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Interview with William Bryant of Steve White VW Audi Dealership

Steve White VW Audi Dealership - Greenville, SC

Steve White VW Audi Dealership - Greenville, SC

william_bryant_steve_white_vw_audiFor the inaugural interview of our Car Dealer Interviews series we’ve had the pleasure of talking with William Bryant of Steve White VW Audi dealership in Greenville, SC. We asked him a few questions about his experiences in the auto sales industry and what it’s like to be a dealer in today’s economy.

William provided some great insight and advice that we hope you will find useful.  I think you’ll agree with us when we say, Mr. Bryant is wise beyond his years. If you would like to be included in our Car Dealer Interview series, please drop me an email at will (at) easyautosales.com or twitter us @easyautosales.

1. William, tell us a little bit about Steve White VW Audi and your own career in the auto industry?

I started out selling cars at a Nissan dealership. I think I was the youngest guy they’d ever hired. I was going to college at the time and kind of fell into it. Next thing I knew I had truly found my passion. My other passion was computers and the internet, so when I heard we were getting internet leads and doing nothing with them, I jumped at the opportunity to take it all over.  All of a sudden I’m doing over 20% of the store volume on my own! Since then I’ve moved to Steve White, who has a real vision for the internet’s place in a dealership, and consistently do over 30% of the sales volume… and it’s growing every day!

2. How has your dealership been specifically affected by the current economic situation?

Like everyone we braced for the worst. We expected down numbers of at least 15% or more, most dealers around us are down 30% or more. But, actually the last 5 months now we’ve been UP in business around 8% over the previous year. So actually I’d have to say business is good.

3. What expenses have you cut from your daily operation?  What new programs have you added to your daily operation?

We cut out programs that weren’t performing well so that we can enhance what we already have. We cut out several thousand dollars worth, and have actually been able to redirect some of that into more long-term and service enhancing programs… Like our e-newsletter, live chat, and paid search. All have proven very well worth it, and very good at improving our store image; which at the end of the day adds value to the customer and brings them back for more. We like to keep them on our site.

4. Has your attitude towards the marketing budget changed?  Has it shifted more and more online?

The budget has definitely gone more online, we do spend a little on radio. We took our TV money and advertised on the TV station’s website, and that yielded good success (actually picked perfect timing, during a BIG bank robbery we were all over the news site’s pages, and got a lot of leads in then haha). Dropping back though to doing most of our advertising online helps us to enhance what works and lose what doesn’t on the fly. Which is a must for dealers right now with the way things are changing.

5. What are your thoughts on online reputation management? Are online reviews of dealers the next IT thing?

That’s a good question and one I’m curious about. To be honest with you, it all depends on the medium in which the reputation is being managed. Naturally, a bad review anywhere will hurt you. But if it comes off some website that’s not that well known, it’s not nearly as detrimental as physical word of mouth. However we’ve found that positive reputation built over social networking sites like Facebook really help build our reputation. Customers are being exposed to positive comments from previous customers daily, which is huge. We hear a lot lately “I’ve heard good things about you” which really counts. On the flip side, it makes it ever more important to make sure customers don’t have a bad experience with how virally news like that can travel! This recent story about one of our competitors proves that http://www.charlotteobserver.com/local/story/747298.html

6. What are your thoughts on the future of dealerships as many people start shifting their shopping patterns towards online research and browse?  What can dealers do to adapt?

People will always research, I think we’re already to the point to where if you don’t AT LEAST have a good website and aren’t seen on third party sites, you’re missing the boat big time. Actually I think we’re past that point. You should go ahead and shut your doors because your competition has already sold to your customers. It’s all about convenience, and what’s more convenient than the internet? The average dealer has a nice website and is listed on every major site out there. The progressive dealers are stealing your customers via social networking and eBay. I think those dealers also have a more loyal customer base because of their high level of interaction with their customers.

People have short attention spans these days. Dealers need to do everything they can to stay in front of their customers 24/7. Not just for sales, but mostly for also fixed ops. That’s why our business is growing while everyone around us is shrinking or closing. Makes a difference, don’t it?!

This is great stuff William!  There is no doubt that a lot of dealers out there could learn a lot from you.  Thank you for your time.   If you have any comments for William please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.  We look forward to keeping the interviews going… Again, if you would like to be included in our Car Dealer Interview series, please drop me an email at will (at) easyautosales.com or twitter us @easyautosales.

You can also find William and Steve White VW Audi on Twitter: @wbryant and @SteveWhiteVW

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  • Alla

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  • Great interview, Williams really touched on some interesting points.