Fast, personalized, and relevant lead responses are the keys to winning in a competitive market.  -  IMAGE: Getty Images/APHRODITE74

Fast, personalized, and relevant lead responses are the keys to winning in a competitive market.

IMAGE: Getty Images/APHRODITE74

Our industry’s new reality is selling cars before they hit the lot and juggling stacks of vehicle orders. These are exceptional times for the retail auto space. Have your lead responses kept up? Stale, templated follow-up emails don’t cut it in today’s market. Now is the time to optimize your lead follow-up process by tweaking your CRM triggers and events to move customers down the sales funnel.

It’s true that customers have been lining up to buy vehicles, but a competitive market may be here sooner than you think. Recession worries, record prices, and historically low incentives are beginning to affect sales. Fast responses to leads, along with personalization and proper messaging, are crucial to optimizing the customer experience and win in a competitive market.

Before you have nightmares about sitting on hold with your CRM support team waiting for their help to change triggers, realize that top providers are making it easier to customize on the fly. Do it-yourself capabilities are making a splash. Be sure to ask your provider about self-customization capabilities that can save you a ton of time and allow you to react quickly if and when processes change. Following are three of the most common lead types with CRM triggers and messaging to get you started.

SHOWROOM LEAD

Most consumers who walk into your showroom have done a mountain of homework and are ready for a test drive, but there are still different outcomes that require different triggers. Customers who buy should be introduced to the service manager before vehicle delivery, and then enrolled in regular service communications, including reminders about a first oil change, via their preferred communication channel.

Customers who do not purchase require more regular and personalized communications. Set a trigger to prompt the salesperson to follow up with a phone call 48 to 72 hours after the test drive to inquire about the shopping experience and to offer help with the process. If the customer opts into text, it’s appropriate to continue to follow-up with personalized messages during the next month. Best practice is seven calls and five emails/texts per lead during a 30-day period. If there’s no movement, flip the lead to the BDC for long-term communications.

You can be more aggressive with appointment no-shows. Wait five minutes after the appointment time and send a quick reminder text. After 30 minutes, a check-in call is appropriate. No answer? Follow-up with a short text asking if they’d like to reschedule along with a scheduling link (if available).

PHONE UPS

Phone calls to dealerships are on the rise thanks to click-to-call buttons. This makes phone skills training more important than ever. Too many salespeople are still trying to avoid talking about vehicle shortages and instead pushing for the appointment. This is a mistake.

Customers can sniff out when you’re not being transparent, plus, vehicle shortages are all over the news these days. Prepare a quick script about the shortage, how your store can reserve a vehicle in transit or order “in demand” vehicles. Then, follow-up with an e-brochure with vehicle information and details of the ordering process.

Customers who order a vehicle require communication triggers based on vehicle status. Your goal here is to keep them informed on this high-value purchase. Two weeks after receiving a deposit, do a status check-in via email or text. Cadence at this point is store-specific, but I think it’s appropriate to check-in at the 30-day mark, when the vehicle is in transit and finally to schedule vehicle delivery.

Customers who do not order require communication triggers that nudge the salesperson to offer help with ordering, suggest other vehicles of interest, and generally keep lines of communication open. One personal check-in text or email a week for a month is appropriate. At that point, turn the lead over to your BDC for long-term follow-up.

WEBSITE LEAD

In this exceptional time, website inventory isn’t just what you have on hand. It’s “on-demand vehicles available for ordering” with VIN-less VDPs complete with all the features and images, it’s “intransit vehicles” available to reserve with a deposit, and it’s “vehicles in inventory.” It’s extremely important to make these distinctions clear on your website so customers don’t show up expecting to test drive a “ghost” vehicle.

Your lead response must be based on which category a vehicle of interest it occupies. For example, an inquiry about a vehicle available for ordering should trigger an email explaining the ordering process, what to expect in terms of timeline, and required deposit.

An inquiry about a vehicle in transit should trigger an email explaining what it means to “be in transit,” when the vehicle is expected to hit your floor, and any deposit information.

An inquiry about a vehicle in inventory can follow your standard follow-up process for internet leads, with the caveat that inventory is going fast so scheduling a test drive sooner rather than later is advised. Bear in mind, this is not a hard-sell tactic. When inventory is in such short supply, it’s prudent to show a sense of urgency, but not so much that you scare off the customer.

An overall note about automated replies: Rethink them or at least adjust the cadence. Too often a customer submits a request and seconds later receives a stale, bland reply that answers no questions or offers any value. These automated replies are a waste of time and usually elicit an eye roll.

Instead, work on sending personal lead replies sooner. Fast responses win business. Harvard Business Review did a study showing that companies that respond to a lead within the first hour are seven times more likely to qualify the lead than those that respond even an hour later. Responding to leads in real-time is critical to your success.

We’re working in an exceptional time, but a competitive market may be here sooner than you think. Use this down time to optimize your lead follow-up process by using self-customization capabilities in your CRM to tweak triggers and events. Fast, personalized, and relevant lead responses are key to win in a competitive market.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Biasco is a senior product marketer at Elead/CDK Global. Biasco has over nine years of sales, marketing and operations experience in retail automotive and has led numerous product initiatives from ideation through testing and commercialization.

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