Selling cars takes more than a handshake and a smile. It takes data. That's why Alan Fink, Internet sales manager at Freeman Toyota in Santa Rosa, CA, built a FileMaker Pro database. "I needed a way to keep track of my customers, inventory, commissions, taxes, payroll -- everything to do with sales here at the dealership," says Fink. "Now it's an integral part of my job and it's used in the dealership every day."
Fink can also access the database wherever he is with a mobile version of the software called FileMaker Go. "This job is really seven days a week," he says. "If I get an inquiry from a customer on my day off, I need to respond right away. With FileMaker Go, I have all the information I need on my iPad and I can answer immediately."
Fink got his start selling computers, so he's a tech savvy guy. He worked for a national electronics retailer, and eventually became a sales manager and regional manager. He acquired his computer skills along the way and put those skills to use a chain of high-end clothing stores based in Sausalito, CA. "Computers and sales have always been part of my professional life," he says. "It's a natural progression."
As the Internet Sales Manager at Freeman Toyota, Fink fields email inquiries and manages online advertising for the dealership. He also sells cars. That's where his database comes in handy. "The car business is complicated, especially from a salesman's viewpoint," he says. "Each dealer has its own pay plan and sales incentives and bonuses. And they change all the time. I originally created a database to track my own sales and pay schedules."
It was only logical to add customer information and dealer inventory. "I export comma or tab-delineated files from the dealer database system and import them into FileMaker," he says. "I always have an up-to date inventory of the cars in our dealership that I can easily search and sort."
The database also comes in handy when the dealership has a special sale. "Now if we want to put all the Camry's on sale, for instance, we can do a quick search in the database and tell it to take $500 off the sale price," says Fink. "It'll figure the prices for the cars on the lot and print out sale signs to hang on the rear-view mirrors. It saves a tremendous amount of time."
But while Fink's original database was super useful, it was trapped on his desktop PC. "I started dreaming of a mobile version when the iPad came out," he says. "I didn't have access to my database at home without logging into the dealership network. It was just a lot of trouble." When FileMaker Go was released, Fink downloaded it from the iTunes App store. "I loaded it on my iPad and transferred the database over," he says. "It was fast and painless."
Once the database was loaded, Fink was up and running. "I was amazed that it worked on the mobile device the same way it worked on my desktop," he says. Fink uses his iPad and FileMaker Go at home to quickly access inventory, look up customer data, and check on sales goals and incentives. "I use it on my days off," he says. "When clients request info, I can get back to them quickly with details."
Fink envisions other uses as well. "I could see tying this database in with a system for doing used car appraisals," he says. "We could incorporate photos and VIN (vehicle identification number) lookups with Internet searches to get a better idea of what a trade-in vehicle might be worth or how we could price a used car." For the time being, Fink has a quick and easy way to check up on inventory, sales statistics, or any other dealership information on the go.