Turbo Tip: Why Don't I Need an Internet Sales Department?

Every store needs to have excellent process and well-trained professionals available to work with online customers. Ralph Ebersole, a Cars.com automotive consultant, discusses whether that contact can occur and those relationships can be built outside of a stand-alone Internet department.

23 thoughts on “Turbo Tip: Why Don't I Need an Internet Sales Department?

  1. Technically he is right however employing an entire sales staff that have competent computer and phone skills as well as a strong command for the written language is a rather tough feat. In addition to that rather steep hurdle, many dealerships would have to upgrade their equipment (computers, programs, scanners, cameras, mobile devices) to give every salesperson the same capabilities. I see this goal as long term.

  2. sending stuff like this (lack on need for internet department/manager) does not set well with you internet managers trying to work your leads. Very poor relationship building tool.

  3. Connie: We are not trying to suggest that dealers with successful Internet departments rollback their investment in those programs. We believe strongly in a well-run Internet department and recognize the contributions professionals such as yourself make to the business.

    We are frequently asked, though, by smaller stores about whether they need to make the capital investment necessary to create a stand-alone Internet department. We also are asked by dealers if they’re OK to round-robin their leads. Maybe. Maybe not, this video is meant to say — but only if you have the appropriate equipment and sales process in place and have trained your staff on how to use them.

    Please see this earlier video: “Why Do I Need an Internet Sales Department?”


  4. Basically this is being “old school” and not willing to embrace technology nor keeping in mind what the customer of today demands…Accurate and precise information in a timely manner. NOT what’s a good time for you? Morning or afternoon? We have buyer’s for your car so come on in!…The biggest problem is that Internet Sales Manager’s positions are considered “sudo” without authority and basically are selling manager’s. Most Retail Sales Manager’s are clueless when it comes to branding and online marketing but not to say that are not great at desking.
    Bottom line, until ISM are elevated to the level of authority as other sales management AND PAY…the results will continue to one either be mediocre or lesser than the return on opportunities that could be converted to higher $ales.

  5. Ridiculous….so we can have the entire sales force sitting at their desks surfin the web and not watching the lot…my owner has been wanting to dump cars.com and I have been resisting…no more…

    1. Sharon: Dealers who round-robin their leads often ask us if they need to create a separate Internet department. As Ralph says in the video, they may not need to if they have put in place the appropriate equipment, sales process and training. In an earlier video, Ralph articulates the rationale for a dedicated Internet department. As you know, more shoppers are coming into the store from the Internet — depending on your store’s culture and capabilities, it may make sense to have all of your sales professionals play a role in working with these customers.

      With respect to your Cars.com account, if I can have your rep contact you, please send an email to dealeradvantage@cars.com with your name, store name and contact information.

  6. With many prospects beginning their search for the next automobile on the internet or making thier final selection through the process, I don’t see the thought process working here with those comments.

    I have found that through working in the Internet Department, it has driven me to be more knowledgable about the product we sell as well as programs, incentives and sales tools. This is the complete opposite from our staff on the sales floor, who do not keep up with our products, tools or programs. Due to so much information being published, you need staff that wants to keep informed and able to answer questions or at least find them.

    Unless these smaller dealerships that he is targeting want to spend a great amount of money to have state of the art technology, top sales and management staff, I suggest to start small with an Internet Department. Afterall, you can always cancel Lead providers and move your staff around vs try and return all that equipment if things don’t work out!

  7. I agree. I was wondering if I needed to close my internet department. This answers my question. Thanks for the help. I was running with 3 internet sales people and one manager. This will save me much needed payroll expense. Hello HAWAII!!

    1. C Cass: Hawaii, this time of year, sounds pretty attractive! So does a well-run Internet department — as Ralph articulates in this video: Why Do I Need an Internet Sales Department?

      We often hear from dealers who round-robin their leads and want to know if they’re taking the right approach. Yes, IF…. If you invest in the appropriate equipment. If you develop effective sales processes. If you train your people to use the equipment and consistently implement the process.

  8. Our entire sales staff are internet managers! It can be done. We have over 40 sales reps and sales managers, and all of them are computer literate. To the point where they could teach classes on this! You can find these people, they are everywhere: are you looking? 1) The I Leads come into our CRM and go directly to a sales manager. 2) The sales manager acknowledges the customers request via email and assigns the lead to a sales rep. 3) The sales rep follows up with an email and phone call. Don’t make it more difficult than it is. We use to trust our sales reps with lot ups, phone ups and incoming phone calls. Somewhere along the way we stopped letting them be sales people. Get back to letting them sell the product, the value, the dealership and quit worrying about the “PROCESS” so much.

  9. Really?
    Are you kidding me?
    I don’t know where you got this old relic but his whole thought process is the reverse of what all other experts in the market are saying.
    To grow a small store you need to expand in to the internet, to begin pulling in those customers that are building relationships with other sales people first.
    Most stores that do not have a true internet department with a good process is missing a good 25% increase or more in store sales. With better than 90% of all car buyers going online first before they go shop and buy. The Internet Department is a very important first contact with the customer who is trying to decide where they will go. The Internet customer should be handled like a incoming phone call. You always put your best people where they can help you most. I’m shocked that you would promote this process and thinking. There was also once an idiot who thought the world was flat, was he right?

    1. Randy: We agree that every store needs to have excellent process and well-trained professionals available to work with online customers. Whether that contact can occur and those relationships can be built outside of a stand-alone Internet department is the point of this video.

      In working with dealers across the country, we meet many qualified salespeople who know their products and deliver the best service possible to their customers — both from the floor and the Internet department. Because so many customers coming into the dealership started their shopping process online, we often hear from dealers asking whether they need to create sales department silos: the floor on one side, the Internet on the other. The answer can vary — based on the store’s culture, customer base and capabilities.

      In this video, Ralph answers the question: Why Do I Need an Internet Sales Department?

  10. I agree with this video. I had a NON-FRANCHISE dealership of my own for 10+ years. My dealership was an internet department. You have to handle every lead, just as you would a walk in…T.O. WRITE UP–STEPS TO THE SALE. It can be done..but proper training and proper management and commitment to follow through. Your sales staff, management and most of all Dealer Principal should be committed before you start this process. I retailed over 100 vehicles per month, advertised only on the internet. I did not do crapper cars either. My average sale was $17k. 200 units in stock, 100+ retail every month. Over 35% were out of state. Check the cross sale report. Auto Sports by the Lake, N.C. I now teach other dealers “the internet”. http://www.autosportsconsulting.com

  11. I’m glad to see most of the remarks posted here are in agreement with my thoughts. That is taking internet sales back to the “stone age.” Very few dealerships have a totally rounded-out sales staff where everyone is on top of their game each moment of the day; and ready to respond accurately to whatever request is made — be it about pre-owned, current new vehicle incentives, new vehicle inventory, cost of shipping, etc., etc., etc. I have seen it both ways & without a doubt feel dedicated internet personnel works better. “Round-Robin” approach went by the wayside years ago. I don’t know where this fossil from the past has been. Peace & Harmony to All!!

  12. I can not even comprehend someone suggesting a dealership not needing an internet department. When the internet first started in the auto business everyone said it was a “fad”. Just look at the numbers, a successful internet department should be bringing in anywhere from 35%-50% percent of your sales.

    Ask yourself, why dealerships started an Internet Department; it is the same reason for starting a BDC department, because it was just not getting done. The leads were handled poorly and the follow up was being treated as a joke. So dealers hired dedicated reps to do follow up and get people through the door.

    There are some sales people out there that just do the right thing, follow up with all customers and do not stop until they get the sale. However, they are the exception and lets face it the majority of sales associates are just lazy. They wait for the fruit to fall off the tree instead of climbing to the top.

  13. The real problem with this idea is that you are expecting your sales people to adapt to an online business culture. If you are handing out leads to your sales floor and expecting results in most cases you are chasing your tail.

    Leads don’t get a day off, they don’t get a smoke break and they don’t get a vacation. A process driven team or department can assure you that the correct amount of follow up is being done and what the results are.

    Paging your salesperson to the tower to ask them “what is going on with that lead I gave you yesterday” is not a process.

  14. Folks, thanks for the great conversation. We’re hearing from people who think it’s okay to round-robin their leads and people who prefer to manage leads through a dedicated Internet department. At DealerADvantage, we advocate that you determine what works best with your store’s culture, customer base and capabilities.

    We also shared this video over at Automotive Digital Marketing, a Web site run by Ralph Paglia. He’s an acknowledged Internet marketing expert, with more than 10 years experience managing Internet sales and advising dealers on working with online shoppers. He had this to say about our video:

    Ralph Ebersole points out the importance of process regardless of who executes that process. This is something I have said for many years, if a dealership sales team focuses on delivering the shopping and buying experience to prospective car buyers that maximizes the likelihood of making a sale, the details of who executes the actions necessary to deliver that customer experience are far less significant than the fact that the right customer experience is being served up, and the right responses to an inquiry or lead are being made… Whether it is an ISM, ISS, BDC Rep, Salesperson, Manager, the dealer, a Service Advisor, the showroom receptionist or anyone else is all less important than the customer’s perception of the experience itself. Sometimes we get too caught up in titles, labels and finding people to blame, when the focus should be on identifying the customer experience that generates the most sales for each type of opportunity, then making sure somebody, whoever it is, can be held accountable for execution, along with a fail-safe backup to ensure that deals are not lost if that person assigned fails to execute. The reason why BDC’s and Internet Departments are effective is more about ensuring that someone is held responsible for the customer experience… And most showroom sales teams have not been held responsible in the past… But, That does not mean they could not be held responsible, now or in the future!

  15. I wish in real life that you could rely on the sales staff to handle the phone calls and emails properly but that is why specialization of dealership staff is necessary because that will never happen. That would be like going to a hospital and expecting the cardiologist to be able to perform gastric bypass as well as the bariatric surgeon.

  16. Hey everyone,

    I am comment 17, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ralph for calling me and addessing my concerns with the video. He relayed to me that he is not saying to that we need to get rid of Internet Departments, but rather attempt to train people to work with the Internet Department, which is a model that our Dealership follows right now. Again thanks Ralph for clearing up my concerns.

    Toyota of Danville

  17. I’ve been in the auto industry for over 20 years and have built internets and BDC’s from the ground up. Most sales people simply won’t do the follow up or work with a customer for up to 90 days like many Internet customers require. I find getting the support of upper management was hard to get. And getting the tools as well as the leads were the most difficult. Not just myself but three other managers and Internet reps all responded with “Don’t let the owner read this”. I’ve even been called by two other Internet Manager’s who said “are you shocked by this Cars.com Article”? To sum it up I’m done.

  18. Wow, what a bruhaha! I think every dealership is different and requires a different take. There is no one “right way” that fits all. Unfortunately, Ralph’s video left some space for misunderstanding, and Ralph Paglia noted that was not the intention. I managed a dedicated Internet department for years before we trained the sales staff to do follow-up correctly and began holding them accountable. We do the intial quote in the Internet department in the salesperson’s name and then have the salesperson begin the follow-up process. They are long-term employees (we have very little turn-over)and have good product knowledge and understand the process. Our store is #1 in customer satisfaction among Chevy dealers in Chicagoland. And one third (or more) come straight from the Internet.

    But we did not disband the Internet department and go to Hawaii! Anyone thinking they can do the Internet on the cheap is sadly mistaken. The question is not whether to spend money on the Internet; the question is how much and where and on whom to place the responsibility.

    All dealerships need an Internet structure and serious processes in place to deal with both the sales AND marketing end of it. Every dealer needs a thorough analysis of both the character of his store and the budget that can be allocated

  19. As Internet Manager, I have toyed with this idea for several years. Until recently, I was unable to deliver the fundamentals of my goal due to the size of the sales force we had in place. My feeling is that not all leads are for all people, as even the good staff will fail under the wrong conditions. The key issue is having the correct person to disperse the leads to the correct personel. Supporting this with a properly functioning set of metrics will allow the department to function at a peek while keeping the entire sales department gratified as well.

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