Congratulations to Martin D'Amato, Internet Director of Pine Belt Automotive in Toms River, NJ!
Martin oversees 4 dealerships that are Delivering over 275 units per month in an 8 person department-
AIS - How Long have you been in the Automotive Sales Industry?
MD - 6 Years. The 6 years are not like the normal 6 years. You work bell to bell 6 days a week. Whenever one of our stores is open I am in one of them.
AIS - How Long have you been with Pine Belt?
MD - 3 Years. I started off with the Chevy store that was doing 55 units per month total without a BDC. Before joining Pine Belt, I was at All Star Mitsubishi and All Star Motor Sports. I learned the sales and marketing aspect of the business while working in these stores.
AIS - How did you get in to the car business?
MD - I did not exactly choose the business. It chose me. I was in college going to St. Johns where I graduated. I was a double major in sports management and finance. There was not a lot to offer out there. I had to choose a field and that was the field that I chose.
AIS -What type of training did you go through?
MD - Trial and error. You either have it or you don't. In other words, you either want to grow and be the best or you don't. I was hungry, motivated, and treated this as my career and way more than just a job. I never gave myself an opportunity to fail and would never let anyone else do my job for me. It was sink or swim and I did the backstroke (lol). I attended conferences and networked with professionals such as you. In addition, I have read numerous magazines and been involved with sites like this. The bottom line is that you never stop learning and you learn something new every day.
AIS - So, Tell me about your stores in detail...
MD - We have 4 dealerships. 2 Nissan dealerships that are high powered and are constantly doing around 250 units per month each. They are both two of the top dealerships in the region. 1 Chevrolet dealership and 1 Cadillac dealership that does around 85 units per month.
AIS – Now, I visited your operation a few months back and was able to see your setup. It was impressive.
MD – Thank you. We were glad to have you visit. We have continued to evolve and it is just exciting to continue to grow. I am never satisfied and that is what keeps me motivated to be better.
AIS - Now tell us about your Internet/BDC department?
MD - I have a centralized BDC that I like to call "Pine Belt South" which consists of Pine Belt Nissan Toms River and Pine Belt Cadillac Toms River. I have three people there plus myself. I am very hands and stay on top of my leads and opportunity. We are always looking to grow. My goal is two turn these two stores into an even bigger operation. We have two people in Pine Belt Chevrolet of Eatontown and 3 in Pine Belt Nissan of Keyport. I move between all three places.
* Website Provider - http://www.dealereprocess.com
AIS - Do you like them?
MD - Yes, I love them. They do a fantastic job and I am very happy with them.
* CRM -http://www.imagiclab.com
AIS - Do you like them?
MD - I like them. I am even impressed with their newer updates because I can go back and start to do the things that I have always wanted to do with the CRM.
AIS - How do you use your CRM?
MD - We have an automated Email Action Plan for some parts while other parts are manual parts of the process.
AIS - Are you using it just for managing internet leads?
MD - We adapted it for the whole dealership. I was able to even incorporated service into it with a 3, 6, 9, and 12 month follow up. I am trying to get everyone on the same page.
AIS - Are you doing Data Mining, Lease Retention, and Unsold Showroom Follow Up?
MD- Yes we are. We have a huge lease retention business. We work to make the processes simple for the showroom sales staff. The BDC is becoming a customer retention center as well as a business development center.
AIS - Any Social Media Integration with your CRM?
MD - No not yet.
AIS - What is your internet lead process?
MD - It is based on a round robin and your schedule. If you go out to lunch you clock out. We work internet leads from the time we get them until we get them in the door. Our process is 120 days including phone calls and emails. We mix it up based on the situation at hand. If a customer has credit situations, we have different processes for them. At the same time, a customer who is $10 away on payment has a different follow up process. Everything is customized to the situation at hand. At that point, we match up our customers with sales associates that we know will work perfectly with their needs and based on the type of vehicle that the sales person does best with.
AIS - Like the "Moneyball" effect?
MD - Yes. I try to maximize opportunity and gain the competitive edge.
AIS - What are you doing with social media?
MD -We have about 8300 fans on facebook and 8-10k followers on twitter. I take social media very seriously and it will be more important then everyone thinks it will be. We have about 2,000 followers on instagram. Our blog sees about 3,000-3,500 unique visitors per month. As far as I can track social media, we sell about 12 units per month. But it is great for running a digital billboard and being in front of people. It is more about branding. However, very rarely do we talk about a sale and about cars. We make it about the community and play a major role in it.
AIS - How do you handle the Phone Call Follow Up Process?
MD - Phone calls are at a 45-90 process. We work the lead until they buy or tell us to stop bothering them. I was raised in the old school mentality but I am able to apply "old school" with "new school ways".
AIS - Who is your inventory solution?
MD - We use AutoTrader Market comparison because it is free and effective. Everyone is on AutoTrader and so if you use the data that they give you properly you do not need another piece of software that will help you manage the prices. If you use Cars.com the same way you will be able to do the same thing. It is not different from what these other vendors are giving you in software. We host inventory through HomeNet and Auction123 takes our pictures.
AIS - Who is your call monitoring solution?
MD - Call measurement powered by Callbright. They get automatically integrated with our CRM. I love that because I know every single call that comes in.
AIS - What is your Online Reputation Management Strategy?
MD - We do very well with that. We use google as a very important part of the reputation management strategy. It is a culture that we adapted in the store. I got all of the sales consultants and managers on board. Pine Belt Nissan of Toms River went from 61 to 140 reviews on DealerRater in 5 weeks. Again, it is all about culture and how the team embraces it. I took it serious and made an account on DealerRater with pictures and reviews. The buy in there once a customer walked in and asked for a sales person because they read a review. We use google, DealerRater, cars.com, Edmunds, and Yelp. We publicize it on our websites. We are not scared of bad reviews because we have a process in place to handle them properly.
AIS - Do you have a video strategy?
MD - We have been getting personal videos off of pictures and customer testimonials. Our YouTube account has about 29,000 views. We have a top notch camera and equipment that can record quality videos. We try to do it the right way.
AIS - What other additional resources, tools, websites, blogs etc... do you use as part of your "success strategy".
AIS - What types of advice do you have for other ISMs or Internet Departments reading this article?
MD - Try things. Try to get your hands in as many things as possible. See what works. Put your own customer twist on it. Trial and error is the best experience. I am not saying "don't listen to other people". Just try things and learn all that you can. You have to be relentless at it. Keep doing it constantly and never stop learning.
AIS - Thank you very much for giving us some information that will allow other dealerships to be motivated to grow. You clearly set a great example for automotive dealers nationwide.