9 Steps to the Ultimate Lead Follow-Up Process for Car Sales

In today’s retail environment, why are so many dealerships still playing games with customers? Sales Managers and salespeople dodge questions and push hard for appointments. They’ll also play bait and switch with website offers. Are you among them?


Playing games ruins your reputation and costs you sales —I know this from a personal experience. On the day before Christmas, I was going to buy Dodge Charger for my daughter. I went to the website of the closest Dodge dealership and saw a special offer for a 2020 Charger for $29,000. That’s a great deal! Other Dodge dealerships had prices upwards of $35,000. 


I called the dealership and the salesperson immediately asked for an appointment. But I had questions —how much does the car cost? He came back to tell me that with taxes, title, and license, the price went up $10,000. He also said that the car didn’t have paint protection so I would have to add that in too. None of this was detailed on the website. There was no special offer — it was a bait and switch. Trust me, I will never go back to that store.


Today’s customers are smart. They also know when they’re being played, so stop doing it. For the next few minutes, let’s pretend I’m the new Sales Manager at your dealership. Here’s how I would design the ultimate lead follow-up process:


  1. Answer every question. Give customers what they want before you ask for the appointment. Tell them the price, tell them about available rebates or specials, and get it all out in the open. You’ll sell more when you’re transparent and helpful from the beginning.
  2. Run a 30-day follow-up plan. Use your CRM to make sure every salesperson is following the process. One industry benchmark is seven calls and five emails per lead over a 30-day period. Test it out. If this works for your store, great. Fine-tune the plan as needed.
  3. Warm up cold leads with video. You’ve worked the process, but the lead’s getting cold. Now it’s time to warm it up with video. Write the customer’s name on a piece of paper, then film yourself holding the sign and say something along the lines of: “Hey Phil! I haven’t heard from you in a while and I want to make sure you’re taken care of, whether you buy a car from me or not. I’m here if you have questions about any part of the car-buying process.” Make it personal, upbeat, and above all, helpful. You will get clicks!
  4. Transition to BDC follow-up. If the video doesn’t get a response, turn the lead over to your BDC for continued follow-up. Don’t set an aggressive communication cadence — once or twice a month is plenty. And don’t bombard leads with boring emails or irrelevant content. If they initially contacted you about a particular vehicle, send specials for that vehicle. If they mentioned a current vehicle during the conversations, send service specials.
  5. Prepare for the test drive. The hot lead is coming in, so now’s the time to make them feel special and valued. Pull up the vehicle, make sure it’s clean and park it in a special VIP area. Grab a Sharpie, write the customer’s name on a piece of paper and put it on the dashboard. Now they can visualize it as their car.
  6. Shut up and drive. Don’t try to make conversation during the first half of the test drive. Let the customer take it all in, get a feel for the car and have fun. Do initiate a conversation during the second half of the drive. Ask what they like about the car, what they don’t like, etc. You’ve already done your discovery, so you should know about kids, pets, long commutes and hobbies. Talk about those things and how the car meets or doesn’t meet those needs. Build a sincere relationship where your only job is to find the best fit between customer and vehicle.
  7. Return to a VIP delivery area. Instruct the customer to park in a VIP delivery area that is separate from where you got into the car. This sends the message that it’s time to finish the deal. Walk around the car, pop the hood and trunk and answer any additional questions.
  8. Minimize alone time. Walk inside the dealership and sit down with the customer. Don’t leave the customer in the booth without you. That’s when the excitement wears off, or their companion starts talking about how the dealership is gearing up to play hardball. Minimizing alone time will really push your sales.
  9. Eliminate F&I, or at least stay with the customer. I’ve written about this before, but it’s controversial: Get rid of F&I and have the salesperson handle the deal from start to finish. I firmly believe that 100 percent transparency with one person throughout the process is the way to go. You state the price of the car, present a shopping cart of optional add-ons and tell the customer why they’re recommended. Open and honest communication is how you build trust and sell more. Not ready to ditch F&I? Go into the finance office with the customer and help them through the process.


Make 2021 the year that your dealership stops playing games. If you adopt these nine lead follow-up steps, you will earn more sales and loyal customers. Be the dealership that succeeds in your market because you treat your customers like friends, not competitors.



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