The submission of an Internet lead is the first step along the trust continuum. Here, the customer is an arm’s length away, has submitted a lead to multiple dealers and is in a position to evaluate the response from a distance.

Specifically, the customer has asked for a price quote. It’s very difficult to execute a response within 10 minutes every time. The rep may be on a test drive, in the finance department, in a sales meeting or off that day. Fortunately there are digital response management solutions available that can respond to the car shopper rapidly with a multi-vehicle price quote. That kind of quick, comprehensive response sets you dramatically apart from your competitors, who do not even respond to 25 percent of all leads and whose average response time on those leads that are responded to is over five hours.

Once a quote has been sent, what you do next is key. Best practice is to get on the phone within 15 minutes of lead arrival if the phone number is present, or e-mail a request for the phone number (within 15 minutes) if it is not. Consider this: a study by MIT showed that if the customer is contacted within five minutes of lead arrival, a business is 100 times more likely to catch the customer than if the call is made in 30 minutes. Speed of response is really important!

If we make the 15-minute call response a must-do, the question becomes how. This depends in part on the size of your dealership. For dealers working over 300 leads a month, you can consider creating a position wherein the employee’s sole responsibility is to handle this first call. If the customer is reached, there is a well-thought-out script that leads the customer to an appointment.

For smaller dealers, it’s more difficult. In some dealerships, the receptionist has been given this responsibility. In others, sales reps have been equipped with PDAs and are required to make quick calls back to customers.

When customers accept your call, they have signaled that they’ve built enough trust in you to give you a full hearing. They are ready for you to prove that you can best serve their needs, so be sure to have a well-thought-out phone script such as this sample script of a powerful first call. These phrases have been tested and proved highly effective based on data from a call center that handles 90,000 calls a year.

• Good (morning, afternoon, evening). May I speak with (customer name)? Hi, my name is ______. I’m the sales assistant calling on behalf of (dealership name). We just received your request for information. I’m calling to confirm that you received my response. Have you received it?

• NO – OK, are you close to a computer?

• YES – Good. Are you close to a computer?

• NO – No problem. I’d be happy to go over the information with you. (Customer name), my goal is to work with you today to provide all the information you need to make a well-informed decision. Fair enough? Please stop me if you have any questions.

• YES – Great. As you can see, we’ve sent you (number of price quotes) price quotes. I’d be happy to go over your options in further detail. (Customer name), my goal is to work with you today to provide all the information you need to make a well-informed decision. Fair enough? Please stop me if you have any questions.

• Now, since you said this is a good time, allow me to go over the e-mail that was sent to you.

• Of the (number of price quotes)options we sent you, is there one that sounds like it will fit your needs?

Okay, have you test driven the car? (Take note of answer)

• NO – No problem. I’d be happy to get that set up for you then.

• YES – Great. What was your experience?

(Based on responses, one or some of the “9 customer-friendly phrases” might be appropriate)

The “9 customer-friendly phrases” are:

1. No problem
2. I understand
3. Allow me
4. I’d be happy to
5. Well-informed decision
6. It’s been my experience
7. I’m confident
8. I wouldn’t expect you to
9. Fair enough
Are you comparing any other makes or models? (Take note of any other makes/models; use one of “9 customer-friendly phrases”)

• Have you considered whether you want to finance, lease or pay cash? (Take note of answer; use “9 customer-friendly phrases” in response).

• What made you decide to send us your request for a quote today? (Take note of answer; use phrases)

• Do you have a trade? (Take note of answer; use phrases)

Summarize what you’ve heard. It shows you’ve listened and creates opportunity to ask questions you might have missed.

• Please allow me to ask, what is the best time for you to come in for a test drive? I have appointment openings tomorrow at 2:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. What works best for you? (Appointment time established.) OK, great. I’m confident that we can address your needs and help you make a well-informed decision. We will see you at (agreed upon time). Fair enough?

• Thanks for your time. Just call our Internet manager at (phone number) if you need to reschedule your appointment.

Here we have a comprehensive, powerful first call. The result? If followed by solid follow-up processes and a qualified, focused sales consultation, the result will be a significant gain in sales.

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