It happened again.
Apparently, June is the time for wild declarations. With an eerie regularity of bad seafood, another “friend of the Dealer” comes along making wild claims of instant success. My body has the same reaction to both. Please pray for my wife.
With that same regularity, I have to write a post just to vent. Last year I wrote (the aptly titled) Recipe for Weapon-Grade Dysentery, while the year prior I wrote the Power of Misinformation. Quite frankly, I don’t feel threatened by these “experts.” It’s quite the opposite. I do, however, have a visceral reaction when I think about dealerships getting ripped off. Is the company also going to guarantee optimum inventory, perfect merchandising, a peerless customer experience, and a staff that can flawlessly execute 100% of the time? This year, I can’t risk writing anything else for fear that I might punch a hole in my keyboard.
Instead of kicking off a new rant, I’ll share a post from a couple years ago. In my opinion, it addresses one of the root causes of these assertions, and in essence, alludes to a cure.
Periodically, we receive an email or phone call from an ISM wanting to know how to increase their closing ratio from 30% to 40%. I often have to bite my lip in order to prevent myself from laughing hysterically. Invariably, I start to ask how that dealership is measuring its closing ratio. However, as I am asking that question, I am always asking myself why isn’t there a standard equation for measuring closing ratio?
Let’s think about other forms of measurement, for a second. Although arbitrarily determined, units of measurement have been defined, agreed upon, and accepted for almost everything you can think of. Temperature, length, weight, sound pressure, luminescence, even spiciness, can all be measured. Why? Among many reasons, it’s a way of replicating a result. Imagine Shaq’s “pinch” of salt vs. your grandmother’s, and you’ll get the point. Without using standard units of measure, we can’t replicate the results that another has experienced.
If we can’t replicate the results of another’s success, how can we improve upon it? We’ve all been to conferences where one ISM tells another ISM that he’s closing at a 17.48% closing ratio, while another ISM is stating that they are closing at a 103% closing ratio, while another ISM walks up to them, and quizzically mutters that they are only closing 4%. Who’s right? They all are. Why? Because every ISM seems to have their own equation for calculating their closing ratio.
The simplest measure of closing ratio is sales divided by opportunities (leads) in a given time-frame. I refer to this as a Gross Closing Ratio (GCR). Many times, this simplest of closing ratios, yields a result that isn’t good for one’s self esteem (given the traditions of bigger is better bragging rights in the car business). Self esteem can be further battered by going to a conference, or from reading the different forums, where people can endlessly brag about their closing ratios without the substantiation of results and equations, or divulging their lead-source mix. So ISMs the world-around create complex equations to measure closing ratios that show impressive results so that they can feel like they can offer comparable results.
I have totally been guilty of this. When I first started in the business (before the magazines and forums), I came up with a formula to measure my monthly performance. I copied and pasted the data from the lead buckets in CarPoint (then AVV, and then BzTrack) onto a spreadsheet. I created an equation that netted out all of the leads that were not true opportunities that month (i.e., bogus contact information, people searching for credit approval, people who were 30+ days out, etc.). In my mind, I wanted measure myself against the guys on the lot, and I figured that they didn’t get the same “riffraff” I did. I would divide this number by sales, and miraculously, I closed as well as the most seasoned lot-guy we had. It also gave me a 11-13% bump compared to my GCR. Too bad I didn’t have an Internet forum to share my triumphs on.
However, as I moved on to corporate Internet process development, and then on to technology, I came to realize what the lack of standards really means. When I began to start reading the emerging automotive Internet sales forums, and especially after I started attending the conferences, it didn’t take long to realize that there were no hard-and-fast rules on how to calculate closing ratio. At the risk of causing a stir, I’d go as far as to say it borders on urban legend for some. Given the fact that I’ve analyzed data for well over 400 franchises, just counting the corporates, I’d say often times retail personnel and their management are presented the statistical outliers, as opposed to the norm. Since there is no universally recognized or sanctioned equation to measure automotive Internet sales closing ratio, everyone is right. This is tantamount to declaring myself the tallest person in the world, but not using feet or meters as a measurement, or offering any mathematical equivalent. Without agreeing on the math, we cannot objectively compare anyone’s results, let alone replicate them.
The automotive Internet sales closing ratio is just one measurement that could use standardization. I am hoping that at some point in my lifetime, or before the Yellowstone volcano erupts, we will have a sanctioning body to govern our automotive Internet sales standards. If you honestly want to help someone get better, be more transparent with your calculations so that they can better measure themselves against your success. If we all use the same math, and you’re still on top, then you can shout it from the rooftops. In the meantime, keep asking questions about how your peers are calculating closing ratio; what leads to include or exclude; what time-frames to consider. It’s OK to call BS. Let’s come up with an equation that everyone can agree upon. Here’s looking at you, shorties.
As dealer personnel, it’s up to you to ask the tough questions. If someone is trying to “guarantee” you results, by all means, ask them how they plan to do that. Just because they’ve assisted one dealer to achieve top performance metrics doesn’t mean they should use that same story as the benchmark for all future clients. Ask them what brands they’ve dealt with, and what markets in which they’ve had firsthand experience. Ask them how they collected data, as well as how their information compares with third-party research. Just as with our customers, comparisons are best done apples to apples. Don’t let someone’s faulty sense of success give you a REAL case of failure.