Simplifying Dealership CRM Technology

February 3, 2015| Zach Klempf

This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Used Car Dealer Magazine.

Having spent years pounding the pavement of car lots myself, I know car dealerships and technology have not always had a happy marriage.

I’ve seen the difficulty sales professionals had using customer relationship management systems. Our dealership went through a couple of CRMs and without exception, everyone from the lot veteran to the millennial rookie had trouble learning how to effectively use the system.

Why? The simple answer is complexity.

CRMs provide centralized customer account management plus the sales opportunity tracking and reporting sales managers crave. While management needs the sales reps to use the CRM to get sales cycle analytics and essential customer information, the sales reps see it as a time-consuming hindrance with little personal return on the investment of their entry time.

And because most mobile automotive CRMs are not lot- ready and can actually keep a salesman tethered to his desk, the average automotive sales professional has little love for big-enterprise CRM solutions. When you’re in the heat of a deal, maybe juggling more than one ready-to-buy client at the same time, getting back to your desktop can be next to impossible.

CRM systems are supposed to make sales professionals’ lives easier – not add an additional burden. No wonder some savvy sales veterans still use a pen and notepad to keep up with their clients while they’re working the lot.
Dealerships often pay more than $1,500 a month for CRMs that are not getting the job done – plus they usually require extensive training. Some dealerships have to hire full-time CRM managers just to manage the system’s rollout and use.
The ideal CRM is simple enough to learn in five minutes. If it’s more complicated than that, it’s taking away from productivity and not helping sales professionals do what they do best – sell.

In my research, I’ve found dealerships that do tens of millions of dollars in annual sales without using any CRM system at all. Imagine what they could do with a streamlined, simple, mobile CRM that focused on actually helping their sales teams sell.

I have also heard from dealerships using large CRMs that they typically only use about 10 percent of the features. Given the high price of most dealership CRMs, that is a lot of underutilized capacity.

Dealers should be wary of upsell products like data append services and dealership websites. All-in-one packages are great for certain dealerships but are not the right fit for every store. And keep in mind the employee who will manage your CRM system. If that person leaves, will the new CRM manager be able to easily pick up the system?

One of the biggest pain points of CRMs is the mobile component. When a sales rep is on the lot, a lightweight mobile solution is needed to prospect efficiently. Many vendors have a responsive web version of their desktop client, which is not the same as a native mobile app. Look for a native mobile CRM that has features like a VIN scanner and ID scanner to automate entering fresh ups on the lot.

I recently came across a dealer who wrote me a passionate “thesis” on why he hates his current CRM and what he really wants in a system.

He said he needed a simple system to manage his sales team without having to use an overwhelming management dashboard filled with complicated tools and reporting that is not relevant to his dealership. He expressed distaste for CRM vendors who charge thousands of dollars to train the sales staff, then when a new hire comes on board the dealer is left with lackluster online training videos.

The dealer wanted the CRM interface to be colorful and interactive instead of looking like a dated application from Windows 98. Sales reps should want to use the CRM and an easy-to-use graphical interface makes the daunting task of entering customer information easier and more interactive.

Rat sort of feedback points out the real need for a disruption of the automotive CRM space. Change is inevitable, and both dealers and sales personnel need to embrace technology.

Most of the players in the industry have been providing lackluster, overly complex software at sky-high prices that is focused on sales management instead of car-selling professionals.

Dealership management needs to have open forums with the sales staff about the CRM system. Rink about the last time you gathered intelligence from your staff about their experience with the CRM. Just asking the question can give you new insight into your system and whether it’s working successfully.

Mobile CRM tools need to be as easy to use as Facebook. Re key is to keep it simple and focused on helping sales professionals work the lot, with all of their prospects and cars of interest at their fingertips.

Providing the basics – linking prospects to inventory – while leveraging cloud computing and social media platforms is all that’s needed to deliver a CRM system that can finally create a happy relationship between dealers and their technology.

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