Effective evaluation

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digital-driveA Google search of the term “Automotive Internet Lead Management” returns 27,000,200 results in .32 seconds. Suffice it to say, there are a number of different schools of thought on this topic and if you have the time to look through 10 per cent of the aforementioned search results, you have too much time on your hands.

I certainly think that the content of what you are sending to your prospects is of utmost importance but I also subscribe to the notion that having a defined process that your entire team follows is of equal importance. Once you have dialed in an effective process, it is management’s job to assure that the process is:
1. Executable;
2. Repeatable;
3. Defined; and
4. Managed.

So, what is the magic bullet when it comes to establishing an effective lead handling process? The truth of the matter is that there is certainly more than one way to skin a cat and if you find and implement an effective process, you’ve taken a giant step up the mountain. Many times I speak to dealers, and more importantly dealership employees, and ask them to explain their Internet lead management process and to rate its efficacy. The answers I receive are sometimes entertaining,rarely consistent, and often at times alarming.

One of the biggest problems I see is that there isn’t a defined process and it is left up to the individual who happens to be handling a particular lead. Oops!

Rather than telling any readers of this article that there is only one tried and true way of handling Internet leads, I offer a checklist by which you can self-evaluate your current process.

Keep in mind a strong system is crucial for your dealership’s success online. Does your Internet process achieve these seven items?

1. Quick response
Best practice dealers are responding to leads in less than 10 minutes and that does not include an auto-responder. Do you know your current average response time? If not, it’s time to put a measurement matrix in place. Also, a fast response is not enough. Quality must be achieved as defined in the following items…

2. Transparency in price, availability and trade
If you are not pricing your inventory “on the money” you are out of the Internet game. You do not need to be the lowest price in the market, but you do need to be in the more aggressive sample set to gain consideration.

3. Vehicle options
Statistically speaking, many customers ultimately buy a different vehicle than the one they submit a lead on. Be prepared to switch vehicles by showing the customer other great deals that you have in inventory. This will also help steer the discussion away from price and let you focus on the “right car.”

4. Advantages of your product, your dealership and your staff
The notion that Internet customers know exactly what they want is false. Internet customers are like walk-in customers, they need to be sold. We sell online by sharing knowledge and using links to quality content.

5. Appointment request via telephone
Your chances of succeeding with Internet customers skyrocket once you get them on the phone. Unless they specifically request communication via email only, use the phone to your advantage.

6. Long term follow up
Statistically speaking, many third party leads close after the leads are 30 days old. Manage a 120-day follow up process to capture the customers that you have reached early in their buying process.

7. Consistent sales process on the showroom floor
Once you have built a relationship of trust and transparency, you cannot switch to a model of hiding information once they show up at the dealership. Keep the process consistent and closing rates and referrals will both increase.

So, here comes the hard part. Does implementing a process and instilling accountability require a lot of work? Of course! However, as with most things in life, hard work has its rewards.

CHALLENGE: Interview multiple members of your team representing a wide cross-section of job roles. Ask them to define your Internet lead handling process as it currently stands. If you receive consistent answers, you are on the right path. If you get quizzical looks and a lot of mumbling, perhaps it’s time to break it down and start from the ground up. I will say with certainty that the journey, as arduous as it may be, will be worth the trip!

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