Wells Fargo Auto is making a comeback, and Head of Retail Sales Ryan Foxx is in demand and in control.
The San Francisco-based lender’s past two quarters of 45% year-over-year increases in originations reflect Wells Fargo’s renewed focus on auto loan growth since the company’s restructuring. That spike has kept Foxx busy and, as the bank looks to continue its growth trajectory, he remains steadfast about strengthening dealer relations.
“Over the past several years, we’ve made a number of changes to transform our business, and we gave up market share in order to do so,” Foxx told Auto Finance News. “Now we are back on a growth trajectory, so expanding our business is definitely something we are focused on.”
Foxx’s strategy to support that growth from a sales perspective is centered around communicating Wells Fargo’s value proposition to dealers, which includes dealer compensation, competitive pricing and broad-spectrum lending. “We believe that those strengths are what will help us earn back business from dealers and continue to deepen those relationships,” he said.
With more than two decades’ worth of financial services and dealership experience, Foxx approaches his sales strategy with a complete understanding of the lender-dealer relationship.
What follows is an edited version of his conversation with AFN.
AFN: What headwinds are on your radar from a sales perspective?
Ryan Fox: When I look at the current environment, I see more opportunity than headwinds for us, largely because new-car prices continue to be high. That means used-car sales should continue to be strong, and 70% of our business is in that space. So we have some good opportunity there that we’re really excited about.
We are focused on the unique strengths and value that we can bring to dealers and our mutual consumer customer, like pricing, broad spectrum lending and dealer compensation. We think that when we get those things right and focus on serving dealers and consumers well, positive outcomes are a natural result.
AFN: What is a sales initiative that you’ve wanted to implement into Wells Fargo’s strategy but haven’t gotten around to quite yet?
RF: Two things come to mind: one that we just implemented, and another that is coming up.
In the fourth quarter of last year, we reorganized our sales team’s territories and created a new Inside Sales Group, which is focused on providing dedicated support to geographically remote dealers that we weren’t previously able to physically meet with as often as we’d like. This structure also allows our outside sales team to spend more time with their dealer base, growing and deepening those relationships. It’s still new, but I’m excited to see how this new structure helps strengthen all our dealer relationships.
Another thing we’re focused on is providing better tools and information for our sales team to help them be more effective at managing dealer relationships. The tools will be things like enhancing our CRM tools and simplifying self-service opportunities for dealers.
Ultimately, what this means for dealers is a better-informed sales rep, and a more effective and efficient use of the time we have together.
AFN: For those following Wells Fargo’s earnings, it’s clear the company is in an aggressive growth mode. How does the company’s overall growth trajectory impact your strategy? What is your team focused on and how are you ensuring that goals are met?
RF: As I mentioned earlier, we have spent a lot of time transforming the business, and now we are able to leverage our new structure to support dealer and consumer customers in faster, more efficient ways. We’re excited about the trajectory we are on, and of course we want to continue that momentum. As we continue to talk to dealers about the
strengths and value we bring to the table, and provide a great customer experience for both dealers and consumers, we think the growth will come.
In other words, the growth is not the goal in itself, but it’s the outcome of running the business right. How that applies specifically to our sales team is that we are focused on playing to our strengths and executing daily to meet dealers’ needs.
AFN: What’s a piece of leadership advice you’ve received that influences how you execute on projects today?
RF: The one that comes to mind is from my time playing baseball in college. One season, we had a new coach come in, and he shared his philosophy that you have to play aggressively, versus playing not to lose, and focus on the fundamentals. And if we did that, we would win.
Well, as we followed his advice, that’s what we did — we started winning. He turned around the team and created an entirely new culture. We knew if we practiced hard, executed against the fundamentals and played aggressively, success would follow.
I think it’s much the same in business. When we focus on the fundamentals — great service, etc. — and we are confident in playing to our strengths, we will see the outcomes we want. I have had the privilege of working for many great leaders throughout my career, but this coach helped develop my fundamental cultural beliefs at a young age without even understanding he did so. That is what makes it even better — it wasn’t advice, it was a behavior he showed us every day that influenced how I try to lead by example, and I am sure he influenced many others during his career as well.
Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the March issue of Auto Finance News, available now.