Leads Management: Best Practices

March 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Mark O'Neil - Also by this author

With more consumers heading online to research and shop for vehicles, now is the time to critically assess and fine-tune how you get and manage leads. We hear from many dealers who are unhappy with their lead quality or who are not converting leads into sales as quickly as, or at the volumes, they desire. The reason has a lot to do with the Internet and the way consumers shop today.

Remember when customers had to visit your showroom to see your cars and get a price quote? Not anymore. Today’s consumers ‘visit’ multiple dealerships via the Web before settling on a make or model, much less purchasing a vehicle. This plethora of vehicle information also means a customer may be excited about a car one minute and forget about it the next. They may impulsively ask for pricing because the Request A Quote button is there, yet the lead goes nowhere. The Internet has changed the way consumers shop, which many dealers believe has generated a significant increase in the number of unproductive leads. As a result, you should consider changing the way your dealership manages and works leads.

Changing your leads management program is a two-fold process. First, hold your third party lead providers more accountable, and second, establish a concrete process for working your leads. The first point may sound obvious, but the majority of dealerships do not track each of their lead providers on an individual basis.

Unless you do this, how do you know who is delivering and who is wasting your money and time? By cutting those providers who are underperforming, you cut your cost per sale and gain more time to work the leads that have better potential to pay off. If you use numerous providers, this level of tracking may sound daunting, but there are companies that can help. Seek out companies that offer a system or process that delivers the closing ratio and sales by lead provider and the flexibility to set your own lead criteria – such as income level, term of employment, and specific make and model – so you get only the leads you need. These two features will allow you to hold your lead providers accountable while controlling the type of leads you receive.

In tandem with analyzing your lead providers, you must establish a concrete process for working the leads you receive. If you don’t currently have a process in place, you are not alone because many dealerships don’t have one. Yet when you don’t have a process, you are leaving it up to the discretion of each individual sales associate to decide if a lead is worthy of follow-up, and that is a strategy for failure, especially if you’re dealing with an Internet lead.

As mentioned above, you cannot treat Internet shoppers as you would treat a shopper who visits your showroom. With showroom traffic, you can garner some impressions that may help you get an initial feel for the customer, such as whether they have a family in tow, but that disappears with an online interaction. Because of this, you must treat each lead as a valid opportunity. As an example, you may receive an online credit application and immediately reject the customer because their credit does not pass muster. Yet if you call the customer, you may find that you can put them in a different type of vehicle now or in the near future.

The same holds true for the customer who, based on an online application, doesn’t appear to have sufficient income to afford a vehicle. However, with a phone call, you may discover the customer submitted net pay instead of gross. If you don’t have a solid leads management process in place, you may be missing valuable opportunities.

Establishing a process may be an adjustment for your team, but they’ll love the results. To get started, you need to stress that each lead must be assessed on an individual basis. The first step is setting a process for narrowing down where each customer is in the buying process. David Kain, president of Kain Automotive, counsels dealership sales associates to look for clues about the type of customer they are interacting with. Is there a VIN on the lead? Have they included very specific information, like vehicle color, versus vague information? Do they include multiple ways to contact them?

He encourages sales associates to research customers thoroughly. This research may reveal a customer who is not ready to purchase today, or even next month, but who will be ready before the year is out and will remember the dealership that kept in contact and provided information when asked. The goal should be to cultivate long-term relationships, so customers purchase from you when they are ready and become loyal customers for their vehicle and service needs.

The Internet has changed the way people shop for vehicles, but you can make that an advantage for your dealership. Start holding your third party lead providers more accountable, establish a concrete leads follow-up process, and watch as your cost per sale goes down and your profits rise.

Vol 5, Issue 2

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