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Internet Commandments

In the past Cobalt has researching the top Internet dealers in the country collecting best practices to share with dealers in our training courses. We sent out over 12,000 surveys to dealers and received 1,200 replies. From those replies, we identified 23 of the best-performing Internet dealers in the country and visited them person to interview them and observe their processes first-hand. Three of the five top retail dealers in the country (total retail, not just Internet retail, according to Ward’s 2002 Top 100) were among the stores we interviewed.

We found several vastly different (but equally effective) strategies, structures and processes. We discovered several ideas about what it takes to make an Internet department very successful. By successful, we mean A) a closing ratio better than 12 percent on ALL unique Internet leads B) Internet sales represent more than 12 percent of total dealership sales C) Front-end and back-end gross profit averages meet or exceed that of walk-in buyers D) Average response time to Internet leads is less than one hour. In the coming months, we will share with you the best practices we researched over the past year through. Until then, in this issue, we are providing the 10 commandments of Internet sales success that every dealership should follow. These 10 commandments are covered in great detail in Cobalt’s eDealer Academy.

Cobalt’s 10 Commandments of Internet Sales Success

  1. Assure the total buy-in of all departments and management including sales, service, parts, finance and accounting. Be sure to include all departments, driving traffic to each, in your Internet initiative.
  2. Assign and train an Internet Sales Representative. Add more as the market demands. Seek an average of 80 leads per Internet Sales Representative.
  3. Organize the management of Internet leads to assure timely follow-up of all leads as quickly as is humanly possible. Cobalt recommends responding within one hour. Prioritize initial and follow-up e-mails based on logical probabilities of success.
  4. Build templates of e-mails to simplify the contacting process. Make it personal and warm, not too businesslike. Adjust your e-mail responses and follow-up to the proper personality type.
  5. Followup based on the manner preferred by the customer, but be prepared for e-mail to be the dominant first contact method. Use technology such as pagers, cell phones or auto responders to hasten the follow-up process.
  6. Use e-mail to set up the phone call in order to get an appointment. Maximize your phone call effectiveness. The focus must be on getting the client into the dealership unless a large part of your strategy is home delivery. Setting appointments is the single biggest key to Internet success.
  7. Follow-up as necessary. Don’t be obnoxious, but look for reasons to follow-up instead of reasons not to. Sending multiple short e-mails is better than sending one big one and waiting for a response. It may take a little longer than normal to sell this type of customer. Support all that you say with third party evidence.
  8. Track your effectiveness. Compare MTD, YTD, vs. LY. Track by Internet Sales Representative and by lead provider. At least these six items need to be tracked on a daily basis.
      1. Number of Leads Received
      2. Number of Contacts Made
      3. Number of Appointments Made
      4. Number of Sales Made
      5. Front-End Gross
      6. Back-End Gross
  9. Advertise your Web address in every place imaginable. Include it in all conventional advertising; plus look for free and fee-based online and offline opportunities.
  10. Establish processes to maintain the relationship with your current clients in order to assure their future business as well as seeking referrals from them. Exceed their expectations with high levels of service and follow-through, and seek ways to earn a customer for life.
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