Article

Internet Sales Process - Part One: Commit to Methodical Follow-Up

July 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Sean V. Bradley - Also by this author

Everyone has an opinion on how to handle Internet leads and there is no one right way to address leads. I have my thoughts on how it should be done based on my personal experience, but first let’s review some industry stats:
  • 87 percent of Americans go online before stepping foot into a dealership.
  • OEM leads close within approximately 90 days.
  • Third-party leads and leads to your dealership Web site close between 45-55 days.
  • The average prospect researches four to five other dealerships.
  • Only 7 percent of communication is conveyed from text or the words that we use.
  • 38 percent of communication is from sound or inflection of your voice.
  • 55 percent of communication is visual perception and body language.
  • Over 80 percent of the people who submit purchase requests wind up buying something different than what they originally submitted a request for. 
  • 96 percent of people on the Internet you quote a price to will shop it.

This all means we have to operate in a certain fashion based on the information above.

After all this time in the business, I am still baffled at how dealers handle online leads. For example, some dealers will shotgun a price quote on the first e-mail (even if the prospect didn’t request one). That would be like giving every fresh Up off of the showroom floor a price right after your greeting, even if they never asked you for one. It doesn’t make much sense does it? Well, if you wouldn’t do it for your showroom prospects, why would you do it for your Internet prospects? On the showroom floor, you want to do some basic things:

  • Greet your prospects properly.
  • Qualify them on the right vehicle.
  • Perform product presentations.
  • Take them on a demo drive in their vehicle of interest.

There are obviously more steps in a showroom sales process, but those four are critical. This process is how you build value with your prospects, and that is how you differentiate yourself from your competition. When you review the bullets points in the beginning of this article, they clearly explain what is going on. First, almost everyone is going online. Next, the people who are going online are not just looking at your Web site or dealership. They are searching, on average, four to five other dealerships or Web sites.

On top of that, if you look at the buying cycle, it is much longer than your traditional showroom customer. What is happening is that the Internet catches people at their “point of interest” versus catching people at their “point of purchase.” It is very important for you to understand that almost every Internet sales prospect is looking at multiple forms of information from multiple resources.

Knowing all of this, here are two items to focus on for online prospects:

First, you want a methodical follow-up process with Internet prospects. We find that a lot of dealers have sporadic follow-up protocols. For example, they will follow up with a prospect via phone and the Internet for one to two weeks straight, wait three days, then resume for another week of follow-up. Then they’ll take another “Internet follow-up break” for three days, then resume some sort of modified schedule. This process needs to be consistent.

The second point is the science of communication. You lose something in the message when you only use e-mail or phone calls—visual perception and body language, which is 55 percent of communication.

While e-mail may be the first communication channel, it should morph into the phone call and then the appointment. Sell the value of coming into the dealership. Now you will have escalated the experience from a 45 percent communication medium to a full 100 percent when the prospect is at your dealership.

If you agree with this strategy, you’ll need some resources to assist you in your efforts. First, you are going to need to commit yourself to this methodical follow-up approach of e-mail to phone call every day, and if possible, try to call your prospect list twice in a day.

Next, you need to create a library of e-mail templates that have a strong call to action for the customer to call the dealership. Make sure no matter what the content of the e-mail template, it always escalates the next action of the prospect, the phone call.

In Part Two of this article, I will share more details about this process, how to stay on target and how to ensure your process keeps you on track. Look for it in next month’s issue.

Vol 5, Issue 6

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