Let's look at three types of Internet customers and how to engage and follow through with each.
First there are the early prospects.
The Internet has made it significantly easier for customers to begin their shopping process. Gone are the days when they had to spend Saturdays going from dealership to dealership to “kick the tires.”
Many showroom and dealership management professionals don't see the hidden benefit to Internet shopping. It actually increases close ratios for customers who visit your dealership for the first time.
So, the focus should be making professional contact, engaging in innocuous qualifying, internally planning for a 45- to 90-day buying cycle through a combination of phone follow-ups and relevant e-mail communications, and establishing a rapport with customers that conveys to them that, even though they are not ready to buy immediately, they are a valued future customer.
Next there are the customers who are “seriously considering.”
This group is closer to making a decision. However they may not be deciding to purchase your products. It is important, through qualifying, to find out what other vehicles they are considering as well as any other unknowns that may prevent them from purchasing your vehicle sooner than later (i.e. credit issues, selling a home, waiting on down payment money).
This is an opportunity to send these customers relevant e-mail messages such as comparisons, safety ratings, and incentives that increase their desire to purchase your vehicle, create a sense of urgency to purchase and keep you in mind. This is not a time to start throwing money at a customer.
Finally there's the “ready-to-buy” crowd.
This is the favorite customer of all Internet sales professionals, next to the customer who actually buys. This customer can come from buying stages one and two or arrive as a lead ready to purchase.
These are the customers that should comprise the bulk of our appointments, however never be averse to closing a deal on the phone.
With these customers, it is also important to respond to price objections and not create them. Qualifying the customer properly will help you identify hidden objections and other factors that contribute to how you should be presenting numbers.
Throughout the customer sales cycle, whether it is three days or three months, always establish yourself as a professional and your dealership as the only wise choice for the customer to purchase a vehicle.
Create an environment that makes the Internet customer feel like they are receiving a different experience.
Create a customer-benefits package that helps you sell the dealership and offers products and services that your competitors don't. When you sell the benefits of the vehicle, the dealership and yourself, you aren't selling based on price.
Ask yourself the following questions after every customer phone contact:
Was I professional?
Did I get my qualifying questions answered?
Did I ask for an appointment and/or suggest next steps?
Was the customer receptive to my call?
Before e-mailing a customer ask yourself:
Is this message relevant to this particular customer?
Would I find this information to be of interest if I were the customer?
Have I checked this e-mail for grammar and spelling errors?
Am I asking for an appointment and/or suggesting next steps?
All dealerships pay the same for same-brand new vehicles and any dealer can match any other same-make dealer's price. This means customers often are making buying decisions based on things besides price.
This is why your dealership should be focused on strengthening variables such as professionalism, process, customer incentive to buy, and not on the issue of how cheap do I go to make a sale.
Cory L. Mosley is founder and CEO of Mosley Automotive Group, an online sales training and marketing consultancy. He can be reached at [email protected]