When customers walk into the showroom, what do we do? We greet them, right? They are greeted by a receptionist, if you have one, or by an available salesperson, but what happens when that customer isn’t greeted promptly? They are standing there, looking around, wondering why no one is happy to see them. As the clock ticks, they grow impatient. They may even leave. Even when we do finally get to them, we are now dealing with a different situation. Instead of welcoming them to the store, we start out by apologizing and making excuses.

When the phone rings, we answer it. Nothing cries urgency like a ringing phone. If we don’t answer the phone, what is the customer on the other end thinking? We are closed? We aren’t properly staffed? We don’t need their business? In listening to recorded calls that didn’t get answered, I hear the customer talking to someone near them saying, “They won’t answer the phone,” and in some cases, an even more derogatory comment.

Thankfully, these events are the exception. We have processes in place to make sure customers are greeted promptly and the phones get answered.

Now, what about that unopened Internet lead sitting in your inbox or the “untouched Web leads” folder in your CRM? How fast a response is fast enough? How are they different than the customer standing in the showroom or calling you on the phone? They are not different. It’s the same customer. The only difference is now he’s knocking on a different door.

Not only are they all the same customers, they represent the same opportunity. A good closing ratio for fresh ups is 15 to 18 percent, 15 percent on phone ups, and 15 percent on Internet leads.

We need the same sense of urgency with our Internet leads that we feel when the phone is ringing or a guest is waiting in the showroom. It’s easier for an Internet customer to move on to another dealership Web site than a showroom customer to leave and go elsewhere. Your competition can’t steal that customer right off your showroom floor. However, your competition can attract your Internet customers away from you with a speedy response and a warm, friendly greeting, either by e-mail or a phone call.

The first thing to straighten out is who is responsible for greeting your online customers. Just like in the showroom and answering the phone, it should be whoever’s available. Structure yourself for that cardinal rule. Dealers have elaborate work-arounds to this simple solution. Instead of trying to use technological magic or clever auto responses and templates to give the customer the illusion you are helping them, just train more people how to respond to the leads.

It’s time to evolve from the Internet department and become an Internet dealership. Would you assign one person to take all the showroom ups? If that person is with a customer, does the fresh customer have to wait? Doesn’t sound right, does it?

When Internet salespeople are working solo, who is responding to leads when they are with a customer or on their day off? Is it your desk managers or other salespeople? No one? Remember, you are competing for this customer’s attention, anything short of a full-blown response and phone call isn’t good enough.

Whoever picks up the lead needs to have time to send a personalized response. They should answer the customer’s specific questions (if any) and verify the availability of the vehicle. The response needs to include alternative vehicles as well, since customers frequently change their plans.

Next, call the customer. If your Web site forms have a “preferred contact” method defaulted to e-mail, change it to phone. This will remove any doubt whether or not the customer wants to be called. If they don’t want you to call, they will check the e-mail box.

Another factor dealers overlook is the number of fresh leads assigned to a person in a month. With each different structure there is a sweet spot. For example, with solo Internet salespeople, 75 to 80 leads is about right. This will allow them to show each lead enough love to connect at a high rate. BDC and call center agents can effectively manage around 125 leads. A showroom salesperson who is taking ups and working his database can handle about 40 leads per month.

These are obviously flexible numbers, but do not stretch them too far.  Many dealers correct the workload and quickly realize incremental sales.

In the end, don’t settle for a one-hour response time. If it doesn’t work in the showroom it won’t cut it online. Train all salespeople to handle Internet leads. Develop a process that allows leads to be distributed to someone who is available to respond immediately. 

Vol. 7, Issue 7