Your Daily Operations Magazine
Search Close Menu

Dealer Ops

Ingredients For Success

This month I traveled to the Lone Star State to honor another dealer that excels in Internet and special finance sales. I’m a little surprised this is my first selection in Texas due to the large number of dealers that exist there and the millions of dollars in special finance business available.

Now you’d probably expect this dealership to be in Dallas, Houston or San Antonio, but surprisingly it’s not. Dennis Eakin Autoplex is in Killeen, Texas and their Smart Choice Pre-owned Center gets my “Top Dog” award.

Joel Hilfman is the sales manager of the Smart Choice Pre-owned Center and chef that developed the recipe that makes it all work. A recipe that can be duplicated by any sales management chef that doesn’t let their ego cloud good judgment.

Hilfman got his start in the car business as a salesperson in 1994 with the Dennis Eakin Group. He excelled at this craft and became a national trainer for dealerships across the United States. His focus was training individuals on proper sales techniques to increase customer service and special finance techniques. Tiring of the constant travel, he returned to the Dennis Eakin Autoplex in 2004 as a sales manager.

“After diving back into sales, my initial focus was putting the right ingredients together,” said Hilfman. “Committed people are what I looked for.” The number one priority should be the success of the department. Without the correct personnel even the best plans are doomed for failure. “The first ingredient was Katherine Culin who is the best special finance manager I’ve ever had the privilege to know and work with,” claims Hilfman.

Next was salesman Dharmesh Patel who made his first auto purchase from Dennis Eakin and enjoyed the experience so much he dedicated himself to a career in auto sales. Then Hilfman sweetened the department with a dose of Honey. To be specific, Honey Hill who sets all the appointments along with her sales and finance responsibilities. Hill’s efforts gave the dealership a huge advantage over their competition.

Getting to the customer for the appointment first is high priority. “Our customer leads are in real time and we expect them to be contacted immediately. My people work on gaining the customers trust, build hope in the opportunity to purchase and create a sense of urgency to come in now,” said Hilfman. The sooner a customer arrives at our store, the less likely they are to shop with our competitors.

Once the customer arrives the team determines their buying capabilities and generates the sales process from that information. Most special finance customers face similar credit challenges. Success is based on the fact the dealership can accommodate almost every customer’s financial situation with more than 150 pre-owned vehicles and the ability to finance customers with large amounts of negative equity. Other key ingredients are the right lenders, right cars and a proven process to handle the business. Treat customers with respect and allow them to maintain their dignity during the process. “I want every customer to tell their friends and family about the positive experience they had at our dealership,” said Hilfman.

When I asked Hilfman what forms of advertising he used to generate his business, he said that was the only source provided for his crew. His team generates 30 percent of the sales for the dealerships Pre-owned Center all with this source. Hilfman’s testimony: “We had a limited budget to operate with, and has exceeded all our expectations with their service. Over the last six months our advertising cost has gone down to about $60 per sale. We average $2,600 front end gross a copy, and when I did the math, our cost of advertising is just 2.3 percent of that gross. If there’s a better deal than that with any form of advertising out there, I want to know it.”

So, if you’re really committed to the success of your special finance department, just use Hilfman’s recipe: select the best people, add plenty of training, throw in simple but effective processes, use a premium Internet lead source and sweeten the mixture with a dash of Honey. The resulting treat will have you smiling all the way to the bank. I know they’re smiling at Dennis Eakin Autoplex.

Vol 2, Issue 11


Dealer Job Finder

See more


KAR Names Kelly President

KAR Names Kelly President

Peter Kelly has been promoted to the newly created role of president at KAR Auction Services, the company he joined through the 2011 acquisition of OPENLANE.


VAS Partners With Alpha Warranty

Vehicle Administrative Services will offer roadside and ancillary solutions to Alpha Warranty Services under the terms of a new strategic partnership.