[This post is also a reprint of an article written for an industry publication in May 2008 saved here for future reference. That doesn’t make it any less true. In fact, I would say it is even more important now than it was 2 years ago.]
In this digital marketing age with more and more consumers choosing to utilize the Internet to assist in making their automobile purchasing decisions, it is increasingly important to monitor the activity within your Internet departments.
Judging the effectiveness of your Internet traffic cannot be done solely by valuating its production. Whether you are using third-party lead providers or driving traffic to your own website or a combination of the two, you need to be aware of what’s going on with the leads. Just like you look at how your ups are being worked by your salespeople, closers, or sales managers; you should know what’s going on with your Internet ups.
What most dealers forget to include in evaluating their Internet departments and/or where the budget is being spent to provide leads are the most basic factors imaginable:
1. Are my Internet managers working the leads properly?
2. Do I have a process in place that I can use to hold them accountable?
It’s important to have processes just like any sales force has. Would you expect your salespeople to take a customer on a test drive before writing them up? Of course you would.
Internet leads are ups in the same way as someone that walked onto your lot. In fact, you may get more ups through your virtual lot than you do on your physical one. There are many dealerships that have Internet departments that account for 30-40 percent (or more) of their business but this is the department that is typically the most neglected and least monitored of all departments by sales managers. Dealers pay a lot of money for these ups yet fail to work them as hard as they would any customer that had walked on the lot because they don’t see the potential of turning these ups into sales today. The mentality that exists, and has existed, is that this is a today business.
While we would all prefer to sell a car today (anybody waiting for the be-back bus?),I think everyone would agree that selling a car eventually is better than never.
Through my experience and observations, I’ve noticed that unsuccessful Internet departments tend to have Internet Managers that don’t continually work a lead. Maybe they call a few times over a week or so but then they just give up and restart the process on fresh leads. This circular pattern neglects the customer that’s not ready to buy today, but is a buyer. With most Internet customers being seven weeks out from initial contact to sale, no wonder you are losing business. I understand how frustrating it is for an Internet manager to call someone 18 times and never get a hold of anyone and never have any calls returned. That doesn’t mean these aren’t buyers, only that they’re not ready to buy or not enough of an impression has been made to earn their response. Just like any salesperson knows, you can give a customer every way to contact you imaginable: the dealership’s phone number, your home and cell phone numbers,your work and personal e-mails, etc., build great rapport and ask the customer in every way possible to call you when they want to come in and that you will be there to assist them and, despite all of this, the customer will still show up when they are ready to purchase without calling the salespeople. Knowing this, why is it hard to believe that a customer who nobody at your dealership has ever even met in person would do the same thing?
I’m a firm advocate of utilizing a business development center (BDC) to followup with your customers whether they are prospects or previous customers rather than entrusting your customers to salespeople who may or may not follow up with them. At least with a BDC, you can create a consistent process with dedicated people that follow up with your customers and prospect for your dealership.This simple addition to your business will increase your sales immediately and create greater customer satisfaction and a great first impression. Have you ever heard a customer say that nobody ever contacted after requesting information? How about feedback from a customer saying a salesperson never called them back after promising to?
By paying more attention to your Internet departments, Internet Managers and leads, you will be able to increase your sales within that department immediately, without any additional expense to you.
If your salesperson were burning ups, you’d stop the behavior. Why allow your Internet managers to do the same thing?
If you don’t pay attention, you only have yourself to blame.