Independent Dealers wear so many hats that it’s hard to keep track. You are the salesperson, the accountant, the detailer, the customer service rep, the F&I desk, and even the marketing manager.

This means that important tasks can fall through the cracks, like lead management.

Every dealership needs a systemised and repeatable sales program. Large franchise dealerships do this regularly, but many independent and BHPH Dealers feel like they are too small.

Why? Because the tools that are required to run a systemised sales program – namely, an automotive CRM platform – are too expensive and too clunky for a smaller operation.

Luckily, there are new CRM tools (short for ‘customer relationship management’) designed specifically for small and independent dealerships. Using a CRM can have a major impact on your bottom line, and might even help you let go of a few hats.

There are four main reasons why automotive CRMs help independent and BHPH dealerships boost sales. Let’s get into them.

Lead Management

New leads come in from various sources: third party sites like Cars.com, social media, your website form and walk-ins. Many principles and sales managers simply use their email inbox – or worse, pen and paper – to track new potential customers. This causes missed opportunities and misplaced information.

Dealerships need a way to track new leads and store them in one place. This is the fundamental purpose of an automotive CRM. Whether you get two leads a day or 200, every dealership needs a lead management tool to maximise their opportunities with new customers.

Using a CRM successfully requires a commitment to entering customer data and keeping it updated. Some CRMs offer tools, such as a mobile license scanner, that automatically import a customer’s information. Data entry might seem like a hassle at first, but it makes each customer interaction easier and your sales will benefit because of it.

Auto-Responses to New Leads

In today’s internet-driven world, the casual window shopper who calls your dealership or walks onto your lot is all but extinct. The research phase of the car-buying process is now done online. When a potential customer does reach out, they are ready to buy.

Dealerships need to act fast to take advantage of a new lead. According to a Harvard Business Review study, salespeople who contacted a lead within one hour were seven times more likely to qualify them and 60 times more likely than those who waited over 24 hours.

But most principles and sales managers can’t just drop what they are doing to respond to a new lead. That’s where an automotive CRM can make a massive impact.

Many CRMs have auto-response features that allow you to reply to a new lead instantly. Some CRM’s even let you customise the message based on the lead’s information. For example, your auto-reply could say, “Hi Ben, Thanks for inquiring about the 2015 Toyota Tundra. A salesperson will give you a call soon.”

Your local dealership market is highly competitive. The difference between making a sale and losing out to a competitor could simply be how quickly you respond to a new lead. Automotive CRMs let you automate this process so you are first to respond every time.

Streamline Communication

So much of the sales process today happens before a customer arrives at the dealership. This makes communication with the customer more important than ever. CRMs help you keep track of all customer conversations, whether they happen via call, text, or email.

Look for an automotive CRM that has these features:

Texting Platform

Texting is a great way to communicate with customers, especially millennials. Studies have found that 98% of millennials read all of their texts, but only 22% read all of their emails. Texting through your CRM platform ensures all communication with a customer stays within the company, especially in the case of a salesperson leaving. The texting platform will also keep you TCPA compliant.

Call management

Even with texting and emails in the mix, phone calls are still the most common way we connect with customers. They are also pivotal touchpoints when building a relationship with a customer. Some automotive CRMs allow you to record each phone call for quality assurance and training purposes. In the event of a dispute, these calls also serve as the record of truth for fast resolution.


Emails can easily get lost in the shuffle. Your CRM system will not only keep your email organized, but will connect each message to a customer’s profile so you have an accurate thread of communication.

Lead Nurturing

A successful sale does not happen all at once. It is made up of numerous interactions, from the time a customer visits your website to the time they purchase their first vehicle. As a principle or sales manager, you need to ensure these interactions go perfectly for every customer, every time.

Lead nurturing can make a huge difference in your sales numbers. Strategic found that nurtured leads increased sales opportunities by 20% compared to non-nurtured leads. Ask yourself: What would your business look like if you increased sales by 20%?

CRMs systemise the relationship-building activities we all know are so important. It makes the job easier for salespeople and creates a consistent experience for your customers.

For example, you can create a task that automatically reminds salespeople to follow up with a lead if they don’t respond after two days. After a lead leaves your dealership, the salesperson will get another reminder to send a text message thanking them for their time.

But nurturing leads should not stop once you make a sale. Post-sale lead nurturing is just as important as pre-sale. For example, you can schedule follow-ups to check in with customers a day, week, and month after their purchase.

Existing customers are far more likely to buy from you again than new leads. Post-sale lead nurturing turns one-time buyers into lifelong customers. This level of organisation in your sales program is only possible with a CRM platform.

Implementing a CRM

An automotive CRM is not a magic bullet. You will not see results overnight. CRMs provide a framework to organise and run your sales program, but doing so will require buy-in from your entire team.

Success with your new CRM is directly connected to the effort you put into using it. Your sales team must commit to using the tool to track all leads and communication. As a manager, you must set up the proper lead nurturing workflows and ensure your team follows them.

Getting used to the new system will take everyone some time. Commit to using your new CRM tool for at least 90 days before you expect to see results. If you’re like most successful dealerships, you will start to wonder how you ever survived without a CRM in place.

Getting Started with Your Automotive CRM

If you are ready to put down those hats and start growing your dealership, then a CRM is a critical step in the right direction. An automotive CRM will help you and your sales team wow customers with fast service and thoughtful follow-ups. It will keep your customer data organised and your salespeople compliant. Most importantly, it will drastically improve your sales.

Every dealership will benefit from using a CRM, but not every CRM is built for every dealership. Most CRMs are built for large franchise dealerships. Independent and BHPH dealerships have unique needs, so it’s important to find a CRM built for you.


Zach Klempf
Selly Automotive

Zach Klempf is the Founder and CEO of San Francisco-based automotive vertical SaaS company, Selly Automotive. Zach started out working in automotive retail at 19 years of age and has since then extablished himself as a thought leader in the automotive space.


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