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A GM’s Checklist for Profitability

Old school or new school, it doesn’t matter. I live comfortably in both worlds. But I can’t say the same for most dealerships. So I thought I’d provide a checklist designed to help general managers and dealers blend the best of both worlds to dominate in today’s hypercompetitive market. Now let’s get to it.

1. Daily Business Meetings: I’ve heard every excuse why this doesn’t happen, but your store needs to do it every day with the exception of weekends. And every department should be present to discuss deals in transit, appointments, CRM reports and callbacks, missed and makeable deals, problems and solutions.

2. Data Mining: There are numerous vendors offering programs to help you take advantage of the thousands of leads in your CRM that no one is working, but shop carefully. What you want is a program that identifies which customers are in a positive equity position with their current vehicle, especially individuals who might be visiting your store for expensive repairs or service. It should also allow you to stay in contact with those dormant leads. Hey, you never know if they may need a place to service their vehicle.

What you don’t want is a company that offers data mining but wants permission to resell, repurpose or share your customer data. So read your contracts carefully.

3. Get a Dealership App: You can communicate sales, rebates, service updates, recalls and a lot more through these apps. But once again, there are many app vendors to consider, so choose wisely.

4. Chat Around the Clock: Your website needs to be responsive 24 hours a day, and there are several companies that offer services that allow you to do just that. So, again, choose wisely.

5. Text Marketing and Messaging: Texting is the best way to communicate with your customers, but beware. Some vendors will offer unbelievable stats showing how successful their solution is. So if it seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

Keep in mind that texting can be a legal minefield if abused. And there are vendors that aren’t up to snuff with laws governing text marketing. So ask questions and be wary of anyone who offers texting services for free, as they’re probably stealing your customer data to resell or use in their own marketing.

6. Hire an SEO Company: Google is the new battlefield, but most dealerships are getting their butts handed to them by vendors that outbid and outmaneuver them in Google first-page results. What these vendors are doing is stealing your customers and then renting them back to you at exorbitant prices. So reduce your budget for lead providers and spend more on search engine optimization.

7. Build a Sales-Producing Website: Does your website convert? Does it look the same as others? There are website developers out there that are screaming for your business. And they can do a much better job than those vendors building manufacturer-sanctioned websites. So have the guts to break away from those cookie-cutter websites and SEO strategies and seek out vendors who will have your best interests in mind.

8. Develop a Sales Process: There are certainly a lot of new-age thinkers out there who claim the road to the sale is dead, but none of them have  defined what their supposed Millennial-friendly process is. That’s because they haven’t figured it out.

The truth is, the road to the sale is alive and well, but it has changed. See, today’s road to the sale needs to account for advancements in technology and today’s modern shopper, but it’s not that difficult. Besides, you can’t allow salespeople to greet customers without a process to follow, right?

9. Get vAuto: I love and hate vAuto. I believe the system is critical for managing pre-owned sales, but I’d never use it the way Dale Pollak, the blind genius who created it, recommends you use it. I suggest using it as a buying and selling guide, not as a pricing guide. I just believe every used car should have a chance to make a decent profit.

10. Marry Your CRM: Your CRM is the heartbeat of your sales department, so use it exactly the way it’s designed to be used. If a salesperson or manager refuses to use the CRM — or refuses to fill in every blank exactly the way the vendor recommends — then terminate that individual.

If I were your GM or dealer, what I covered is how I’d run the dealership. If I was the GM or dealer at a competing store, consider this checklist my game plan for kicking your butt.

Jim Ziegler is the president of Ziegler SuperSystems Inc. Email him at


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