Karen Rodriguez, 32
Operations director and Internet sales director, Doral Automotive Group
Karen Rodriguez was in college studying accounting when her father purchased a Lincoln dealership in Doral, Fla.
Back then, she said, her friends would tell her she could sell them on anything she liked, whether a restaurant or pair of jeans, by making it sound like “the best thing out there.”
Still, she said she never pictured herself selling cars. For three years after college, Rodriguez worked as an accountant, envisioning a long-term career and a stable income.
Then the auto business came calling.
She joined her father’s store initially to help with digital initiatives. Rodriguez later spent time working in every part of the dealership, from accounting to service to sales. She found that she enjoyed sales the most.
Today, Rodriguez leads operations and Internet sales for her family’s Doral Automotive Group, which includes the Lincoln dealership and Ford of Kendall in Palmetto Bay, Fla., which the group purchased in 2019. A third store, Lincoln of Cutler Bay, is slated to open this month.
Sales have soared at Doral Lincoln and Ford of Kendall since her family took over the stores, Rodriguez said. Combined new- and used-vehicle volume more than doubled at the Ford store in the past year. Volume has risen tenfold at the Lincoln store in the family’s decade-plus of ownership, she said. Notably, sales that originated as leads to the business development center tripled at the Ford store and nearly doubled at Lincoln under her leadership.
Rodriguez said she believes two decisions she made contributed to the Internet sales improvement. First, employees must respond to a customer and provide information requested within 30 minutes. And business development center agents earn more money for converting older leads, she said, which creates an incentive for her team not to abandon inquiries dating back 90 or 180 days in favor of fresh ones that might more easily yield a sale.
“The agents know that that customer on the phone is as important as somebody that’s in the showroom,” Rodriguez said, adding, “I’m not going to be the one to lose the opportunity because we’re making them wait.”
She is helming the business development center as online and phone leads gain importance during the coronavirus pandemic. In April, more than 80 percent of traffic at Doral Lincoln started through a lead to the Internet department, Rodriguez said.
“Everybody either called or went online when submitting a lead,” she said. “Without the help of [the] BDC, I don’t know how many of those customers would have been properly attended [to] and taken care of.”
Rodriguez’s affinity for Internet leads continues outside of work. Rodriguez, a mother of two, estimates she has helped sell 20 cars in two years to fellow South Florida moms who are members of the same Facebook group by following up on their posts seeking tips about ideal family vehicles.
“Once one mom or one person recommends you, especially in that group, people automatically feel more at ease,” Rodriguez said, “which is what I try to do every day at the dealership.”
— Lindsay VanHulle