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(This post is based on an article I wrote for Dealer Marketing Magazine's March 2009 issue.)
In working with thousands of dealers, delivering tens of thousands of leads, and studying 1,000 calls to dealers from used car prospects, we came up with some key findings that will help dealers optimize their success with phone leads.
Our research found that nearly half - 43% - of the callers from our study actually purchased a vehicle within two weeks of making the phone call. And according to Cobalt’s 2007 Dealer e-Business Performance Study, most shoppers want to know two simple things: “Is the car still available?” and “How much is it?” Dealers who have a good follow-up process, including answering their prospect’s basic questions, will have good odds of selling the car, and doing so quickly.
Three Key Things to Do to Optimize Your Phone Leads
1. Ask for the appointment. In the calls we reviewed, 72% of the dealers who had an interested buyer on the phone did not ask for an appointment. Here’s one way to ask: “Yes, we have that car in the lot. I’m here today until closing and would love to show it to you. Does either 3 or 5 pm work for you?”
2. Suggest an alternative if the vehicle is no longer available. In over one-third of the calls (35%), the dealer did not offer an alternative vehicle to the prospect if their first choice was not available. Offer them a similar vehicle and then ask for the appointment.
3. Keep your voicemail system up and working. With calls placed when the dealership was closed, one-fourth reached voicemail systems that could not record the call, typically due to the fact that the voicemail boxes were full. This is an easy fix: Get a bigger voicemail box and check it regularly.
What to Look for in a Phone Lead Provider
Using a quality provider also plays a key role in your success. Here are some things to consider:
1. What is the time duration for a call to be “billed”? The vast majority of phone calls from serious prospects are over one minute in duration, while some shorter calls come from serious buyers who simply want directions to the dealership. If your provider charges for all calls, even those under 40 seconds, you should be wary.
2. Are calls from phone leads available as audio file for later review? Reviewing your phone calls can give you great insight into how effective your sales person’s dialogue with the prospect is, and what needs some polishing.
3. How does your provider ensure phone number quality? Unfortunately, toll-free phone numbers are often recycled, and you can get “junk” calls meant for the previous “owner” of the number. Make sure your provider doesn’t assign phone numbers until they are “ring free” for at least one month or longer.
4. Can phone leads be integrated with your LMT or CRM system for easy tracking and management? Whether they are form, email, or phone leads, you should be able to monitor all your leads in one central system. This helps with follow-up and in identifying which lead sources are high quality and which should be cut.
5. Does the vendor have lead “enrichment” capabilities? A provider that is able to append a phone lead with the caller’s address and send it to your LMT or CRM system is offering you a far superior lead than one who is not.
The combination of a rock solid phone lead handling process coupled with a top notch provider is the perfect formula to generate the highest closing rate from your phone leads.