Internet Buy-In From the Top

by : Craig Criswell

Discussions with Internet directors, managers, trainers and consultants from around the country show there is a universal theme for a successful Internet deployment – you must have buy-in from the top (the top being the dealership owner or GM or whomever is in charge of decisions and money). I do not disagree, but how do you go about getting that, or for those of you reading this who are in charge, how to give it?

My experience in numerous dealerships indicates several key factors in getting this buy-in. First, you must understand your audience and spend some time looking at their world. Are you aware of your top person(s) responsibilities and time constraints? Have you virtually walked a mile in their shoes?

• What is their knowledge level (or lack there of in a lot of cases) of the Internet and its applications? Does that lack of knowledge (a point you must be an expert on) create an initial atmosphere of distrust?
• Do you know how many different irons that person must deal with? The internet is a new and to them unknown tool that may only become another hot iron to juggle.
• Most people at the top have people around them all day long for one reason or another. Watch them interact for a while before creating your approach. Time issues can make or break your attempt to get buy-in.
• Do you have any idea of the overall budget and corresponding ROI (return on investment) responsibilities your person must handle? You must show you are there to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Assuming you are the Internet expert looking for that buy-in – show and live your expert knowledge by opening an ongoing line of communication. I have found setting up regular meetings will set a good foundation for everyone concerned. The key to your early meetings will be your assuming absolute responsibility for everything that happens with the Internet approach. They need to give you at least 90 days to develop a system that works. I like to use the phrase “give me enough rope.” I have never hung myself or anyone else I worked with.

Let me state, for the record, that I hate meetings. If I am going to have a meeting, I will have an agenda; it will be typed and handed out. The purpose is to cover the items and get back to work! I advocate a weekly meeting of no more than 15 minutes. These have proven the most beneficial in my experience. If the meeting ever runs long, it is because the top person(s) were truly engaged and asking questions (note: that is a good thing!).

Those meetings should be used to show your control and growth of the Internet approach at your dealership. Some of the items I have covered are web site images, subliminal messaging in e-mail and on the site, autoresponders, used vehicle pictures and information, and pricing. Don’t do them all at once.

Stay in control of the meeting and that is best done by taking charge. You set the standards for communication – after all you are not only the expert here, but you are the one taking full responsibility for everything happening with the Internet approach.

When you get to month’s end, you should make sure that your summary for the month’s and YTD numbers is all on one 8 1/2” by 11” piece of paper. Keep your summary to no more than 10 to 15 minutes. Point out the successes and the areas where you will be improving performance. And most importantly, you don’t want the focus to be on any single month, but rather the trending that is taking place in the department. This is best shown with graphs (you need at least a little Excel experience) and graphs are easy to show trending and even easier for those at the top to see and understand your effectiveness. And by taking charge on a day-to-day, week-by-week basis, you build a respect and trust in your management.

Finally, if you are the person at the top, you must be sure the person you put in charge for your Internet approach is an expert! Find that person who will readily accept full responsibility for everything Internet-related and give them the power to succeed or fail. You must stay in constant communication – not to micro-manage but to inspect what you expect. With the right person, you can give them enough rope.Craig Criswell is the Internet director for O’Rielly Chevrolet, Tucson, AZ and also the president of Internet Certified Dealer, a consulting and training organization for the automotive industry. ICD now offers online self-paced courses and webinars to assist dealers all over the country.
Digital Dealer
Jul 30 2007

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