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

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