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Conicelli's Triple Threat

August 2010, F&I and Showroom - Cover Story

by Justina Ly

Michael Hammond Sr. (left) is Conicelli's vice president of sales and marketing. Lori Hammond (center) oversees Conicelli’s Internet department, while her stepson Michael Hammond Jr. (right) manages the dealer group’s social media accounts.

How does a dealer group manage to sell an average of 400 new cars and 150 used cars per month from the Internet?

The answer, according to Lori Hammond, Internet director at Conicelli Autoplex, is adapting to the market and applying the knowledge that comes with 12 years of online retailing. “I think it’s constantly trying new things and tweeking processes, [as well as] keeping up with the newest technologies,” she says.

The Conshohocken, Penn.-based dealer group, which carries the Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, and Toyota/Scion nameplates across five stores, has been selling cars online since 1998. That’s when “the craze with Internet and auto dealerships” began, says Hammond, whose dealer group claims the largest volume Toyota dealership in the state.

It was also the year her husband, Michael Hammond Sr., who serves as Conicelli’s vice president of sales and marketing, attended the National Automobile Dealers Association convention and met a handful of third-party lead providers. “He just went around, signed up with everybody and let me know that I’d be running an Internet department,” Lori recalls.

The new department started out with two employees — including Lori — and sold 25 cars a month in its first year. More than a decade later, the Internet office employs 35 staffers and is responsible for nearly 45 percent of Conicelli’s total new and used sales.

At this point in the game, the challenge for Lori is to increase sales volume while managing the multiple parts of Conicelli’s online sales and marketing machine. The process involves generating leads, following up with customers via e-mail and phone, providing price quotes and setting up appointments. To succeed, she relies on her well-trained staff and a marketing strategy that includes search engine optimization, pay-per-click marketing, social media and a family-friendly image.

Digital ‘Ups’ Management

The Internet-based sales process begins with online leads, which are sourced from the dealership’s own Website, manufacturer sites and from any one of a number of third-party lead generators. The strategy falls in line with a national survey conducted by Autobytel, which showed that 87 percent of dealers surveyed “believe in using a ‘mix’ of leads from their own Website and independent lead partners.” Hammond adds one additional wrinkle to that strategy.

“I definitely look for a lead provider that’s easy to deal with when it comes to billing,” she says. “If they give me trouble with credits, I tend not to stick with them.”

Lori currently uses 10 lead providers that deliver up to 4,000 leads per month for all five stores. Those leads translate into 375 to 400 new vehicles and 130 to 150 used vehicles sold per month, or nearly half of Conicelli’s total sales of 760 new vehicles and 350 used units per month.

One program Hammond likes is Autobytel’s iControl, which allows dealers to customize new-car leads based on make, model, mileage, ZIP code and a constomer’s purchase intentions. This flexibility allows dealers “to really focus on the types of cars they are trying to sell or the areas they are trying to sell,” says Steve Lind, an AutoBytel executive.

But getting Internet leads is only the start of the sales process. “We are going to deliver in-market customers, but [dealers] need to be ready to be very good at building relationships with consumers every day,” says Lind. “That comes from a consistent, professional communication plan. And I think the Conicelli group is particularly good at understanding the importance of that.”

The dealer group touts 90 salespeople, 85 percent of which handle Internet leads. Lori, her management staff and third-party trainers keep the salespeople and Conicelli’s business development center up to speed on managing customer relationships, how to respond to customer inquiries, and when to provide price quotes and set up appointments. In fact, members of the sales and BDC staff will typically respond to an Internet lead within 30 minutes or less.

Lori says her staff can work with customers by phone or e-mail, but the ultimate goal is to set an appointment. “I know how many leads my team can handle each month, and I really try to pay attention to what I’m getting,” she says. “You can definitely get too many leads, waste money and not handle them correctly.”

Comment

  1. 1. Fred Dichter [ May 09, 2016 @ 03:54AM ]

    I was a former customer of Conicellli Toyota and I know Michael very well. Since then I became a loyal Hyundai customer. Our family has either leased or bought 13 Hyundais since 2001 from Fred Beans. I would like to become a Conicelli customer again.
    My daughter Mindy and I have leased Sonatas that are ending this year. Hers in August, mine in November. We are both looking to lease Tucsons all wheel drives. Please get back to us. Thank you.

 

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