If you’re looking for Rico Glover, check the offices at Bryan Honda in Fayetteville, N.C., where he is a senior manager. If he isn’t there, try his home, where he is husband and father to his wife, Shalawn, and her three school-age kids. No luck? Try his church, where he is an active parishioner, or the local gym, where he works part-time as a personal trainer. If he isn’t in Fayetteville, you may have to broaden your search. He could be leading a session at one of Jim Ziegler’s Internet Battle Plan conferences or dropping in at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley.
Glover’s official title is “ecommerce director,” but to his growing circle of friends, colleagues and trainers, he is better known as “The Social Media Superman.” Since joining the Bryan Honda team and their general manager, Tim Roussell, Glover has helped transform the store into an Internet sales hub, and his work is not yet done.
“Our goals? First, to be the No.1 Honda dealer in our area,” he says. “Our second goal is to be the No.1 Honda dealer in the country. I truly believe we can.”
Two years in, Glover has helped push Bryan Honda’s new- and used-vehicle sales past the 300-unit-per-month mark, and that’s in the sixth-largest city in North Carolina. With Roussell’s support, Glover is effecting a culture change at the store and creating a name for himself as a passionate, forward-thinking manager and trainer.
“I’ve taught him about the car business and he’s taught me about the digital world,” Roussell says. “A lot of times, the staff doesn’t get it, and he gets some resistance. But I tell him, ‘As long as I’m at the dealership, just keep going.’”
Crashing the Industry
A Fayetteville native, Glover, 41, considers himself a “sales guy” first and a “car guy” second. After graduating high school, he began looking for sales training opportunities. He attended conferences, read books and sent away for video training courses. His first sales job was in the manufactured (a.k.a. “pre-fab”) homes industry, where qualified buyers were given up to 90 interest-free days to make their first payment. When zero percent financing became the rage in the auto industry in 2001 and 2002, Glover saw an opportunity. Certain that car buyers would flood the market, he took an entry-level sales job at Leith Mitsubishi of Fayetteville.
“When I got into the car business, one of the first people I trained with was Joe Gerard. I still have his VHS tapes. He said it’s important to stay in front of your customers, so I built a list and I did mailings. Other guys stood out on the lot. I had a table in the middle of the showroom where I would handwrite my letters.”
After a few years on the job, Glover decided to try something new. He worked as the morning show director for a local radio station, a position that required sales and creative savvy, and continued to seek outside training. He attended a radio industry conference that was held shortly before satellite radio entered the mainstream. An audience member interrupted a discussion on the topic to say that no one would every pay for radio.
“I thought, ‘For a fee, if they can listen to what they want, with very few commercials, that could work,’” Glover recalls.
Then, with the housing market boom in full effect, he couldn’t resist the urge to change careers again. He sold real estate in the years before and after the bubble burst. He prospected through Internet chat rooms and tried to stay ahead of the trends as the Digital Age reshaped the way home buyers searched for properties.
“Real estate, as an industry, said companies like Zillow and Trulia would never get clients. Then they did,” Glover says. “And they tried to sue those vendors. Now those companies are getting more leads than Realtor.com. They were talking to each consumer as a friend.”
When the market crashed, he notes, the throngs of newly minted realtors fled the industry, leaving the true professionals to clean up the mess. Ultimately, with his prospects depleted, Glover decided it was time for another change. He worked as a trainer with Constant Contact and studied under famed digital marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk at Google headquarters, where he earned Agency Partner status and remains a frequent visitor. His experience there, as well as in radio and real estate, would have a lasting effect. When he decided to return to auto retail, he came equipped with a new mantra: “Our industry needs professionals who know how to talk to the customer. If I can talk to them on their own level, in their own language, I will succeed.”
By the time Glover reentered the industry, his only interest lay in driving Internet sales through targeted digital marketing campaigns and social media. He took a position with a major auto group, and the results were mixed. He built a robust website and began building a following on Facebook and Twitter. He made sales, he says, but ownership was uncomfortable with his entrepreneurial spirit. Feeling limited, he sold his Web domain to the dealership and began looking for his next opportunity.
“Some dealers don’t like individual salespeople doing digital marketing,” Glover says. “That’s crazy.”
“I’m quite the opposite,” Roussell says. “You have to have a little vision about what the customer wants. If the buyers want you to text them, text them. If they want you to send a carrier pigeon, send a carrier pigeon. You have to have a diversified group of salespeople.”
Roussell joined brothers David and Nolan Bryan at Bryan Honda, a member of the Crown Automotive Group, in 2013, after building a successful track record with the Bill Penney, Landers McLarty and Penske groups. In his first sales management position, he helped take Margate, Fla.’s JM Lexus from 50 new- and used-vehicle sales per month in 1990 to 700 upon his departure in 1995; the store has remained the No. 1 volume Lexus dealer for more than 20 years. Along the way, he engineered a number of memorable publicity stunts. In 1991, he invited the Florida Symphony Orchestra to play at the dealership, sent 2,000 invitations and promoted the event as a Saturday-night “Symphony of Savings” — all without notifying the city council, which convened on the eve of the concert and grudgingly voted to allow Roussell to proceed rather than risk the wrath of an angry mob.
“I put up a 75-foot stage,” he says. “We spent $60,000 on promotion and sold 83 cars in three days.”
When Glover showed up at Bryan Honda, Roussell had only been on the job for a week. He was interviewing candidates to join the sales team, but a few minutes into the interview, he decided to create a new position.
“He said, ‘Rico, I’m going to create an industry for you,’” Glover recalls. “He’s a visionary. He gave me a lot of legroom. He just had to see results. So he set aside a budget for my digital program.”
Within weeks, Glover had established a social media presence for the dealership and training programs for the sales team; within months, he began outlining a plan to build a “social business development center” — a group trained on all the major platforms and tasked with setting 40 appointments a day and, ultimately, generating 50% of all sales.
Glover frames his ultimate goal in terms described by Andrew Frawley, author of “Igniting Customer Connections” and inventor of the “Return on Experience and Engagement (ROE2)” approach to sales. Frawley preaches the importance of reaching customers “in the moment” rather than casting a wide net with ongoing marketing campaigns, a principle that Glover applies to the sales process as well.
“Members of Generation X and Y grew up in a Google society,” he says. “They want the information first. They’re not friendly. They’re so used to sitting around and texting that speaking to strangers is difficult. We want to talk to them in an arrangement they have no concept of.” And when the vehicle, price or finance terms don’t match what they found online, he adds, they won’t stick around to haggle. “Older customers will stand in the showroom and cuss you out. Younger customers will sit there, look up other dealers on their phones and say, ‘I have to make a call.’ You’ll never see them again.”
This paradigm shift is not lost on Roussell, who is in the midst of a complete “remodel, refacing and restructuring” of Bryan Honda. He says he has learned a lot from Glover and is slowly but surely moving ad budget dollars away from TV and radio and into online marketing. He advises dealers who are struggling to build and maintain a digital presence to look beyond their tried-and-true processes for hiring and promoting managers.
“You wouldn’t take your pitcher to batting practice,” he says. “If you’re not doing text alerts, email blasts, not posting, don’t have likes on Facebook, you gotta go find the guy who can do it. Put the dealership environment in their world. You’ll figure out what you need and they’ll figure out what they need.”