what you would purchase if it meets your condition requirements.” If the prospect likes the vehicle and you can agree on a price, then the next step is similar to locating or swapping a new vehicle. “We will go and inspect the vehicle and make sure it meets our condition criteria. Only if it does will we bring it here for you to test drive. All we need now is to write it up, get your deposit and schedule a time for you to come back to see the vehicle.”

This is happening all over the country with dealerships that use the internet as a catalyst to sales, and it can take place at every dealership that decides it wants to actively use the internet to its advantage. Some active internet dealers have gone so far as to set up networks with other dealers wherein they purchase inventory of this nature for a set margin, while others are using services such as lanelogic.com.

Inventory Display

A huge advantage of the internet is the fact that your display area is virtually unlimited. Once you upload your inventory to your website, Cars.com, AutoTrader, eBay or any number of quality online classified sites, your inventory is on display for millions of potential prospects. At this point, it’s a beauty contest and often times the dealers who provide the best display get to the prospect first because their vehicles “look and sound” the best in the listings.

Compare it to searching for a house online. If a realtor provides quality photos and a quality description, even if the price is a bit high, many prospects will want to schedule an appointment to see if it is as nice as it looks and sounds. I have said many times about homes that if it really matches the display, I would be willing to pay more. I am certain your online prospects are saying the same thing.

Given that most used-car managers are responsible for their inventory display, I recommend tasking them with making their online display the best in the market. It’s not hard to do, as you’ll find out with a quick look around the leading online classified sites. Most dealers don’t even write a description because the “VIN decoder” provides the list of standard equipment for them. Imagine your salespeople as walking and talking VIN decoders: If they simply recited the equipment to prospects, they likely would not pique their interest and sell the vehicle. Make your descriptions come to life and engage your used-car managers to put the same effort into describing it as they do when they return from the auction and show off the car to the general manager or dealer-principal.

It’s as Simple as it Sounds

No rocket science here: Just help your used-car managers achieve their goals and your goals by engaging the internet in their everyday tasks. It’s happening all around you, and I don’t think you want to miss out on the benefits.

This article is used with permission from Kain Automotive.