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This a serious question; are you ready to say goodbye to ‘leads’?
Let’s start with a definition; I’m talking about the traditional ‘form-fill’, email lead. The lead where a customer raises his or her digital hand and says, “Sell to me!” The lead that accounts for maybe 15% of most traditional dealership’s vehicle sales. The lead that signals the start of the sales process at most dealerships. You may be thinking, “Brooks, you’re CRAZY. Why would I want to get rid of LEADS???”
The reason is pretty simple; at most stores, the sales process doesn’t align very well with the customers buying process. My contention is this is the main reason that more consumers don’t submit leads. Think about it, what’s in it for the customer? They have really enjoyed the control they have over their research and their shopping process. They may have already begun the buying process mentally. The last thing they want to do is give up control of their buying process and let your selling process take over.
This is why major industry players like AutoNation, Sonic, and CarMax are rapidly moving to a more “transactional” web presence. They are still creating a ‘digital interaction’ but it is much more fulfilling for both the customer and the dealership. No longer is the customer saying, “Sell to me!” Now they are saying “Help me buy!”
They are replacing the 'lead' with something better; something that gets both the customer and the dealership closer to a deal. Whether it's finalizing price and payments, really appraising a trade-in or completing financing. The big change is that this isn't done with an eye on 'just getting the customer in the store', and then starting the "real" sales process -- it is simply working together to further the customer's buying process.
The challenge here is to work on truly aligning yourself, your dealership, and your web presence to the customer’s buying process. It will mean giving up some control and that is always difficult, but I think dealers that embrace this ‘customer empowerment’ will be rewarded with more sales, happier customers, and better reputation.