|The backbone of any successful marketing program is effective lead management. A promotional campaign that results in an abundance of leads won’t turn into increased profits if your lead management process is too loose or haphazard.|
Some experts believe these processes should be customized for each dealership, taking into consideration it’s size, staffing, existing systems and sales goals. I don’t disagree that these factors come into play when designing a system, but a successful lead management program needs to focus on the needs of the customer as its first priority. Once you know the type of service your sales prospects expect, you can create the internal lines, resources and processes to support it.
So what do consumers want from a dealership once they’ve submitted a lead? First and foremost, they want a fast, complete response. In Capgemini’s annual 2007 Cars Online study, 40 percent of consumers said they expect a dealer to respond within four hours to a request for a quote submitted via e-mail or the Web.
The study also notes that very few auto buyers are willing to wait more than a day for a reply. When a dealer doesn’t respond during this time period, half of those buyers will go to another dealer and 17 percent will switch to another dealer and manufacturer.
Any lead management process you implement must guarantee a quick response. Otherwise, you’ll lose not only sales, but also the money you invested in acquiring the leads to begin with.
A four-hour response time is a good target (the average dealer response time is between five and six hours), but the faster the response, the better. Imagine a customer who expects to hear back from your dealership within a few hours, receiving an e-mail or phone call in less than one. What if the reply was immediate? The answer is that you would create an instant favorable impression. It shows buyers the kind of top-notch service and support they’d be getting from your dealership. It also puts you more in control of the sales cycle and helps shut the door on consumers who may have thoughts about checking out other dealerships in the area.
Remember, as the saying goes, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” The longer you take to respond to that inquiry, the less impressed that consumer will be and the more likely they will go elsewhere for a vehicle.
The other benefit to a rapid lead response process is that you’ll start to see a higher lead-to-sales conversion rate, which means more profits for the dealership. As an example, in the real estate industry, it’s been said that brokers who respond to leads within 10 minutes increase their close conversion rate by 250 percent.
On the flip side, a multi-industry study found that companies lose 90 percent of their ability to contact leads if the lead isn’t responded to within five minutes after being received. The report also notes that speed of response had a bigger impact on contacts and qualification ratios than calling back at a particular time or on a particular day. Although there is not a direct correlation, it highlights the importance of a timely response.
Let’s face it—most of us want what we want when we want it. Patience may be a virtue, but these days, who really has the time or desire to spend hours waiting to get a question answered? You can pretty much bet if an auto buyer contacts your dealership and doesn’t get a fast response, they’ll be off to the next dealer. In fact, most consumers end up buying from a different dealer than the one they first contacted. There are many reasons why this occurs, but a slow response to inquiries is certainly one of them.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that in any industry, the faster you get back to your prospects with the correct information, the lower the risk of losing them. In today’s automotive market in particular, you can’t afford to have buyers slipping through the cracks.