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Autobytel Dealer Spotlight: Rob Grossheim, Stillwell Ford
Autobytel Dealer Spotlight: Rob Grossheim, Stillwell Ford

Rob Grossheim, Internet Sales Manager, Stillwell Ford
August 2015 Autobytel Dealer of the Month

We'd like to congratulate Rob Grossheim, Internet Sales Manager at Stillwell Ford for being named Autobytel's Dealer of the Month for August 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 Rob about the importance of response times and giving customers the exact information they are looking for, creating a great experience for customers, and having a team that is willing to evolve with their 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?

We are a Ford and Lincoln dealer located in Hillsdale Michigan. We currently have a map in our showroom with pins that mark the areas where our customers are from. Looking at this map, you will see that we have sold cars to customers from our immediate area, as well as from New Haven, Connecticut; the Gulf Shore; Houston, Texas; Southern California; even Anchorage, Alaska. We happily sell cars to people who live five minutes from us, or 500 miles from us.

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

I started with Autobytel in January 1998 at another store. I then moved to my current store three years ago this coming March. I would say the primary benefit of the Autobytel program is that it allows us to reach customers we normally would not reach. It also gives us the opportunity to build a relationship with customers beyond the price of a car. Anyone can give a low price, but we strive to provide and offer our customers a service, because we feel that it's about the whole experience. Buying a car should be enjoyable. They have worked hard to be able to do this and it is something they should feel good about doing. Unfortunately, sometimes the traditional way of buying a car is not enjoyable, and customers can sometimes feel like it is "them against us." I want our customers to feel good about the experience, and feel good about who they are purchasing from.

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.

I firmly believe that I am only as successful as my staff and a lot of credit needs to go to them. When I joined Stillwell Ford Lincoln we had some great sales processes in place, but some of them were not always compatible to the needs of the Internet customer. Thankfully, my team was willing to go outside their comfort zone and embrace something new and a little different than what they were accustomed to. That's why we've been successful. I coach, teach and train, but our staff practices what they learn from me, every day always trying to better serve our customers. As we see it, the Internet customer is not much different from a customer that walks into the store, unlike 10 or even 5 years ago. People know what they want by the time they reach the store, call us, or send us an email. They have already done their research and they are just trying to figure out if and how they can make the purchase and who they feel good about making that purchase with. So it's our job to guide them into the right car and make it something they enjoy doing.

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

I've worked with Autobytel for a long time. It's nice to be recognized, but I really give credit to my staff. They have embraced the Autobytel program, and they are open to change which is important. At first they didn't always understand the process for dealing with Internet customers and working the Autobytel program. But, everyone has bought into our process and our results show it. They understand communication with customers has to be clear and concise, upfront and direct, and we aim to show our customers why we are a better place to purchase a vehicle from.

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

Be responsive. That is the #1 thing. Customers are not willing to wait long for a response. You have to get to them within 15 minutes during business hours. Thirty minutes is just too long anymore. Answer their questions, and never give them the information you think they might want to hear in place of answering their question(s). Be clear, concise, upfront, and to the point.

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

The market as a whole is constantly changing and changing faster than it did even 5 years ago. Stillwell Ford Lincoln has been up 10% each of the 3 years since I've joined the dealership. Can it sustain that? I want to, we have plans in place to continue that growth, but in order to do that we as dealerships, managers, and sales professionals have to change and evolve with our customers because the customer is changing faster than ever and it's important to stay ahead of that. Some statistics you read say that customers are walking into less than three dealerships before they buy a car; they want answers and responses immediately. You have to ask yourself, "How can I better reach and service that customer?"

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?

We currently use Autobytel's Text Shield. This is our second time around using it. When we tried it the first time, it didn't go too well for us because we weren't used to the technology and our processes were not clean and effective, so it made it hard to manage and be effective for our staff or our customers. However, this time, after working with some great people at Autobytel, and working through some of the issues we were having, we are using the tool differently than we did the first time, and it's working very well. I will admit the response is surprising to me, especially since so many people are actually opting in. We don't use web based chat at the moment. If we had an actual BDC, I could see how we could implement web based chat, but for now, text is best for our set up. In our dealership, communication with each customer comes from one person, whether it is via phone, email and/ or text, that way our customers know who to contact when they have an issue, need a service appointment or they are ready for another car or truck.

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 wife and I have been married for 11 years this November. We raise and show American Quarter horses. It's something we both really enjoy. My wife is pretty accomplished in English and Western riding. She is the Michigan All-Around Champion, as well as a Congress Reserve champion, and a NSBA Reserve World Champion, I am very proud of her. As for me, I love anything that gets me outside because I am not normally an indoor kind of guy. Our work with horses is a nice way to get outside.

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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