Choosing your next customer relationship management (CRM) system is a really big decision. To be a great Internet dealer, you must first be a great CRM dealer. But there are two sides to that coin: the behavior and usage of your employees and the software itself.

If you’re switching CRM providers, first make sure it’s your current software that’s holding you back and not the users. Changing systems doesn’t fix personnel issues; the system itself can only facilitate a strategy, but it’s up to the users to execute. That, along with employee adherence and accountability, will help you maximize the value of your CRM.

If you plan to shop for CRM software at the 2014 NADA Convention & Expo, it’s important to have a plan to make sure you get it right. After all, making a decision based solely on your experience there is risky. The convention floor will be crazy. There will be dozens of providers on hand and they will all want to befriend you and tell you about their product.

The fact is, you’re probably not going to see a bad presentation. The last one you looked at is always going to seem like the best one, so before you leave for the show, do your due diligence. By following these five simple steps, you’ll be more likely to find the best solution for your dealership.

1. Know What You Want Your CRM to Do
Think beyond floor ups, phone ups and Internet leads. Think past what your structure is today, because it will surely change. Think through the degree to which you’ll rely on your CRM to be operationally efficient.

Ask yourself these questions: Who will be using the software? Do you have a BDC? Will the service department use the CRM, even if it’s just for marketing? It’s hard to get those advisors off the dealer management system. And speaking of the DMS, will it interface with your new CRM? These are important questions to answer before you ever talk to a provider.

A frenzied show floor is no place to choose your next CRM — unless you’re prepared. Narrow down your providers to a manageable list, have your questions ready, and don’t forget to ask for NADA-only pricing. If you put yourself in a position to make the right decision, that discount is your reward.

A frenzied show floor is no place to choose your next CRM — unless you’re prepared. Narrow down your providers to a manageable list, have your questions ready, and don’t forget to ask for NADA-only pricing. If you put yourself in a position to make the right decision, that discount is your reward.

2. Narrow the Field
If you’re determined to check out all the CRM providers exhibiting at the show, you’ll soon find it’s a big waste of your time. Cut it down to a manageable number; maybe five at the most, but three would be better.

This will require some homework. Put together a list of must-haves or non-negotiables, and screen some of the providers to find the best candidates. Ask them for referrals and talk to some of their clients, then run through your must-haves with those end users to get the real story.

3. Schedule an Appointment
There’s no harm in asking to schedule a presentation with each provider. Give them a list of your questions and share your vision with them when you set up the appointment and when you visit their booth. Communication, as always, is a critical part of making the right choice and developing the right relationship with the right provider.

An appointment will give this presentation the level of importance it deserves. Rather than walking up to a booth and getting “qualified,” you’ll probably have one of their most knowledgeable people ready to answer your questions and show you the features you have identified as important.

4. Prepare to Be Dazzled
The presentation is going to be cool. You can count on it. So don’t get caught up in the “look what it can do” phase. Make them demonstrate the system’s ability to do the things you want it to do. Preparation is the key; your list of must-haves and non-negotiables will come in handy once again.

5. Be Ready to Make a Decision
There will probably be an NADA-only deal to take advantage of, and those are usually legitimate. If they don’t offer one, ask. If your questions have been answered and your needs fulfilled, there’s no reason to hesitate. You’ll feel good about your choice and you got it done!


If you haven’t gone shopping for a customer relationship management (CRM) system in a long time, prepare to be amazed. Old features have been improved and new ones have been added. Here’s a list of five features to look for during each presentation.

1. Mobile: Simply put, your customers are going mobile, and so should you. Your CRM provider should be equipped to handle mobile ups. But new rules under the Telephone Communications Protection Act (TCPA) went into effect this year (click here for more information). Your CRM should be able to distinguish between cell phones and landlines.

2. Texting: You’re still allowed to contact customers on their mobile phones if you have their consent. An opt-in texting application is one of the best tactics you can use to reach busy customers.

3. Data Cleansing: Your CRM provider must be able to scrub your contacts against the national Do Not Call registry, the National Change of Address (NCOALink) system and opt-out e-mail addresses.

4. Equity Mining: Your database is still your best lead source. There are many standalone equity-mining tools, but a program integrated in your CRM will make you more efficient and effective.

5. Video: Do you have the ability to embed video code in your CRM-generated e-mails? They make delivery look more professional without leaving the CRM environment. Remember, if it’s not in the CRM, it never happened![PAGEBREAK]

5 Exhibitors to Look for at NADA
The 2014 NADA Convention & Expo will host thousands of exhibitors. Each will be there to meet dealers and present  their latest products, services and solutions. Here are five companies to add to your show floor schedule.

Automotive Compliance Consultants Inc. (ACC)
Booth 4555
ACC is one of the industry’s leading compliance firms. The Crystal Lake, Ill.-based company was founded in 2003 by a team of experienced automotive compliance experts. ACC relies on a proprietary, four-stage audit process designed to keep dealers up to speed on the latest rules and regulations and leave them free to operate their businesses.

Client ConneXion
Booth 4379
Client ConneXion is a Plano, Texas-based company that connects dealers to online shoppers with new tools, optimized websites and expert training. Client ConneXion’s suite of offerings includes live chat, SEO, service-department marketing solutions, and much more, all designed to deliver an enjoyable online experience to your customers.

Consumer Portfolio Services Inc. (CPS)
Booth 2409
CPS is an established, independent specialty finance company that provides indirect financing to credit-challenged car buyers. Founded in 1991, the company is based in Irvine, Calif., and operates servicing branches in Florida, Illinois and Virginia. The company purchased more than $9 billion in contracts in its first 20 years in business.

Dealer Marketing Services/ProMax Unlimited
Booth 2638
Dealer Marketing Services is the maker of the ProMax Unlimited suite. ProMax is a widely used system that combines solutions for desking, CRM, lead management, inventory and more. The Davenport, Iowa-based company also provides custom websites, expert training and a fully integrated compliance solution.

Naked Lime
Booth 3444
Naked Lime offers a one-stop shop for dealers who want to launch an online marketing campaign, improve their websites, connect to car buyers via social media and manage their reputations. The Kettering, Ohio-based company has partnered with several of the industry’s leading companies to deliver results that are greater than the sum of their parts.