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
Your troubles begin here: 'We hand the lead off to a sales person and they go to work". Internet Sales and Retail Auto Sales are two different animals, or they at least they should be and the later appears to be dying a slow death.
Your typical Retail Sales person is not interested in working with a piece of paper, has very limited Social Networking Sales Skills (outside of trying to get a date), is unable to create a compelling email or leave a voice message that requires a call back (again this is the typical sales person, exceptions are few).
You may want to consider developing a specialized Internet Department that is dedicated to delivering on the motivations behind why Auto Buyers prefer to make internet inquiries for vehicle purchases in the first place. Most car buyers use the Internet to avoid your typical Retail Purchase and to avoid the time spent wasted doing “If I could would you”. Far too many dealerships have simply missed the BIG PICTURE of what the Internet Car Buying Experience should be and is still very much far from over a decade in the making. The typical Internet Inquiry is handled as if it were merely a phone message in most dealerships.
The time that elapses from when the Internet Inquiry is sent and the time that it takes the Retail Sales Person to respond is typically hours! My experience is the Internet Car Buyer is looking for a vehicle to purchase no different than the Retail Buyer but they are looking for the best price "RIGHT NOW" before they “COME ON DOWN”, as well as the right Professional Sales Person to do business with. The last thing they are looking for is getting ganged up on at the dealer curb by three of your best Retail Sales People. Dealers have not turned the page on this process and many are sending business down the street before they even get a chance to say Hello!
Internet Best Practices:
1) Respond to all Internet Inquiries within 10 minutes with an Introduction Email acknowledging:
a) The Customers Intent to BUY! I have received your Internet Purchase Request for the…….
b) The vehicle availability. This vehicle is ready for immediate delivery……..
c) Confirming the vehicles Special Internet Price. The Internet Special Pricing for this vehicle is $........
d) Clearly Identify yourself as an Internet Sales Specialist
e) Specify your working hours and that you work by appointment only….. because of the great success (YOUR DEALER) is having utilizing your special Internet Purchase Process, we must insist that we schedule an appoint for your convenience!
f) Let your Internet Buyer know that will be calling them in a short bit to touch base with them and answer any of their questions before they come in for their test drive.
f) Request the customer Identify the preferred method to set an appoint to drive the vehicle of their choice (email, txt, phone,), compelling response!
2) Immediately call and leave the Customer a voice message with the exact same information that was conveyed in your email (you might just catch them at their computer). Remember, the content of Internet Sales Specialist 1 letters should be the same as Internet Sales Specialist 2, 3, 4 to their customers as well! Consistency gives the impression of professionalism.
3) Create a progressive form letter procedure that requires the Customer to respond in order to continue with the Internet Sale Process until they respond or are purged from your daily follow up. Typical follow should be an email and a call once a day for a week at a different each day. After a full week, a once a week email can be sent that keeps the door opened in the event that an unforeseeable situation has postponed the customers’ ability to respond to your inquiries. After 30 days the customer’s information should then be captured and utilized for cross selling campaigns within the dealership, (ie. Service Department, Special Sales Events).
4) Create an area within the dealership that can be clearly identified and belonging specifically to the Internet Department. An area that is as neutral as possible is best, open is preferred, if it looks like a Retail BOX, then it is a Retail BOX.
5) Every Retail Sales Person must ask every “UP”, “are you here for your Internet Sales Appointment”! Guess what message this question drives?
6) Have your specified Internet Sales Specialist clearly identified as such; Name Tags, Desk Marquis, Business Cards. Consistency gives the impression that you know what you are doing, professionalism!
7) Consider utilizing a two sided ledger for desking Internet Deals, the left side of the ledger is the Retail Purchase Price; the Right Side is the Special Internet Sale Price with the discounts clearly marked. Forego the 4 square process for all Internet Deals, it is a tool of the past or at least should be.
I prefer the Internet Sales Specialist write up the First Pencil, less any special trade considerations or financing needs. Letting the Internet Sales Specialist roll with the sales process as far as they are capable of doing on their own lends credibility to the Internet Sales Concept. This requires an exceptional individual who, if not already capable, can be taught Financing, Trade Appraisals, Ancillary Product Sales. Please note that I did not say to LET THEM do these subject matters, but they should be able to understand how to perform these tasks as it distinguishes a higher level of competency within the individual. Your Internet Sales Specialists should be the best of YOUR best without exception and not just another seat that gets filled when it is left empty.
No you have some real training to do! Good luck.
Mr Seyler - Well done.
Thanks so much Jeff ! It's professionals like you and everyone else that has taken the time to offer advice to us that keep me movin'. Thanks for your input and direction. Also , thank you because this is more than just sales, reaching is an act of human kindness (in which this world lacks so much.....) John
Yes I can empathize with your predicament.
Some questions you may want to ask.
What is our reaction time?
What are the statistics leads given to closing ratio?
Who is the most successful person in the dealership handling this side of the business and why?
What can we do differently are we priced correctly?
Have we looked at our demographic footprint are we in the strike zone or do we have to do you ring we bring can we make it an easier road for our clientele.
Can we offer a more enticing ,exciting unique selling proposition than others?
Where are are our strengths in this area ?
What are our weaknesses?
How is the sales staff morale and most importantly attitude to the lead?
Why are we going wrong have a brain storming session with all the execs.
When did it start going wrong or has it always been a weak area in the dealership.?
I often think of the movie Glen Gary Glen Ross having said this Alec Baldwin talks about ABC I say he has point however for me what is more important is ATTITUDE.
See It ! Believe It ! Achieve It! Having the right belief that the lead you have is something of value and that it was followed up with a follow up system track trace and revisit . Was everything humanely possible done to make contact with the client.
LEADS if you put these letters in another order they spell DEALS the right attitude,right price and a right now way of dealing with them may make all the difference,
Thank you Drew , that post was awesome! I am with you 110 % Love Glen Gary Glen Ross too! I wish they made an app for it! Thanks again John
John, there is a lot of great advice here, so no reason for me to repeat what has been said. One thing I did was to check my process vs the competition. I set up a dummy email account and sent in a sales lead to our dealership and the surrounding dealers. I also, shopped the top dealers in the US to see what they were doing differently. This will certainly give you an insight as to what is really going on inside your dealership as well as what the competition is doing differently. This also allowed me to freshen up my email templates that were being used. Good luck I hope this helps. Feel free to contact me with any questions.
I had another thought. You might try asking your team what they plan to accomplish when they call a new internet lead that has not been contacted. If they are unclear of their mission, they will fumble the call. Call me if you would like help on what their mission should be during their first call.
As Adam said, shopping your competition and your templates are good ways to learn. A word of caution, your competition may be doing things all wrong. I would encourage you to think about the purpose of your emails and your templates. The purpose of your emails will be to inform and to encourage the customer to move to the next step which may be to speak with you over the phone or to schedule an appointment to meet with you. Appointments are the name of the game and these are easier to set on the phone. The first conversation is also where you earn a leg up on your competition if you know your product and the benefits of doing business with your dealership. People buy from people they like.
Thank you Adam! That is great thinking and I appreciate that. That's workin' smart! John
Here's my take on the situation, it may be a little blunt but I mean no offense.
In order for you to increase your results from your internet leads the first thing you need to do is start considering them i nthe same light as a walk in or phone enquiry. I'm not a believer in dedicated internet departments because the average consumer will spend 11.5 hours researching their new car online before making a purchase but only 31% will make their initial contact via email, the other 69% will walk into your dealership as their initial contact.
That said, I'm also a big believer that if a salesperson is not pulling their weight and following the road to a sale, then they should not be given any internet leads until they are re trained. This leads me to the four step formula that will get your internet department flying.,,,
Step 1 - Develop An Effective Strategy
So, let's take our dealer hats off for a minute and look at this journey through the eyes of your customers. As far as they're concerned the "buying process" starts the minute they head to their computer and begin researching their next car. Therefore your strategy needs to start right back at your online reputation and lead generation vehicles. Without writing an entire essay on the subject, here's a few points to consider,,,
1. Can you be found where your customers are searching?
2. If a prospect lands on one of your websites or listings why would they want to make an enquiry (What's in it for them)
3. How can you start creating value and distancing yourself from your competition?
4. What can you offer apart from price?
It's at this stage where you MUST plant seeds that your sales team can use to convert the enquiries into sales and maximise your gross profits, if your prospects can't see what you different compared to your competitors then why should they buy from you.
Step 2 - 30 Critical Minutes
Ok, picture this a prospect walks into your yard and wanders around aimlessly for 5, 10, 15 minutes without being acknowledged by any of your sales team...you just wouldn't have it, would you?
But when a prospect makes an enquiry over the internet it's 15-20 minutes (often longer) before someone attempts contact with them. There is always a reason why your prospect makes an enquiry online and the reason always stems from the conversation that's going on in their mind (There's only 6 possible conversations when making an enquiry) When they don't get the gratification they need (answers to their question) instantly or have their attention diverted they head back to the internet searching for the answers (and finding more of your competition, making your sales teams job of converting them to sale alot harder)
So, what's the solution?
Well this is where you can use technology to automate a follow up sequence that starts the sales process off, reinforces the seeds that have been planted at the enquiry stage and deals with the prospects dominant reason to avoid buying for long enough for your sales team to make contact with them
Step 3 - Clearly Defined Sales Processes and Scripts
We've all been trained on the road to a sale for when a prospect walks into the dealership, but when it comes to an internet enquiry the process isn't clearly defined. The reason why the road to a sale has survived for so many years is because it ticks off all the boxes in your prospects mind in the right order to make the sale easy. You need to develop the same system for handling internet enquiries
Once you've got that system sorted out, you need to develop the scripts that your sales team will follow and then invest the time and money to train them on the right phone handling and follow up techniques.
The single most critical component in your internet sales department is how the initial phone call is handled, dealers that don't make phone contact with leads within 30 minutes (within business hours) will never make contact with 30% of their leads, so timing is important, however achieving the right outcome from that initial phone call will make or break the outcome of the sale
Step 4 - Measure, Test & Keep Them Accountable
AS the sales manager you need to be keeping accurate track of the number of incoming leads for each member of your sales team, the appointments they generate and the deals they close as well as a few other key pieces of information. Even though you wear many hats if you want to change the culture of your sales team you need to be relentless in monitoring their stats.
I would also arrange all outbound sales calls to be recorded, reviewed at least once a week and used for training purposes.
Anyway John, hope this helps. My franchise network works with over 600 dealers throughout Australia and we set the minimum benchmark for internet enquiry to sales conversions of 25%, with our top performing dealers averaging just under 40% (with between 150-350 enquiries per month)
Thanks that was strong! John
Time is somewhat of a factor but actually not the most important......It is first one to a relationship...not first one to respond. We take deals from stores all the time and were not the first to speak to the client.
#1 You need to have a process in place...if you do not have something to track then you have nothing to follow.
#2 Are your people trained on how to talk to an Internet shopper? If they do not understand that customer is a lot different then a customer walking in...then you will lose to a better trained competitor.
#3 You mentioned you are not getting a responses. Look at the emails....is there a call to action? Is there a reason for that customer to respond to your emails? Or do your emails have written in them 10 different ways of telling the customer to just come in and you will make them a great deal?
#4 Listen to your salespeople make the calls...What is the tone in the voice? What is the message? By the way, it is okay to actually not leave a message the first time and wait a few hours and call again.
#5 If you do not have a lot of experience with handling the internet....get someone on payroll that is. Recruit and pay for an Internet Manager or Director. Consider this...if more customers are on the internet then not...then why hire salespeople and fill your floor with people who are not ready to communicate with Internet minded customers.
I manage 2 locations.....When I took over 1 location it had 1 Internet person and 4 retail sales people...today it has 5 salespeople still...and all are on the internet....they also take walk in traffic on a rotation basis. We have tripled the Gross and units even after making it an Internet destination....It took 2 years to complete the transition...so no matter where you are now...change can happen...but you need to work today to start that change. I wish you good luck and happy selling out there!
Are your people using more than one number when they call internet prospects? Robert Hildreth brought up a great point about leaving messages not being a requirement of the business on the first call. Our team will always leave a message on the first call, but we also have tricks for using multiple phone numbers when I struggle to reach someone. I rarely will leave a message from these other numbers. Occasionally someone will call back out of sheer curiosity. Cell phones work for this, but we have another strategy that is extremely effective. Sorry, but we can't share all our secrets!