From The Cover Of Dealer Magazine: How Sarasota Ford’s Sales Surged From 170 To 400 Cars A Month

Aug 31, 2016 | Company and Events, Digital Marketing

When our co-founder, Matt Buchanan, told us he was going to be featured in the latest edition of Dealer Magazine, we knew his story would help our other dealer-members sell more cars while cutting costs. To help spread the word about his comprehensive strategy, our marketing team put together a quick synopsis of Matt’s interview:

Matt is the Managing Partner of Sarasota Ford and President of the Buchanan Automotive Group, and his coupling of digital marketing and enhanced Customer Experience helped launch the store from an average of 170 monthly vehicle sales to over 400.

How Did Sarasota Ford Become The #1 Volume Southern Ford Dealer In The Tri-County Area Of Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte?

Having little to no background in the auto industry when he took over Sarasota Ford from his father in 2009, Matt Buchanan needed a way to get a leg-up on his competition.

Thankfully, his aptitude for trying new things and thinking outside of the box landed his dealership into a constant churn of creativity and innovation:

I do not believe that if you just follow the old ways you will be successful. Thinking outside the box and constantly innovating and planning how we will take the store to the next level is what has made a difference.”

The 4 Step Plan That Helped Matt Buchanan More Than Double His Dealership’s Vehicle Sales

Step 1: Reposition Sales People

The first step was to reposition “salespeople” as “product specialists.” Since most car buyers don’t enjoy the high pressure experience that comes along with the buying process at a dealership, Matt aimed to remove the negotiation step.

To do this, Matt first had to believe that his cars could sell themselves. Then, he only needed to provide product specialists (not salespeople) to support the customer in their car buying journey.

Step 2: Create An Appointment Culture

Second, Matt wanted to create a complete appointment culture and turn the traditional BDC into a lot more than just a sales arm taking inbound calls.

Thus Matt began compensating his team for being “order makers,” not takers. He started incentivizing them to generate their own traffic from the dealership’s marketing campaigns.

Now, Sarasota Ford’s sales team is only paid on customer appointments that show within a certain timeframe.

The last and probably most important step in sustaining this appointment culture is ensuring your sales team fully buys into it. I can tell you firsthand; initially your team will fight and scream about it. However, if you execute and train correctly, it will drive a ton more business your way.”
Want to help your Sales Team set more appointments? Read this article for additional tips: The Secret to Setting Appointments That Show

Step 3: Leverage Digital

Next, Matt knew if he wanted to sell more cars, he needed to leverage the power of digital marketing. Matt believed he would be able to drive more appointments by extending the presence of his showroom online and implementing a full strategy behind his investments.

After completely redesigning the dealership’s website and working with Dealers United to devise a strategy that attracts and converts more traffic, Matt is confident his digital presence is now delivering “an experience any customer would desire.”

Since May 2011 our web traffic has increased 15-20 times due to more emphasis on driving traffic and getting more eyeballs on our site. We track number of leads, quality of traffic and time on site. We also do a lot with SEO, Pay Per Click and social media and are having a huge success with our Facebook Ads.”

In addition to driving more qualified traffic, Sarasota Ford’s website also focuses on conversion through incentives. Matt finds his $25 gift cards can be more successful than his other third-party lead sites: he truly knows if the leads come through the doors, and his team generally achieves a 50% close rate when they do.

Step 4: Enhance The Customer Experience

Stretching his digital foresight into the showroom, Matt also revamped Sarasota Ford so that each of his customer’s experiences mirrored that of a VIP. The $3 million renovation provides customers amenities such as a cafe serving warm chocolate chip cookies every 60 minutes, premium massage chairs within a relaxation room, and on-demand movies in their state-of-the art theatre.

Additionally, Sarasota Ford heavily invests in training. (Matt says, “If you are not getting better, you are going backwards.”)

Everyone from the top person to the lot porter is trained to ensure the utmost customer experience. The dealership offers everything from technician training, vehicle walkarounds with employees, and finance and compliance training.

As a result of Matt’s collective strategies—from sales, to appointment culture, to digital strategy and customer experience—Sarasota Ford will finish 2016 strong, claiming their best year to date, and is looking forward to a promising 2017.

We have rocketed our retail unit sales from a total of 2,479 in 2010, to 3,890 in 2015, and are well on target to sell 4,600 plus retail units this year. This growth drastically outpaces the industry growth rate.”

What is your dealership doing today to come out on top and what results have you received? Let us know in the comments below.


You can find the full interview and article in the Dealer Magazine Archives, or by clicking here.

Blog Author - Brooke Jensen

Written By Brooke Jensen
Brooke handles all of Dealers United’s digital marketing. In addition to her love for design and copy, Brooke also adores her two dog-like kittens, playing the electric violin, and walking barefoot around the office.


Who is Dealers United?

Dealers United is a game-changing automotive company dedicated to helping auto dealers improve their dealerships. We have helped over 6,500 dealers nationwide cut costs, save time, and sell more cars.

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