David Gesualdo, Auto Dealer Monthly Publisher.

David Gesualdo, Auto Dealer Monthly Publisher.

Welcome to this special edition of Auto Dealer Monthly. We are pleased to bring you an issue dedicated almost entirely to workable answers to a persistent question that keeps dealers awake nationwide: How does one efficiently and effectively convert leads into appointments and sales?

To answer that question, we polled many of the country’s leading experts in the fields of lead generation and dealer marketing. Collectively, they represent thousands of dealers, including many of the top-grossing and most Internet-friendly auto groups and individual stores doing business today.

We asked them what aspect of the conversion process dealers struggle with most, whether quality of leads or quantity should be their main goal, what the future of online sales might bring, and how they equip dealers who have fallen behind the times for success in the Digital Age. They answered with all the expertise and clarity we could have hoped for, and we thank them for their efforts.

The results were collected, analyzed and presented in these pages for your enjoyment and, we hope, to the benefit of your organization. Before you read on, however, I would like to ask you a personal question: Are you afraid of the entrepreneurial salesperson?

I know from casual conversations with dealers, agents and compliance experts that many DPs, GMs and GSMs are viscerally disturbed by the concept of an employee who builds their own database, runs their own marketing campaigns and follows their own schedule. Presumably, they would prefer that every member of the sales team follow the same processes as everyone else and, should they excel, allow the rising tide of their success to lift everyone’s boat. 

I have never questioned this contention, but in the interest of keeping an open mind, we have never hesitated to showcase sales pros who have succeeded on their own wits. That brings me to the two gentlemen profiled in this issue.

The first, in case you somehow failed to miss him on the cover, is Rico Glover of Bryan Honda in Fayetteville, N.C. Glover was hired by Tim Roussell, of JM Lexus fame, shortly after Roussell took the reins as GM. Roussell was so impressed by Glover’s years of multidimensional sales training that he created a new position for him.

As you will learn, the move has paid off. In his role as ecommerce director, Glover crafts Bryan Honda’s online and social media marketing campaigns and designs processes for managing Internet leads. In his spare time, he continues to seek outside training and is clearly on the path to becoming a celebrated trainer in his own right.

The second is Oscar Rodriguez, who earned Sales Pro of the Month honors by averaging more than 40 new and used units per month at All American Chrysler Jeep Dodge in San Angelo, Texas. A former prison guard, Rodriguez found his calling in auto retail and has come to represent the epitome of the entrepreneurial salesperson. He works 10 months out of the year, pays two administrative assistants out of his own pocket and, eight years into the job, now sells almost exclusively to repeat and referral customers drawn from his own database.

Rodriguez’s boss, multistore GM Paul Hatcher, is not bothered by any of this. He trusts Rodriguez to properly represent All American, even as he builds his own business-within-a-business. Rodriguez enjoys near-total freedom while Hatcher, the store’s owners and their OEM reap the benefits.

My automotive industry experience does not include running a dealership, and I would not presume to tell you how to run yours. But as Roussell advises colleagues who fear they are running a 20th-century operation in a 21st-century world, it may be wise to look beyond your own walls to find the talent you need to break down the barriers between you and Internet sales success.