Edward Naczi doesn’t think of himself as a car guy.
Ten years ago, he was wrapping up his job as senior vice president of sponsorship marketing for AT&T with the Atlanta Olympics when he took the golden parachute ride out of telecommunications. Then, there was a stint running his own marketing and consulting firm before he got bought out, and he devoted a couple years to perfecting his golf game.
It was just two years ago that he got his first taste of creating a Business Development Center (BDC) at a dealership, and he was hooked. A year ago, Naczi took over as e-commerce director of Honda North, a dealership just off the beaten track in Danvers, Mass.
He wasn’t brought in to maintain the status quo; he was brought in to surpass it.
“When I came in, they didn’t have a centralized CRM (customer relationship management system), a Business Development Center or a BDC manager,” said Naczi. There was one person who had been on the sales floor and was tapped to run the Internet sales side along with a half a position designated to cover the overflow work.
Short on structure and light on effective marketing tools, they were handling about 35 to 40 sales a month, about 20 percent of the dealership’s business.
In quite a few dealerships, that kind of performance would have merited a pat on the back and little meddling from above. But like Naczi, the owners of Honda North aren’t car guys either.
“Here’s how I describe existing management,” said Naczi. “These are business people who happen to be in the auto industry, not car guys. They wanted to cut back on the expenses for the traditional ways to bring in traffic.” Devin Sullivan, general manager at Honda North, wanted to see just how far a really savvy business development group with cutting-edge e-commerce tools could take sales.
So they brought Naczi in to shake things up and offer up a brand new strategy to drive more sales while cutting the per unit cost of advertising. It was the sort of job that required a fresh outlook on the marketing world. Naczi must have seemed perfect.
“The print ad is a dinosaur,” offered Naczi. “It’s extinct. We needed to do more interactive marketing.”
For all of its size, tradition and once-enormous marketing clout, AT&T was always a process-oriented place to work, said Naczi. Before he ever got a green light to go nationwide with a big sponsorship marketing effort, he had to prove that what he was advocating translated positively to the bottom line.
He’s taken the same disciplined, results-oriented approach to marketing cars.
“I just think that the basic thing is to develop a process, develop people, develop a buy-in and make it happen. It’s not rocket science, or I wouldn’t be here.”
To find Naczi, you drive north out of Boston on Route 1 to Danvers. But there are some tricky turns to make before you get to the lot. Naczi knew upfront that the right kind of BDC was critical for attracting buyers who otherwise would never get a glimpse of the operation.
“We don’t have one of the greatest locations,” he noted. “There’s no line of sight. We’re more of a destination location.”
That meant more work developing and qualifying leads and then getting them onto the lot.
“The first thing I did was tell the owners we needed a very strong CRM system – vibrant, intuitive, automated – that gave customers an experience like no other. We needed to get customers into a Web site to answer most of the questions online – a 360 degree virtual tour with directions to get there, a list with every make and model on the lot with full specs, where you could send in your service appointment online, with a coupon for a discount if they wanted it. It had to be something attractive that captured the attention of people.”
BZ Results provided the CRM system that Naczi wanted to use. But that was just the beginning.
“We set up all the procedures, policies and so on,” recalled Naczi. “It was always my thought that if they were going to give me the job, we needed to make a dedicated Business Development Center, with inbound and outbound calling processes, with the intent to inform and educate people. You couldn’t do this without a dedicated staff of true professionals, who understood computers and knew how to take inbound and make outbound calls.”
“We show them how to change colors on the car and the options that are available,” said Naczi, whose dealership averages 70 percent new and 30 percent used vehicles. “We talk to them about their current financial situation, trade-ins and what it’s worth.”
What they don’t do is handle the sale itself.
Said Naczi: “All I want them to do is drive traffic into the showroom.” Each qualified Internet lead is assigned to an elite salesperson, known as an eagle. They have earned the right to work the leads most likely to turn in to sales appointments. They confirm the appointment, get the car ready a half-hour in advance, and be ready with a back-up vehicle to consider, trade-in information and financing options before a customer ever steps foot on the lot.
“It costs three times as much to acquire as retain people,” said Naczi. “That’s why you retain and reward for loyalty. In this business, with the churn and turn, give me an employee who’s dedicated and understands the business.”
Later, there’s time for one-on-one role playing in Naczi’s department. Sometimes they’ll do a few secret shopping expeditions to see how others handle the work and what they can learn from it. That helps his people learn how to handle objections and work through price objections.
Vol 3, Issue 12
Cox Automotive’s latest Dealer Sentiment Index finds a ‘notable negative turn’ among U.S. dealers, the majority of whom took a dim view of the fourth-quarter market and their 2019 prospects.