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Category Archive: Social Media

Paul Potratz

Why You Need a Facebook Live Strategy


“I want to wait until I get a new iPhone; I still have the 6S.”

“I will as soon as I get a haircut.”

“I want to build my followers first.”

“I don’t have enough likes.”

“My wife will get mad if I am on there.”

“I don’t really want people knowing my personal business.”

“My followers aren’t car shoppers.”

“I tried it and it didn’t work.”

“If I do it, how much of a return can I expect?”

This is just a small list of the excuses I have received from salespeople at a dealership when I asked why they are not using Facebook Live (and Facebook in general). Before you continue reading, I encourage you to reread the list above and ask yourself: Are these the types of excuses you would expect or want from a salesperson?

In this article, I will provide strategies you can use to increase your sales using Facebook Live.

Here’s your first tip: Just do it. Putting yourself out there might be the hardest part, but it’s also the most important part.

Keep this in mind, using Facebook Live is just like having your own TV station. Don’t go into it thinking you’ll just be able to broadcast infomercials or nonstop sales messages and succeed. You will need a variety of engaging programing. In other words, provide information that is helpful and that your audience actually wants to hear.

By now you have probably heard that if Facebook were a country, it would be the largest country in the world. In fact, one in seven people are on Facebook daily (which equals one billion daily users). Plus, Facebook Live has now surpassed even YouTube in video views. Hopefully that got your attention.

What is the secret to selling on Facebook Live

I am often asked, “Should we promote our low prices on Facebook Live?” Well, the answer is no. Like I said earlier, the point of Facebook Live isn’t to film a TV commercial. There’s a reason it’s called social media. Would you go to your son’s football game and try to sell tires? Would you tell the other parents that they must take delivery by Saturday to receive 3.9% APR and $0 down?

On a similar note, Facebook Live is also not the platform where you should selfishly broadcast how great your cars are. The secret is simple: Be a resource. You’re probably wondering what this means. Well, all you have to do is ask your staff this simple question: “What questions do shoppers ask us that don’t have to do with price?” For example, it might be, “Should I lease or buy?” or “Why does it take so long to do the paperwork?” Or maybe it’s, “Do I really need that repair?” Answering these questions and many more will give you the opportunity to be a resource. The secret is to build relationships, awareness, and consistency.

Facebook Live will increase sales the same day

Of course, the chances of this are slim, and that is why many individuals don’t feel Facebook Live is worth their time. We all want instant gratification, and unless you are downloading a song or a movie, there is usually no such thing. Building relationships takes time and work, and I’m sorry to say there are no shortcuts if you truly want valuable payoff. In other words, there is no such thing as a silver bullet, a secret formula, or a “get rich quick” scheme. Nothing worth having comes overnight. Sometimes it doesn’t come in a week or even a month.

If you start today, though, you can start to see that success grow. If you get on the phone today and make 50 calls and continue to do that every day for the next 12 weeks, wouldn’t you start to see the fruits of your labor? Facebook Live is the same way: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

How many videos should you post each day?

The answer is simple: It depends on how many platforms you use. In other words, are you also using Snapchat, Instagram Live, or YouTube? If not, that’s okay— before you get ahead of yourself, you can work on mastering Facebook Live. In that case, I suggest one or two videos per day, but don’t forget about weekends. Also, switch up the time of day you film videos to see what works best for engagement.

Another piece of advice: Don’t start out trying to have conversations with your viewers, but do acknowledge them. It can be very discouraging if viewers don’t engage, so have an idea of how you will share information with or without that engagement. If it makes you feel more comfortable, pull in a coworker and have a live conversation.

Once you commit to doing these videos at least once a day for a month, then you can add more social platforms.

Final thoughts to ensure success

When you’re live on Facebook, don’t just broadcast. Engage with your online audience the same way you would in an in-person conversation.

Paul Potratz is the COO of Potratz Advertising, a digital agency and website provider. Paul is also the host of the weekly Internet shows Think Tank Tuesday and the Growth Mindset, which are also available on iTunes and Google Play.

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Chelsea Magee

How to increase your social presence


Did you know that Social advertising outperforms all traditional media? It also exceeds nearly every digital ad format on both a Cost-Per-Click (CPC) and Cost-Per-Thousand Impressions (CPM) of the ad … when targeted, optimized and tracked! You’re probably thinking, “Great! So how do I get started?”

To get your actual consumers or prospective consumers to follow you, you need to give them a good reason. Below are some quick tips that you can utilize on any social platform.

  1. Accept the importance of social media. You need to realize that social media is here, and it’s not going anywhere. If you resist the change, you are sure to fall behind. So what’s the good news? A little bit of effort goes a long way!
  2.  Be visual! Pictures drive engagement, regardless of the platform! Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without related images. Utilize images that will immediately intrigue, delight and connect with your audience. (And no, I don’t mean just pictures of your inventory!)You might want to think about it this way: Images are bold, beautiful and simple to scan. Visuals are especially important in our quick-paced society. People love to see themselves online, and pictures draw them in, so consider posting photos of happy customers (with their permission). Do you have an animal mascot at the dealership? Involve them! Pets and animals seem to get a lot of “likes.” 
  3. Engagement is essential. Keep your customers engaged with games and giveaways.

        Think about your target audience. What do they want? What are their hobbies and                     lifestyles?  In Lexington, I might offer tickets to a University of Kentucky basketball game.           What would appeal to your clientele? 

        You also need to think about how much effort from your consumer are you asking; match         the giveaway with your ask. If you give too little, you won’t get a lot of motivation, and               you won’t gain followers or increase engagement. You might get a ton of followers when           you offer a grand giveaway, but you also run the risk of consumers not trusting you. Our           industry already has an issue with distrust, so don’t prove consumers’ worst fears right!

       A quick note about giveaways in social media: Most channels have pretty strict rules                  about contests and giveaways, so be sure to check terms and conditions. These rules                  change frequently, so review them before any contest, just to be safe.

Join Kain Automotive and NCMi for 2 courses, Mastering Digital Marketing and Internet/BDC Operations Management, for more actionable insights and strategies for digital marketing and internet sales.


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Laura Madison

Salespeople Social Selling Under the Dealership’s Umbrella


Social selling is sweeping the automotive industry. A quick search for the terms ‘social selling’ will bring a bounty of articles, training offerings, and tips for salespeople leveraging social media to win business. All this social media mania is leaving dealerships wondering how to empower and control their employees who want to participate in this social realm.

The best strategy for this social movement is NOT to ignore the power of individual presences on social media or to prohibit salespeople to use social to promote themselves altogether; the best solution, for both dealerships and salespeople, is to create a social media presence where salespeople can participate under the umbrella of the dealership. This allows dealerships to benefit from any brand equity created by salespeople but also contributes to a larger, more cohesive marketing effort. It’s both empowering and controlled.

Uploading Under the Umbrella

Executing on this strategy is relatively simple. For example, a dealership can encourage salespeople to upload personalized videos to the dealership’s YouTube page. Simple videos filmed by salespeople with a smartphone highlighting the best features of a top-selling vehicle or the changes to a recent redesign, can provide great visibility for both the salesperson and the dealership. This upload can be facilitated very simply by a marketing director or whoever is presently running the dealership’s social media sites.

Salespeople can also participate on the dealership’s Facebook page in a number of ways. An effective social media presence highlights the humans behind a brand, so featuring photos of salespeople and tagging them in these photos can be a powerful way to add a human component to a dealership presence and also become more visible to these salespeople’s connections. Another way salespeople could contribute on Facebook is by providing content to post to the dealership Facebook page, like interesting product or customer photos.  Mining salespeople for Facebook updates could add incredible variety to posts and allow a dealership to show the faces behind the business.

There are a few big benefits of executing on this umbrella strategy:

  •  Increased visibility. Leveraging salespeople to create content, including automotive related photos or short videos, can boost activity on social channels and exponentially increase a dealership’s online reach. The more active a dealership can remain on social media the more prospective customers they’ll reach over time.
  •  A human component.  The key to an effective social media presence is creating human connection. Consumers want to know the people, and the story, behind a brand. Incorporating content from salespeople and featuring them in posts adds a dynamic and human component to a dealership’s social channels.
  •  Improved search engine optimization. Increasing videos, posts, and activity on certain platforms can catapult the organic search engine optimization of a dealership’s channels. For example, salespeople uploading content to YouTube will boost the likelihood of those videos appearing on the first page results of a Google search.

This umbrella approach on social media will result in a less fractured, more cohesive online presence for dealerships and dealership employees. Creating an environment where salespeople can contribute to the dealership’s social presence provides a fierce and powerful online visibility advantage in today’s competitive automotive space.

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Laura Madison

Using Social Media to Eliminate the Car Salesman Stereotype


Let’s face it; the public’s perception of a car salesperson is not pretty. Salespeople are regarded as sleazy, quick-talking, plaid-loving “professionals.” The negative stereotype was formed in a time when salespeople held all the cards—a time when information regarding pricing, the car-buying process, and the product was largely unavailable to consumers. Today, the consumer has the ability to research all aspects of car shopping and the industry is becoming increasingly transparent. The behavior that earned automotive salespeople this reputation has almost vanished, but this negative perception still plagues the automotive industry.

So let’s transform it.

Many dealerships today are staffed by millennials, veterans, automotive enthusiasts and people who are genuinely as interested in helping their buyer make a good decision as they are in making a paycheck. Car salespeople today are genuine, likable people. Our best way to communicate this to the public is by using social media to introduce the real people of our business. We can do this by allowing salespeople to contribute to dealership social media channels. Allowing salespeople to participate in the online movement is both empowering and innovative. You can encourage salespeople to do simple things that show they are helpful, caring resources rather than hungry, front-door vultures. For example, a salesperson could film a quick video off a smartphone of new features on a redesigned model or write up a quick social post that includes tips for the best test drive.

If salespeople can begin to brand themselves, provide guidance and context, and show that they are caring people, they have the opportunity to build themselves apart from the shadow of this terrible stereotype.

Beyond the Salesperson

Social media is a portal that allows us to revise negative perceptions even beyond those of salespeople’s. Customers are all online gathering information and doing research before they ever walk into a showroom; why can’t dealerships begin to be the ones to provide this valuable information to their local car buyers?

Dealerships could use Facebook pages to provide answers to frequently asked questions or highlight product comparisons, instead of using them (often unsuccessfully) as an advertising platform. Providing value and sharing information about the product allows people to make real connections to the dealership and the cool things they sell.

These are only a few examples of how dealers can use social media to make people more comfortable walking into the showroom. Social platforms provide an incredible avenue of communication that could transform the way the public perceives the automotive industry. The tools and the audience are online; it’s just a matter if the automotive world is finally going to make a move and take action.

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Laura Madison

Humanize Your Online Presence


The use of social media is becoming mandatory for dealerships. Prospective clients are looking for local dealers’ Facebook pages; they’re searching YouTube for product comparisons and even asking friends across social platforms for recommendations. The problem in the automotive world is: the vast majority of dealerships and individual salespeople are using social incorrectly. Simply being active on a platform does not mean that platform is being effectively used. The key to an effective social media presence is creating human connection.

To illustrate the importance of human connection, have a look at how people in Japan buy and sell cars. Japanese salespeople go door-to-door trying to sell vehicles, rather than waiting at the dealership for the next ‘up’.  Once they find a prospective buyer, face-to-face meetings continue in their home with few Japanese car buyers ever even setting foot in a showroom. Paperwork is drawn up and signed in clients’ living rooms. When the sale is complete, a relationship has been formed that will last far beyond the delivery of the new vehicle; salespeople maintain constant contact with sold clients by calling, writing handwritten cards, even taking their clients to dinner.

What this demonstrates, I believe, and what the Japanese have remembered and we have forgotten is that commerce has always been personal. It has always been about people doing business with other people. This is where we have run into trouble in the digital world. We spend so much money on well-organized websites and so much time attempting to sell using social media but what we’re missing is connection. We’re missing the most critical element of relationships.

Consider for a moment what keeps a customer loyal, it’s not an oil change punch card or a fancy website; it’s relationship. It’s human-to-human connection.

Real connection is key to winning business.

There is some science behind the power of human connection in persuasion. Humans are born with a special part of the brain whose sole purpose is to recognize faces.  It is called the fusiform area and is located near the brain’s emotional center. The fusiform area makes us hard wired to use the human face as a centralized point for information and believability. So, in the case of faces: seeing is believing. In other words, an image of a salesperson’s face posted on social media is infinitely more powerful than a stock image of a new truck.

Fewer people are setting foot in dealership showrooms in 2015 than ever before, which provides a bit of a disadvantage in trying to create relationships. Social media, however, can fill this void by giving us a way to still create human-to-human connection with potential clients who already do all their research and shopping online.

Use this information to begin to dominate with a social media presence. Before your next social media post, consider human connection. Instead of touting an upcoming sale or a low, incentivized lease payment, introduce your followers to one of your salespeople. Keep personal relationships and human connection in mind with your dealership’s social presence—and always remember the power of the face.

Want to learn more from Alan Ram’s Proactive Training Solutions?

We’re hosting Management by Fire in August. Watch this video or call 866.756.2620 for details.

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Laura Madison

4 Reasons Why Video is Your Fiercest Weapon


Today, we can find social media participation in nearly every corner of the automotive industry; dealerships are active on Facebook, automakers are sharing images on Instagram, even salespeople have joined the movement tweeting and posting trying to win more business. It seems to be clear: social is not optional. However, even with all this progression in the social realm, the automotive industry is still missing one key component in social presence: video. Video has the most incredible opportunity for visibility, creating connection and building trust, but it remains the least utilized medium by our industry.

Think about yourself for a moment. How many videos have you watched this week alone? Chances are, at least a couple. Have you seen the video of the Nascar driver dressing in disguise and scaring the used car salesman on a test drive? Video is a powerful medium that people simply enjoy engaging with and sharing. For these reasons, video has the potential to become your fiercest marketing weapon, creating visibility and leads for your dealership. To be successful on social you must work video into your master (marketing) plan.

So why is video your fiercest weapon?

1) Our customers prefer it. IT’S EXCITING!! It’s visually stimulating and interesting. Video is engaging and easy to tune into. Our brain also processes video far better than audio alone or simple text. People remember 50% of what they watch compared to only 10% of what they read.

2) Video gives you the opportunity to communicate your message clearly. The visual element of video allows you to communicate non-verbally with things like facial expressions and tone. It was Tom Hopkins who said, “selling is the transfer of enthusiasm supported by conviction.” Video is the perfect medium to transfer enthusiasm with so many verbal and non-verbal elements at work: tone, body language, facial expression, and volume. Combine this clear and effective communication with how much people like to consume video, and you have pure marketing gold.

3) The Internet’s heavy players recognize the importance of video and favor it as a type of content. YouTube has Google behind it, making it an extremely strong tool for organic search engine optimization. This will aid in appearing towards the top of any relevant automotive keyword search in your area. Another heavy player in the social world, Facebook, favors video over other types of posts meaning a video uploaded straight into Facebook will be more visible to your audience than a simple text or picture post. More visibility allows you to make more impressions and connections on this social giant.

4) Video is your fiercest weapon also because video is do-able. It’s more do-able than you think. We don’t need fancy or expensive production with commercial quality. We need to create genuine connection and that can absolutely be accomplished quite simply using the camera on your smartphone. There’s a simple app called the YouTube Capture app that will allow you to film video, move clips around, edit out the beginning where you set the camera on the dash and the end where you hit the button to stop recording, and upload it straight to YouTube with a title, keywords, and a description. If you can use e-mail, you’ll be able to use this free app to create simple videos. Apps like this and simple tools like a smartphone make video absolutely do-able.

So, in review: consumers love watching videos, video allows you to communicate a message clearly, there are huge visibility advantages to video, and creating a video even off a cellphone is simple and do-able. You can use simple video to connect, differentiate your dealership, build relationships with clients, and win more business. Video is your fiercest weapon. Now get started.

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Alan Ram

Email Causes Fights

emailBasic text email absolutely stinks for many of the applications we typically use it for in the automotive industry. There, I said it! Do I have your attention now?

There’s a reason I’m saying this and I think you’ll agree after hearing me out. The fact of the matter is, text communication causes fights. When is the last time you sent your wife, girlfriend, husband, or boyfriend a text message that was completely taken out of context? For me it’s daily, sometimes, even twice.

Typical text email does the same thing. When you study the way that we as humans communicate, there are three basic areas of communication: Text, which is written word and coincidentally what most e-mails are comprised of; tone and voice inflection, which is what you get when you kick it up to a phone call; and finally there are visual cues, which are our facial expressions and body language. Of all the ways we communicate, text is the most inefficient.

When we communicate via text we’re communicating with 7% efficiency in the way we as humans absorb information. Tone and voice inflection represent 38% communication efficiency, and visual cues and body language represent 55%. So while we think we’ve evolved, we’ve actually regressed dramatically in how we communicate.

Before every house had a computer and every third-grader had an iPhone, people would have to come in to dealerships to gather information. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather deal with somebody face-to-face than over the telephone or Internet. At that point we were actually communicating with people at 93% communication efficiency level (55% + 38%). Then at some point many years ago, telephone technology took over and evolved in such a way that customers started thinking, “We don’t need to go into the dealership, we’ll just call them.”

At this point in time our communication efficiency dropped from 93% to 38%. Then, one day we got really advanced and decided that 38% was too efficient and we started communicating through email. Which left many of you where you’re at today, a whopping 7% communication efficiency level.

Yeah, we’ve definitely come a long way in how we communicate, ALL in the wrong direction! So what’s the answer? How do we reverse the trend? You start using video email!

Don’t think about it, don’t wait to see what happens in five years, do it now! With technology today, it’s so easy to send video utilizing a technology like CoVideo, various cell phone or tablet applications, and whatever other hot device is being churned out today.

When a customer today sends an Internet inquiry to a dealership, here’s what they typically get:

“Dear sir or ma’am, thank you very much for your interest in the new Audi S-4. Your inquiry has been received. We are Northeastern West Virginia’s Audi leader and we look forward to earning your business. A representative will be contacting you between one and forty-eight hours from now. Sincerely, E-commerce Manager.”

I don’t know about you, but that does not speak to me on a personal level. Now, instead of what you just read, imagine that same customer getting a video from you personally, as well as the dealership you are representing. I’m just going to write out what I would say since this is an article, but you’ll get the point:

“Hello Dan! My name is Alan Ram and I’m the Internet Director here at ABC Nissan. First, I wanted to say thank you very much for your interest in the new Altima and for allowing me to assist you. There are a couple of variations in the Altima I would like to discuss with you and I have found that one quick phone call can replace seven or eight emails back and forth. I’ll be giving you a call within the next hour or you can contact me directly at 480-555-0100. I’ll look forward to talking to you shortly and thanks again!”

How much more impactful is that? You think you don’t have the time? Then you don’t have the time to sell cars! It takes about three minutes to film and send out a video e-mail. The difference in conversion rates between text email and video email is vast. Get five years ahead of the real world and at least ten years ahead of the automotive industry by embracing video email. Instead of the boring text e-mail responses that your dealership is currently sending out to customers, why not meet customers on a level that makes them feel more comfortable to do business with you.

Video email capabilities don’t just stop there; you can use it for appointment confirmation, getting service work approved, and hundreds of other applications. The possibilities are endless! So instead of letting your boring basic text emails cause fights, revolutionize your communication efficiency level by embracing the power of video e-mail!



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Russell Grant

Traditional Dealership Marketing vs. Digital Marketing

digitalmarketingAs I speak to dealers and GMs a common question they struggle with is: “How much of my budget should go to traditional marketing and how much should go to digital marketing?” It is an interesting question because everyone is trying to find the magic formula.

The first part of this question is easy for dealers to answer, as most dealerships are going to stick with the traditional media that works best for them. The tougher issues are how much to spend on digital, what is the correct ratio and where to invest those digital dollars. This becomes even more difficult as digital marketing is expanding into new and innovative products — and also blending with our traditional media. This is where it becomes trickier to calculate the correct percentages, as you have to drop your media into one of the two buckets.

Brand and Impact Marketing

I would like to look at this from a different perspective. I was speaking to Jared Hamilton of DrivingSales, and it is his opinion that dealers should measure it in two ways. Your marketing dollars should be spent on brand and impact marketing. The bottom line is that you should either be building your brand or driving response. Building your brand creates awareness, and impact marketing creates the response a dealer needs to excel. I thought this was a brilliant idea because the most successful vendors and marketing concepts will combine traditional and digital strategies.

For example: all of your TV campaigns will tie back to your dealership’s website. In fact, most if not all of your marketing spend will include your dealership’s website. Digital marketing, as we see it today, will be become traditional in the next 10 years, if not sooner. We also see direct marketing becoming more effective by using digital components, and vice versa. As this trend continues, it will become more difficult to decipher which of your spend is digital and which is traditional.

What Do We Measure?

As dealers, we want to have measurable results for our spend. That is the same now as it was 10 years ago. It is my opinion that dealers should be educated on all the new ways to reach customers, but not limit themselves to trying to find the correct percentage of traditional vs. digital. The goals of marketing have not changed. All we have to do is figure out the best way to brand our dealership and the best way to have immediate impact. So, the next time you get pitched the latest and greatest concept, you will have a better way to decide if you should move forward. More importantly, as the market continues to redefine itself, it will be easier to keep your marketing aligned with your true visions and objectives.



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Rebecca Chernek

Sales Transparency Isn’t Passé

Cat Staring at GoldfishTransparency is the buzzword in political discourse these days. Transparency in auto dealership sales methods has been the buzzword for more than a decade. Although it’s ignored by far too many working in sales and finance, it has taken on an increasing importance that shouldn’t be overlooked.


Because customers can control the message about your brand across the broad spectrum of social platforms. Most social apps are available on their mobile smartphones already, and the rest will be by the end of the year. Customers use them.

Because, according to Reuters’ August 2013 statistics, more than 128 million Americans visit Facebook every day, and overall mobile usage exceeds computer ad traffic (your website). Wireless Intelligence forecasts that mobile social users will grow to 4 billion within the next five years. Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, said, “Mobile can’t be an afterthought. It has to be at front of the table.”

What’s this data got to do with dealership transparency? Everything. While the vast majority of dealerships have an online presence through a website and have set up methods for providing generalized information about their products and services, too many are still mired in gamesmanship bait-and-switch schemes when it comes to actually selling a potentially valuable customer a vehicle for the price quoted online.

Hiding behind a smile and fast talking in the finance office doesn’t work on social media, where customers in increasing numbers prefer to do business. Customers let their fingers do the walking, if they suspect an insincere sales pitch. And they don’t keep their disgust to themselves. They share it. Immediately. 

Jez Frampton, CEO of Interbrand, the world’s largest consultancy specializing in brand strategy and analytics, says “It’s no longer B2C; it’s now B and C.” Unless the dealership’s online team can conduct honest communication, the potential for fraudulent practices can get out of hand, all in the name of increasing profits. All it takes is one savvy customer to catch on or become burned by an overly zealous sales or finance staff member who plays the “gotcha games” of past sales maneuvers, and an angry complaint is sent out via Twitter or to a plethora of Facebook friends. The derisive comment about your dealership and staff can go viral in minutes and raise havoc. This happens every week to any sized business in every town or city nationwide. 

It can happen to your dealership, if you aren’t paying attention and mandating strict adherence to transparency in sales by all staff members. It must be a priority. Failure to enforce this policy could ruin your good name quicker than you can react with an apology. Competition for sales is as close as a finger touch on a smartphone screen and the media is quick to listen and report.

Online and in-house customers won’t tolerate even a hint of bait-and-switch sales strategies. They want honesty, integrity, a respectful dialogue that focuses on their particular needs, and superior customer service. They actively seek the opinions of current or former customers, rather than relying on a dealership ad.

It no longer works to tell customers your dealership is upfront and transparent in sales procedures. Actions still speak louder than words. At a recent sales conference on transparency-selling processes, a high-volume dealer insisted that the box-closing method he’s always used was “fair and upfront.” For readers who aren’t familiar with the term, a box closing is when the customer is closed on price, and the F&I manager closes on the payment. The payment is presented to the customer through payment packing for product options, commonly undisclosed.

A car dealership group with seven stores in Dayton, Ohio, is currently dealing with 16 civil lawsuits and five other complaints alleging “unfair and deceptive business practices.” The BBB is investigating and intends to lower the dealership’s A+ rating significantly. The finance manager was either fired or retired from his position. Customers are no longer biting their lips when their expectations aren’t met in the finance department.

A couple other old favorites of “experienced” personnel in sales and finance to deceive customers into buying more than they want include four-square and trade-difference techniques.

The four-square is confusing and manipulative and designed to entice customers into paying more and not realize what’s going on until they’ve unwittingly signed a contract. The sales manager disappears just long enough to scribble a few more figures in the four boxes drawn on a paper and returns to say he’s managed to get the monthly payment down to “$260, a mere $10 more” than the customer wanted, but that was the best he could do. “Close enough, right?” he’ll add, while nodding and smiling. The customer doesn’t realize she’s just handed the dealership several hundred extra in profit, when that $10 monthly payment bump is amortized over a 5-year loan. How can this system be called transparent?

In a trade difference the customer will close on the difference between the cost of a different vehicle less his trade, but won’t understand all the numbers when they’re computed in a future monthly payment rather than a total figure. If such a payment is handled in the F&I office, it can open a dealer to potential unethical practices charges.

Compliance to federal and state regulations and business practices doesn’t begin in the F&I office; it begins in the dealership office and on the sales lot at the meet-and-greet or on the website’s communication tools. Transparency is a store-wide commitment. Menu selling brings up net profits it doesn’t have to involve breaking laws or customer trust.

Auto giants, like AutoNation, CarMax, and Group 1 enforce a full, unabridged menu selling presentation that contains all the appropriate disclosures in clear and easily-understood language. Their shops continue to outperform those of most dealers nationwide. For them, transparency buys customer trust, loyalty, return business and social media praise.

  1. Transparency is the driver to whether or not the dealer maintains community and customer trust or goes out of business under the blight of social media chatter.
  2. Transparency is about being consistent in the sales process from start to finish, with all the cards on the table. It’s about making the conscious decision to ensure every customer has an incredible buying experience, determined from a value-driven proposition.
  3. Transparency means customers understand all the buying numbers prior to their transaction going into finance.

If the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) isn’t already knocking at your door, make it your priority this week to review the law, your written sales transparency policy and actual wink-wink practices, and all-company knowledge. Then send out a stern reminder that transparency in all sales and finance transactions will be vigorously enforced. All it takes is a single unhappy customer tweeting a single message or relating an experience of unsatisfactory service on Facebook to result in citywide exposure and sales ethics discourse.

Think about this. Transparency in car sales is a choice made by individuals. “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” ―Albert Einstein.

Rebecca Chernek is an Up To Speed Guest Expert in the area of automotive retail F&I best practices. She’ll be conducting her “Closing Tools Mastering Menu Sales Workshop” in October. To find out more or to contact Rebecca Chernek directly, call 404-276-4026 or email her at



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