Sean Welsh spent over 15 years working in dealerships, becoming an expert on digital marketing and automotive sales and processes. In 2013, Sean founded Car Biz Done Better with the sole purpose of being an advocate to dealers and helping them manage their vendors, evaluate their marketing, and polish their processes to become more efficient, profitable, and sell more cars. Sean has spoken at venues like Driving Sales Executive Summit and was the closing speaker for Digital Dealer 24 in April.
Sean is passionate about changing a commonplace conversation in Automotive Digital today; Sales Attribution. We at AutoSweet share Sean's belief that sales happen on a showroom floor, appointments are booked in the BDC, and opportunities for both are created by digital marketing. For a dealership to identify their gaps in execution, they have to measure the success of all those processes and not try and attribute a marketing dollar to a sale, missing the rest. Sean's podcast, "5 Minutes with Sean" is a special edition this week to talk about these ideas for AutoSweet's Website.
Check out the video below.
Alright, hello and welcome to 5 Minutes With Sean Maybe 10 special edition. Today is special because my friend David at AutoSweet asked me to partake in a guest blog for him, and I kindly asked him if I could just turn it into a podcast because I am much better talker than I am a writer. So he gave me that opportunity to do it, and that's what we're doing today, and because it's gonna give kind of the message a little bit of cross-promotion of opportunity, honestly, I wanna take time today to really jump into something that we've been working on at Carbiz since we started Carbiz. It's really important to me that we start defining things a little bit differently as it relates to some of the attribution terms. So I'm gonna introduce a new one today. It's opportunity attribution, and the reason that I introduce it is because I figured if everyone's gonna talk about sales attribution, we should probably step back a second and take a look at the opportunities that lead up to this sale.
And frankly, sales attribution is something I'd like you to eliminate from your vocabulary as it relates to marketing. I'm gonna show you throughout the course of this podcast that the idea of sales attribution is misguided when tying it to the advertising dollar, and the reason that people are doing it now, and I've had a recent discussion with a large attribution company who actually, leading into the conversation, I was very skeptical. I don't really care much for the idea, and after talking with this young man, Ben, he kind of convinced me to a level that the reason that this is happening, sales attribution, is because no one knows any better because the only thing a dealer can guarantee me right now today, if I picked up any of the phone numbers in my phone and called it and said "Look, what can you tell me today about your sales number?", 99 percent of dealers would know exactly what was going on. But if I started to dig deeper, and I started to ask for number of opportunities, I start to ask for [florups 00:02:15], phone calls.
Just right there, forget me, just phone calls and ups, and more importantly, ups. The conversation typically dies out very, very quickly. And so opportunity attribution is gonna kind of showcase why it's important to study everything that leads up to it, the sale of a car, because if you look at just tying the dollar to the sale, what happens is you miss where your actual breakdown is, and I'm gonna give you a real world, five-year-in-the-making example of it. So it starts at the beginning. We're at Carbiz, we're invite to work with a group right out of the gate in Madison, Wisconsin. It's a centralized BDC, large organization. So jumping in, I knew that there was a lot of disconnects between the stores and the BDC, but the one thing that wouldn't change, the one thing that regardless of whatever you found, whatever you did, one thing that was not going to change, was going to be the centralized portion of the conversation.
So we dug in and we said, "Alright, how can we do things differently? What can we make things look like?" And so what happened was we decided instead of making this centralized BDC in the beginning all about appointment, appointment, appointment, let's just start getting them to look at the contacts, making engagement with the customer. Obviously, when they take a phone up, that's a contact. We're talking about incoming leads. Centralized BDC at this time was getting thousands of leads for 15+ brands. And so when you're looking at that kind of a scale for people, you need to start breaking it down to the basics and the minimums. So we start to say a 50 percent contact was a minimum rate for an individual BDC rep. And when they would do this, they would have the 50 percent contact, we would then isolate the leads inside of that individual and look at those sources. So now you say, "Okay, so I know where the agent is. That agent set 20 appointments, he's a rock star. But wait a second, he did that on 100 leads." Now that's not as impressive, right?
But wait, he only contacted 40 of the hundred. So now he's set 20 appointments out of 40 people that he talked to. So what he has as a BDC agent is a contact problem. So when you're looking at the leads that come in, excluding obvious phone-ups, even chats, text, because again, that's initiated, the lead format of it, the reaching out, that part of the engagement, that's where you wanna see this disconnect. So we studied it that way, and we were able to say, "Okay, we moved the needle on the contact rate for the agent," and the agent part of it's important, but what's more important is starting to look at the sources, the internet advertising sources that we're discussing. So at the time, they were buying leads from everywhere. Just absolutely everywhere, it was an inundation of "The wider the net, the more fish we'll cash."
That's just how it was, and it was fine. Well, there was also a ton of automation in the process at the time, early AI if you will. Just people responding via a machine, starting email conversation, et cetera. I know it's come a long way, and I'm not really here to talk about that, but the point was we wanted to eliminate it so we started getting into the people, but we had to eliminate the lead flow because the reason for the AI is because everyone's overworked, which is probably still true today. But either way, this was five years ago, and so that was the goal. We wanted to slow the conversation down, we wanted to say to ourselves, "Okay, eliminate everything that we can." So we cut back some lead sources we just had known throughout the history of being in this business as long as I have, they were just bad. So we just cut some up.
We started to down the lead number, people started to get nervous, then we started talking about how pay plans were going to evolve because of the contact rate, because of what we were looking at, and that was gonna become extremely important to the process. But again, I'm not by trait a BDC guy. I love the idea of doing what we did in Wisconsin. It's awesome. It was the most fun I think I've had in dealerships for a solid three years. I mean it was a blast, just going through each and every phase of the operation. But I am a marketing guy, I get into the data side. So I started looking at traditional last-click attribution which, to be fair, is really the only way to look at things when you're trying to start somewhere because, again, back to the principal reason we use the idea of sales, is because it's guaranteed, no doubt about it. So we need to then start to figure out backwards from there.
So when we looked at contact rates, you could jump into the agent, or you could jump into the lead the way the CRM was set up, and you could look at contact rate, then you could look at, of those contact rates, what showed. So now we're starting to isolate a different number, an in-store opportunity. Just because you've contacted someone, they didn't set up an appointment, doesn't mean they won't show. So you still have to track that customer, that's an in-store opportunity for that agent at some level. If you're trying to attribute things, which we're trying to do every single day in this industry, then we should attribute it down to the minutia. If you really wanna do it, let's do it, and that's what we've been doing with these guys. So you're starting to see contact rates, in-store opportunities based on these things.
So you say, by each lead provider, you go, "Wow, the contact rate was 60 percent, in-store opportunities were 70, close rate was 14. I have a selling problem, I need to address that, and again, that's how you can find the problem, if you say, "Autotrader lead plus this equals sale," in the last-click attribution model, then you'll give a marketer credit or not credit for the sale of a car, which is nonsense, you need to eliminate that. You need to remove all of that. Where a sale happens is at the salesman level, and so in this equation, what we had to do is we had to say, "Okay, inside of a store because it's a centralized BDC, we must have in-store specialists." Yeah, we all love acronyms, ISS. Doesn't matter. I get it, but they're acronyms.
We came up with the name, then the acronym followed. So the in-store specialist does the work, they go to work on it. What we're able to see now is how many appointments the BDC set, how many appointments the actual salesman set of those shows, how many did he sell. That is sales attribution. Knowing the salesman's number of opportunities in a given month, and then this equation, it's a centralized BDC with leads coming in, no phone-ups, no nothing, everything runs through the BDC. A lead is a lead there, that's how it works. So this guy is just getting his opportunities, let's call him 20. He gets 20 leads. He gets 10 people to show, he sells five cars. That's fine. That's no problem with that, but if he sells two, we know he can improve where he sells cars. But if he can only get five people to show, now you can isolate he has a showing problem. You see, the problem is everything is too siloed.
That's why we can't see these things, and I get it, the data's not set up that way, and yes, you may have to use the magic of Excel. You may have to do that, but this is how you have to do it if you really wanna pay attention, because opportunity attribution is all anyone's talking about. They just keep calling it sales because they don't know any better. We know better. You know better. I need more focus on the number of opportunities for a dealership, that is what I'm after. Once you know the number of ups in the store, I just recently gave a talk out in Orlando and one person, the sweetest young girl in the middle of the room meagerly says, "I know." She's the only one in a room of 50+ people to say it. The only one. So it tells me, and she's doing it with a tic sheet, god bless her, I don't care. Figure out what your tic sheet is and get to the bottom of it, but dig into your leads. Look at how many are contacted of each provider. Then you'll see what your agent's issues are.
Once you isolate that, then you'll get it over to the sales team, measure and track how many opportunities, even if it's not a centralized BDC, even if it's an in-store BDC, it makes no difference. Salesmen, not all are created equal. You must isolate the good ones, you must get involved with them, and make sure that you can focus and understand how many opportunities they had because you wanna feed the beast. Let's face it, that's what today is about. I want you to understand who the store personnel is that rock, I want you to remove the idea of tying your marketing dollars back to a sale. We're gonna get into, in the second half of this, which I don't typically do two-parters, but the second half of this is why, you know what, forget the second half. Let's just ride out a little bit longer and I'll make it happen. I don't wanna keep people in suspense.
So what I wanna do is I wanna take it now, the reason I don't want you to look at the marketing side is because if you look at opportunities into the store via the phone-ups, which is probably the biggest black hole in our industry period, especially if mobile is up and calls are on the rise everywhere you look, hundreds and hundreds from different sources, that right there, that is what we need to be focused on. Not what providers sold us a car. If you spend what you can afford on your budget and maximize it with the best possible vendors and looking at the data that makes sense, and for us in our case, that's GA, that's any of the big three's back end, that's your [chat 00:11:34] company stacking all of this data, looking at the number of opportunities coming into your store, source them in the store, go about that every way you can. But I think what ultimately, I wanna see, is I wanna see attribution companies start getting into showroom attribution.
And so during my conversation with my man Ben, he informs me that if there's an opportunity, perhaps in the future, for this discussion to take place. So what does he tell me then? He goes, "Well, I talked to a few different people, and it's kind of 50/50. The dealers who don't wanna hear it wanna hear about sales attribution, and the dealers who wanna hear it don't wanna hear about sales attribution. Here's the deal: everyone should agree they don't wanna hear about sales attribution from their marketing dollar. All it's doing is driving you guys nuts. It's not helping you isolate what truly ails you. You need to look at sales attribution as something humans do with other humans. Handshakes and sales, that's something you need to look at. Marketing dollar is about effectiveness, it's about market coverage, it's about using tools that your people will use. If you have a sales manager who hates Autotrader but you don't, and you pay for it and he doesn't use spotlights, everyone wastes money. This is why it's important to spend what you can afford on the tools people are going to use day in and day out.
That's how we stack the data. Once you have people using things consistently, and I hear all the time, "Sean, you can't use LastQuake, it's garbage in, garbage out." But here's the deal, if everyone's been together more than six months, and I look in the six-month data set, the same garbage is the good news. Regardless if it is, I'm gonna look at the same exact thing each and every month, I'm gonna isolate it because people are creatures of habit. So if they're bad at one thing, they'll be bad at that thing all the single time. So there's a combination of that, looking at that, and then taking it back and saying to ourselves on the first-click side of things, looking at GA, and merging that first-click, "Yes, the data exists for first-click attribution, you can see it, it's just one click."
Get into it, look at it, even compare it to last-click just to see where that ends, but again, I gotta be honest with you guys, I gotta make a small case here for the idea of last-click attribution still being the most important because if a person's gonna look at 18, 19, 17 sources before they enter a dealership and they're only going with two dealerships, and only, when I saw the young lady from Google made a quote, "76 percent of people bought a car without submitting a lead." So that's 24 percent of people who did. So all of a sudden, lead qualities should be the highest thing ever because only 24 percent of people are actually submitting them, and now the 24 percent, my website is the best at doing that, but I can't use last-click. Well, why is that? Look at the numbers we just broke down. He did the job, man. He was at 18 other places, this place caught him, period. Moving on because as a dealer, I'm always gonna value that information. We're still gonna look for leads.
We can talk about how they're not here, we can talk about how they're going away, but you can start looking at things like digital retailing and big organizations like you-know-who automotive who are getting into digital retailing and see for yourself that everyone is still very much trying to be in the lead business. They're just rewrapping it, so you're gonna have to blend last-click and first-click to figure out opportunity attribution. I'm gonna leave it at that. Alright guys, thank you so much. I ran a little bit over today, but damn, this topic gets me going. It's so much fun. I wanna hear more from anybody who has a thought on it, I know it sounds like wordplay, it's more than that. It's truly looking at things differently, and almost anywhere you find me over the next 12 months, this is all I'm gonna be talking about. So stop me, let's chat about it, I wanna hear the opinions. Thank you so much. As always, you can text, call, whatever you'd like. 262-278-0157. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, or check me out on LinkedIn, I'm there all the time doing plenty of other things.
So again, thank you very much to my boy David at AutoSweet, my boy Ben from a big attribution firm out there doing a nice job of changing my thought process, really getting me motivated to bring this message to the masses and really enjoy it as we have. So as I like to say, you can take a dealer to leads, but you can't make them sell them. So think about that, and let's talk soon. Thanks.