How to Keep Customers

Of sales prospects that leave a dealership without completing a transaction, 91% never receive a follow-up call or letter from the dealership, according to a J.D. Power study. So, it is not surprising that the national closing ratio is less than 15% for walk-in prospects and about 12% for all prospects (Internet leads, phone calls, etc.). This is despite the fact that every salesperson has been told

Of sales prospects that leave a dealership without completing a transaction, 91% never receive a follow-up call or letter from the dealership, according to a J.D. Power study.

So, it is not surprising that the national closing ratio is less than 15% for walk-in prospects and about 12% for all prospects (Internet leads, phone calls, etc.).

This is despite the fact that every salesperson has been told from the start that the first 72 hours after greeting a customer are critical to a sale.

Smart sales teams view 100% of dealership visitors as buyers, even if they initially leave without buying.

While every salesperson is expected to follow-up on leads throughout the sales cycle, the reality is that many focus only on the “now” sale — the customer on the lot at the moment.

There is no excuse for that. Today, customer relationship management (CRM) software lets sales personnel systematically follow up in less time with more customers, dramatically increasing closing ratios.

The sales staff, business development team and store managers must work together on automated follow-up plans for every customer based on their needs, wants and other information gathered during their first visit.

As new information becomes available (specials, new-vehicle arrivals, etc.) that can help close a transaction based on collected customer information, sales teams can contact the prospect and bring them up to date and back to the store.

Automated CRM systems give management the ability to check the status of every prospect at any time. This ensures that “hot” prospects won't turn cold.

Automated or not, many dealerships use standard follow-up procedures for all prospects.

For example, it may be the store's policy that prospects receive an e-mail within four hours of their visits, a follow-up call from the salesperson within 24 hours, a letter within 36 hours, and a call to set up a second appointment within 48 hours.

Each of these communications can be personalized to the prospect's specific requirements, from vehicle preference to financial situation. These steps can be integrated in the sales team's daily action plans or completed automatically, in the case of e-mail.

Once a prospect is converted to a customer, the salesperson or the business development team can develop a communication plan designed to build customer satisfaction and sell additional services.

A typical plan may include some of the following, all scheduled in advance to ensure completion:

Relationship Building:

  • Thank you letter from a manager.
  • Sales or business development team follow-up call to check on the customer's satisfaction with their vehicle.
  • E-mail survey on the customer's experience during the sale process.
  • Birthday cards.
  • Promotions based on family milestones where purchasing a car may be considered (a child's upcoming 16th birthday or graduation).
  • Newsletters with dealer and manufacturer updates and other information.

Sales Efforts:

  • Introduction call from the service manager.
  • Information on warranties, service and customer-service contacts.
  • Reminders for service checks, warranty expirations and extensions.
  • Sales promotions for service, parts and accessories.
  • Promotions on new-vehicle leases prior to termination dates of current leases.
  • New-car promotions, financing incentives and referral promotions.

Creating long-term customers is simple if sales teams adopt these basic practices:

  1. Collect and record standard, detailed data for every prospect.
  2. Present the best possible deal to the customer before they leave the store.
  3. Use technology for follow-ups to bring the prospect back and close the deal.
  4. Extend sales opportunities and relationship building with existing customers.

Richard F. Libin is president of Automotive Profit Builders Inc., a dealership consulting firm specializing in customer satisfaction and maximizing profits‥ He is at [email protected] and 508-626-9200.

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