What are the big mistakes a typical auto dealer makes in dealing with Internet customers?
Matthew Valentine, former owner of Valentine Honda in Richmond, KY, who now runs an outsourcing Internet-oriented business development center service, cites four failings. They are:
- Not tracking Internet lead-provider results. “You want to know what your average cost per sale is,” he says.
- Phone follow-up is lacking. The typical dealer auto-responds to e-mails immediately, but the follow-up staff has a hard time reaching the customer on the phone.
- Sales people oversell and pre-qualify customers on the phone instead of trying to bring them into the showroom. This results in driving off customers instead of driving them in.
- Not updating website offers fast enough. Valentine says 94% of customers check dealer websites to get information before calling or visiting a dealership. “If your website isn't updated as new programs, new services and new products arrive, you're missing a big opportunity,” he says.
He says he sold his Honda store after establishing his firm, Automobile BDC (www.Automobilebdc.com).
“One of the things I've really come to understand is this that it's very difficult to find someone who can just sell cars, let alone someone who can make a live contact and sell an appointment,” he says.
A good Internet salesperson has the industry knowledge, communications skills and the Internet savvy to follow up and bring customers to a showroom, he says.
But sometimes, by default the wrong employee ends up in the Internet department.
“I know how it works,” Valentine says. “You hire a really nice person in sales, but it turns out that they're not a good salesperson. You don't want to just get rid of them, so you start trying to find a place. They have some computer skills so you think, ‘Hey, I'll put them in the Internet department. How hard can that be?’
“That turns out to be a big mistake.”
He says his company answers all e-mails instantly, follows up on leads, makes appointments and confirms them with the dealership sales manager.
The firm also provides monthly reports as well as documents names, phone numbers, e-mails and any customer comments that are part of leads.
“An interesting fact,” says Valentine. “We've found that most dealers are closed at the very time customers are looking for information on the Internet, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. And, according to our research, most prospects are not available during the day when Internet departments are open.”