Article

It is Not Internet Inquiries: It is Internet Sales

July 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Michael Rees - Also by this author

A recent conference I attended focused on our digital world. The car business is constantly evolving, so as dealers, we need to keep up with all the relevant technology designed to capture as many potential customers as possible.

There are scores of Internet-based programs to entice customers to go to your Web site, and there are programs to get these customers to submit all their pertinent information to you in their search for a good deal.

So, you sign up for these programs and the number of visitors to your new Web site increases. You even hire a dedicated Internet manager to manage all these inquiries. The number of Internet sales increases, so you think you are on top of this new wave of business.

But if Internet sales are increasing, why are your total sales staying stagnant (or even declining)? Well, in many cases, what you have really done is simply monitor the number of customers who are using the Internet in their buying process. You are tracking inquiries that had previously gone unnoticed, so the thought trend is that there are more people buying cars using the Internet.

There are a few dealers who are truly using the Internet as their main source of business. These dealers are the “wholesalers” who sell to retail customers all over the country. They probably don’t even have a dealership; they buy from you and ship directly to their customer. They sell a ton of cars at low margins.

You are probably NOT one of these dealers. Instead, you are probably a average retail dealer who has a Web site and wants to make the most out of that site. Allow me to help you do just that.

Let’s talk process. When a potential customer visits your Web site, it should be exciting enough to get the visitor to want to explore further. You need to give these visitors that option; make sure you have the capability for visitors to your Web site to “ask for more” – a page for them to input their contact information. This needs to include name, e-mail address and a couple of contact numbers (home and daytime).

The potential customer who sends all his/her relevant information to you online is as serious about buying a vehicle as anyone. This person is, in my opinion, more serious than the walk-in customer. Not all walk-in customers are willing to give you their name and number.

You probably close between 15 and 25 percent of all your walk-in customers. So why don’t you have that high of a closing percentage with your Internet inquiries? As I just said, it’s called process.

Have an automated response go to all your Internet inquiries; this will give immediate feedback to the customer who has gone to the trouble of sending you their vital information. They want, and need, this immediate feedback. They need to know their inquiry has been received – even if it is 3:00 a.m.!

How do you (or your Internet manager) know this inquiry has been made? Make sure you set up an alarm to let the relevant people in your dealership know the second an inquiry has been made.

The potential customer has already received an e-mail response from you; now you need to turn this Internet prospect into a telephone prospect. The visitors to your Web site are interested in dealing with your dealership, not an unknown selling service promising cheaper cars. Your customer wants service. You need to provide that service, and it needs to be personal service. Your Web site has done its job; it has delivered a very serious prospect to your doorstep.

If prospects don’t hear from you within an hour of making the inquiry (or, if the inquiry was made after-hours, within an hour of opening the dealership), you will start to lose the prospect. You need to have a process to contact that customer within 10 minutes, if possible, because this prospect is excited about the possibility of getting a new vehicle. Don’t allow that excitement to wear off.

It’s also important to think about what kind of person you have handling your Internet inquiries. I know some dealers put the person they think is good with computers in charge of their Internet inquiries, thinking this is a computer-related task. Think again. This is a sales position of great importance. It is a selling job to get that Internet prospect into your dealership. This customer wants professionalism and wants to deal with the same person all the way through the sale. A computer whiz normally doesn’t have the personal skills necessary to build rapport on the phone with a potential customer, and without that rapport, it is going to be difficult to get that person excited enough about your dealership so that they want to visit in person.

Acknowledge the fact that you are not an Internet buying service, but you need to take care of all the customers who use the Internet as part of their buying process. Treat your Internet inquiries seriously; make sure they are taken care of promptly and professionally by someone who can sell.

Vol 5, Issue 6

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