With blended floors, the same sales process for every prospect and no lead too weak, Donald Craig Mazda Suzuki of Mooresville, N.C., seems rather comfortable with their straight-shooting approach to business. Their confidence shows through their impressive sales performance. “We have been very successful with our new Suzuki line,” shares Jason Willis, dealer principal of the dealership, who carries a down-to-earth countenance himself. “Donald Craig Mazda Suzuki, in the small town of Mooresville, North Carolina, is the number four Suzuki store in the nation. Our other store, Planet Suzuki, in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the number two Suzuki store in the nation.”
“We sell between 225 and 250 cars a month. Of those cars, 75 percent of what we deliver is sub prime.” In the case of Special Finance: “We do very well in the Suzuki line with the sub prime market. We get a mix of different people for Suzuki vehicles, but we cater to the Special Finance customer regardless. Nothing changes.”Donald Craig Mazda Suzuki employs 18 salespeople, three team leaders, two desk managers, four Special Finance managers and two Primary Finance managers. Every salesperson is prepared to approach every type of customer, regardless of credit, with a well-defined 12-step procedure. “Most every dealer has nine to 15 steps on the road to the sale,” says Willis. “We have a 12-step process that all salespeople go through.” The steps, which include meet and greet, qualifying while building a rapport, etc., are not uncommon, but they are the same for every customer.
DONALD CRAIG MAZDA SUZUKI’S “TWELVE STEPS TO A SALE”
1. MEET & GREET the Customer
2. QUALIFY while building a rapport
3. TOUCH BASE with the desk manager
4. PRODUCT PRESENTATION using F.A.B.:
F = Features
A = Advantages
B = Benefits
5. DEMO. Always Demo 100%! No Demo, No Sale.
6. SERVICE WALK
7. REESTABLISH the Customer-Salesman Relationship
8. WORK the deal
9. CLOSE the deal
10. 100% TURNOVER to the Manager
11. FOLLOW-UP using:
- Phone Call in 3 hours
- Thank-You card in 30 hours
- Follow-up/referral in 3 days
12. SHARPEN your saw. Reflect on areas that you need improvement.
While salespeople are interacting with customers, they are throwing out questions that may indicate that the prospect is Special Finance. They may ask, “What brought you to the dealership?”
“If the customer mentions a lead source that is sub prime,” says Willis, “that’s one trigger. Another question is: ‘Are you trading anything in?’ If the prospect says ‘Yes’ they dig further by asking, ‘Where is your current vehicle being financed?’” The answer to that question may uncover a lender that is sub prime. Willis adds that this may happen at any time during the salesprocess. “Our salespeople can handle every type of customer. However, if it is a Special Finance customer, we have Special Finance managers that are an extension of the salesperson. They’re the ones who determine whether or not this is a Special Finance customer.” According to Willis, the Special Finance department also works from a list of questions to determine if the customer is sub prime.
“They do a complete customer interview, gathering all critical data.” A software system called ProMax OnlineTM helps identify Special Finance customers before they are shown vehicles, price quotes or payments. Special Finance managers enter data into the software’s Special Finance work-screen. The data is used to create a table of of possible vehicle and lender combinations, based on the customer’s income and down payment. From here, managers can choose the vehicles and lenders, which are sent to a proposal screen. The proposal screen displays price, payment info and alternative payment proposals, all of which are presented to the customer.
The Special Finance managers assist with picking out the vehicle and work the deal with lenders, but, according to Willis, “This does not mean that Special Finance completely takes over. The salesperson still does the demo ride, hood and trunk with the customer, and the delivery process.”
Buying Vehicles for the Sub Prime Market
Because most sub prime lenders use the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Appraisal Guides – the bright orange and blue vehicle appraisal guidebooks – to determine pricing information for both new and used vehicles, Donald Craig Mazda Suzuki seeks out vehicles either below NADA trade-in value, or not listed at all. Willis elaborates: “Since sub prime lenders use NADA guidebooks as their basis for value, we concentrate on vehicles we can purchase very far behind that trade-in value so we can maximize our profits.” In addition, “If a late ‘06 model is not listed in the NADA guidebook, then some lenders will use a ‘like invoice.’ Usually, you can mazimize your profits on those deals.”
The Donald Craig Approach to Leads
What makes a lead valuable? Every dealership has their own definition. Willis, however, makes it clear the Donald Craig dealerships don’t turn away anyone even remotely interested in their cars, sub prime or not. “We want them all,” he says. “We invite customers in regardless of credit. We don’t work credit ahead of time; we bring in everybody.” He explained, “What we have found is, until you get the customer into the store, they are not excited about the car. Too many dealers will pre-pull credit when they interview the customer. [At this point,] the customers aren’t yet excited. These dealers are not doing what it takes to get everybody into a car.” At Donald Craig Mazda Suzuki, they “are working everyone through the process, getting the customer into the vehicle. We have a much better success ratio than dealers who do it the other way.”
Donald Craig Mazda Suzuki wields many varied arrows in their quiver that generate leads and attract serious customers. Willis shares: “We purchase quite a few third party leads, and that all filters through our business development center. We also generate our own leads through different types of advertising.” The dealership keeps themselves visible on TV and believes that radio has a place in their advertising mix. They currently make use of infomercials and 30-second TV commercials. “We have had the best results on TV or the Internet,” says Willis. When asked about print ads, he said, “No, I don’t believe in print,” he says simply. . I’ve never had good success with print.” When asked about the future of advertising, Willis responds, “I think we’ll see an even larger shift to the Internet.”
The dealership carries one more Special Finance strategy; they run a separate Web site named www.NorthCarolinaCarCredit.com, which, according to Willis, “has a high capture rate of leads.” Any information submitted by browsers is transmitted directly to the dealership’s Business Development Center (BDC), and contact is promptly made. Elsewhere on the site, clicking on “New Mazdas” or “New Suzukis” allows customers to sample models and trim levels, browse a detailed list of features and options, and scan numerous possibilities for their next purchase. Clicking on “Pre-Owned Vehicles,” customers can request a customized e-mail listing all pre-owned trucks and/or vehicles available, based on the specific models they are looking for.
BDC – A Key Player for Donald Craig Dealerships
“A big part of our business is that we have a huge BDC,” stated Willis. Indeed, The Donald Craig Mazda Suzuki BDC team is a high-powered apex to getting the customer inside the showroom. The center is staffed with 15 people, all of whom process a total of about 2,500 leads per month. As if on a crowded conveyor belt, the leads – many of which are sub prime – are steadily piped in from third party and other advertising sources all day long. “Our business development center concentrates on several things. They have set scripts, setting daily appointments with customers, and they also take incoming sales calls. Our salespeople take no incoming sales calls. The business development center also handles all the unsold showroom traffic.”
BDC employees use ProMax OnlineTM to log prospects and gather notes on why customers left without buying a car. As with buying customers, non-buying prospects are given their own “Follow-Up” work-screen. The BDC calls the prospect, typing in responses as they talk. Everyone follows a special onscreen script that answers the following questions: What kept the customer from feeling comfortable about purchasing the vehicle and if there was a similar, less expensive vehicle on the lot, would the customer like to see it?
If all goes well, the customer makes a new appointment to see alternative vehicles. Willis states, “Our BDC has a real high success rate of bringing back customers and contacting third party leads and the other leads we generate.”
The Donald Craig Web sites make no bones about the “high ethics in the way we do our business.” The sales team keeps their focus centralized with “Consistent, every-day training,” says Willis. “Every day, at 8:30 in the morning, the sales managers are training on issues that are important to our business. Usually, it is breaking down the steps of the sale and different ways to overcome objections. That training is part of our success.”
The sales floor, BDC and Special Finance department all fuel their readiness with constant training and reviewing of the basics. “We shake it up by bringing in outside trainers and motivational-type speakers once a month. We also keep the lines of communication open between all empoyees,” says Willis. Once a month, “We have an entire company-wide meeting.” These larger meetings tackle the whole gamut of topics: What’s going on in the service department, who was named employee of the month, who is the service employee of the month, etc. The meetings not only solidify the relationships between all departments, it also tightens and re-energizes their focus.
Willis sees only bright opportunities ahead. “We are in the process of buildng a brand new facility across the street, called ‘The Suzuki Square.’ We should have that done by November,” he said, noting that it will allow their current Suzuki store to stand on its own.
The Donald Craig Motor Company has been selling new and used cars and trucks for over 18 years. Donald Craig Mazda Suzuki, in Mooresville is a full-service dealership, with a parts and service department that is open on Saturdays. As their Web site states, “You will find No misleading information, and you will be completely satisfied with your purchase, or we will make it right.”
ADESA has named 20-year industry veteran Dave Fountaine as the new general manager of its Buffalo auction.