How do I get my sales team better at getting the Internet customer to engage or even email or call back ?

                 I have been in the car business for 16 years and currently a Sales Manager at a Buick GMC store in Pennsylvania. I am the only Manager here and obviously where lots of hats (New , used , certified , desk deals , appraisals , advertising , customer service , buying , selling ,  auctions , training , etc, )you guys know what I'm getting at...... The business has changed as far as how we interact with customers and engage with them in past years. The BIGGEST thing I'm struggling with is getting my sales staff better on e-mails and their phone skills (more so on e-mails). Our Lead Generation site has been very active and it's always a mixed bag of how "hot or cold" the leads are in that particular prospects stage.

                When we get a lead we stop the clock and immediately follow up the customer on their PREFERRED METHOD of contact (phone or email) whether they are on a specific vehicle or not. New or Used it doesn't matter. We hand the lead off to a sales person and they go to work. After the normal time goes by I , as a manager, ask : What's going on with such and such ? We enter all information into GM ONE SOURCE to follow up. But , it seems lately that every time I ask a salesperson what's up with such and such they say : Salesperson: THEY WON"T E-MAIL ME BACK or THEY WON"T CALL BACK. Obviously, something is amiss ! Are our e-mails not provocative enough ? Are we not making them curious ? Are we not being creative enough ? Are we giving too much information? Are we not giving enough information ? Are we not using templates? Are our templates too boring? Are our sales people too boring?

               Currently , the biggest problem is sales person accountability and that is my department. So, my question to all of you is this : Obviously , after lots of rejections , no call backs , no responses to e-mails etc. My sales team has naturally become timid , losing confidence and treating every incoming internet lead as "another waste of time." The lack of enthusiasm is costing me sales , I just know it !

             I need some help to boost morale and some ideas on getting customers to engage! What are we doing wrong? Every lead can't be a waste of time can they? I didn't think so, please help!


John Armstrong           THANK YOU IN ADVANCE

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Free training today by Sean V. Bradley at Dealer Synergy on Internet Sales Process. Starts at 2pm. Hurry and join!

Thanks Zachary, I missed the opportunity you offered me. I got swamped all day and finally hopped on Dealer Elite @ 6:00 pm ET. Let me know next time . Thanks again , John

Hopefully being swamped was good! For myself personally I like to end emails with a question to try and engage them. Give them options. 80% of internet leads buy something different than they requested information about! I like to give three options and a used option (new vehicle lead) and reverse for a used lead. 

Thanks Zachary for opening up my discussion! You seemed to start a great discussion and I've received many terrific best practices,processes and tips from many great salespeople who taken the time to reach out. Thanks again John

Remember this and I hope it helps. The majority of your internet leads are informational therefore once they have the information they were looking for they may have no further need of your staff at this point. At THIS point... So dont be frustrated, and just keep plugging away until you can determine whether you have a REAL up or not and dont give up! Any keep a "h***" card always if possible!

Thanks Bruce ! Very true. John

Here are some basics, with apologies if they're a little too basic:

Are your competitors sending prices? If so, are you? Is your pricing competitive? Time is money and the average guy who submits one iLead submits several iLeads. If you are at the bottom of the barrel, don't expect a call back.

I think a lot of emphasis tends to be placed on logos, banners, branding, videos, etc., and while there's something to be said for branding and interactive media slathered onto emails, nothing beats a simple quality response. Even though it's 21st-century stuff, it's also 19th-century stuff in a way: think of it like a Jane Austen novel. You are communicating via the written word. Maybe you're even romancing via the written word. What the customer reads is what they are going to perceive - it's as important as the proverbial handshake, possibly more so these days.

Did your sales staff use a spellchecker? Did they convey anything meaningful? Do they know how to use a comma? You have done your share of hiring, I am sure. When you are reading over the emails your team sends out, think of it like a cover letter to a resume. Are they sending out compelling reasons for a customer to engage, using language at or above the 6th grade level?

Perhaps what I wrote above was very slightly amusing to you - maybe you got a grin out of it. Maybe it's worth a snarky reply! And if I were salesperson, and you were a customer, I might be able to use that reply as the foundation of our business relationship.

If your floor staff consists largely of salty dogs, you might consider hiring a designated appointment setter who works closely with you, someone who may be new to the industry, but not to sales, and who won't balk at tirelessly working to get customers in the door (and who likes to talk over the phone and via email.)


Thanks James! Sometimes we get away from even the basic fundamentals. I appreciate your professional input! John

The first question I have is who get the initial lead. The manager, an operator, someone in the BDC? What is your process.

Here's what I did, and I haven't found anything better yet.

Get a volunteer that wants to handle all internet leads. Then, all internet leads, no matter their origin go right to that desk. Weather they come from a newspaper ad, an Auto Trader ad, your dealer website, they all go straight to that one desk.

The person who volunteered is required to contact the lead within 1 minute NO EXCEPTIONS!. Don't go to the john, don't go get a cup of coffee, RESPOND to that lead. The reason is, there's better than a 90% chance the person is still sitting in front of the computer. He hasn't had time to put his shoes on and you're already responding to him. NOBODY ELSE will reply that fast. By the time the BDC passes it to the Sales Manager and the Manager passes it to the salesperson,then the salesperson gets his/her coffee and gets the computer fired up, that contact is already driving into another dealership and you can't get a hold of him. Speed is of the utmost essence. If you respond and they're on the computer, that's a very hot lead. Now you have the opportunity to get their information and set a good appointment. The key is get back to them within 1 minute.

If you follow your current process for distributing these leads, I'll bet it's over an hour before the reply gets sent. Now, find a way to modify your process to get the speed you need to get the results you want. 

Some people say it's not practical to reply in 1 minute. Let me ask you, How long does a walk in customer have to wait on your showroom before he's greeted?

Thanks for taking the time and you are absolutely right , I had an internet lead we closed because simply we were the first to respond. Believe me , the customer was not local. Thanks John


Great questions John.  It is fair to say that internet leads handled improperly are a waste of time.  When handled properly, there is money to be made.  Money is only made if you are willing to put in the hard work.  Sending a weak email with no relevant information or value and then calling the prospect one or two times will yield average results.  The key to success on the internet is in the first call and the first email response.  From there, your CRM should do the the lion's share of the work to engage via email and your team should light up the phones on a daily basis at different times of the day.  I am always happy to share how we approach this for dealerships here at Auto iLead.  What we do isn't the secret.  Finding people who will DO IT is the trick. 


Selling cars on the internet is an art.  This art has been mastered by few in the industry.  Most first calls are way too short and they are never followed up properly after the first call.  If you think about it, many dealerships across the country have never had anyone who rocked at selling online consumers.  Without this super-star in house, who will train your internet team sales team depending on your setup? 


If you spread leads to all of your sales team, you are bound to have a problem.  Your number of reps (reps = repitition or practice) will be diminished.  Success is found through proper training and understanding of psychology used to comprehend the internet shopper (aka: the majority of the car buyers). Practice makes perfect.  Success is easier after many failures because we know what not to do.  Your management team doesn't know what to do unless they have experienced a large number of failure or have taken a course in internet lead management best practices.


If I could offer one piece of advice after reading everyone's comments to your post so far it would be in relation to what Mr. Dunn said about 80% buy a different car than the vehicle included in the lead.  Success is found when we ask proper questions to find out true needs and wants.  Few calls ever get past the introduction phase which is a shame.  The name of the game is helping people and providing them relevant information.  Internet people must be persistant and consistent in bringing new value and information to the table.  When listening to calls and reading emails be sure there is new information every time the customer is contacted and no combativeness by the salespeople.  This is possible!


Jason Mickelson

Thank you Jason ! I appreciate you reaching out on a personal level and offering your professional advice! John


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