As an auto salesperson, sales manager or auto dealership owner you most likely have heard the phrase (By Golly) “The Internet Sales Department is doing great… gangbusters”. Yet what does this mean? The first thing you have to do for a critical business assessment is to figure out first and foremost what they mean by the term “Internet Sales Dept”. Otherwise to gauge performance and performance sales increases is nebulous. Its apples to oranges. Furthermore no solid business, its cash flow, bonus plans nor plans of solid growth and expansion can be expounded, planned for and developed judiciously.
To begin with it’s a well appreciated fact of life that car “salesmen” and salespeople are apt to inflate and exaggerate. Think of it of the fisherman describing that big catch that got away. Any sales figures must be assessed and checked for accuracy and validity to begin with.
Secondly when the term “internet auto sales” (vehicles – be they car, trucks, SUVs or crossover sport utility vehicles), must be pinned down. What one dealership expounds as its internet sales figures may be entirely different (and usually is) than the next dealer or used car lot. Amazingly even in a situation where in the same multi-brand dealership chain, even run by the same management, the answer may be entirely different. The term internet sale definitely means different things to different groups and even to management / ownership / staff in the same actual single business.
To begin with the internet sales dept in its fullest sense refers to sales on the internet to customers located geographically distant fully and entirely not from that dealership designated retail and catchments area or areas. It refers to customers who one way or another contacted and purchased the vehicle or vehicles through contact facilitated via the internet. Simply put without that promotion on the internet that vehicle would have never been bought or sold to that customer or group of clients. Contact may have been initiated via a website, marketing, email promotions or any other means all involving the internet as a means of initial contact. The actual negotiations and follow through may be phone, fax or alternatively by email. It does not have to fully involve strict internet modes of communication such as email only. The vehicle may be used or brand new. The customer may pick up the vehicle at the dealership personally or may not.
It can be similar to a mail order purchase only it’s a large ticket item, not a book ordered from Amazon. The one concern new car dealers may have is encroachment onto other same brand franchise auto dealers, whom also represent the same brand product. This is a concern especially if volumes are planned to be done and predatory blow out pricing is done. An outlet may via the internet car sale as found business that is a bonus and may blow the product out at prices no dealer in that distant area can sell for and provide customer support. Indeed it may be for a purchase price so low that the internet new car dealer would not even entertain in their own geographically assigned area.
It must be appreciated that each different situation which is described as “internet sales” is neither a right nor wrong means of description. It’s just that in discussions and management planning and consulting you must pin down exactly what is meant.
Next in line is it promotion on the internet rather than in pre-internet older style more conventional forms of promotion. The older pre-internet standard and effective forms of advertising and getting customers to the door or dealership phone switchboard included newspaper ads, radio and TV ads and flyers.
The sales manager expounding his success on the world wide web – may well be referring to online ads classified websites such as Craigslist and Kijiji or even for specialized vehicles eBay.
On top of that compared to the older forms of advertising there may be very good value even if the firm has upgraded to premium ads and features in those ads.
Lastly a form of internet sales may be sales that directly result from customers or potential clients visiting the dealership’s website.
The potential auto buyer may have contacted the dealership through its visibility on the internet and without that visibility would never have thought of that specific auto sales agent in any manner. This modality may also include follow-ups or even cold calls from a list generated from online inquiries, auto finance applications filled out, contact details on Facebook and twitter and the like. One thing though – many jurisdictions now have “privacy “laws and these must be respected and followed and observed.
Hence in any discussion, planning or follow-through at auto dealers or corner car lots the term “internet sales ” and “internet car sales’ must be pinned down for specifics if any sales analysis, business plans or bonus programs developed.