Benstock Takes A Closer Look at Surging Phone Leads with Automotive News

Brian gave his perspective in a recent Automotive News article that examined the growing trend of rising phone leads and plummeting Internet leads. Here is the full article;

 

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Dealers’ phones ring again

Rise in calls spurs more sales training

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Automotive News | July 21, 2014 – 12:01 am EST

It’s back to the future for car shoppers, who now much prefer to contact dealerships with an old-fashioned phone call rather than via the Internet.

Two years ago, Internet sales leads were gaining on phone leads, dealers and digital marketing vendors say. But ubiquitous smartphones changed all that.

“Our phone calls are going through the roof,” said Mark Holian, general manager of Gulf Coast Auto Park’s Ford, Nissan and Toyota stores 40 minutes from Houston.

Today, most car buyers carry smartphones. And it’s easier to use a click-to-call phone link in a dealership ad than fill out a Web site information form or send an e-mail, said Holian, whose stores sold 304 new and used vehicles in May.

Holian is among many dealership managers who have beefed up phone sales training and call monitoring.

Phone leads are up 46 percent vs. Internet leads over the past two years, according to data compiled this month for Automotive News by ADP Digital Marketing, a unit of ADP Dealer Services.

This spring, phone calls outpaced e-mail or form leads by a 4-1 ratio vs. 2-1 in January 2013, said Max Steckler, vice president for advertising and business intelligence at ADP Digital Marketing. Phone calls have skyrocketed while form leads have been relatively flat over that period.

ADP Digital Marketing provides Web sites and digital marketing services to about 10,000 U.S. dealerships, Steckler said. The unit also is widely known as Cobalt, the company’s name before it was bought in 2010 by ADP. Leads are phone calls or e-mail requests for more information.

Steckler said e-mail leads were relatively more popular two years ago because senders felt they could control the interaction with salespeople and use the relative anonymity of the conversation to resist being rushed to buy.

But the click-to-call choices on mobile Web sites are making phone calls easier for consumers. And that’s good for salespeople, who prefer phone calls to e-mails.

“Phone calls are better,” Steckler said. “They make it quicker to ascertain what a consumer really wants.”

According to Google, 35 percent of car buyers in 2013 used a smartphone or other mobile device to find information about vehicles vs. 26 percent in 2012 and just 6 percent in 2011.

Google, the world’s dominant search engine, offers an option to dealerships and other businesses that allows shoppers to simply click on a phone link in a Google ad to call a store, said Lindsay Schultz, Google’s head of industry, auto dealerships.

The feature, which doesn’t cost extra, is popular with mobile shoppers, Schultz said. Seventy percent of people who use Google to shop or search for businesses with mobile devices use the click-to-call function, she said.

Schultz said some people use the click-to-call function while shopping on dealer lots. Click-to-callers “need an accelerated path to connect with the dealer,” she said.

 Back to basics

Holian said the growth in phone leads is roughly tracking the surge in car shoppers using smartphones.

In May, his three stores had 150 leads from phone calls vs. 116 from e-mails, he said. Two years ago in the same month, e-mail leads outnumbered phone leads 147 to 59, he said.

Holian said the stores’ digital marketing vendor, Local Search Group, has used Google’s click-to-call feature to drive much of that phone traffic.

Those phone calls are contributing to higher vehicle sales, he said. The 304 vehicles sold in May were up from 232 sold the previous May and 212 units in May 2012.

But the handling of the calls has required some back-to-basics sales training, Holian said.

As phone calls mounted, Gulf Coast Auto Park hired vendor CallRevu to monitor calls and flag management when they were mishandled, Holian said. A mishandled call means customer information wasn’t gathered or the salesperson failed to ask for an appointment, he said.

In one incident, a salesperson quoted a caller a retail price on a car that should have been quoted at an Internet price $2,500 lower, Holian said.

After being notified, Holian said, he called the customer, offered the right price and found a different salesperson to take the customer through the purchase.

Holian said salespeople taking phone calls need to study store inventory so they are prepared to talk on the fly about the products and alternatives to a customer’s initial preference.

A Kodak moment

At Paragon Honda in New York City, the 30 people in the business development center are scheduling in-store appointments on 70 percent of the phone calls they receive, said General Manager Brian Benstock. In May, the store sold 623 new vehicles and 346 used.

Benstock said Paragon Honda receives three phone calls for every Internet lead as smartphone use explodes. He said consumers want information instantly, and calling is the quickest way to get it.

He likened the change in auto leads to what happened to Kodak, whose film business was decimated by digital photography. With digital cameras, shooters get images instantly without the delay of film development.

He said the prevailing attitude is “let’s get there as quick as possible.”

The convenience of smartphones is just part of the reason auto shoppers are increasingly abandoning e-mail, said Joe Webb, president of DealerKnows, an Internet sales training consultant.

Webb said dealerships still take an average of four hours to respond to Internet leads with a custom response vs. the ideal response time of 20 minutes or less. Consequently, shoppers have been conditioned to bypass Internet or e-mail leads and just call directly, he said.

If dealerships drop the ball on phone leads as they generally have on Internet leads, he said, they’ll see shoppers give up on phones, too, and just walk in without giving salespeople any time to prepare for them.

Webb said, “As dealerships, we just have not done a good enough job of expediting the processing of leads.”

 

By |July 21st, 2014|Article|Comments Off|

Dale Pollak Visits Paragon Honda and Paragon Acura…also has time for a run in Central Park

Today we were fortunate to have Dale Pollak visit Paragon Honda and Paragon Acura to discuss the importance of managing with Velocity. Dale shared with the management team some of the latest trends and areas of opportunity within the used inventory where Paragon could continue to enhance their performance.

I also had the opportunity to take a run with Dale in Central Park. It was one of the most amazing runs I have ever had in Central Park. A lifelong memory for sure…

Here is the article that Dale shared about the visit:

Last Friday I had the privilege of conducting a mid-year review with the management team of Paragon Honda, Paragon Acura and Honda of White Plains, New York. All three of these dealerships are under the management and control of Brian Benstock. My experience with Brian and his management team on both Friday and Saturday were extraordinary life events.

Okay, how can a business meeting with a dealership group be an extraordinary life event? Well, the answer is for several reasons. First, it starts with the experience of knowing and working with Brian Benstock. At so many different levels, Brian embodies qualities to be both admired and respected. He has the ferocity and determination of a lion, and at the same time, possesses the intellect and sensitivity of a scholarly priest. In other words, he operates with deftness at a wide range of human, social and intellectual levels.

Brian’s extraordinary qualities are exemplified by the appearance, professionalism and performance of his dealerships and personnel. An outsider of New York approaches the dealership in Queens with the weariness of one entering an urban jungle. Crossing the threshold of the dealership’s front doors, one’s environment is transformed from an uncertain chaotic environment, into one of orderly activity. The facilities are immaculate, the personnel are friendly and professionally attired and one gets the clear impression of a well-executed Broadway performance. There is an upbeat energy in the air that defies the outside physical environment. One immediately knows that they’ve entered a special realm.

The meeting with Brian’s team was equally as motivating. Although I met many new people, I was warmly greeted by dozens of managers with whom I’ve made acquaintance over the 8 years of our relationship. The team was willing to accept my challenge to raise their game to an even higher level. Unlike many such experiences, Brian’s team eagerly accepted constructive criticism and the challenge to do even better. Unlike so many dealerships, Brian’s personnel are humble and eager to change. These qualities are all the more impressive in light of their clear dominance in new and used vehicle sales on a national basis. In short, one could not ask for a better team than Brian has assembled in the Paragon and White Plains organizations.

The most extraordinary experience of my visit this past weekend occurred on Saturday when Brian invited me to run with him through Central Park. So what made that experience so special? Well, let’s start with the fact that Brian, at age 53, is a marathon athlete capable of running 26 miles at approximately 7 minutes per mile. As if this wasn’t intimidating enough, I accepted Brian’s invitation with great reservation considering the fact that I can’t see. Although I love to run, I’m not capable of running at Brian’s level, nor was I comfortable running in an unfamiliar and crowded environment like Central Park. I repeatedly tried to decline Brian’s invitation to run, but he insisted that I accept.

Well, I have to say that it was an experience of a lifetime. The day was perfect, not too hot with a sunny blue sky. We agreed that we would run the 4+ mile loop around the northern end of the park. Brian gave me repeated assurances and confidence as we approached the park. I imagined everything going wrong, including not running fast enough, bumping into other runners and cyclists, and most frightening of all, the potential of injury to myself or others.

As we began to run, I immediately realized that I was in a good place and company. From my initial strides, Brian began a constant stream of communication, informing me of terrain, traffic and surroundings. While I couldn’t see much in the bright sunlight, I could see absolutely nothing in the frequently shaded areas of the track. I quickly discovered that I was running with complete blind faith in Brian. I think it’s fair to say that very quickly, Brian and I achieved a mutual understanding that we were running as one. Quickly my fear and inhibition melted away in favor of a sense of freedom and overwhelming emotion of joy. Moreover, my excitement was even heightened by the clear sense that Brian was enjoying the experience as much as me. I was completely in his hands, and he was completely in control, and together we were sharing an experience of a lifetime.

The rest of the day and weekend, and in fact, currently as I write, I cannot stop smiling when I think about the experience that I shared with Brian at both his dealership and in the park. I’m truly privileged for the relationship, experience, knowledge and friendship that I have derived from Brian. He is truly a treasure.

Brian, thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you have done for me and for the experience that we shared together last Saturday. I will treasure it for a lifetime.

(Watch and listen to Brian explain the up hill terrain to Dale )

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Achievement, Ambition and Blind Faith with Brian Benstock of Paragon Honda

By Dale Pollak

Last Friday I had the privilege of conducting a mid-year review with the management team of Paragon Honda, Paragon Acura and Honda of White Plains, New York. All three of these dealerships are under the management and control of Brian Benstock. My experience with Brian and his management team on both Friday and Saturday were extraordinary life events.

Okay, how can a business meeting with a dealership group be an extraordinary life event? Well, the answer is for several reasons. First, it starts with the experience of knowing and working with Brian Benstock. At so many different levels, Brian embodies qualities to be both admired and respected. He has the ferocity and determination of a lion, and at the same time, possesses the intellect and sensitivity of a scholarly priest. In other words, he operates with deftness at a wide range of human, social and intellectual levels.

Brian’s extraordinary qualities are exemplified by the appearance, professionalism and performance of his dealerships and personnel. An outsider of New York approaches the dealership in Queens with the weariness of one entering an urban jungle. Crossing the threshold of the dealership’s front doors, one’s environment is transformed from an uncertain chaotic environment, into one of orderly activity. The facilities are immaculate, the personnel are friendly and professionally attired and one gets the clear impression of a well-executed Broadway performance. There is an upbeat energy in the air that defies the outside physical environment. One immediately knows that they’ve entered a special realm.

The meeting with Brian’s team was equally as motivating. Although I met many new people, I was warmly greeted by dozens of managers with whom I’ve made acquaintance over the 8 years of our relationship. The team was willing to accept my challenge to raise their game to an even higher level. Unlike many such experiences, Brian’s team eagerly accepted constructive criticism and the challenge to do even better. Unlike so many dealerships, Brian’s personnel are humble and eager to change. These qualities are all the more impressive in light of their clear dominance in new and used vehicle sales on a national basis. In short, one could not ask for a better team than Brian has assembled in the Paragon and White Plains organizations.

The most extraordinary experience of my visit this past weekend occurred on Saturday when Brian invited me to run with him through Central Park. So what made that experience so special? Well, let’s start with the fact that Brian, at age 53, is a marathon athlete capable of running 26 miles at approximately 7 minutes per mile. As if this wasn’t intimidating enough, I accepted Brian’s invitation with great reservation considering the fact that I can’t see. Although I love to run, I’m not capable of running at Brian’s level, nor was I comfortable running in an unfamiliar and crowded environment like Central Park. I repeatedly tried to decline Brian’s invitation to run, but he insisted that I accept.

Well, I have to say that it was an experience of a lifetime. The day was perfect, not too hot with a sunny blue sky. We agreed that we would run the 4+ mile loop around the northern end of the park. Brian gave me repeated assurances and confidence as we approached the park. I imagined everything going wrong, including not running fast enough, bumping into other runners and cyclists, and most frightening of all, the potential of injury to myself or others.

As we began to run, I immediately realized that I was in a good place and company. From my initial strides, Brian began a constant stream of communication, informing me of terrain, traffic and surroundings. While I couldn’t see much in the bright sunlight, I could see absolutely nothing in the frequently shaded areas of the track. I quickly discovered that I was running with complete blind faith in Brian. I think it’s fair to say that very quickly, Brian and I achieved a mutual understanding that we were running as one. Quickly my fear and inhibition melted away in favor of a sense of freedom and overwhelming emotion of joy. Moreover, my excitement was even heightened by the clear sense that Brian was enjoying the experience as much as me. I was completely in his hands, and he was completely in control, and together we were sharing an experience of a lifetime.

The rest of the day and weekend, and in fact, currently as I write, I cannot stop smiling when I think about the experience that I shared with Brian at both his dealership and in the park. I’m truly privileged for the relationship, experience, knowledge and friendship that I have derived from Brian. He is truly a treasure.

Brian, thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you have done for me and for the experience that we shared together last Saturday. I will treasure it for a lifetime.

 

 

By |July 14th, 2014|Article|Comments Off|

Dale Pollak Sits Down with Benstock

Brian Benstock sat down with Dale Pollak, chairman and founder of vAuto, Inc., to discuss Benstock’s early adoption of the Velocity Method of Management, his incredible success in the CPO game, and industry challenges Benstock sees ahead.

“We’ve had year after year after year of record growth. We’ve done it by getting more velocity and efficiencies into our used vehicle operations,” said Benstock. “And what I think makes this a real eyebrow-raiser is that the competition is definitely getting better in our market and outside our market.”

Read the full article, titled “Growth, Speed and Future-Focused Insights From A ‘Black Belt’ Dealer”, here.

By |June 13th, 2014|Article|Comments Off|

Paragon Welcomes Visiting Zone 9 Honda Dealers

Brian Benstock welcomed visiting Honda dealers to Paragon Honda and Paragon Acura yesterday, with the visiting dealers enjoying breakfast before Benstock’s presentation and tour of the Honda and Acura showroom and service lanes. Guests included Alen Mukic and Rick Zuccaro of Carbone Honda, Patrick Lundgren and Don McEwen of Lundgren Auburn, Frank McLaughlin and Jeff Haddad of Honda Gallery, Tom Silva, Carl Pasquarosa and David Rodriguez of Honda Village, Gene Giachhino, Paul Giachhino, Ben Crocker and Steve Whalen of Honda Cars of Boston, Andy Bellizia Sr. and Andy Bellizia Jr. of Cambridge Honda. Joe Jenio, Zone 9 Sales Manager, and Patrick Hoover, Zone 9 AZM Business Improvement, were also in attendance.

 

 

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By |May 14th, 2014|Article|Comments Off|

Paragon Honda #1 CPO Dealer in the Nation.

Woodside, NY – Paragon Honda was the top volume Certified Honda Pre-Owned dealer for 2013. Not only did Paragon Honda sell the most certified pre-owned Honda’s they also sold more certified pre-owned vehicles than  any other manufacturer. Paragon sold a total of 2,875 certified pre-owned Honda’s in 2013.  Brian Benstock noted, “This is truly an honor. The team works very hard not to just be #1 in sales volume, but also in customer satisfaction. We cannot do it without the customers.”

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By |April 29th, 2014|Article|Comments Off|