Hillis: How would you describe the quality of training and support that you get from the VehicleXchange team?
Bernie: I deal with Mary (Waldmuller) all the time! I’ll tell you, she does a great job, she always gets backs to me when I need help. She’s very professional and I am very happy with her. That’s a plus for you guys.
Hillis: From your perspective how would you say that VehicleXchange has impacted day-to-day operations at the dealership?
Bernie: For me, it gives me a base of customers to work each day. I often find customers with one to six months left on the lease that I can give to a salesman right away get the customer in and get them out of the lease, so I look for that also. It tells me conquest or no Conquest it tells me that the car is mine or if they bought it elsewhere, so I know how to approach the customer. I can call them and say because of the year and mileage on your car, or because you purchase with us, and then you serviced with us you will qualify for one of our VIP upgrades programs, please contact me, and I can explain how it works.
Hillis: Tell me about the relationship you have with the salespeople regarding these leads, how do you and the sales team work together?
Bernie: I don’t work anything all the way through on my own unless I specifically know the customer, or I get involved at an earlier time with a customer that I feel comfortable with but about 75% of the time I turn it over to a salesman. I get the customer to tell me if they want a demo or if they want to do an appraisal of their current vehicle. I work with the salespeople that want to work them and can close deals. I will tell you last month I did 31 deals through VehicleXchange with 14 different salespeople.
Hillis: Now that you’ve got the buy-in from up top to let you get those extra resources, that’s a great sign.
Bernie: As the program expands, we may need to expand even more I would say that everyone in the store they’re all in with me. Like I said, more than half the store wants to work with my customers already. I’ll tell you the last deal we did last month showed everyone how the system works! Remember the Easter Holiday was on Sunday? So, we didn’t close our books until Monday night, so on Friday I told one of our salesmen, he’s 19 years old, he’s been here for a year and he is selling 15 cars a month. So, I tell him I’ve got a lady coming in for service Monday 10 a.m. and she has four months left on her lease. I like that you guys are sending me customers who are specifically requesting pricing. It was a customer requesting pricing from VehicleXchange on an HRV. So, I give it to the salesman, I tell him to call her and let her know you’ll be here Monday morning to help her out. So, he comes into my office Monday morning, and I tell him she’s going to be here today at 10 AM, he told me that he texted back and forth with her. I tell him, “Okay, we need one more big deal to close the month. We need to make this happen”. He tells me, “Don’t put so much pressure on me!” I say, “Come on, you can do this!”. He comes back into my office 2 hours later and says, “we got our deal”. We put her in that car, she drove home happy in her new H-RV. That’s a was a great deal to end the month with.
Hillis: That’s positive to here on our side. Are you predominantly focused on customers coming in for service?
Bernie: I would say, work the service drive. I print out our ROs and I hang the hang tags in the shop, and I go into the service lounge. But the leads are coming from the service drive, yes. I can pull the last ten people that came in for service; the 10 RO’s or the last ten people that came in. I work them if they’re over a certain amount of mileage. Like if I’ve got a guy with a 2-year-old car with over 50000 miles or if I have a guy with an 8-year-old car with 50,000 miles I’m going to look for these anomalies, and I’m going to hang tags on the cars in the back. Then I’m going to walk through the service drive if there’s someone I know, or I’ll say, “Is there a Mr. Smith here? Oh hey, Mr. Smith, my name is Bernie, I’m the VIP Coordinator. Can I sit down with you for a second?”, and we talk about the car. If he gives me any hints that he would like to do an appraisal or if he would like to take a demo, I’ll say not a problem, let me get a salesperson to help you out with that. I bring them in and introduce them, and I have the two work together. The salesmen can always come to me, but we work car deals through the desk, but I don’t work all the way through deals from my perspective. I only go work deals when the managers specifically ask me to.
Hillis: You guys are just now really getting into the mining side, right?
Bernie: We had somebody here during the summer, and she worked on the mining side of it we did pretty well with it. I don’t get into that side, I’m more into pre-approvals. Like I said I get pre-approvals from you. I have vAuto Provision giving me used cars, and I’ve got CDK for my service drive for the RO’s. I have three or four different ways to work customers, and I do as much as I can. I can’t do everything. Emma is helping out, but I guarantee you, I’m missing a deal here or there.
Hillis: We agree with that philosophy. What do you rely on to identify the vehicles you need for your used inventory?
Bernie: I’ve been in the car business for almost 30 years. I can look at the cars and see what we sell and what we don’t sell. I know that a 30,000-mile 3-year-old Civic is going to sell all day long, but I also know that a 10-year-old Accord with 50,000 miles is going to be a cream puff on our lot. So, I look at Provision, I can see a car that my used car manager wants. I know what we’re going to sell on our lot usually, about 60% of our used car inventory is Honda. The rest of the inventory is a group of low miles, late model vehicles.
Hillis: Tell me about management. What’s their involvement in the program? Do they have any directives? It sounds like they’re relatively hands off and let you do what you do best.
Bernie:I’ve known the GM for many years. He showed me what he wants to be done. He tells me, we have this and this, let’s work. The used car manager, if I need help he’s going to give me help, the sales managers are great about that also. They bend over backward to make these deals because selling a service customer is keeping a customer in our store and bringing in a vehicle for the used car department. There are a lot of positives that come out of that type of sale from my point of view. And all the managers look at that and see that as a positive thing. It’s been very positive. Also, two internet managers take care of all of our internet leads and they work with me pretty closely. They see a lead that comes in that I’ve established as service and now they are shopping online, we now have a buyer!
Hillis: That’s good it’s not Bell to Bell but could be a lot worse.
Bernie: The GM was asking me about Saturday’s. He said the new person could work on Saturdays. I was telling him that when I first started up the trainer from JM&A was telling me Saturday is not an important day, the store is crowded anyway, you want to work your leads during the week when it’s a little slower. You’re able to give more to the sales staff.
Hillis: What are your goals for the VehicleXchange program moving forward?
Bernie: Well it’s easy for me to get to 20 cars a month. I’d like to have it easier for me to get to 30 cars a month. When I hit 30, I’d like to be hitting 40. My thing is I want to get to a minimum every month of 30 cars, and if I do 30 cars a month, that means I’m going to reach 360 cars for the year. Last year I was here for nine months and did 175 cars. This year, I’m here the full year so I’d like to get close to 300 cars. So far this year I’ve done 20, 21, and 31, and so far, this month I have 19 with basically a week to play I can do at least a half a dozen more deals. So, let’s go ahead and say I’m going to be 25 to 30 this month. We ended April with 32, and 40 in May.
Hillis: Do you have a piece of advice for fellow VX dealers who just signed up onthe program and give them an idea of what it takes to be successful?
Bernie: You have to do the same things every day. You can’t skim on certain things. You have to make the phone calls. Years ago, when I did internet sales, I go to my friend and he says, ‘Well I get all these leads every month, and I don’t know what to do with them. See what you can do with them.’ He hands me a stack of Internet leads. I didn’t know anything, so I called all the people and didn’t get a lot of response. When I emailed everybody, I didn’t get a big response. But when I emailed and called everybody, I got my response. You have to email, you have to call, and you have to work every deal, it will eventually happen. You have to find your level of comfort. Once you’re comfortable, your customer will know. The customer can tell when you are not comfortable, and you won’t make the impression that you want to make. Take it easy, make friends with the customer and go from there. People buy people, if they like you, they’ll do business with you.