We often meet frustrated dealers, who are willing to spend thousands of dollars per month on additional Internet leads, but have yet to perfect their sales staff's ability to leverage such opportunities.
Make sure that your dealership has the resources, tools and personnel to handle the volume of prospects you're anticipating if you sign up with third-party pay-per-lead providers.
If you are going to get serious about selling cars to Internet shoppers your Internet sales staff will need:
A good prospect management tool that includes ongoing communication capabilities and customer management. Internet buyers' average shopping cycle is more than three months, so maintaining consistent communication is vital. Also, Internet buyers are among the most loyal buyers and represent an excellent referral source if handled properly after their purchase.
A solid foundation of Internet sales skills. An Internet salesperson who knows how to read “between the lines” of an Internet lead for response clues, and who can write the kind of response that builds a relationship, instead of terminating, it will have twice the response rate of one who lacks the skills.
Genuine management support. Internet salespeople need a clear understanding of their responsibilities and objectives if they are going to achieve maximum results. They need to know what they can do with pricing, off-site presentations, financing and leasing options and vehicle locating. Many dealerships fail to address these issues when they first set up their Internet department. The sales staff ends up with a policy-of-the-day mindset that destroys long-term credibility with shoppers.
Even with these needs in place, there are a maximum number of leads with which one Internet salesperson can effectively work. Our experience has shown us that the optimum number of leads is about 100 for a typical dealership Internet salesperson with all the resources described above.
This level of lead volume allows the salesperson to properly respond to all new leads received (including making the all-important phone call), maintain ongoing follow-up with older prospects, provide proper presentations to “hot” prospects, provide the kind of deliveries that generate high CSI results, and solicit referrals and future business from prior customers.
This should also leave them enough time to do at least one dealership mass e-mail like a service promotion, newsletter, rebate announcement or some other general event.
If you attempt to deluge the salesperson with more than this optimum number, you will probably be disappointed by the results. You may even end up spending substantially more money on leads — only to end up selling the same number of vehicles.
This chart illustrates the result of overwhelming a single salesperson with leads.
As the lead volume increases beyond the “optimum,” the quality of sales efforts lowers the closing rates proportionately. This is the result of the salesperson shortcutting the sales process and cherry picking the easier prospects at the expense of the more challenging buyers.
The result is that even though you're getting (and paying for) more leads, you're not delivering any more vehicles.
You can't always trust your Internet salespersons to tell you when they're over their head! It's the nature of the sharpest sales people to want a shot at as many leads as they can get, even when they know they're letting opportunities slip through.
Also, who wants to tell the dealer, “I can't keep up,” and risk having opportunities reduced?
So before you jump headfirst into the pay-per-lead waters, make sure your Internet salespeople know how to swim.
Al Amersdorfer, is the president of Automotive Internet Technologies, Inc. (www.autonettech.com)