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Bryan Armstrong

Bryan Armstrong e-Commerce Director

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When a guest comes on the lot, most Dealerships train their staffs to follow steps to the sale which are designed to build value in themselves, the product, the Dealership and its processes. Unfortunately, for all the care and concern we as Dealers show about how to properly handle a “live up”, very little of this transfers to the phone, owner-base or internet traffic.

Today I want to address specifically the bane of most Dealers’, the e-mail lead with no phone number. I would hazard to say that within the first two or three scheduled responses there is either a template being sent that enjoins the consumer to ”come in and test drive” or “call me so we can discuss all your options”. HOW CUTTING EDGE, HOW INNOVATIVE! I’ll bet it had never even occurred to the average Joe or Jane that they could actually just call or go in to a Dealership. Hopefully your templated generic engender will somehow stand out from the other 3 they’ve received saying the same thing and inspire them to get in their car or pick up their phone and do it your way.(Hopefully everyone is picking up on the slightly sarcastic tone here so enough for now…probably.)

Transitioning the steps to the sale to your online medium can be a sensible proposition if we approach it the same way. Let’s consider the first 3 steps of most Dealers i.e. Meet and Greet, Qualify/Build Rapport and Product Presentation.

1.      Meet and Greet- Though it’s always good practice to send an auto-responder in plain text acknowledging the receipt of the request for information, identify it as such and request that they add you to their safe sender’s list that you may follow-up with all the info requested as well as photos and HTML content that may get trapped in their spam filter. As a second auto-response somewhere in the 4-13 minute mark, remembering that you want to be on top of the rest of the mail in their queue, I would send a short missive introducing yourself as the consultant that will be facilitating their needs and gathering the information requested. At this point also include a link to your on-line credit application as well as trade evaluator page and offer to get them trade numbers and payment info if they wish as well. Offering to answer all their questions in one fell swoop sets you apart from the “What options do you have to have?” drivel that is far too common. Including a “Sent from my I-phone” (whatever your device of choice is make sure this matches what it will read when you actually DO e-mail them from your smart phone) hard coded under your signature on this template will further the perception that not only are you being transparent and helpful, but also personable and responsive.

2.      Provide Options/Show Vehicle- In this e-mail you should send an on-line brochure which includes photos and video as well as a price and any incentive options available. However, don’t stop there. Include as well a model just below the one inquired about as well as 2-3 CPO or low mileage comparable competing Brands that you have in inventory with pricing. This should be an approximate $6,000 to $10,000 difference range from highest to lowest thus demonstrating that you have a variety of options, are willing to help them save money and are not as vain and arrogant as to assume that they would not want to consider any other Brand. The goal here is NOT to be the lowest priced Dealer, whether you decide to be that volume Store or not, this stratagem is designed to establish trust and rapport as well as drive responses back to you.

 

Now that you have unobtrusively inquired as to their credit, whether or not there is a trade, and shown 3-5 vehicles, I believe it’s time for a demo, right? Chances are, by the time you send your first “real” e-mail inviting them in, they have already called or e-mailed to work a deal. You should have the info you need to deliver a vehicle. In the worst case, they are asking if it’s o.k. to stop by and take a closer look or maybe drive one or more of the vehicles presented, AND THEY THOUGHT OF IT THEMSELVES.

 

Transparency and providing more than is asked for builds value in yourself, your product, your Dealership and your processes. Sound familiar?

 

Bryan Armstrong is currently e-Commerce Director for VW Southtowne in the Salt Lake City, Utah area. He has been there 1 week and will be changing a lot of processes and posting updates, best practices, random thoughts, rants and vendor reviews as he goes. He can be reached on twitter @bryancarguy or e-mail bryanthecarguy@gmail.com

Joe Webb
Great article as always, Bryan. Regarding the auto-responder, you need to either engage, build value, or get them to act. You're right on with the plain text formal, but questions here ARE important. I love your idea of sending Get Approved and Value Your Trade links, but the goal is to get through spam filters. Links will get you caught. Now if you are saying that those links go out in a second email, then we agree. But dealers should do their darnedest to get around spam.
Randy Taylor
Bryan, a lot of valid points here. I "mystery shop". A lot. Every time, I get a mailbox full of auto responders that (in this order): 1st email: Tell me they got my request (from mfg site) 2nd email: Tell me they got my request (from dealer) 3rd email: Tell me that they will address my request. 4th email: I get a price or invitation to come in. This is generally the email I get on DAY ONE! If I shop only 3 dealers (I generally hit 4 at a time) I'll get at least 12 emails on the first day. Wonder why folks opt out of our marketing or choose not to answer their phone? I believe that auto responders should only function when the store is closed and no one is monitoring email requests. We are our own worst enemy. Feeding a customer a buffet of spam is not accomplishing anything. It is all about the message. And most messages are way too long and full of information I don't want. Why does a customer send in their request? Shop around. They are promised a price. A PRICE! Yet getting a price is often like sitting through a timeshare (no offense to timeshare folks) presentation. Or as Steven Wright said: "When I was a kid, we had a quicksand box. I was an only child. Eventually!". Between management wanting to send out a daily email blast and useless, pointless "spam" emails being sent out just to satisfy having a "campaign", we are just shooting ourselves in the foot. Daily. David Kain says the best time to contact a customer has submitted a lead is "first". But it really depends on how good your "first" impression is.
Bryan Armstrong
"As a second auto-response somewhere in the 4-13 minute mark, remembering that you want to be on top of the rest of the mail in their queue, I would send a short missive introducing yourself as the consultant that will be facilitating their needs and gathering the information requested. At this point also include a link..." @Joe @Randy I agree entirely.This is piece was intended as a "Best Practice" though it perhaps should be called a GOOD practice. The point I wanted to make is that there should be NO DISCONNECT between the brick and mortar mentality of "always be closing" and the virtual Dealership. By following this process, by 11-13 min. mark every customer should have a custome quote in their hand and if they DID fill out your app or appraisal tool, the entire deal you are willing to provide. Get real, provide relevant info in a timely fashion and do what you say your going to. That would be my wish for any "take-aways" from this post. Thank you both for the feedback and comments.
Randy Taylor
As much as I would have said "Internet shoppers don't want phone calls" (and I believe there was a time when this was true), I believe the right approach can be made via phone to schedule an appointment before anyone else pulls the trigger on an email. Obviously the customer needs to answer, but a well scripted call or message left, for my money, leaves a much better impression than any auto responder.
VJ VJ
Absolutely agree on the less than 15 minutes appraoch on the second email. Nice post Brian!

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