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I’ve always believed that Internet customers have the same objectives—and objections—as showroom customers: the only difference is the way they choose to contact the dealership. So it’s interesting to me when I hear from salespeople who have different expectations from their Internet leads than they do from their showroom guests.
Take the classic on-the-lot objection, “I’m not looking,” or “I’m just looking but not buying today.” When a customer visits a showroom and a salesperson hears that phrase, what is the proper response? Get angry? Refuse to help that customer? Pass them off to a co-worker? Of course not. It’s pretty well accepted that “I’m not looking” is code for “don’t pressure me,” and it’s the first objection we train our salespeople to deal with when they start their career.
In such a situation, it’s generally accepted that the salesperson should immediately set the customer at ease. Acknowledge that it’s OK for the customer to just look, and offer to be a resource for them. It doesn’t mean that the customer won’t buy on that visit or that you won’t ask for the sale when the time is right—but they’ve told you the time isn’t right yet. So you work the process, build value in yourself, the dealership and the vehicle of interest, and take them as far as you can during their visit. And if they leave after your best efforts? Be friendly, offer to help with whatever they need going forward, then follow up, follow up, follow up.
Now, let’s say that a salesperson is sitting at their computer looking at a response from an email sent to an Internet lead. They read “I’m not in the market,” or “I’m just doing research right now, I’m not planning to buy for a while.” The salesperson rolls their eyes, complains that they shouldn’t have gotten the lead, and immediately closes the lead out. That’s the equivalent of a lot drop after the greeting.
Why would they treat that Internet lead any differently than a showroom customer? Here are a few reasons why the response should be the same:
1) Both showroom and Internet customers have to be brought down funnel. A salesperson has to earn the right to ask a customer for the sale.
2) Both showroom and Internet customers ARE in the market for a vehicle, despite their objections. Why would anyone take the time to visit a dealership or submit an online lead (which does take some time) if they’re not?
3) Both showroom and Internet customers have the same first-contact conversion rates. NADA estimates that the conversion rate for first-time, walk-in showroom customers is 12-15%. The average dealership’s close rate for Internet leads from all sources combined is 10-15%.
Wait a second, you’re thinking. Any decent salesperson can close 30-40% of showroom ups. Maybe even 50%. But that figure includes prospects from a variety of sources; appointments, referrals, repeat visits and first-time walk-ins, all combined. If a floor salesperson was assigned to first-time walk-ins only, they’d close 12-15%. We know that “the point” is the least-productive place to spend your day, and your planner’s where you make your money.
4) Appointments set with “be-backs” and Internet customers alike show about the half the time. Of those, most stores close upwards of 50%. Customers who set and show up for appointments are more likely to buy, regardless of whether they first contacted the dealer through the Internet or by walking onto their lot.
When faced with objections from Internet leads, some salespeople tend to give up more quickly than they would with a walk-in. But if they invest the same time and effort as they do with showroom customers, focusing on working the sales process and earning the right, they’ll get results. Make the customer comfortable, offer to be a resource, bring them down funnel, and Internet lead conversion rates will improve.
What tips do you have for the “I’m just looking” or “I’m not in the market” objection? Do you think the same tactics that work in the showroom are successful with Internet leads?