Joe Stroffolino knows used cars. And for that matter, he knows the car business -- as much as any one you could meet. As the used car manager and digital marketing director of Causeway Family of Dealerships, Joe has been in the business since 1989 -- starting as a salesperson -- and ranking in the top 1 percent nationally for Nissan CSI. He found his home at Causeway Family, however, and since 1995 has steadily climbed the ranks, promoted to finance director in 1998, to sales manager in 2000 and GSM in 2005. Joe has the distinction of coordinating Ford Direct’s first complete online sold and delivered transaction in 2002.
At the DrivingSales Executive Summit, Joe will discuss the ‘certification’ gap in the industry that represents billions of dollars of lost opportunity for dealerships. Consider: Over 35 million used cars were sold last year, but fewer than 2 million were eligible to be certified by OEM-sponsored programs. Given that consumers are willing to pay, on average, a 12-27 percent premium on a certified vehicle (an average of over $2,000) – if just one million more vehicles were sold as certified, dealers could realize significant additional revenue. We can’t wait to learn more!
DSNews: What can #DSES attendees expect to hear from you?
JS: A new and innovative way to increase profits in both Sales and Finance as well as Fixed Ops! The presentation will provide a game plan to help dealerships accelerate sales of slow-to-turn used vehicles, while helping them access hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenue. I will take a look at actual numbers from a unique process for moving longer life used vehicles that don’t qualify for an OEM certification program.
DSNews: What do you love about the car business, or digital marketing?
JS: I love that the car business is fairly predictable. Digital marketing, on the other hand, is changing daily and I love that challenge as well! Digital marketing has dramatically changed the arena we play in, and the rapid changes – such as Google’s repeated rules changes -- force us to stay on our toes and to keep up with how media is evolving. As someone who has been in the industry for over 20 years, what I love about digital marketing is that it is so trackable. For years we were at the mercy of print and broadcast without truly being able to understand how - or if - it was moving the needle on our business. Today with all that data, analytics, trackable toll free numbers and more, we have the evidence right at our fingertips. Of course, I continue to love what is predictable about the car industry… in spite of all the digital changes, the customers still have the same needs when they buy, they still react the same way they did 20 years ago; that, and the relationships have never changed and it is that predictability that is so comforting. And of course, I love interacting with customers – although I have less opportunity to do it today than when I was a salesman, but when an old customer walks in, I confess I get the ‘warm and fuzzies’ and that is what is at the heart of it, it is so rewarding to make customers happy by putting them in the vehicles they want.
DSNews: What’s your passion? What makes you get up early in the morning?
JS: My passion is working at building our dealership processes to continually increase sales and profitability!
DSNews: What’s your best car memory?
JS: Selling my first car 23 years ago. It was to a young girl who none of the old car dogs wanted to greet when she walked in because they thought she couldn’t afford anything, especially not a Nissan 300 ZX. I was so green, I didn’t know any better, so I greeted her and after showing her the car, she said “my grandfather is going to buy me a car. I have to bring him back.” And she came back the next day with her grandfather and cash. All the other sales people said that was dumb luck…but it wasn’t. I learned that you always greet customers with optimism, because you never know and the lesson learned on my first car sales experience has served me well for 23 years!
DSNews: What’s your biggest accomplishment?
JS: Our success with SureSale, our standalone certified used car store.
DSNews: Tell us about a recent dealership pain point that your team was able to solve.
JS: Changing the old school culture on Recon on these Suresale Certified vehicles. When we first put together our standalone certified store, we had to completely rethink our trade-in strategy – we were now able to sell high mileage/older vehicles with certification, meaning cosmetics were less important than a car that ran well and was safe. It turned our shop and service techs on their heads: they were so used to late model, low mileage retail cars – and to sending the types of cars we were now able to certify to auction…and they were very quick to disregard a car that they felt wasn’t a good car and needed too much work. We kept saying, with all due respect, we don’t want your opinion that you think this is a bad car because it needs body work or because it is not so pretty; and no, we don’t need the expensive tires on your shelf, but the less expensive tires you can order. We trust you, but we want a blind unbiased fact-finding mission on this car. What’s wrong with the car? Can you fix it? And how much is going to cost? We set a standard and months of persistence and retraining reaped results, especially when the techs realized that our certified store was going to result in a huge increase in RO revenue for them. Now they totally get it and come to us with suggestions on cost savings on tires, parts etc. for each vehicle.
DSNews: What are the three topics dealers should be focused on as we head into 2013?
JS: Cutting expense, Increasing Profit and Improving Reputation.
This is what we are thinking of constantly and you have to have focus on all three if your business is to be a success. Cutting expenses and increasing profits are no-brainers, but I firmly believe that improving reputation is equally as important because it is so interconnected with the other two. I truly believe – and it has been proven in my 23 years in the business – that if you take care of the customers, they will take care of you. If you continue to maintain your great reputation in the community, it becomes a virtuous circle: you will continue to make profits from happy car-buying customers, plus happy customers help cut expenses because you get referrals, which are the most cost-effective form of marketing: they are practically free and mean you have to advertise less. But, if you don’t have a good reputation you constantly have to advertise to new people, depend on loss leaders to get those sales and then a less than virtuous cycle of dissatisfied customers, increased expenses and low profits starts.
DSNews: Speaking at #DSES is…
JS: Total Honor!