|The Pacific Northwest is our destination this month and Ford of Kirkland, located in the Emerald City, gets my Platinum Dealer Award of Excellence. No, they’re not in the Land of Oz and certainly not in Kansas either. Think Space Needle, Pikes Place Market, Mount Rainer and what seems like constant precipitation. For those of you still lost in this geography quiz the correct answer is Seattle located in the great state of Washington. If you haven’t yet visited the Puget Sound area, do yourself a favor and make the trip. It just happens to be one of the most beautiful places on this planet and well worth the trip. While you’re there, stop by Ford of Kirkland and visit Scott Creason, director of special finance and the focus of this article.|
|Creason was a fun interview and he relayed his story like this. Way back in the olden days of 1999 special finance in the Seattle market was still a small niche of black magic entrepreneurs. "I don't want those customers in my dealership" was as common a theme then as "We need special finance" is today. It’s funny how people change their opinions when they see someone else making all of the money. At that time, Creason was a very happy service advisor making a great living on other peoples car problems. Unfortunately, that store was sold, closing the door on his cushy advisor gig. Experts say when one door closes another door of opportunity opens. While out looking for a new advisor spot, Creason crossed paths with his old sales manager. He said he was starting this “special finance thing” and being a great salesman, he closed Creason on the idea of jumping in with him. Starting with one cubicle, two phones, a computer and five grand to invest, they made $90,000 in gross profit the first month following that up with $109,000 from month two. Within a year there were three people in the department and it was averaging $150,000 a month. Yes, life was good once again.|
Toward the end of 2000, the door of opportunity opened once again for Creason. He was approached by the general manager for Ford of Kirkland and asked to come over and get their fledgling special finance department up and running. When I asked Creason about taking on the new position he said, “I had no clue what I had signed on for. Being responsible for the success of a department was way more stressful than letting someone else make the decisions.”
“My first goal was to level off the lead flow and lower the advertising cost,” Creason stated, “We needed to eliminate the feast or famine that direct mail and broadcast campaigns generated. I looked into Internet leads, and this turned out to be the key that solved our advertising cash flow problem. CustomerFunding.com was one of the first companies that we contracted with while adding other well known providers later. CustomerFunding.com has been a great company to partner with. They gave us a jump start when we needed it the most, and they continue to supply exceptional sales opportunities every month. Closing 20 percent of the business they send us is a normal occurrence. Even in a market that has become extremely volatile, where per lead costs have soared above $40, they have refrained from generating and selling garbage leads while keeping our investment very reasonable. I wish I could say that about some of our other providers. We continue to do some direct mail to diversify our marketing but limit it to three or four times a year.”
When I asked Creason about their process he said it’s simple. “We use a trademark name, Miracle Auto Finance, which creates customer confidence instead of fear. My crew gets the customer on the phone as quickly as possible. Our goal is to build rapport, gain trust and make a friend, which separates us from the masses. We sell the customer on the opportunity, not the car, and set a solid appointment. Once the customer is in the showroom, it’s a pretty pleasant experience. We interview for need, review credit, find the car that works best and then hammer out the numbers. Our closing ratio is a lot higher than I care to admit, which simply means we just need to improve by getting more customers through the door to increase sales.” They’re not doing bad now pushing 80 units, grossing $240,000 a month.
“I love this business,” Creason said, “Process, preparation, positive customer interaction and partnering with the best lead provider have made this a sweet gig. My philosophy now is keep an open mind and when your door of opportunity opens don’t be afraid to step through. I’ll always be grateful to the people that opened those doors for me.”
Vol 2, Issue 10
Auto retail veteran and F&I products expert Paul McCarthy has joined AUL Corp. as vice president of national sales.