Sunday, August 7, 2011


They are tired of doing so much work.

After 250+ mystery shops I think I can safely speak for the group when I say that my mystery shoppers are exhausted. Their eyes hurt and their heads ache.

And all just because they try to launch buyer/seller relationships with car dealers.

If you’ve ever tried researching and selecting a new car or truck online you know that it’s not as easy as one might think. A typical outing starts with a Google search the leads you down a labyrinthine path through dozens of sites and pages. Eventually you reach a vehicle (or a retailer, or both) and are given the opportunity to type in your name and contact info with the promise of getting something of value in return. You comply; hit “Submit” or “Get Your Free Internet Price Quote” or “Make An Offer” or “Get More Information” or whatever, then sit back and wait to see what happens.

We think this is the end of the hard part. But it's not.

The first response emails that land in my eager mystery shoppers’ Inboxes can range from a few lines of painfully pecked-out plain black & white text to big, bulky HTML pages that scroll on forever and contain so much info they can’t be read on a smart phone screen.

Big or small, HTML or text; the emails are usually difficult to read, and often amateurish in appearance and execution. Rarely does my shopper get a first quality response (FQR) email that is concise, informative, attractive and professional-looking. Why is this? Why do we make our customers work so hard for the information they request?

If you are online and send a request to Home Depot, L.L. Bean, Target, Amazon, Cabela’s, J.C. Penney or any one of hundreds of other retailers the email you get in reply is likely to be clean, understandable and pleasing to the eye. Even if the item you inquired about only cost $2.99. Do the same at a car dealership and the email you get in reply is likely to be fugly – and the product you inquired about this time probably cost $29,999. Or more.

Of course, the difference here is that Home Depot, L.L. Bean, Target, Amazon, Cabela’s, and J.C. Penney are big, national retailers with big national media departments. And your dealership is just one little bitty local store. Agreed. But the thing is, in this amazing new world of Internet communications, a world in which all the word and image creation and delivery tools one could ever need are attainable somewhere for cheap to free, the hard cost to produce concise, informative and attractive FQR emails and the cost to produce amateurish and hard to read emails is exactly the same.

It’s not a money thing any longer. It's a people thing.

The future belongs to the communicators.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


They don’t trust you.

We both know it’s largely unfair, but they don’t trust you.

You’ve seen all the polls where buyers say if they could bypass the dealership and buy directly from the manufacturer they would.  They trust the OEM, but they don’t trust you.

A couple weeks ago, I heard a Ford maven say this (I’ll paraphrase): “The more your outgoing emails resemble Tier 1 emails, the more prospects trust you.”   By gawd, he’s on to something.

Ignoring, for the moment, issues like quality of content, font selection, correct spacing & spelling, etc. etc. what is the simplest and most powerful thing we can do to make our outgoing emails resemble Tier 1 emails?

Shared graphics, right?

For example, this month  has “The Best Place To Be” sales event plastered all over the home page.  “The Best Place To Be” is a simple graphic; easy to copy, easy to manipulate, easy to paste into numerous settings.

What happens if a Ford dealer incorporates that image into the graphic header on all its outgoing emails this month?
 - The store piggybacks on all the $$$ Ford is spending driving that message home on the web, on TV and in print. 
 - Prospects, consciously or unconsciously, now align the dealership with the trusted manufacturer.

In the prospect’s mind, the dealership is now perceived more to be an authorized extension of the trusted national brand.  The gap between Tier 1 (OEM) and Tier 3 has just been narrowed.  And the cost to the dealership to accomplish this?  $00.00.

You are already thinking, “This idea Ordiway is proposing is so simple, and so obvious that’s it’s almost no idea at all.”  And you are right.

So how come (to my knowledge) none of the stores in my region are employing this stunningly effective little trick?

Shame on me.


Sunday, July 10, 2011


Our team’s official Ford Motor Company job title is Digital Marketing Consultant.  Sounds cool.  I like it.

But it’s actually a misnomer as it suggests that we want to sell you SEO/SAO, website development, lead generation and other services.  And we don’t.

For some time now I’ve been telling people that our real title should be Best Practices Consultant: Internet-based Retail New Car Sales.  But besides being too long, it’s also inadequate because it suggests (to me, anyway) that the job entails walking into a dealership and pulling out a new car Internet sales best practices playbook.  If there is such a document, I’ve never seen it.

At the end of some dog tired days I think we are really a combination of things:  
 - eCommunications skills teacher +
 - eProspect management practices instructor +
 - Art of salesmanship coach and trainer.

Isn’t Internet-based new car sales really all about those three things?

COMMUNICATION: Many of us in the car sales game consider ourselves to be excellent communicators, and when we’re facing a prospect one-on-one this is often true.  But when we switch from face-to-face communicating to computer-to-computer communicating, we usually come up short.  Here’s an email template communication effectiveness test: print out your templates (if you don’t use them, print out some recently sent email examples) and, pretending there is a prospect sitting across the desk from you, read the templates aloud, in sequence.  How natural do they sound?  How sincere do you feel reading them?  Did the content help you in your quest to meet + greet + qualify the imaginary prospect sitting across from you?

PROSPECT MANAGEMENT: In my region, on average, 35% - 50% of the eProspects who buy do so within 5 days of submitting their lead.  But without a viable, formal eProspect long-term follow-up process built into your CRM, staying on top of last week’s eLead is as difficult as locating last week’s Facebook post.  Here’s an eProspect management success test: log into your CRM and locate all the new car eLeads that came in 6 days ago.  Now look: how many received phone and/or email contact from your store in the past 24 hours?  Past 48 hours?  What scheduled futurecontact activities are shown in the prospects’ profiles?  Any at all?

SALESMANSHIP: If you’ve been in the sales business very long you know that you can never attain perfection in that discipline known as salesmanship.  It’s equivalent to the yogi’s quest for nirvana.  Yet constantly working to improve one’s salesmanship skills is the one guaranteed thing a salesperson can do to insure that his/her sales continually increase.  Which means if your BDC and Internet sales department people are hamstrung by flawed communications and poor prospect management they have no time to improve their salesmanship skills.  Here’s a third and final test: how happy are you with the results of the communications and prospect management tests above?

‘nuff said.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Imagine that you run a restaurant.  

Out in the dining room it’s nothing but surprises: you open each day with no idea how many people are going to come through the doors, what they are going to order, whether you have too much or too little staff or food on hand, etc. etc. etc.  Anything goes, and that’s what makes it fun.

But back in the kitchen there must be order and process: if the kitchen is not systematically organized and operated the dishes will not make it out to the dining room on time (if at all) and the restaurant will crash. 

The dining room makes money out of chaos (and the more the better), the kitchen makes money out of order.

I think the dining room is analogous to a dealership’s sales floor.   And Internet-based car sales is the kitchen.  An Internet department (whether it is standalone, integrated, BDC, or whatever) requires process, method and consistency in order to supply the dining room (new and used car sales departments) with qualified customers.

One of the most difficult things I have to do is tell DPs, GMs, and SMs that, if they want to establish a bona fide Internet-based sales program for their store, they must first 1). Make the commitment to embrace system and process, 2). Put these systems and processes into place, and then (and this is the really difficult part) 3). Leave them alone! 

I tell them, “Do NOT, under any circumstances, change the plan, rip out the process, restructure the department, gut the program or otherwise re-org in any way for a minimum of 90 days.”  For many guys this part is the hardest because it runs so contrary to their nature and culture.  But experience has taught me time and time again that it is absolutely essential if their freshman Internet-based sales effort is to take root and grow.

Which is why it is so gratifying when we see a store actually make a plan, stick to the plan, and succeed with the plan.  I have one in my Region right now that, with great difficulty, resisted the urge to upset the apple carts during the critical first 90 days. They committed to change, launched the program and steadfastly stuck to it.  Today, less than 180 days into this noble experiment, their average lead response time is well under 30 minutes, their closing ratio is already up 1.1%, and their share of eLead RDRs (leads to this store closed by this store vs lost to a rival area Ford dealer) has jumped 15%.

I love happy endings.  :-D

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I just discovered that in the past sixteen months I have launched more than 225 mystery shops.  Wow.  I didn’t realize there had been so many.

You’d think after 225+ mystery shops a guy should have some profound observations and conclusions to share about mystery shops, right?  I don’t know about the profound part, but, yeah, you’re right, it seems that a person should have some observations and conclusions to share.

So I’ve spent the last couple hours ruminating and writing down things that currently stand out in my mind.  Here they are, in no particular order of importance. Feel free to add some of your own or challenge these.

1). The view from out here in shopper land is way different from your view down in dealer land.  I thought I was a pretty good template writer and process builder when I was an Internet salesman; I now see that I wasn’t nearly as good as I credited myself for being.  It took this new outside perspective to show me that.  My advice: seek outside opinions when tweaking your process and content.  Our industry is famous for singing only to its own choir.

2). When a fresh eLead arrives we don’t and can’t know what it is.
- Is it a new car inquiry from someone who actually wants a used car?  
- A person whose lease isn’t up for a year and is just window shopping?  
- A 14 year old kid building his fantasy Mustang on your OEM’s site?  
- Someone hopelessly upside down in their current vehicle, still hoping for a miracle rescue?  
- Someone who thought they were registering online to win a free iPad? 
- A buyer? (Yay)!  But also a grinder?  (Boo). 
- A “Get me bought” with a 500 Beacon?
- Someone who is actually bona fide ready willing and able to buy something today?   
- Or one of at least 1,336,749 other possibilities that can be to added to the list above?
Until a connection with the sender is established (if it ever is), we can’t know what that eLead represents.  Therefore, doesn’t logic say that the only smart way to respond is to attack the lead from all sides using every tool in our arsenal?

Very, very few (maybe 2%) of the dealerships I have shopped do this. Instead, most make some timid outreaches for a day or two and wait for the lead to reveal itself. Meh.

3).  You’ve heard this before: He who responds the fastest wins.  He who responds most often wins. He who responds using the greatest number of media (email, phone, text) wins.  He who responds using all of the above wins big.

4). Let’s say this is a pretty typical Day 1 – 5 Internet response schedule:
- Day 1 – Send a first quality response (FQR) email, make a phone attempt, maybe send a text.
- Day 2 – If lead is unresponsive, send a quality email, make a phone attempt, maybe send a text.
- Day 3 – If lead remains unresponsive, send a quality email, make a phone attempt
- Day 4 – If lead remains unresponsive, send a quality email, make a phone attempt.
- Day 5 – If lead remains unresponsive, send a quality email, make a phone attempt.

With some variations, we all agree that’s pretty much how it should be done, right?  So how come my shopper almost never, ever gets follow-up that even closely resembles this?

If your current Internet salespeoples’ workload and/or work schedule prevents them from being able to accomplish the above, you have a problem with your workload and/or work schedule.  If your workload and/or work schedule provides them the time needed to complete these tasks and they are not completing them – you have a problem with your people.

Bonus info:  Ford Digital Team consultants have access to new car days-to-the-sale data for each of our stores.  In my region, 35% - 50% of all sales take place within 5 days of an eLead’s arrival.  Doesn’t logic say, then, that making sure your people are giving prospects complete coverage Day 1 – 5 is primo importante?

5).  We still think we are selling cars via the Internet.  We are not.  Whether we realize it or not, we are in the eCommunications business instead.

6).  It doesn’t seem to matter if a store has a BDC, a dedicated Internet sales department, or just hands eLeads out to the sales floor.  My shoppers get equally bad service from all three!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Are you still debating whether to employ text messaging in your eLead response process?  This story may get you off the fence.

One day a couple weeks ago, as I do most days, I was sitting in a General Manager’s office reviewing his store’s recent mystery shop. 

When I told him the Lead Response Time (LRT) was a disappointing 5 hours 36 minutes he immediately went to his CRM to verify.  To my surprise, the CRM said the response time was 41 minutes.

Hmmm, OK.  So, was the First Quality Response (FQR) an email or a phone call?  (In Ford-world, only an email stops the clock).  It was an email, and a manually written and sent email at that.  (In Ford-world, autoresponders and other auto-sent emails do not stop the clock).  So everything checks out to support the 41 minute LRT story.

Then the problem is on my end.

My mystery shoppers always have or email addresses and I have all mail to these addresses forwarded to my main Inbox in MS Outlook.  When I opened the mystery shopper’s Gmail account in a browser I discovered that the LRT was indeed 41 minutes!  So, either Google did not forward the email to Outlook for 5 hours, Outlook did not pull down the email for 5 hours, the email floated in cyberspace for 5 hours, or some combination of these events took place.

All of us have experienced occasional problems with our electronic communications: the email that appears in our smart phone but never makes it to our PC, the email forwarded by a friend today that doesn’t arrive until tomorrow, emails from trusted senders that unexplainably go into our Junk/Spam folder and escape detection for days/weeks/forever.   It happens every day.

With a fast Lead Response Time being so critical (is there anybody reading this who does not believe that LRT is critical?) a 41 minute response time perceived by the customer to be a 5 hour 36 minute response time can be fatal.  So why not take an easy preemptive step to insure that your prompt LRT is recognized?

Send a text message.

In the example above, imagine that the salesperson, after sending his FQR, sent a quick text message to the shopper saying “Hi ________, Joe at ABC Motors here.  Got your request, already replied.  Check your email.  Let me know if you do not receive.  Thanks.”

What a difference that could have made!

At the very least I would have seen that text (and how do you NOT see a text message?) and made a mental note that the dealer had contacted me promptly.  At most I would have gotten the text, immediately checked Outlook, and when no email was seen, called/emailed the dealer or checked my webmail to hunt down his missing response.

Granted, not all leads come to us with a cell phone number (or a phone number at all).  But when we do get a cell number, why not utilize it?

Here’s some quick tips:
 - If you don’t know if the prospect’s phone # is a cell phone or not just go to and find out. Takes 20 seconds.
 - If it is a cell number, and your CRM is incapable of outgoing text messaging, go to and send a free text-message from your computer. Now you have a record of the text that you can copy and paste into the prospect’s profile in your CRM.

You can do the same with Google Voice but I prefer the way Joopz messages appear in the smart phone’s window.  Experiment with it a little bit until you get things to appear the way you like.  And did I mention that Joopz is FREE?

At last November’s Digital Dealer Conference I heard a presenter state that the average email receives a reply in 48 hours – and the average text message receives a reply in 4 minutes.

Which do you like best?


Sunday, May 1, 2011


This week a wonderful thing happened.  I got to see real salesmanship in action.

Here’s the set-up: I only mystery shop Ford dealers, and I almost always mystery shop for an F-150.  But this week I got the wild urge to do something different.  I had two stores to shop so I sent the same request to both: the female shopper clicked the “Get  Info” button on a specific 2012 Ford Focus in the dealer’s inventory and, in the Comments/Questions box, wrote “Does this one have a sunroof?”

Here is how Store # 1 replied:

Mystery Shopper,
This particular Focus doesn't have the sunroof.  There are only a couple hatchbacks in entire country with sunroofs right now.  Is there any other design that  you want, or did you want me to notify you when we come across one?

Dealership Salesman

Ouch!  He pretty much shut me down, didn't he?  He said “No” to my question (This particular Focus doesn't have the sunroof), then told me “No” again (There are only a couple hatchbacks in entire country with sunroofs right now), then drove the ball back into my court (Is there any other design that you want, or did you want me to notify you when we come across one?).

In this situation, the shopper’s path of least resistance is to simply hit “Delete” and walk away from both this dealership and further interest in the 2012 Ford Focus. :-(

So imagine my utter surprise and delight when, a few minutes later, Store # 2 replied like this:

Good morning Mystery Shopper!  

Thank you for your inquiry on the 2012 Ford Focus.  I did check the availability on this unit and as of now it is available.  We do however have customers looking at it, but no strong deals as of yet.  You asked if this unit had a sunroof, but it does not.  It is a beautiful vehicle and very well equipped for an SE.  I don't think you will be disappointed with the new Focus.  Have you have the opportunity to drive one yet?  If not, can you stop in this morning for a full demo and test drive or would this afternoon be better for you?  Please give me a call and I'll answer any other questions that you may have.  Thanks Mystery Shopper and I look forward to hearing from you.

Dealership Salesman

Wow!  Same car, same shopper, same exact situation but two completely different replies.  Salesman # 2 is so upbeat and smooth and has so much forward momentum going that I’ve already forgotten about the sunroof.  He is selling urgency (…it is available.  We do however have customers looking at it) , he is selling the product (It is a beautiful vehicle and very well equipped…) and he is selling the appointment (Have you have the opportunity to drive one yet? ).  A three pointer!

In this situation, the shopper’s path of least resistance is to go with the salesman’s momentum and accept an offer for a test drive.  (In fact, I’ll bet if she was too busy to come to the store that day Salesman # 2 would bring the car to her home or office instead).

If I can find any fault in this letter (and, sadly, I must) it’s that there is no reference to price or price range.  So he loses a point for that, but otherwise, I think this is a great FQR (First Quality Response) letter.  Anyone agree?  Disagree?

I know without question that Salesman #1 was trying to be helpful and did not intend his reply to come off the way it did.  But, unfortunately, it did.

So here’s an idea: before we hit the “Send” button, let's pause and ask ourselves, “After he/she reads my email, what will the recipient’s path of least resistance be?  To bail on me?  Or  to go with my momentum?”

As my friend Ronnie Cohen used to say, “Are we making it easy for people to buy a car from us?”