When handling Internet leads, the lack of response by customers, the appointments that don’t show and the unrealistic expectations often frustrate internet managers and dealers. Show and closing rates in the low to mid-teens is not uncommon, compared to the total number of leads received.
I thought I would share some best practices from my observations working both in and with dealerships, that can be used to increase the number of customers contacted that actually visit the dealership.
1. Respond promptly – One of the most common setups in Internet departments is to have Internet sales managers (ISM) also serve in sales positions. A typical pay plan will see an ISM compensated by sales commissions, so that is where there focus will be. Therefore, when a customer comes in for an appointment Internet leads get ignored until the ISM is done with their customer. Which, in the event of a sale, could mean that the leads coming into the CRM are ignored for hours. A quick lead response exponentially increases the chance of contacting and further interesting the customer.
2. Provide Information – ISMs typically use templates to contact customers once a lead is received, which usually contain information about the dealership and its value proposition, along with an invitation to visit. However, far too often the first e-mail fails to contain the one thing that the customer is expecting – vehicle pricing. It’s important to consider the source of the lead when responding. In most cases, the conversion occurred because the customer was prompted to fill out a form to get the price. If you fail to give the price, customers can perceive your dealership as unhelpful and move on to your competition.
3. Be agreeable – We all know that some customers tend to have unrealistic expectations when requesting pricing or payment information. It’s not uncommon to find ISMs engaging the customers with reasons NOT to buy. For example, a lead comes in with a customer wanting an unrealistic payment or price. Rather than inviting the customer in to work numbers, the ISM will explain that the requested price or payment isn’t possible. Always remember that sales are a numbers game. With the proper deal structure, a payment can be as low as any customer wants it.
4. Be consultative – Many times the vehicle that the customer requested pricing for isn’t the one they end up purchasing. Always remember that customers are looking for information and assistance. Failing to provide information puts the salesperson in an adversarial position to the customer. It’s much easier to build rapport and get the customer into the dealership if the customer feels that you are sincerely trying to assist them in finding the right vehicle.
5. Sell the appointment – When dealing with Internet leads, ISMs will all too often try to sell the car via email or the phone. The key to increasing show rates is to remember that the goal is to get the appointment, NOT to sell the car. Using sales skills and techniques focused on selling the appointment rather than working a deal can help increase appointments set and your show rate.
6. Go above and beyond – When a customer requests information, always give them more than they asked for. If you are offering vehicle pricing, try including an example payment. If the customer requested information about a new vehicle, include several trim levels in your response. If they are interested in a used vehicle, you may try including some alternate vehicles in your response as well. By providing more information than requested, the customer will understand that you are truly trying to assist them and therefore more likely to choose to do business with you.
7. Make them feel special/personalize – There’s a reason why many dealers are adopting video in their email responses. If a customer wants information about the condition of a used vehicle, it’s very simple to record a personal walkaround for the customer while mentioning their name. Personalized video responses are valuable for building rapport and help put a face with a name. It’s also much easier than taking 10 pictures of a vehicle and trying to email them to the customer.
8. Consistent follow up – It’s very easy to understand why ISMs get frustrated trying to contact customers who submitted leads, but are then unresponsive. After days or weeks of emails and phone calls, many salespeople tend to give up on the customer and move on. Keep in mind that chances are the customer is being contacted by other dealers as well. And, those dealers have ISMs who are getting just as frustrated. By not giving up on the customer and continuing to follow up, you could well be the only dealership left doing so. This exponentially increases the chance that the customer responds and ultimately ends up in your showroom.
Regardless of whether your Internet department consists of commission based ISMs, or if it has a full-blown BDC, the right processes, personalized responses and attention paid to detail, rather than simply shooting off boring sterile templates, will show your customers that you are there to help. Consider adopting these techniques into your Internet lead process. I hope that you are able to contact more customers, make more appointments and see more of them show, resulting in more sales.