Friday, September 30, 2011

If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door!

“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done.

Then they begin to hope it can be done.

Then they see it can be done.

Then it is done………. and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.” 

The people who are the most successful in life are the ones who create their own opportunities.

But all too often, people don’t want to give the extra effort or go the additional mile to realize their true potential!

What most people fail to understand is;

The bravest person is still scared; they are just braver one second longer than anyone else!

The calmest person is still worried; they are just calmer one second longer than anyone else!

The most disciplined person is still undisciplined; they are just disciplined one second longer than anyone else!

The most persistent person is still non-persistent; they are just persistent one second longer than anyone else!

As you can see……success isn’t given to anyone.

Success doesn’t come delivered in a pretty box with a big bow attached to it!

Success comes to those that have the intestinal fortitude to go beyond what most people think is “normal”.

Success comes to those that are willing to leave their “comfort zones” and reach out to do more!

Successful people don’t necessarily enjoy or like the things they have to do to be successful, but they understand that they HAVE to do them to be successful!

You have to have the courage to take the step forward and leave behind the forces that may pull you down!

You have to understand that success just might be……one more second away!

Make yourself have the guts, the heart, the spirit, the spunk, the backbone, the grit, the fortitude, the determination, the persistence and boldness to go forward!

About the Author: From a Salesperson to a Dealer, I have a vast amount of experience in all areas of the automotive environment.

You can follow me on:

My website:  

Twitter: @jimkristoff

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pre-Owned R.O.I. – Assess them - Find them – Fix them – Sell them (Part 4 of 4)

(Part 4 – Sell them)

In the first part of this 4 part blog, we reviewed how to “assess” what would be your “perfect Pre-owned inventory mix”.

In the second part of this 4 part blog, we reviewed how to “find” your “perfect Pre-owned inventory mix”.

In the third part of this 4 part blog, we reviewed how to “fix” or recondition your vehicles for maximum R.O.I.

Now that we know what vehicles we are looking for and how to find them and how to fix them, the next step is how to sell them!

Properly marketing and pricing your vehicle for sale is the key to a fast sale with maximum gross profit!

Let’s talk about “on-line” marketing and pricing first.

Once your vehicle is properly cleaned and reconditioned for sale, you have to take multiple pictures of the vehicle both inside and outside. Your perspective customer wants to see a LOT of pictures if they are viewing the vehicle on the internet. Make sure you include pictures of the mileage, tire tread depth and all angles of the vehicle inside and out! You should take a minimum of 20 pictures for each vehicle. Pay special attention to any upgraded factory accessories on the vehicle such as wheels, spoilers, roof racks…etc…..

The first two or three sentences of the vehicle description on-line are very important! Customers do NOT want to read a general list of the vehicles specifications and options! You MUST write the first few sentences as if you were writing a headline of a newspaper! You need to get the perspective customers attention! Sentences that start off with;


Get the perspective customers attention with a solid and well written description!

Produce a 60 second video of the vehicle! It not only provides a great marketing piece to help sell the vehicle, it also provides great SEO, (search engine optimization) for your vehicles on the internet! If you “tag” the video with the correct words it will show up in the search engines more easily and frequently!

You can market your vehicles on a vast number of Automotive Pre-owned websites. First, pay attention to marketing them on your own dealership website! Once you get your dealership website set, get the vehicle out to as many automotive Pre-owned websites as possible! The more exposure you have, the quicker and easier it will be to sell the vehicle!

Pricing the vehicle on the internet AND on the showroom floor should be the same! One sure way to upset a customer is to give them a price in the showroom that is higher than what they saw on-line! Seamless and transparent pricing policies need to be adhered to!

Price your Pre-owned vehicles “to market”! Don’t just “add” $ ”X” to the cost of the vehicle to set your pricing. There are many software tools to help you understand what the average retail price of a similar vehicle is in your market. Whether you use “V-Auto, AAX, First Look…..etc….the information is very similar.

The two most important pieces of criteria that a perspective customer is looking for in a Pre-owned vehicle are, price and mileage. Make sure that your pricing is in line with similar vehicles with the same mileage.

Once the customer gets to your dealership to look at your pre-owned inventory, make sure your sales staff knows all about the different makes models and trim levels that you have available!

When the customer walks into the showroom and asks, “What do you have in a 4 door import vehicle for under $12000.00?” you need to have a staff that is trained to give the customer a couple of different options within the first 60 seconds!

Your staff needs to have an overall knowledge of what pre-owned vehicles you have available and at what price points they are available at!

Marketing, pricing, knowledge of inventory and professionalism are important keys to selling a pre-owned vehicle!

Assessing, finding, fixing and selling your pre-owned vehicles for MAXIMUM R.O.I. is essential to the overall success of the dealership!

About the Author: From a Salesperson to a Dealer, I have a vast amount of experience in all areas of the automotive environment.

You can follow me on:

My website:  

Twitter: @jimkristoff

Pre-Owned R.O.I. – Assess them - Find them – Fix them – Sell them (Part 3 of 4)

(Part 3 – Fix them)

In the first part of this 4 part blog, we reviewed how to “assess” what would be your “perfect Pre-owned inventory mix”.

In the second part of this 4 part blog, we reviewed how to “find” your “perfect Pre-owned inventory mix”.

Now that we know what vehicles we are looking for and how to find them, the next step is to “fix” them.

The art of reconditioning a vehicle for re-sale is essential to achieve maximum R.O.I. for the dealership!

You have to use common sense when it comes to reconditioning a vehicle.

You want to make the vehicle as presentable and sellable as possible.

You want to make sure that your perception of what the costs are to properly recondition the vehicle fall into line with what the reality of the costs are.

If you have figured that it would cost a certain amount of money to recondition the vehicle when you obtained it and it is costing you more than what you originally thought, you need to adjust your thinking when you are appraising vehicles! That being said, you don’t want to take “shortcuts’ or not recondition the vehicle correctly to compensate for a vehicle that may have been “over appraised”!

I believe proper reconditioning of a vehicle comes down to just two simple elements.

Does the vehicle LOOK GREAT and is it MECHANICALLY SOUND?

Let’s talk about the physical appearance of the vehicle first.

I believe a great looking vehicle is much easier to sell than one that doesn’t look its best!

Have you removed all of the body dings, dents and scratches? Little dings and dents are the first thing a perspective buyer looks at before they even get in the vehicle. Did you re-paint the bumper covers to take away the scratches and scuffs?

How about the interior? Have you cleaned and shampooed the entire interior? Did you remove all of the stains from the seats and carpets? How about a new set of floor mats? New floor mats are an inexpensive way to make the interior look its best!

Was the former owner a smoker? Did the former owner have pets in the vehicle? Removing ALL odors completely is essential to making it presentable to the next buyer!

Is the vehicle properly detailed for re-sale? You have to constantly monitor the cleanliness of the vehicle when it sits on the lot! Is it washed, waxed and vacuumed properly AND daily? Are the wheels clean of brake dust and polished to look good? Did the vehicle go out on a demonstration drive and get dirty by going through puddles or by having dirt brought into the inside by dirty shoes?

Are the proper warranty stickers/paperwork properly displayed in a clean and neat fashion without damage?

Did you take off any of the competitions “badges” or dealership information and affix your own?

Is your license plate bracket affixed to the vehicle properly?

All of these little details are NOT missed by your customers! Make sure you are proactive in making sure you vehicle looks its best!

Now let’s talk about the mechanical aspect of reconditioning.

The obvious part is to make sure that the vehicle is going to pass any and all State mandated requirements for safety and inspection!

I believe if there is less than 40% life on a brake pad or a tire, it needs to be replaced. It makes a great selling point and story to the customer when you explain that this is your policy! Telling a customer that you value their safety by either putting on new brakes or tires builds value in your Pre-owned vehicle!

If the vehicle is within 5000 miles of a major service interval, go ahead and do the major service! It makes two great selling points with the perspective customer! First of all, it again builds value in your vehicle and secondly, when the customer purchase the vehicle, their first service experience in your dealership will NOT involve a costly repair! The first interaction with your Service Department will be a simple oil change. This will build retention and word of mouth endorsements for your store!

Make sure all of the accessories work correctly! Navigation systems, DVD players and stereo systems should all be checked for proper working order.

Does the vehicle have any OEM aftermarket equipment? Roof racks, fog lights, spoilers, etc….it should all be checked for proper function and instillation!

In the end, “FIXING” the vehicle correctly to maximize your R.O.I. is essential for the dealership!

About the Author: From a Salesperson to a Dealer, I have a vast amount of experience in all areas of the automotive environment.

You can follow me on:

My website:  

Twitter: @jimkristoff

Pre-Owned R.O.I. – Assess them - Find them – Fix them – Sell them (Part 2 of 4)

(Part 2 – Find them)

In the first part of this 4 part blog, we reviewed how to “assess” what would be your “perfect Pre-owned inventory mix”.

Now that we know what vehicles we are looking for, the next step is “finding” them!

There are many places we can search to find these vehicles!

The “front door” is a good place to start! Are you properly appraising each and every customers “trade-in” vehicle? Are you utilizing all the available tools and software to help you in the appraisal? Have you enlisted several opinions of different Managers in the store? Did you miss something in the appraisal? Take advantage of every opportunity to take these vehicles in on trade! A daily review of trade-in opportunities between all department managers is a key to maximizing your potential!

Are you “data-mining” your database of customers? Do you utilize vehicle equity tools, software or calculators to help you proactively find customers that may be in an equity position OR have the ability to trade out of their vehicle today? Are the customers coming to the end of their lease contract or finance contract? Is the customer, “on-track” to go OVER the contracted amount of miles on their current lease? Is the customer, “out of warranty coverage” on their current vehicle? Could you use a particular year, make and model to enhance your “perfect inventory mix”? There are several great tools out there to help you in this search!

Do you have a dedicated Sales team of people working in your Service Drive? There are customers driving into your Service Drive on a daily basis. They already like and trust your Service Department! Are these customers still happy with their current vehicle? Have the customer’s needs changed since they bought the vehicle? Have the customer’s driving habits changed since they bought the vehicle? Is the vehicle nearing the end of a lease? Is there a new “body style” available in the current model the customer has? Is the customer unwilling to spend additional money to maintain their current vehicle? The Service Drive is one of the biggest opportunities for additional sales in the dealership! However, it is one of the LEAST utilized opportunities in dealerships nationwide! Don’t miss out!

Are you contacting individuals that have their vehicle listed for a “private party sale”? These individuals have their vehicle listed for private party sale for a number of various reasons. These individuals should be contacted to let them know you are willing and able to purchase their vehicle today! Explaining to these private party sellers the pluses and minuses of attempting to sell their vehicle on their own is the key element in attempting to purchase their vehicle! Explaining to the customer the ease in doing business with you is another key! Most individuals do not look forward to strange people showing up at their homes, wasting their valuable time, worrying about getting a safe and cashable payment for their vehicle or taking care of any “payoff” on their vehicle! By doing business with your dealership, you can alleviate all of these customer worries!

Do you utilize a wholesale auction to fill in some of the gaps in your “perfect Pre-owned inventory mix”? Do you have a plan of what you want to purchase and how much you are willing to spend on each individual vehicle? Preparing your “game plan” is absolutely essential to making sure you are purchasing the correct vehicles and for the correct dollar amounts! Don’t get caught up in the auction hype! Preparing a solid game plan BEFORE you start purchasing vehicles at the auction stops you from paying too much for the wrong vehicles!

Finding the correct vehicles to enhance your “perfect Pre-owned inventory mix” is essential to maximizing your R.O.I.!

Get started….NOW!!!

About the Author: From a Salesperson to a Dealer, I have a vast amount of experience in all areas of the automotive environment.

You can follow me on:

My website:  

Twitter: @jimkristoff

Pre-Owned R.O.I. – Assess them - Find them – Fix them – Sell them (Part 1of 4)

(Part 1 – Assess them)

Pre-Owned vehicles are the life blood of any successful automotive dealership!

For some dealers, that don’t floor plan pre-owned vehicles, this is where a LOT of cash can be found!

So why is it that some dealers feel that the Pre-owned department takes a “back seat” to the New vehicle department?

Limited allocations or availability of New vehicles can be maddening! You never know when an earthquake and tsunami will impact your ability to get New vehicles.

Economic conditions can also impair your ability to have the correct “mix” of New vehicles. When gas prices go up, you can never seem to have enough “high gas mileage” vehicles available!

You can NEVER get enough of the “hot” New vehicles and there are always plenty of the “slower moving” New vehicles available!

On the other hand, your Pre-owned inventory can be as small or large as you like. You can stock the exact mix of “hot” pre-owned vehicles to maximize your R.O.I. (return on investment).

Taking the time to properly assess your Pre-owned inventory to “find” the correct mix of vehicles for your market is imperative to your success!

You have to assess what are the quickest and best moving makes and models in your area.

Make sure to stock your own “brand” of pre-owned vehicles. Whatever the manufacturers sign says on your building, make sure you have the correct mix of Pre-owned vehicles that were great selling vehicles when you sold them “New”! For example, customers will naturally gravitate to a Chevrolet store to look at and find Pre-Owned Chevrolet’s! Make sure you have the right mix on the lot!

You have to assess market conditions. What are the best Makes, Models and model year vehicles to stock? If there is a lack of New models, do you stock 1 and 2 year old vehicles to fill the void? What if New models are plentiful? Do you stock 3 year old models and older to maximize and balance your inventory options?

You have to assess seasonal conditions. Is your dealership in a northern climate? Have you stocked enough 4 wheel drive vehicles going into a winter season? Is your dealership in a southern climate? Have you stocked enough vehicles for the “snowbirds” arrival? Whatever the season, you need to be prepared and look ahead to seasonal conditions that give you an opportunity to maximize sales.

You have to assess economic conditions. Are gasoline prices going up? If gas prices are up, you need to stock additional “high gas mileage” vehicles. What is the median income of people in your area? If the median income is lower than average, do you stock less expensive pre-owned vehicles? You need to know the economic demographics of your area!

You have to assess availability conditions. Is there a shortage of available new models? Is there going to be a large amount of a certain model that is going to flood the market because there was a great lease deal on it 3 years earlier? Either a lack of or a plentiful supply of a certain model can change dramatically what the vehicles value may be worth! It is important that you research this and know it going forward. If there is going to be a lack of a certain model, you can “step up” on an appraisal of this vehicle. If there are going to be a huge influx of a certain model that is “coming off lease”, you may want to be a tad more conservative in it’s appraisal.

You NEED to have a Pre-owned “perfect inventory” map and guideline to correctly stock your Pre-owned department.

Do you have the correct tools and information to help you in this assessment? Or….are you just “winging it”??

The utilization of the correct tools to help you in this assessment is imperative to your success!

Maximize your opportunity in your Pre-owned department by assessing exactly what your inventory mix should look like!

Constantly monitoring your Pre-owned inventory mix will ensure you are getting your highest R.O.I.!!!

About the Author: From a Salesperson to a Dealer, I have a vast amount of experience in all areas of the automotive environment.

You can follow me on:

My website:  

Twitter: @jimkristoff

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Go ahead….Embrace FAILURE!

Baseball is America’s game. It provides thrills, strategy, suspense, heroics and athleticism all in one.

As of the writing of this article, (September 22, 2011) the batting average for ALL Major League players stand at .255.

That translates into 255 hits for every 1000 at bats.

The player that has the highest batting average is Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox. Mr. Gonzalez is currently hitting .340, or 340 hits for every 1000 at bats.

Adrian Gonzalez is also among the top ten highest paid players in ALL of Major League Baseball with an annual salary of $21 million dollars per season!

So the very best hitter in ALL of Major League Baseball…..FAILS 66% of the time!

Mr. Gonzalez gets paid $21 million dollars a season to fail 66% of the time! The rest of the players in Major League Baseball also make millions failing at an even higher rate!

If the average player hits .255, the average failure rate is 74.5%!!

I find it rather astonishing that these same figures translate directly into closing percentages on an automotive showroom floor!

Failure is part of the game whether you are playing baseball or closing deals on the showroom floor.

In order to succeed in either, you have to embrace failure!

Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently!

When Adrian Gonzalez does NOT get a hit, do you think he sulks and whines about it??


What Mr. Gonzalez does is analyze what just happened at that at bat.

·        He studies video of how the pitcher pitches to him and how he reacts

·        He studies his swing to see if there were flaws

·        He reads charts of what pitches the pitcher throws at certain times

·        He confers with coaches and mentors to help him get better

·        He doesn’t allow himself to get angry or upset

·        He practices, drills and rehearses relentlessly in an effort to get better

Mr. Gonzalez fully understands that he cannot get a hit every time he goes up to bat. He also understands he must embrace the failure and learn from it so the next time he goes to bat he does so with better knowledge and the correct attitude!

So now I ask the sales professionals in the room…..what is your batting average (closing percentage)???

Are you capable of raising your batting average to the highest in the dealership??

What will you do to raise your batting average???

Will you:

·        Study your own product knowledge?

·        Study the competitions product to know what they offer as compared to yours?

·        Practice rapport building?

·        Practice the steps on the road to the sale?

·        Practice overcoming the objection you have a hard time overcoming?

·        Know what your batting average is with all customers, i.e. first time customers, be-back customers, referral customers and repeat customers?

·        Practice your presentation skills?

·        Practice your demonstration drive route and conversation?

·        Choose to have the correct attitude every single day?

·        Not allow yourself to get down on yourself, angry or upset?

·        Allow YOUR coaches to help you get better?

·        Practice, drill and rehearse every single day without fail and no exceptions??

As you can see….failure is part of the game…..EMBRACE IT!

Learn from the failures and know that they are surely going to come!

They say you don’t drown by falling in the water… drown by STAYING in the water!

Don’t wait to get started on raising your batting average!

Only YOU can control your own outcome. Don’t wait for anyone to help you or get you started.


Only YOU know what your strengths and shortcomings are!

Attack your shortcomings like Adrian Gonzalez attacks the baseball!

You will see your batting average rise and your income soar!!!

About the Author: From a Salesperson to a Dealer, I have a vast amount of experience in all areas of the automotive environment.

You can follow me on:

My website:  

Twitter: @jimkristoff

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Are you utilizing video of your happy customers?

Are you trying to decide what your Social Media process should look like?

Are you trying to decide where to begin and what to do?

One of the easiest and most effective ways to use social media to enhance your dealership’s presence is to utilize video of your happy customers either taking delivery of their New or Pre-Owned vehicle, or video of their experience in your service department!

You first have to understand, social media is like a family BBQ. At the family BBQ, everyone gathers around and talks about what is going on in their lives. Everyone trades stories of the positive things in their lives and the negative things. At the family BBQ, a positive or negative story about a retail experience, could persuade you to either give that business an opportunity or stay away from that business!

Wouldn’t you want your happy customers to persuade their friends and family to give your dealership an opportunity to earn their business??

When your happy customers are taking delivery of their New or Pre-Owned vehicle or getting their vehicle out of your Service Department, get the entire family together in a well lit environment. Have them gather around the vehicle. Whether they are inside or outside the vehicle, it makes no difference. As long as they are smiling and having a good time, the video will be positive.

Keep the video short! No more than 60 seconds! No one wants to watch a long drawn out video!

Don’t make the video seem scripted or planned. Make your video appear as casual and fun as possible! Most people want to do business with a place that is both professional and fun!

Make sure you introduce the family and the dealership at the very beginning of the video.

Example: “Here we have the Smith family taking delivery of their new (model) here at ABC Motors!”

Then ask the family just ONE question for the video. This will ensure you keep it to 60 seconds or less in length.

Questions such as:

·        Tell us about your Sales experience!

·        What do you like best about your New/Pre-Owned vehicle?

·        What is the first thing you will do with your New/Pre-Owned vehicle?

·        Where is the first place you will go with your New/Pre-Owned vehicle?

·        How did you enjoy your Service experience today?

·        If you could tell your family and friends just one thing about (ABC Motors), what would it be?

Explain to the customer you are then going to upload the video to the Dealerships Facebook page, your Dealerships YouTube channel and on your Dealership website. That way they can share the video on their Facebook page or e-mail the link from YouTube to their friends.

Make sure you give them a reason to do this video for the Dealership. After all, there should be something they receive in return for their endorsement of your Dealership. In return for the video, you may want to give them a free oil change or a discount for any further service or accessory purchase.

You want to make sure you have their permission to use the video in writing to protect yourself and the Dealership. Have your attorney construct a simply worded “release form” for your customer to sign.

Once you start building a series of videos, you can use them in your Social Media marketing and networking plans. You will have a video “why buy here” book.

Once a month, showcase a particularly great video on your Dealerships website, Facebook page or YouTube channel. Make sure you contact that customer whose video you are showcasing and thank them again for their business. I would encourage you to once again offer your customer an additional discount or service for allowing them to “feature” them on your sites!

An attitude of gratitude will go a long way! And everyone likes receiving gifts!!

Utilizing video, to start your Social Media presence and process, is both easy and fun to do. There is nothing more convincing to a perspective client of your Dealership than seeing happy and contented customers doing business at your store! The more videos you have, the better!

Make sure you have a way of continuously playing these videos in your showroom or your Service waiting area. It will be a reassurance to your customer or perspective customer that your Dealership is an awesome place to do business!

Start utilizing video of your happy customers to use in your Social Media presence!

There is no better testimonial you can receive! A video with smiling faces and satisfied customers that tells a story of a happy and pleasant experience at your Dealership is Social Media GOLD!!

This article appears in the October 2011 issue of "Social Dealership Magazine"

About the Author: From a Salesperson to a Dealer, I have a vast amount of experience in all areas of the automotive environment.

You can follow me on:

My website:  

Twitter: @jimkristoff

Monday, September 19, 2011

Your customer appraising their own trade via KBB!

Kelly Blue Book, the self proclaimed “The Trusted Resource” is used by consumers every day!
According to KBB’s own site stats, “Over 13+ million visits generate more than 35 million pricing reports every month”
THAT is a lot of visits!
Have you ever had a customer come into the dealership with information from KBB in regards to their trade-in that might not be accurate?
Did the customer choose the wrong model, the wrong equipment or the incorrect condition for their trade?
What if you let the customer appraise their own vehicle using KBB with your assistance?
What better way for your management team to build rapport and trust with your customer, than to let the customer be a part of the trade appraisal?
Your Salesperson, Sales Manager and your Pre-Owned Manager can all be a part of this process!
Instead of doing a “silent walk-around” of the trade, get your customer involved in the process!
After all, if the customer appraises their own vehicle, it would be difficult for them to disagree with the results!
Here is the process that I have used thousands of times to perfection.
  • Utilizing a clip board, have blank copies of KBB’s “Quick Condition Quiz” (examples shown in this blog) attached
  • Escort your customer to their trade-in vehicle
  • Ask the customer for assistance by handing them the clipboard to fill out the “Quick Condition Quiz”
  • Do a full and complete “walk around” of the trade with the customer
  • Get the customer interactive by checking all of the equipment on the trade.
  • Check all lights, (headlights, tail lights, flashers, back up lights…etc)
  • Check tire tread depth and pressure
  • Check all interior equipment, i.e., power windows, power locks, audio equipment, navigation, DVD….etc…..
  • Check all exterior body panels
  • Check all interior seats and carpeting for stains or wear
  • Invite the customer to go on the “operational drive” of their trade to make sure the vehicle performs correctly
Utilizing this process allows you to ask the customer questions about their vehicle. You can ask the customer about all of the service records of the vehicle and when was the last time they had the vehicle serviced and what was performed at that service.
Upon the customer filling out the KBB “Quick Condition Quiz”, invite your customer to input the information themselves into

NOW….let KBB determine what “condition” the vehicle is in!!

Here is where the customer proceeds to fill out exactly what was checked off on the sheets on the clipboard. There are four sections to go through. Exterior, Interior, Mechanical and Miscellaneous.

Now you have let KBB determine the condition of the customers trade-in!
By utilizing the “Quick Condition Quiz”, the dealership AND the customer have a trustworthy and transparent way of determining the value of the trade-in.
The Dealership can then use the “KBB” value less any reconditioning costs that you and the customer have reviewed in the walk around of the trade-in, i.e., tires, brakes, body work, services and detailing.
Letting your customer appraise their own trade builds instant rapport and trust so that you have a better chance of closing the deal!

About the Author: From a Salesperson to a Dealer, I have a vast amount of experience in all areas of the automotive environment.

You can follow me on:

My website:  

Twitter: @jimkristoff