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On the Point

The Sales Enabler

‘Da Man’ explains why shrugging off your dealership’s customer relationship management system could be costing you big bucks.

October 31, 2011

My friend Brian Pasch is one of the foremost Internet marketing experts in the business. He often tells our colleagues, “Jim Ziegler has the best Rolodex in the business.” Well, to be clear, I don’t actually use a Rolodex anymore, but what I do have is a sales and follow-up system that creates superhuman productivity.

As I have written before, technology, in and of itself, can’t sell cars and probably never will. Technology is simply an enabler. In my business, it enables me to deliver the personal touch that has always been my edge over the competition. One key tool is my customer relationship management (CRM) system. It allows me to organize and prioritize my customers and multitask with great efficiency. Can you say that about your CRM?

Recently, I began working with the sales managers and Internet team at one of the biggest highline import dealerships in the country. Since I started there, the store’s profitability is up by more than $3 million.

Now, I can’t take all of the credit for the increase. The store has made some major shifts in management, marketing and process. What I will take credit for is the fact that I helped them realize they were using only a fraction of their CRM’s capabilities. My first recommendation to that dealer was that every employee and manager be mandated to use every program and feature their CRM had to offer. Did this suggestion trigger a backlash among the staff? You bet. But the end result was incredible. 

We started by requesting that the CRM company send its trainers in to give everyone a refresher course. We also took a good look at the software and told them what we wanted to eliminate or modify. Once everyone was retrained, the dealer implemented a “Zero Deviation/Zero Tolerance” program regarding the use of the CRM system. In other words, all follow-up activities, sales processes, save-a-deal meetings and reporting had to be entered into the CRM.

To be clear, the system I use is an upgraded version of Microsoft Outlook, which I’ve modified to accommodate a high-volume database. Hey, it’s not uncommon for me to make contact with 100 people in a single day. And I’m not talking about leaving a message; I’m talking actual conversations.

And if I don’t get the dealer or general manager (my customers) on the phone, I’ll always end my voicemails by saying that I’ll call back later. I never end it with a, “I look forward to your call.”

I could write an entire article about telephone skills, but we’ll save that for a future column. What I will tell you is that by the time my meeting with a customer is over, I know their children’s names, their spouse’s name and what they do for a living and where. I know what their hobbies and interests are, what grades their children are in and where they graduated, birthdays and anything else that comes up in casual conversation. The reason I know all of that is I “diary” every detail, big and small, into my CRM system.

And that’s what you need to do, because nothing impresses a customer more than to be able to say to them three months after your initial contact: “Hey Fred, did your son get that appointment to the military academy?” One more thing: Make sure you set up follow-up flags and follow-up alerts each time you enter information into your CRM.

Always remember that the most important thing about customer relationship management is the word “relationship.” If the only time customers ever hear from you is when you’re trying to sell them something, they’ll screen you out. So, it’s OK to call and simply say, “Hey Beverly, this is Jim Ziegler at ABC Dealership. I really don’t have a business agenda for this call, but I just wanted to make sure everything is great with the car and your service experience.”

Lately, I’ve been sending out a lot of e-mails embedded with custom-made videos. It’s superior to a phone call, the open rate is higher than you could imagine and the response is positive. I spoke on this subject at September’s F&I Conference, and my presentation was enthusiastically received by the audience. I don’t know about you, but I think I’d be a little more responsive to a personalized video vs. five auto-responder text messages.

Maybe Brian Pasch was right. But I don’t just have a big virtual Rolodex, I have a network that’s filled with real flesh–and-blood relationships with real people who know me, like me, trust me and follow me. So I guess my question to you is, “Got CRM?”

Jim Ziegler is the president of Ziegler SuperSystems Inc. E-mail him at


  1. 1. Jim Kristoff [ November 09, 2011 @ 11:36AM ]

    By relentlessly pursuing the basics....and utilizing ALL the tools that are will win.....BIG!!

  2. 2. George Berridge [ November 09, 2011 @ 11:50AM ]

    The Flesh and Blood Relationships are the most forgotten by some, but also the most important for success!

  3. 3. Criss Castle [ November 09, 2011 @ 01:06PM ]

    Jim, I've learned this week working with Paul Castle at World of Motorworks that EVERYONE needs a CRM or follow up system. We're not perfect and as good as we THINK we are, no one can remember everything and every conversation. But the fact that you reminded yourself to recall the information is a compliment in and of itself. So, just because you use a system to help you, doesn't mean it's not sincere. Sincere relationships are built on caring and you have to care about the people you are helping to make note to remind yourself to follow up in the first place! The CRM is your personal reminder and helper, but YOU have to put the effort in to make it work. Those who do, are the same people we hold up high as the champions of our industry. Cheers to you who really care! Get in your CRM and show your customers that you care about them and help them. Texting, video, Facebook, Google....all of it. I proved today that it works in EVERY business! I just took a call from a guy waiting on a part, then called him back, got his cell phone, texted him a picture since I was new to this classic car parts info, he said, "that's the part I need." and since he lives in downtown Chicago and we are going downtown for dinner, he's meeting us to pick up the part at the sports bar. Now that's relationship building. He won't forget meeting us and how I got him the part the same day and we'll probably have a drink together. Just be considerate and use your knowledge that you have to help people and they will appreciate it. That customer is now in my cell phone, my email list and he has already "googled' me and I'm sure he'll be on my Facebook soon. A customer and I'm sure a new friend. Follow Jim's advice. Get CRM!

  4. 4. Jonathan Ord [ November 09, 2011 @ 01:19PM ]

    Great Article Jim. Technology enables process and process enables people! Tech will never be the total answer but it can be the reason for failure.

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Author Bio

Jim Ziegler

President & CEO of Ziegler SuperSystems

Jim 'Da Man' Ziegler joined the magazine in 2011 to deliver his On-the-Point message about the car business to dealer principals and store managers. He'll offer strategy advice on everything from sales and F&I to marketing in the digital age. Catch him every month at

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