September 2015, Auto Dealer Today - Cover Story
If you are one of those Internet sales managers or business development center agents who takes pride in their email templates and spends a ton of time reading and writing amazing emails, you are not going to like this article.
Emails suck! That’s right, I said it. Emails suck. They have the lowest percentage of engagement and conversion of virtually any form of communication. And yet untrained Internet sales representatives spend the majority of their time playing the email game and wondering why they are not crushing it online.
Let me break down the reality for you:
- The average email open rate is 2% to 4%
- Only 7% of all communication is text (emails, chat or text messaging)
- Nine out of 10 people on the Internet prefer to communicate via the phone
- Tone and inflection is 38% of communication
- Visual perception and body language is 55% of communication
For the readers out there who might not know me, I want you to know that, before I became a consultant, I ran an Internet department that sold more than 110 units per month online — and that was way back in 2001–’04, when it was all brand-new. I have since trained more than 13,000 automotive sales professionals in more than 900 dealerships, and I have been able to identify what actually works, what doesn’t work, what sometimes works and what works all the time. And one thing I know never works is relying on email to sell cars. The Internet purchase request may start via email, but it almost always escalates to the phone.
The Philosophy of Communication
There are clear rules of engagement for communicating with prospective car buyers. Email sells the phone call, the phone call sells the appointment and the appointment builds the relationship. That relationship is what leads to the product presentation, the demo drive and, ultimately, the sale.
I am not suggesting you shut down your email server. I am merely asking you to prioritize your follow-up. Focus your attention where you are going to have the maximum effect. As Stephen Covey of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” fame says, “Put first things first.”
I suggest you create an amazing email template library. If you do not have one and feel you are not skilled enough to create one, find a consultant who is and hire them. Here is a snapshot of three types of emails you should create and the strategy you need to use each one effectively:
1. Traditional email: Create an email for every one of the first 31 days of contact. Make sure each one articulates what is different and what makes your dealership a better choice than your competition — both local and national. Remember, price only becomes relevant when there is an absence of value, so the goal here is to create and build your dealership’s value proposition.
2. Video email: Video has a click rate that is 53 times higher than standard email messages. People prefer to watch videos to get the information they need in a single viewing. This is so much more effective and compelling than emailing back and forth with every customer. Videos allow you to ensure your message is clear and concise and conveys exactly what you want car buyers to know. It also cuts down on the confusion and misunderstandings that occur when someone misreads an email.
3. Client reviews and testimonials: One way to add value to your emails is to include current and past customer reviews. Even better are video testimonials that allow your potential buyers to hear directly from those who have already purchased on why your dealership is the best. You should also look to incorporate Google and Yelp reviews of both your dealership and salespeople to help build your reputation as the kind of person and place buyers want to do business with.
Create a powerful email library that incorporates all of these techniques and integrate it within your overall CRM strategy, then forget about it. That’s right: set it, forget it and let the CRM do what it is designed to do: deploy an automated email action plan for fresh leads, dead leads, sold leads, engaged leads — everything! With your email template library and automated action plan in place, you can now focus on dialing the phone. That is where the money is.
Yes, It Really Works
Calling Internet prospects escalates the level of communication, reduces the confusion and miscommunication inherent to email and helps establish a personal relationship.
I know I am going to get some pushback on this article. I can hear it now: “But, Sean, what if someone says, ‘Email only, do not call me’?” I don’t care. I am still picking up the phone and calling them. “What if they say, ‘Just email me the bottom-line price’?” I don’t care. I am still calling. “What if they say they want the information on a specific vehicle in stock and provide the stock number?” I don’t care. I am picking up the phone and calling them, period.
This might sound archaic, but it really isn’t. The reality is that the average prospect is going to find and visit 10 dealership websites before they ever set foot in a store. I want to escalate the level of communication as quickly as possible so I can sell an appointment. The average (qualified) prospect visits less than two dealerships in person before they purchase a vehicle. The game is won or lost on the phone.
When dealers hire me to consult for them and I evaluate their current process deficiencies, one of the most common time-wasters is Internet managers and reps spending excess time reading each individual lead, looking at what the prospect is asking for and then writing a custom response. Or worse, actually creating a custom video response way too soon. The reason this is actually counterproductive is that Internet teams are spending too much time reading and creating emails versus actually connecting with prospects. Remember, the email open rate is only 4% at best! It truly does not make sense to look at each individual Internet purchase request, read it, respond to it and then decide whether or not to make a phone call. This just wastes time.
You want to make sure your Internet or BDC team is trained on phone sales. The average connection on phone calls is 11% to 14%. If you condition your sales reps to make at least 120 outbound calls per day, in an eight-hour day, on average, they will connect with up to 17 potential buyers — every day.
Keep in mind, these are the Internet sales coordinators or BDC reps. They are not doing product presentations, demo drives or deliveries. Their whole objective is to establish connections with prospects. Why waste time manually reading and responding to every email possible when it will only result in connecting with an average of a maximum of five potential buyers out of that same pool of 120 prospects?
Use email to set up the phone call and get customers engaged at a high level. That is the true path to Internet sales success. If you disagree, let me know — or better yet, try it and see the results for yourself.
Sean V. Bradley CSP is CEO of Dealer Synergy, a nationally recognized digital marketing expert and author of “Win the Game of Googleopoly,” a No. 1 Amazon bestseller. SVBradley@AutoDealerMonthly.com