Attention Dealers: Your Sales Managers Are Costing You Millions Because They Don’t Care About Perfect Data

I almost titled this post “Perfect Data Matters,” but because it is one of the MOST IMPORTANT blog posts I’ve made this year, and because that title is so stinking boring to you and your managers, it would guarantee the least amount of interaction.

And that is sad. Perfect Data matters.

As boring as that sounds, not only does Perfect Data matter, it matters more than the Up getting out of their car right now. In fact, compared to Perfect Data in your CRM, that Up is WORTHLESS!

The sooner the leadership team at your dealership or group realizes this, the faster you’ll be able to navigate the coming changes in automotive retail. Not only will Perfect Data be a game changer in the future, but dealerships willing to insist on Perfect Data today in their CRM tool from the variable side of the business will enjoy an almost immediate competitive advantage that makes them less vulnerable to market mood swings.

What is Perfect Data?

Perfect Data is not Big Data. Perfect Data is Small Data. It’s the data you can actually use to make meaningful decisions with your business from day to day and year to year. It’s the data that only you own; and it’s the most important data for every retail business in America.

Perfect Data is exactly what the name implies: information that is accurate, up-to-date and (above all else) a true representation of what happened and what is currently happening on your lot. Another way to describe this is that Perfect Data is a comprehensive reflection of every customer interaction in near real time.

Perfect Data is Easier than the Alternative!

There is a broad misconception with America’s car dealership desk managers that Perfect Data gets in the way of working a deal or somehow makes the job of being a sales manager harder. The opposite is true. Perfect Data makes every job in the dealership easier.

With Perfect Data you can decide which salesperson is best suited to handle the next Up and which one needs help getting folks to take a test drive. Without Perfect Data you spend every sales meeting screaming at the entire team about manager TOs instead of being laser-focused on the two guys struggling the most at getting a manager involved early in their lost deals.

With Perfect Data you know which vendors are helping you sell cars and which ones are just stealing from you. Without Perfect Data you keep wasting tens of thousands of dollars on the latest brand of snake oil.

The more perfect your data, the better your decisions and the more focused your training. Period.

Okay Steve, I’m All In! But Where Should I Focus & What Are the Benefits?

Let’s look at how Perfect Data impacts your business over time. For example, there are numerous instances where Perfect Data in the CRM can mean higher sales, lower turnover and better grosses:

  • Perfect Data Today:
    • Knowing how long a prospect has been on the lot and where they are on the Road-to-the-Sale allows a sales manager to make a proactive TO and close more deals.
    • Knowing where a prospect is stuck in the sales funnel allows managers to proactively pull them towards a sale.
    • Managers are able to get closer to 100% of the Ups in the CRM simply by comparing the current Showroom Log to the actual showroom. (This is a great coaching opportunity to ensure salespeople enter their prospects timely and properly.)
    • With Perfect Data, BDC Agents know instantly when their appointments are running late. This allows them to call to reconfirm the prospect’s status and increase show rates.
  • Perfect Data Tomorrow:
    • With 100% of the Ups from yesterday in the CRM, a robust Be-Back process can be initiated and followed.
    • For dealers conducting true Save-a-Deal meetings, Perfect Data from yesterday allows the managers to focus on the prospects most likely to buy.
  • Perfect Data at the End of the Month:
    • A typical dealership treats two salespeople who each sold 15 vehicles this month exactly the same – they provide the same amount of coaching to each. With Perfect Data, it’s easy to pinpoint which salesperson is properly following your Road-to-the-Sale and which one needs additional coaching. For example, would your coaching still be the same if you discovered that one salesperson who sold 15 units handled 50 Ups (30% close) and the other who sold 15 worked with 150 (10% close)?
    • Perfect Data allows for comparisons of salespeople by their performance at each step in the Road-to-the-Sale. For example, you might have salespeople who do a great job of getting demo drives, but fail to get these same customers to the write-up (relative to the other salespeople). This would indicate they are saying or doing something during the test drive that turns off their prospects.
  • Perfect Data Over the Longer Term:
    • By properly recording trade-in and desired vehicle information for every Up, the dealership could easily target (based on current inventory and incentives, for example) phone campaigns, email marketing and direct mail to those who did not buy in an effort to bring these people back into the store months after they were first here.
    • Imagine if the contact information from every Up from three years ago was collected and stored in the CRM. Then imagine that a real Be-Back follow-up process was followed for those who did not buy. Imagine that during the Be-Back calls, we discovered who bought elsewhere and we asked them what they bought, where they bought it and why they did not buy from us; and we put all of that in the CRM. The BDC could include these people in their Buy Back (Owner Marketing) efforts and create sales opportunities three years after we lost the deal.

Okay Steve, Now I’m Really All In! How Do I Enforce Perfect Data in my Dealership?

If you’re genuinely serous about Perfect Data, there are a few simple ways to dramatically improve the accuracy of the information in your CRM, including:

  1. Daily Checks. This is where the leadership asks a few questions about the current state of the CRM Showroom Log to check for accuracy. This is the most proactive way to improve the data and allows you to get closer and closer to Perfect Data. Simple word tracks like “Show Me” will help you drive Perfect Data in your dealership. For example: You see four different customers on the lot, yet your CRM shows only two. Asking your desk managers how many people are on the lot and following that question with “show me” forces them to reveal that only two are being properly tracked at this time.
  2. Manual Up Tracking. Tasking the greeters and/or receptionists with a simple “Up Tracking” scoresheet is an easy way to see which salespeople are entering their Ups in the CRM and which ones are not.
  3. Daily Managers’ Meeting. A good Daily Managers’ Meeting is one that reviews the business data from yesterday and includes a true Save-a-Deal function. In this meeting, the leadership should be able to see at a glance where data “fudging” has occurred and then take corrective action.
  4. Monthly Reports. Applying a “sniff test” to the monthly reports is a reactive approach, but like the Daily Managers’ Meeting, the leadership should be able to easily spot bad data. For example, if your closing percentage of Traditional Ups is greater than your closing percentage of appointments, this is a red flag that proves you’re not getting enough Ups entered in the CRM. Likewise, if you have any salesperson closing above 35% of their Traditional Ups, they are likely entering fewer than 60% of the prospects they encounter on your lot. (The average closing percentage for Traditional Ups ranges between 9% and 20%.)

If you’re really committed to getting Perfect Data in your CRM there are a few points you need to understand:

  1. The second best time to plant a tree is right now. Stop worrying about the data from yesterday, last week, last month and last year. Start right now and commit to Perfect Data.
  2. Perfect Data is boring both in an article like this and in practice. Get over it. In this case, boring is good and can be very profitable (if done right).
  3. Perfect Data requires constant oversight from you. The automotive retail industry was built on lazy, seat-of-the-pants decision making; and Perfect Data is a cultural change that will not happen on its own. It will not be easy, but it will be incredibly rewarding for those willing to do it right.
  4. The opposite of Perfect Data is not Zero Data; the opposite of Perfect Data is something I call “Box Checking” – also known as Bad Data. For far too long you and your OEM have rewarded your managers when they check boxes. This was done to avoid conflict, real work and to keep some sort of weird balance in the Universe.

The big guys like AutoNation are working toward Perfect Data. If they beat you to it, you may never recover. (I know that sounds drastic, but the truth is that relationships matter less every day. Those gaining market share today are the ones with great processes; and great processes are fueled with great data.)

This means that right now your sales managers are costing you millions because they don’t care about Perfect Data. In just a few short years they may end up costing you your dealership. 

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Comment by Steve Stauning on January 13, 2017 at 9:50am

Thanks, Kim. Glad you liked it. (And that you were honest about your own CRM log.)


Comment by Kim Clouse on January 12, 2017 at 10:15pm

This is one of the best points that needs driven home to every dealer then repeated in the management meeting.

While I will agree that there are a lot of Sales Managers who care, all that is needed is a glimpse at the inbound log on any CRM to prove this point. 

Mine included.

Great stuff!!

Comment by Steve Stauning on January 11, 2017 at 9:44am

No doubt the paper desk log was a whole lot easier to master than the one in the CRM, though I would challenge sales managers to not overthink this. The best way to learn a new CRM is to use it.

For the most part they're not using it, because the owner or GM isn't looking for any answers in the CRM (where they should be looking for most of the answers about how well they're managing the customer experience & life cycle). 

Comment by Steve Gerhartz on January 11, 2017 at 7:49am
One significant factor causing "imperfect data" is lack of CRM training both at the time of launch and more importantly afterward, especially with new hires. CRM providers must be held accountable for ensuring a dealer client and their staffs are thoroughly trained so they know what "perfect data" looks like. Unfortunately almost always once these applications are launched, the CRM providers do little or no follow-up and provide little, if any, feedback to the dealer showing how their tools are being used.
Comment by Steve Stauning on January 9, 2017 at 9:08am

Thanks Mark! You hit the nail on the head!

Comment by Mark Handlon on January 9, 2017 at 8:31am

      Great article Steve! Everything in your article I totally agree with. There is a key word that always comes into play- "accountability". If the owner of the dealership holds his managers accountable for the "accuracy" of the numbers, then the managers will be forced to hold the sales people and the BDC people to keep those numbers real. When sales are good it seems that complacency begins and accuracy in numbers diminishes. Everything goes under a microscope when sales are down. If the culture (from the top down) was that the "microscope" is always being used then Perfect Data would become an integral part of any sales position.

Comment by Steve Stauning on September 15, 2015 at 5:48pm

Thanks David! Great reminder on a saying that has always been true... and (unfortunately) largely ignored.

Comment by David Martin on September 15, 2015 at 3:13pm

Steve, I read the entire article and absolutely agree with you. One of the oldest sayings in management is "You can't manage what you can't measure." Utilizing Perfect Data is putting that saying on steroids. Good article, thanks!!

Comment by Steve Stauning on August 24, 2015 at 4:21pm

Taking a little heat on LinkedIn by folks who clearly stopped reading at the headline: 

Interestingly, their arguments appear to be that "sales managers care." 

Okay, they care. You win.

Now... if we could only get Perfect Data in the CRM. 


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