It starts with process

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Having a solid lead process can be the difference between capturing a customer and having them walk out the door

businessman_textingWell it’s official. The future is now — we just can’t underestimate the influence of “digital” on the customer journey any longer. Integrating digital into your sales process is crucial to your success.

Selling to today’s customer really requires you to know how to use all the various types of communication, everything from email and phone to texting and social media.

You need a proven process to help manage how your team engages with your customers effectively.

Path to purchase
The linear path is long gone. According to Google, as customers shop, they are usually hitting 24 different touch points — 19 of them digital.

Customers are using multiple devices, including mobile, tablet and desktop, and are researching at all hours of the day and night.  Along the way, some will reach out to you via email, phone, chat and text while others will gather their information and simply show up at your dealership.

The key to remember is they are visiting less than two dealerships. A high percentage of customers who land in your showroom are well prepared, have already made buying decisions, and have chosen you out of the many options they’ve explored.

During this journey, customers experience emotional peaks and valleys based on their online engagements. These swings in emotion go from excitement to distrust based mainly on their interaction with multiple dealers and research touchpoints. These customers expect quality engagements and a seamless transition from their online to offline experience.

Know your customers
To improve this critical transition it helps to understand the three types of Desired Dealership Experiences spectrum, which, according to Google Canada research, ranges from “a little help” to “lots of help.”

Customers who need the most help fall into the “hand-holding” experience. They represent 13 per cent of your shoppers and are generally first-time buyers who are looking for green vehicles. They have the shortest buying journey at 33 days.

On the other end of the spectrum — those wanting no help at all — are the “self-serve” customers. They represent about a third of your shoppers, and are typically males 45-54 who are often looking for pre-owned vehicles.

They have the longest buying journey at 72 days.

The third kind of customer which represents about half of your shoppers are those looking for the “facilitator” experience.

These shoppers have done research but still want your help in their vehicle purchase. They are typically women 18-34 who are looking for new vehicles. Their buying journey is about 54 days.

Engage with quality
As an industry we continue to struggle with providing engagements that express the very basic needs of communication.

After studying and scoring email responses over the last five years we see a clear and simple trend: engage with quality and you will sell more. This is not anecdotal.

We have studied the data that directly supports this. In your initial email response to the customer, if you:

1) Are professional and courteous;

2) Answer their questions;

3) Provide a price when asked;

4) Ask good questions; and

5) Engage with video, you will connect, appoint and sell to more customers.

Progressive dealers are also engaging through online chat, text messaging and social media. If done correctly, chat can be a great online tool for engagement.

Today, many chat providers turn chat leads into email leads. With mobile usage rapidly on the rise, click to call from Google searches and websites are cannibalizing email leads.

Chat, text and social leads are becoming a preferred method of contact, and if you’re not working with these channels, it’s not too late to start.

Follow a process
Having a solid lead handling process will drive your success to connect with more leads, appoint more prospects and sell to more customers. The key to connecting with your prospects is to provide a quality engagement that offers value, transparency and earns their trust.

Typically, the process is divided into an initial three-day connection push and remaining 11-day follow up phase. The first day should consist of an auto responder, personal email, personal phone call, video or text message.

Engaging on day one with auto responders is a good way to introduce your dealership during business hours, and after hours. The main objective of the auto response is to provide confirmation of the lead receipt, but should not replace your Initial Quality Response (IQR).

The next engagement is your first personalized email or IQR. Every lead is an opportunity, so don’t ignore it.

Like I always say — if a customer was standing in your showroom, would you ignore them for two hours?  No!  So why are you doing it online?

Always try to respond within 15 minutes of receiving the lead as this has proven to significantly increase your close rate.

Speed is important, but our research has found that a quality response will close at four times the rate. The trick is to find balance.

The power of video
This channel is one of the most engaging and highly impacts connection with the prospect.

Video is a vast communication channel and can be overwhelming, so we recommend simplifying and focusing on four video types for your customers.

A walk around video: This mirrors what you do with your customers in the showroom. This is generally used for pre-owned opportunities but can also provide value for new car buyers. These should be short, to the point and under three minutes.

The introduction video: This is a technique to introduce the customer to you or your dealership. This is generally taken from your desk and designed to express the experience of buying from you and your dealership.

An unsold follow up video: This is a great way to reconnect with a cold lead and provide additional value or reason to return.

Delivery follow-up video: This is a fantastic way to help drive CSI and encourage online reviews.

Pick up the phone
The next channel in the communication sequence is the personal call. We all use the phone but there are some quality techniques that will help drive a higher appointment rate. Connecting via the phone is crucial to your success and can be a challenge to master.

Here are a few pointers to help you improve your skills and set more quality appointments.

Control yourself and you’ll control the call. Be prepared for the call and anticipate objections. Scripts can help you build the skills and control but avoid using them as a crutch.

Focus on a five-seven minute call to set the appointment. Building rapport takes time and the key to setting appointments is to have an engaged conversation that builds trust and rapport.

Avoid this common phone mistake: never ask for the appointment before building trust and rapport. The customer may run.

Connect via text
The last communication channel is texting. This a growing trend that we are seeing expand exponentially. It’s also the most reliable way to reach your customers.

A recent Canadian study from Strathcom Media show 29 per cent of tweets are read, 20 per cent of emails are opened, 12 per cent of Facebook posts are read. When it comes to text, 98 per cent of messages are read.

To not be using this channel is essentially choosing to have a lower connection rate.

Bringing it all together
Implementing a proven process is your best way to win new customers. Always respond in the same format that they originally submitted the request, but don’t limit yourself.

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Canadian auto dealer