Don't expect dealer Lynn Thompson to run many newspaper ads.
Thompson, co-owner of Thompson Sales in Springfield, Mo., shifted more than half of his newspaper ad spending to digital media over the past two years. His sales held steady at around 1,970 vehicles in 2010 and 2011.
And he has drawn more customers from the Internet. More than one-third of his annual 1,969 new and used retail sales came through the Internet in 2011, up about 5 percent from 2010. That prompted Thompson to change his pay plan to salary-based to attract Internet-savvy salespeople.
"Going to a salary would allow me to get a better quality salesperson" he says.
The evolution of the Internet is prompting Thompson and other dealers to re-evaluate their operations and make changes to better fit an increasingly digital world. For some dealers, that means more digital advertising. It can also mean giving Internet salespeople skills and authority to structure an entire deal on their own. And for others, it involves tweaking the pay plans to attract younger, more tech-savvy workers who dislike commission-based pay.
"It's very hard to find salespeople. Everyone knows in the auto industry you work for a very small salary, but could potentially earn a lot if you sell a lot," says Joe Castle, who owns Castle Chevrolet and Castle Buick-GMC in Chicago.