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Autobytel Dealer Spotlight: Greg Sexton, Walter's Audi
Autobytel Dealer Spotlight: Greg Sexton, Walter's Audi

Greg Sexton, General Manager, Walter's Audi
November 2013 Autobytel Dealer of the Month

We'd like to congratulate Greg Sexton, General Manager of Walter's Audi in Riverside, California, for being named Autobytel's Dealer of the Month for November 2013.

The Autobytel Dealer Awards Program honors exceptional dealers from a competitive field of thousands of automotive retailers who employ the highest standards in customer service, Internet automotive retail sales and lead management processes.

We talked with Greg recently about the key to his dealership's success when it comes to best serving the needs of Internet customers, his longstanding experience in the automotive industry, and the Walter's Audi approach that creates "ecstatic Audi fans."

Tell us about yourself and your store. What is your official title, what brands do you sell and what are your primary markets?

I'm Greg Sexton, General Manager of Walter's Audi in Riverside, California. Prior to 2012 when I was asked to run the Audi store, we had a GM in place who was managing both our Porsche and Audi businesses. Today, those roles are separate and I lead the Audi team. We've been really successful in our market area with the Audi brand. Last month, we sold 95 new and used cars, with half of our leads coming from the Internet. This month, we're on track to sell about 85 to 90 new and used - we only sell pre-owned Audis at this time. Plans are underway for a new Porsche store, and for our dealership to sell both Audi and non-Audi pre-owned in the future. Since 2012, we've seen a 10% to 12% growth rate in new car sales and a 150% growth rate in used car sales, since we've really made pre-owned a focus.

How long have you been an Autobytel dealer and what do you think are the primary benefits of being on the Autobytel program?

I've been in the car business since 1983 and have been with the Audi brand since 2005. Autobytel has been a part of every dealership in which I've worked since back in the Pete Ellis days when it first launched. I have 30 years of experience in this industry and can say that Autobytel is an outstanding product with a great support team, and one of the stronger third party lead sources out there. The bulk of our marketing money is spent online and we've seen great closing rates with Autobytel - almost double when you compare it to other third party leads.

What do you think makes you so successful at meeting the needs of today's Internet consumers? Please share a few of your best practices in terms of managing Internet leads.

We're process driven at Walter's Audi. We have what I call a hybrid BDC and at first, it took our staff a little getting used to. The biggest part of our success is a strong BDC that works closely with our sales team and sales management to make sure nothing slips through the cracks, and our BDC manager Becky Scheussler runs a tight ship and holds her team accountable. The bulk of our business comes from the Internet. Our Internet sales managers handle part of the leads and assign the remaining leads to our sales team, then monitor close rates of the sales team very carefully. Team members with higher closing rates get more leads in the future, but there is a cap on the total amount of leads they get because they wouldn't be able to manage them properly after a certain point. Our BDC is constantly monitoring the leads we're working to make sure responses are handled quickly and efficiently. Our marketing manager, Andy Wile, does a great job of requesting that customers provide an honest review of our dealership and we have a bonus program in place for sales folks who get a favorable review. If they get anything below 970 out of 1,000 on CSI, documentation goes into their file so they can work to improve performance. We don't want our customers to be happy. We want them to be ecstatic. We want them to say that this was the most pleasurable car buying experience they've ever had. If they don't say that, we aren't doing our job right. Our goal is to create the most ecstatic Audi fans we can.

What are your thoughts about being named an Autobytel Dealer of the Month?

Truthfully, I want our dealership to win everything. If we don't win, we lose. If we can't be the best, we must improve. That's our philosophy. Being the best means we've given our team the tools to do things right. If a customer has a problem, we should have known about it and taken care of it. We don't believe in smoke and mirrors. We give our customers what they need and want and that shows in our CSI. We want to win with Autobytel, with Audi, with DealerRater, you name it.

What are some tips or advice you would give other retailers when it comes to effectively managing Internet customers?

I think the number one success story with the Internet is how quickly you respond. There really can't be any lapse between customer requests and answers to questions customers require from you. I started in this business when the Internet didn't exist and I think the best thing that happened to this business is the Internet. We also concentrate on customers in our area of influence which has made us successful. And when you look at a dealership's success, it really boils down to who owns it. The owners of this dealership, the Kienle family, are really instrumental to our success because they truly understand car buyers and this business. Steven Kienle has been running the organization for 20-plus years and Jonathan Kienle is a Sales Manager in the Audi Store and the grandson of the founder, Walter Kienle. Steven and Jonathan Kienle learned the car business the hard way. They're the future of this organization and they've learned every aspect of it. And the Walter's Audi culture is one that fosters long term relationships with its customers and with its employees. The bottom line is, you wouldn't have people devoted to your company for so long if it wasn't a great place to be.

What are your general thoughts about the auto industry right now? How are sales? Any interesting things happening at Walter's Audi or with the brand that you'd like to share?

We're really excited about what's going on with our products right now. I attended an Audi dealer meeting in Miami, Florida recently for the launch of the A3 product. We've been without it for 14 months and we can't wait to get our hands on it. The new A3 comes in a 1.8L, a 2.0L and an S4 Supercharged version, and the A3 E-tron and Cabriolet. Then there's the Q3 SUV which is exciting. Audi essentially gave us a new franchise. We figure the A3 is going to be good for about 200 sales next year. We're on track to sell about 680 new cars this year, and we estimate that the A3 will generate an additional 200 next year.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself...what do you like to do in your free time? Any hobbies or interests of note?

I drive back and forth to work from Long Beach to Riverside, and I love to read, so I've become an avid listener of audio books. I also love the theater and sailing. My friend has a 46' sailboat in San Francisco, so I enjoy going there and sailing with him. I've been married for 23 years and I enjoy spending time with my wife when I can but the car business does take up a lot of time and there are plenty of photo albums at home without my picture in them. The thing is, I fell in love with the car business from the first day and my feelings haven't changed. You either love it or you hate it. If you don't love it, don't do it.

Each month, Autobytel's sales and dealer operations teams evaluate prospective candidates from a competitive field of thousands of automotive retailers in the Autobytel network, with a monthly finalist selected based on key online automotive best practices, including conversion rates, lead management processes, customer service principles, customer and brand retention analytics and Internet department practices, among others.

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