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In a The Dealer Sales Process: Enabling the Front Line (Part 1), Thomas Wright, Industry Principal at SAP America, http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/weblogs?blog=/pub/u/251860903 [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken], Senior Scientist at Automotive Insight, and Ute Gramann, SAP AG, BPX Automotive, explored the need to support frontline sales efforts at the dealer. Here, they continue that discussion, looking at the kind of CRM tools and processes needed by salespeople, and how dealers can make the best use of those tools.

Gramann: Sales assistant software is not always used effectively by dealers’ salespeople. Is that partly because sales staff might see the entering of information into the system as a waste of time that takes them away from talking to potential customers? The question, basically, is what can be done to improve the use of dealer CRM and sales assistant systems?

Schwarz: You’re right in saying that sales employees often do not have sufficient capacity to fill in all the required information on systems, especially because dealer management systems usually offer numerous opportunities for entering customer information. So, obligatory and non-obligatory information should be defined in the system. Also, customer data has to be entered into the dealer management system during the sales process-the system should require important customer data to be entered before the salesperson can continue the sales process. The configuration of a car and a test drive should only be possible if the required customer data are entered into the system.

The sales employee needs to have an efficient dealer management system. This means a system that supports the whole sales process. This means not having to switch between systems during the sales process-in practice, we often see the use of separate finance and lease and ordering tools that require car and customer data to be entered twice. The system should also be easy to handle and self-explanatory, and it should provide reminders regarding missing data and customer follow-ups. Because customers should be contacted regularly during the whole lifecycle, this function is an important aspect of support for the sales representative .

Wright: Sales personnel need to be able to leverage all available information about the customer, from initial contact through closing the sale, to ensure that all the resources of the dealership are brought to bear to create a win/win transaction that includes not only the vehicle but also additional value-added feature like dealer-installed options and F&I products. Technology is important here, because many dealers opt for different tools for lead management, showroom control and desking(closing the deal), and F&I. All must seamlessly integrate with each other, and with the foundation dealer management system used at the store. From the greeter to the sales associate to sales management and the F&I booth, information and context must be shared seamlessly.

Schwarz: That’s quite true. Also, due to the growing importance of dealer groups. especially in continental Europe, the handling of customer data and lead management within the dealer group becomes more and more important. So the exchange of data between outlets is crucial so that customer data is not stored twice. In the case of multi-brand dealer groups, data should be exchanged between the brands in case a sales employee identifies the need for a second car of another brand.

Gramann: Sometimes, even when effective systems and processes are in place, salespeople may need encouragement to use them. Are there things dealers can do to encourage uptake and usage?

Wright: Well-designed software that intuitively supports the dealer’s business processes is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for success. If lengthy training in the use of the application is required, it will fail over time as the inevitable turnover occurs. However, no software is good enough to achieve success in enabling Dealer CRM without comprehensive training in the business process change that CRM drives. Migrating from traditional operations to a technology-enabled process is not easy, and both sales personnel and management must be educated in the value of the process and the metrics that will be deployed along with it. This cannot be done offsite. It must be delivered store-by-store by a team of dealer management experts and credible, experienced educators.

Schwarz: To do effective lead management and CRM, it seems helpful in practice if the sales manager defines guidelines: The number of contacts per sales person a day-both new and regular customers-should be defined. This can provide a base for the measurement of other KPIs in sales, like the number of test drives, number of F&L offers and the closing rate per week. A good IT tool helps both the sales people and the manager with the fulfilment and the measurement of the defined KPIs. Areas for improvement in case of underperforming sales employees can then be identified by the sales manager very efficiently.

Gramann: Thank you both for your time and thoughts. I look forward to more discussions with you in the future.

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  1. Larry Stolle
    Martin Schwarz amkes the following comment; “To do effective lead management and CRM, it seems helpful in practice if the sales manager defines guidelines: The number of contacts per sales person a day-both new and regular customers-should be defined…” 

    Arguably this statement is correct.  However, it must be noted that there are a great many sales professionals that make virtually 100% of their income from repeat customers and are constantly the top sellers in thier dealership.  Guidelines must be flexible to allow for this. The same applies for fleet accounts…Too much management for seasoned veteran high performers is a bad thing.  Management of sales persons learing the trade is valuable…

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  2. Anonymous
    In the discussion the message is clear that a dealer setup is habituated to a consistent science of interactions to a prospect before he/she becomes a customer. Failure to participate is the failure of system to its entirity.

    Dealerships are faced with churn of salesman, which is the next big challenge in the industry where sales people walk out with data in head.

    The buying process understood allows us the facility to map opportunity sales cycles that must help every dealership to follow a succcessfull strategy for sale.

    Suffice to say car buying with family is a different decision process over an induvidal buying process. CRM systems must help sales person identify the most appropriate sales process to help increase %age closures. This will include in it the flexibilities or discussion optional fixtures, best finance option etc…

    Today’s customers look for the individualised attention, the CRM solution must empower sales people with those facilities.

    The post sale follow up is essential beyond service, it must take referenciability, customers view to change (Trade ins)and allow for those trigger points of business action.

    OEM’s brand & dealer managers will recognize the dealer sales methodology that’s working and bring in mid course adjustments. This will include a view to the customer & his behaviour with dealership(s).

    In a country like India (and am sure is global too) it is not un-common to see a consumer hop accross dealerships looking for the best bargain until they’re exhausted. Such deal hunting customers must become understood by OEM’s to allow a direct interaction (call center/ email) to help them be better understood for a better decision making.

    CRM in automobile is a great  sweet spot for SAP to excell in and am sure we’re doing all the right things there.

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