Stan Sher

President & Founder | Dealer eTraining

Stan Sher has over 18 years of experience in the automotive industry. He started as a sales consultant and moved on to management roles including BDC Manager, Internet director, Sales Manager, and General Sales Manager. He is the founder of Dealer eTraining where he provides training and consulting that focuses on helping dealerships improve sales processes. He also currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer at dealer Retention Services, an automotive outsourced BDC firm that helps dealers “Manage Less & Sell More” using their existing database. Stan is a student of his craft often reading about the business developing skills in marketing, operations, management, sales, and recruiting.
The Automotive Retail Shift

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The automotive industry on the retail side has been seeing some nice profitable shifts in recent months. Here we are in the hottest-selling part of the year and we are dealing with supply and demand issues. While it is a beautiful thing to watch dealers be profitable and command the market for a change I am worried about what will happen to our selling skills for the future. Right now anyone can be a superstar and gross $4,000 per unit just by showing a vehicle and going through a few steps to the sale. But what happens when supply levels come back to normal? How will we be able to maintain the same level of profitability while selling three times more units? I make it a point to look at inventory at some of the biggest dealerships in the nation to truly understand what our fellow partners are going through. I see Facebook groups that include retail automotive professionals from all walks of life posting pictures of empty lots and explaining how they cannot even put cars into showrooms since they are selling fast. These are scary times because dealers cannot afford to slow down. This is such an expense-driven business that we must continue to progress forward. I even saw a few posts where salespeople complained that their dealership is cutting pay plans because they are paying out way too much money for people that do not deserve it.  The big question is how do we move forward? We must remember that historically our industry has been resilient through the toughest times and came back better than ever. It will happen again very soon. We are in a business that forces “survival of the fittest” and things will normalize again. Now is the time to think about how we are going to sharpen our skills. Let’s get back to focusing on customer service. Let’s get back to focusing on building our sales and marketing skills. It is time that we take matters into our own hands and take control of our own personal development. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” We must refuse to be stuck in continuing to do everything the way that we always have done it. The automotive retail shift has incorporated new ways for us to sell and acquire vehicles. Technology has given consumers the power to shop and be more knowledgeable than ever before about vehicles and the shopping process. It is time to train, self-develop, and improve how we handle our business. I recommend fifteen minutes of personal development daily every morning by reading a good book and watching some wonderful inspirational YouTube videos.  Additionally, we need to invest in training our people at dealerships. We need to empower our people to use our tools better. It is time to master the CRM and finally use it the right way. It is also time to create a process to use digital retailing tools to improve how we negotiate and talk to our customers. If customers will not start to embrace digital retailing the way that we as an industry planned then we need to once again take matters into our own hands and use these tools to improve our own salesmanship. Opportunities to improve are all around us. Let’s grow!
In Honor Of Our Godfather of Automotive Marketing: Ralph Paglia

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On December 21, news had spread that the man behind most of what we do in this industry today had passed away, well respected industry legend, Ralph Paglia. As I write this article, I am sad about our loss but I am thrilled about what he left us with. He left us with the blueprint that has changed the entire automotive industry from a digital marketing perspective. Anyone that is anyone in this business knows the name Ralph Paglia and has in one way or another been impacted by his greatness. To me, Ralph Paglia was far more than just a mentor and an industry icon that helped me get to this point in my career. Ralph was my friend. Ralph was a friend to all of us. He and ADM were partners of Dealer Marketing magazine at one point. While there are plenty of tributes posted for Ralph on other platforms, I decided to give my own for this magazine. Every year around this time, I take time to reflect on my career in this industry, evaluating what I did right and what I did wrong. I think about the colleagues that helped me get to where I am. As I celebrate my eighteenth year in the automotive industry, I recall that I first met Ralph only six years into my career. I was young, up and coming a few years from hitting thirty, and had been successful at selling automobiles and managing Internet Sales/BDC departments. I was looking for advancements in my career and a way to brand myself. Along comes Ralph Paglia with his social network specific to the automotive industry. It was called "Automotive Digital Marketing" or "ADM." The best of the best would join the site providing content, articles, videos and chat rooms devoted to different aspects of the business. Ralph at the time was pioneering social media marketing for the industry working for ADP (now known as CDK). He was fresh from Courtesy Chevrolet in Phoenix, AZ where he called the shots by developing an Internet/BDC department selling more units per month than in most cases three dealerships on average still sell today. This was fifteen years ago. Ralph Paglia was a living legend working all aspects of the industry and was the biggest wealth of knowledge that I have ever experienced. Not long after becoming a big blogger on ADM I met Ralph at my first conference, The Synergy Sessions in 2009 in Atlanta. We became great friends and connected at events or when he visited my area. Ralph was the pioneer to how vehicles are sold today. I recall being on a panel with Ralph at a conference where various topics were discussed. The man had an answer for everything. We all have specialties that we are good at. Ralph was not good. He was great...at everything! I later ran a BDC for a single-point Nissan dealer and was successful by implementing much of what he taught me. As a business consultant and trainer, much of what I know and do is because of the tried and tested lessons learned from the man that we call the "Godfather of Automotive Digital Marketing." He has done serious OEM implementations, developed social media strategies, facilitated dealer meetings for OEMs and managed dealerships. Ralph Paglia was the real deal. What Ralph has done for my career was help push it by promoting me, giving me a place to express myself online and providing me with knowledge. I hope that when I am sixty years old I can be at least 30% as knowledgeable as Ralph. I would never get myself known in the industry if it was not for Ralph. I would never have become a speaker or writer if it was not for Ralph. More importantly, I would never be the person that I am today both professionally and personally if it was not for Ralph. I would like to think that Ralph is up there and celebrating the greatness that he brought to this world. Rest in peace, my dear friend. Thank you for what you have given all of us.
A Time-Lapse of Automotive Retailing & the BDC as We Know It

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Remember the days when internet leads were coming in by fax just like the daily lunch specials from the local pizzeria still do? Those were the days that, sadly, I did not experience as I started selling cars just as CRM tools became popular. I remember the Internet Sales department consisting of salespeople that gave prices, created appointments, and sold vehicles directly to the customer. This was without a BDC department.  I loved it so much that after two years on the showroom taking ups I switched to the Internet department.  We were considered the “giveaway artists” that made no gross or lost the store money. Management considered us important because we moved units and grew volume. Salespeople on the floor did not like us because in the dead of winter when it was freezing cold and customers were not coming in, we still had customers coming to see us. We were starting to provide the customer with the experience they wanted, and they enjoyed buying vehicles from us. I loved it because it kept me busy on the phone instead of sitting around, waiting for the door to open, and I made a six-figure income.  Enter the Era of Fancy Digital Marketing The internet had officially taken over with the likes of “SEO,” “SEM,” “Social Media,” and everything else that came along. If we add the fact that there was an unfair advantage to having two different types of sales departments, there became a need for the BDC. The mentality of hiring lower-cost customer service agents that had no clue about selling cars seemed like a great idea because all they need to do is “just get them in.” Many dealerships went back to handling phone calls the same way they did in the old days, without giving numbers. The problem is that no one would understand that consumers had every tool available to them thanks to sites like Edmunds, Cars.com, AutoTrader, CarsDirect, and many others. Now customers have to deal with two layers of people to talk to. First, they speak to a BDC agent, and when they visit the dealership, they get passed over to a salesperson. The experience of this created a longer sales process and constant complaints from customers because the process starts all over again. Even today, salespeople are not prepared to talk to customers because they have no clue about the digital tools that can help sell more efficiently. This problem still exists in the dealership today, even after digital retailing became the modern way of life.  Enter Digital Retailing While I remember seeing Digital Retailing tools on dealer’s website’s as long as ten years ago I do not remember seeing a single Sales, BDC or Manager even know how to navigate the website. The dealership website is the digital showroom and I think that only now we truly are starting to get it. While customers are constantly saying that they want to do a complete transaction online they still do not realize that they have this ability. In fact, we as sales professionals need to coach customers to use these tools. Instead of “when can you come in” we shift the conversation intelligently to pressing a few buttons and discussing pricing and payments.  It is important to train people to ask the right questions and work their digital retailing tools. Nowadays, when customers want to negotiate numbers discussed we can start asking for a commitment and getting management involved to structure the deal. Essentially, if we use the digital retailing tool properly we can bring customers in the showrooms with half the deal being already finished and lowering the time it takes to finish a deal. Digital retailing is a culture that is officially forced upon us by the consumer and the software creator. We need to embrace this new way of doing business.  It is sad to see many dealers still not embracing this shift in business. We talk about disruptors like Carvana and even Tesla often being upset about their growth. Yet we forget that this is all about the customer experience. A digital retailing culture is the best way to battle disruptors and give customers a positive buying experience. My suggestion to auto dealers is that they need to rethink how they are training their Sales and BDC teams to work leads and car deals. The future is here! Let’s embrace it!
Attention Car Dealers...How Is Your Internal Online Reputation?

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It has been about seven years since the importance of dealer online reputation has become a serious concern in the industry. A number of businesses in general have taken a proactive approach to manage their online reputation. In fact, there is always a new small business popping up offering SEO, social media, and reputation management services. These services have played a healthy role in improving how a business handles their marketing practices as well as customer relations. While this topic has been discussed more then enough times over the years there are other aspects of reputation management that businesses have failed to look at. Let's explore digital human resources and recruiting practices. We all know that just about anything can be done on the internet. This means that there are websites popping up offering new tools, services and solutions. In fact, sites like Indeed.com, simplyhired.com and Glassdoor.com have made a mark in recruiting. These sites have as big of an impact on recruiting as Careerbuilder and Monster. What is interesting about these newer platforms is that they allow past and present employees to leave reviews and comments about their experience working for their employer. This in turn allows job applicants to explore and consider if a company is worth applying for. When exploring some classified ads on these sites it has become evident that business has not been paying to attention to how their employees view them. Sure, it is easy to go on Facebook and see if an employee badmouths their boss or employer. However, business is not managing their internal online reputation. This is a very important topic for millennials because they are socially savvy. Millennials read and write reviews of everything online. They also have a different attitude to jobs then "baby boomers" do. While, millennials have a difficult time landing on their feet or being taken seriously they still possess that attitude that makes them move on if something just does not smell right. This means that it is time for employers to step up their game by adding another process for managing their business. This is a Human Resource function. Let's face it employers (especially car dealers) deal with many issues that involve having past employees or current employees that might be disgruntled. A business that is always recruiting for fresh talent will limit the ability to have a quality recruiting process because negative reviews will force job seekers to move on and explore more opportunities. It is time to get proactive. Employers that part ways with employees must have a process that is well documented and reviewed. This goes beyond an exit interview. If money is owed to the employee then it is important to get them paid right away. Anything that is owed by the employee needs to be produced as they exit their job as well. Employers need to be so professional that the exit process is a positive one. This will limit negative feelings and drama that would otherwise occur afterward. Employers must take the time to review working conditions and update internal practices to not only remain profitable but also be a place where employees want to go work. Employers should encourage current happy employees to review them online on job sites so that the credibility of the company is increased. Any bad review that gets written needs to be addressed just like a bad review that gets addressed with unhappy customers. This will also increase credibility with customers. As customers search for a dealership online they may come across recruiting ads and look at them out of curiosity. In the end dealerships can not only maintain a positive reputation but also decrease employee turnover. Stan Sher is the founder and president of Dealer eTraining, an automotive sales training and consulting company focused on internet, BDC and showroom sales operations. Stan is a millennial himself with over 11 years experience in the automotive industry. He can be contacted at ssher@dealermark.com .
Millennial Selling Strategy—from a Millennial

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Picture this; you are working with a prospect on the showroom floor. While going through the traditional sales process the prospect is paying more attention to their smartphone then they are to you. In fact the prospect is avoiding some of the qualifying questions and is making an attempt to take away your control of the sales process. Sound familiar? If you answered “yes” then chances are you are dealing with the modern-day consumer, i.e. a millennial. The millennial consumer is highly informed, because they have the answer right at their fingertips for anything that they are looking for. If this happens a lot in your showroom the first piece of advice is to stop and evaluate the situation. Take a moment and listen to the customer. Listen to what they are saying to you and embrace what they are doing. If you have a computer or better yet a smart phone in front of you then go visit the same website they are on (Edmunds, Cars.com, DealerRater, PureCars, Google, YouTube, etc). Ask them what is important to them as well as what information you can share with them. Now is the most critical time to evaluate the selling methods at the dealership and to make changes. The digital revolution is here and there are more millennials making big decisions (not just personal, but also business). The Acquity Group, a digital marketing company out Chicago, IL said, “Millennials were responsible for up to 89% of business related purchases decisions in 2013. If they have so much responsibility working in multimillion-dollar businesses then make no mistake that they purchase vehicles in the same fashion. If you do not believe me, then I urge you to take some time and create a little science experiment to evaluate how millennials operate. In fact, go spend a day at a Starbucks and just observe not only how millennials buy their coffee, but just the intellectual discussions that take place. I guarantee you that you will see more people playing with their smartphones, conducting work on their iPad, searching for information on Google as part of their conversations and even making coffee purchases off their Starbucks app. Top five strategies to effectively sell to millennials: 1. Be Mobile Friendly It is important to understand that millennials will use their smartphone devices to read reviews, submit leads to other dealerships, watch videos, and send text messages. The most successful sales professionals embrace that and join their prospects. There is a reason why many digital marketing companies have released apps and selling tools. It is much easier to work with a customer from any location including the lot, the demo drive, the appraisal process and at the desk. 2. Reputation Management Millennials are quick to read reviews and make immediate decisions based on what they read. In fact millennials make most of their purchases online without having the hassle of going somewhere and spending time. Since buying a car is still the second biggest purchase after a house it is still important to have personalized interaction. In order to have the chance for that interaction it is important to maintain a positive reputation since the customer will most likely check online. 3. Social Selling Remember the traditional methods of prospecting that were once taught in basic sales training? Social media allows for a message to be spread to a much wider audience (the whole world). This is the time to become a consumer advocate and provide friendly, positive information. The key is to avoid making a sales pitch and to just provide information in a way where the message is always in front of the prospect. 4. Forward Thinking Consultative Selling Dealers need to train sales professionals on the digital tools that they are already invested in. The dealership’s website has so many valuable tools that can help justify the “why buy here” message. These are tools that include reviews, market analysis (PureCars, Real Deal, KBB, etc.) as well as other information that can help sales professionals build value and sell instead of running to the desk every two minutes. In fact, there are OEMs that are now making Apple iPads a requirement in showrooms. These iPads should have a digital evidence manual. 5. Effective Follow Up It is important to find out how the customer prefers to be followed up with and embrace it. Millennials like texting and social media so do not be surprised if they choose that method instead of traditional phone calls . Take time to make videos and personalize messages to engage better. Technology in the new age has allowed the millennial generation to not be as personable as the baby boomer generation. In fact, many people prefer to text message instead of have a long phone conversation. Everything is about instant gratification with “getting to the point” quickly. The problem is that not every business (car dealers) has embraced millennial “forward-thinking consultative selling”. Automotive sales, internet lead management and phone skills need to be updated with these strategies to allow dealers to win the sales game more often in 2014. These strategies when practiced effectively will allow for increased gross profits and customer retention. Stan Sher is the founder and president of Dealer eTraining, an automotive sales training and consulting company focused on internet, BDC and showroom sales operations. Stan is a millennial himself with over 11 years experience in the automotive industry. He can be contacted at ssher@dealermark.com .