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Autobytel Dealer Spotlight: Kyle Bolton, Newton Nissan
Autobytel Dealer Spotlight: Kyle Bolton, Newton Nissan

Kyle Bolton, Internet Sales Manager, Newton Nissan
November 2015 Autobytel Dealer of the Month

We'd like to congratulate Kyle Bolton, Internet Sales Manager at Newton Nissan, for being named Autobytel's Dealer of the Month for November 2015.

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, and mobile and emerging technologies.

We recently spoke with Kyle about the importance of staying up-to-date on your dealership tools and lead sources, learning best practice tips from the experts, and building a rapport with your customers, and how these factors have led to the success of his store.

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

Newton Nissan serves the Nashville, Tennessee area, and we are located approximately 25 miles from the city center in a bit of a rural area. We have a mix of customers who have lived in the area for a while, and those who have moved here recently because of increases in property value and access to waterside properties, new houses, and more. The Nissan demographic is usually in the age range of 35 to 60. We have a very healthy sales distance; I have even personally sold several cars to a customer in Norway!

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

We have been with Autobytel since before I arrived at this dealership back in August of 2013. When I arrived we did not have anyone with lead generation or program-specific knowledge, which includes how to respond to leads or how to understand a 3rd party system. When I first started, Autobytel was simply a volume lead source, and as no one understood anything about it, the leads had a lower close ratio. Since I became the Internet Sales Manager, I have really pushed my team to understand the program, and I think the benefits that Autobytel provides is that it connects us with customers who have yet to be presented with personalized pricing, therein lies our opportunity to present our inventory, supply relevant information, and address pricing directly. We provide a price quote in every first response. There is no "call me to get a price." Here at Newton Nissan, even if we don't hear back from the customer, we follow up not only with pricing, but we also provide several examples of what differentiates us from any other dealership.

A great added benefit to the Autobytel program is its staff; both Autobytel and SaleMove reps are extremely proactive, calling us weekly or bi-weekly to check on our progress. SaleMove reps will even call during a customer engagement to ensure the most accurate answer to any inquiry. My reps have even given suggestions and ideas for innovation. For instance, it was Autobytel's suggestion to use relaxed casual photos for staff pictures both on our dealership website and email outreach; this has led to a definite increase in close rates! One recent thing that particularly impressed me was when I received a call from SaleMove that they were going to be out of the office, attending an employee luncheon, just in case I noticed their absence. What other company is that proactive!? They are on top of their game!

My Autobytel team has been very helpful in the customizing and refining of our iControl settings to widen our marketing area for any given model, which allows us to get our inventory to the most responsive Zip codes; this in turn has led to an increase in sales. I definitely appreciate the ease of the Autobytel lead clearing house function, and how easy it is to communicate with, and offer feedback to, Autobytel.

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.

Given my academic background, I am very data oriented, and as such I naturally follow those who have greater experience and simply do what they recommend (in other words, learn from those who know best). I attend any auto industry conference I can to continually educate myself, and am a big fan of the Autobytel YouTube channel with its series on lead management as well as follow up "best practices". In fact, I have put together an interactive "playbook" for my team, full of tips and advice that Autobytel and other industry leaders have provided. I feel that it is up to me to make sure that my team follows these proven best practices, as well as hold them individually accountable.

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

Know your lead source! Learn all you can about each source from a dealer standpoint and how to use its internal analytics tools. Plus, you should understand it from a customer's point of view. For instance, you should know where the referral buttons are on their website; these are the points that generate your leads. Know what's working for you, and what's not. Customize and personalize content whenever possible to highlight what's making you different from competitors. Content is king, and open, transparent communication goes a long way towards winning over a customer!

I also think it is crucial to be in contact with your vendor companies at least once a month. I find that sometimes updates were made to a platform, and maybe I didn't know about; being in touch with your vendors prevents that. Lead providers aren't like buckets pouring leads into your lap. The auto industry still has this expectation that things will just happen to as they sit by and wait for it.

And of course, be up-front with your customers. I strongly believe that nothing is lost by telling the truth. Customers don't want to hear, "just come in, we'll figure it out." Today's customer is more intelligent than that, they've done their research and are equipped with a variety of stats and information. Even if a customer walks in and says, "I was just driving by and thought I would come in," we can assume that most customers have spent several hours shopping online. Customers want answers quickly and we only have a small window of opportunity to try to build a rapport.

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

Newton Nissan is definitely a growing dealer group. We acquired another franchise store at the end of 2013; it is now known as Newton Nissan South (south of Nashville). We are proud of the many local and national awards and recognitions we have received, including: DealerRater's "Dealer of the Year" 2012-2015; one of The Tennessean's Top Workplaces for 2014 & 2015; Automotive News' Top 100 Dealerships to Work For (2012); and the Nissan Award of Excellence 2013-2015.

As for the industry, we are pleased to see gas prices dropping, sales are up year-over-year, and morale continues to rise!

What are your thoughts on the new / emerging technologies coming out of Autobytel? For instance, receiving leads via text and texting with customers? Web based chat?

I cancelled another 3rd party chat / text widget from our website simply because SalesMove does a much better job for my team; likely even better than we could ourselves! My guys know how to follow up on the conversations, and customers really enjoy communicating with the SaleMove team, even asking for them in the showroom. SaleMove goes as far as scheduling the appointment, if at all possible. There is extreme depth to the interface, with terrific improvements and enhancements being made all the time!

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

My primary interest is in ancient history and mythology, so I spend a lot of my free time (not that there is a lot!) in books and at museums. I also love that Nashville has a burgeoning food scene! As I am out and about, I enjoy being a good customer, talking to people, being part of the community, all whilst prospecting. I spent 10 years as a student educating myself, and eventually went completely broke trying to pay for tuition. The owners of Newton Nissan, Bill Newton and Mike Abbondanza, offered me the opportunity to work at the dealership to help me get back on my feet; never expecting that after just 15 months at the dealership I would be on the management track. I genuinely love going to work every day.

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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