Get It While It's Hot

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Rebecca Cunningham - Also by this author

There is a big difference between a “hot” lead and a “warm” lead. The Internet lead is “hot”. Hot leads require so much more of your attention. Are they getting your attention? Internet leads need instant gratification. In this article, I will define a few successful strategies that dealers may use to work those hot leads.

Let me start out by sharing a personal experience as an educated Internet customer. I recently applied for a refinance for my home mortgage. I completed the application and clicked “submit”. It seemed only a few short minutes and my phone rang. To my surprise on the line was a loan officer from the mortgage company. I was stunned by the response time. Not only did I receive the verbal response, I received three canned e-mail responses. I was completely impressed with the level of service the mortgage company showed. They captured me before I had a chance to rethink my decision. Within hours, I was discussing loan options and ultimately closing the deal. This is a perfect example of getting the lead while it is hot.

Are you wondering how could it have been that easy to earn my business? Admittedly, I sat in amazement myself after I hung up the phone. Can it be that easy for dealerships to gain this type of momentum?

Yes! The most common conversation I have with dealerships is, “I cannot get my Internet lead in the door.” This is obviously a big problem. If your lead is not coming in, you are not selling cars. This is wasted time and not a good return on your investment. When breaking the down the above sequence of events, it all becomes very clear. Timing…it really is everything!
Ask yourself a few questions.

How long are you taking to retrieve and contact your leads?
Are you taking hours, or even days to check your leads? If your answer is yes, you can bet that they have bought elsewhere. Keep the 72-hour rule in your head. The count down begins the minute the applicant starts shopping. Now YOU have the lead, and it has sat around all afternoon, unchecked, no e-mail, and no phone call. Think like the customer; “Maybe my application did not go through? “I will try another application.” “I haven’t heard anything, I must not be approved.” No matter what the customers think, they all have the same goal, purchasing a car right now! Immediacy is crucial. You should be contacting your leads no more than 20 minutes after receiving it. A method of notification must be in place. For example, having a text message sent to the managers cell phone.

Are you using e-mail to contact your lead?
Chances are, if they applied on the Internet, they are going to have an e-mail address. If a lead is applied while you're at work and cannot talk on the phone, your only choice for immediate communication is e-mail. E-mail your lead as soon as you get it. Have canned responses ready to click and send. However, do not rely completely on e-mail. I have found that dealers that only send the e-mail and fail to make phone contact only receive a 50 percent reply response.

Are you inviting ALL of your leads in?
Yes, I said it. Invite everyone in. Stop brainwashing yourself by looking at the credit bureau and working on getting them approved before you have even made the first contact. Too much time is wasted and your lead is getting colder by the minute. I have found that successful dealers invite every applicant in, and then work on the deal.

Are you making an appointment on the first contact?
Keep in mind, this person applied for a car loan. They are going to shop until they are driving. So, get them in now. If you talk to the applicant and tell them you will call them back, you have lost that deal. In today’s market, there is too much competition between dealerships to take the risk of losing a lead. By not setting the appointment on the first contact, you have left the window open for the applicant to shop. Again, think like a customer, “I can’t wait for this dealer to call me back. I better have a back up plan if I cannot get approved with them.” The next day you can call the customer back because you have a great approval and you can put a deal together. You make the call and here comes the word we hate to say, “YOU DID WHAT?” That’s right, while your were busy sending the application to the lenders for a pre-approval, they were busy signing on the dotted line. Go ahead and make that appointment on the first contact

Working the lead while it’s hot is key. Check your department. Are you wasting precious time? Remember, the Internet customer demands instant gratification. Keep your lead hot - call, e-mail, invite them in and sell more cars!

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