Is New Internet Coverage Policy Equitable & Effective to bring more sales?

Bobby Morales

What is the standard policy for Internet Sales incoming lead coverage? How many days should an Internet Sales Manager be covered after responding to an inbound lead? Do they need to make direct contact with the customer or is their constant follow up enough to qualify for a half deal, if they do not help the customer when they arrive at the dealership?

 

I have worked that past four years as an Internet Director and started with a staff of (4) Internet Agents/Managers. Yes, our Internet Agents actually sale the vehicle as well. I have seen the staff increase from 4 to 6, to 7 and now to 9 agents. This was done as our retail traffic has decreased each year. 

My motto with our (3) sales managers has been for some years now. "The Floor Ain't the Door No More"! - How true this is now. 

Our Internet Policy coverage for many years has been as follows: The internet agent is only protected if he/she makes direct communication with the customer either by email, phone or text. This needs to be documented. The good thing is our CRM (Dealerpeak) is able to show all recorded calls for each customer account, email replies and any texting as well. This makes it very simple to prove if contact was made. Once contact is made the agent is covered as long as good follow up is show afterwards. If a lead that was once contacted goes more than (7) days with no follow up and the person shows up; the internet agent is no covered if sold by a salesperson working retail sales. This was the policy until about two weeks ago. 

The new policy is that in addition to having to prove contact was made, the internet agent has to have back and forth communication every (7) days or less to be covered. If the back and forth communication is more than (7) days and an outside sales person makes the sale; the Internet Agent is no longer covered even though he may show many phone messages, emails, and text messages to the customer.  I now have all (9) of my internet agents clearly up in arms about this new policy as the reason for the change was one of the sales managers in the tower (We have three sales managers who each have one team and only get credit if a member of their team closes the deal). This customer came in and worked with a person in retails sales even though he had been having back and forth communication with the internet agent on more than two emails. The sales manager who only goes into the Internet CRM to see if an internet agent has coverage felt that the internet agent did not warrant being on half the deal since it had been 9 days between the last back and forth communication via email with the customer. The Internet agent had follow up after the last communication with 2 phone calls, 3 texts and (3) emails back to the customer. Internet agent also had been working customer for one month with a total of 10 phone calls, 6 texts and 12 emails (3 replies). 

Sales Manager spoke to two other sales managers and one of them agreed that this should be the new policy. Both of them feel that the Internet Agents have it too easy inside an air conditioned office and desk just making phone calls, sending quotes, texts and emails and working their appointments. They made it know that retail salespeople have to stand in the scorching sun waiting for an up to arrive and putting on their selling shoes. (they actually wait inside our air conditioned showroom and only go outside to greet customers)  Each of the three sales managers has (3) internet agents that work for them under my direction where they receive credit for the sale if their internet agent makes the sale. Each sales manager also has another (4) working as retails sales managers. Therefore each is responsible for up to (4) team retail sales people and they should also be helping out with their (3) internet agents if possible. Most of the time, the Internet Agents are helped out by the Internet Director (myself) as to how to obtain the appointment, what email to send and plan of action to seek an appointment. 

Please note that the Internet agents use a CRM that holds high accountability while retail salespeople use only a reynolds & reynolds archaic DMS system where the only ability is to place a note about their logged customers. 

My question is the following: It was difficult enough to motivate internet agents to do continued follow up on customers more than (7) days old and by promising them at least half a deal if they worked their leads correctly and made continued follow up along with making initial contact with the customer; they would be protected. Each agent has at least 150 active customers to persue for at least 90 days. This new rule now makes it mandatory that they need to keep constant communication going with the customer. Our agents are well trained to follow up and seek that appointment. By the way, the Internet agent has to prove contact was made by phone recording, email reply or text reply. (they are ok with this as it can be proved in the CRM system).

 

What their biggest gripe is that a retail salesperson is covered for (three days) as long as they have follow up such as notes in the Reynolds & Reynolds DMS system, they are protected if the customer is logged and is sold by someone else. My agents complaint is that many of the retail salespeople come in each morning and do no follow up but do update their customer accounts in the DMS by adding a note such as "left message". The sales managers will take this as coverage even though there is no evidence that the salesperson actually called the customer or made back and forth communication. The other gripe is that when work starts in the mornings; the internet agents are back at their desks making calls, texts and emails, sending quotes, booking appointments while the retail salespeople are just out in the front sipping coffee, talking about sports and what Trump tweeted this morning and just waiting for a potential customer to show up. Retail sales do not do much of a job of sourcing the customer either as it is not in their benefit to do so. As long as they close the deal; they receive 1/2 deal credit worse case scenario.  A retail salesperson does not have to prove they called the customer so long as they have a note in the DMS that they did make a call. 

I would like people's opinion on this scenario of how many see this as equitable and if this actually benefits the dealership. My opinion is that this rewards the people that are working the least instead of the people that are putting forth effort.

 

Derrick Woolfson

@Bobby - this has been an ongoing conversation, which has left each dealer creating their own 'version' of what an "internet department" is and/or does. I offer that several dealers have (or are) turning towards using BDC's. As 75%+ of the customers have been online at one point or another. Or in some cases, too, the customer that came in on the lot (but they failed to mark them in the showroom) completes an online coupon. Where your rep then gets the appointment. The customer comes back into the store, and bam world war three sparks. 

I do offer that there will be several instances where the customer will be contacted multiple times to just showing up. And if that is the case then I would agree with you - where, the rep who had been doing the consistent follow-up gets the deal. And to be honest, too, the managers should be aware and/or cognizant of the fact that after completing the main work-flow - the follow-up isn't going to be every day. 

How many internet deals do you do a month? 

Heidi Pooler

In my opinion, the retail sales staff should also have to use the CRM for documentation purposes.  Since you have call tracking, they too need to use it and be held accountable since we all know that they will find any way to trick the system.  With call tracking, it makes it almost impossible to do that!  In addition, you said you have texting in your CRM.  If they are not using that, then they are really missing opportunity!

Bobby Morales

Derrick, I agree with your opinion. The department does between 75 to 100 deals per month and we average from 13% to 17% close ratio. I require each lead to be worked first by text, phone & email method. Why, because my analytics show just last month over 60% of our online users were from mobile devices. Last year the percentage was around 51%. Our response rate from emails per month is around 6% to 8% while our response rate from texting is 30 to 35%.   

Our main rule with any lead is no coverage until direct communication has been made either by text,email or phone. Our issue is that our sales managers seem to side with the retail sales floor since they usually came from that environment in the past and never worked in an internet dept. and therefore do not realize the vast amount of work that needs to be done just to get a customer into the showroom. 

I totally agree with Heidi in that retail sales also needs to be on the same system in order to be held accountable. so far, this has not happened for reasons unknown and just the ideology "we have been doing this for the past XX years; why change it! 

I actually side with the "late" Alan Ram's idea (so sorry to hear about his recent death) that with almost 93% of consumers now doing some type of online search before coming in; that all salespeople should be back on desks taking leads, emailing, text, and of course calling. Each team can have one or two salespeople take hourly shifts to the front of the showroom for any walk in traffic that in most cases is now very little (especially if correct sourcing is applied). Along with everyone in the same CRM, the rules would be evenly applied to all and thereby eliminating a great amount of conflict. One of his most frustrating peeves was that he would cringe seeing managers do nothing about retail salespeople all standing in either the showroom or in the front doing absolutely nothing but waiting for an up instead of being back on the desk or phones seeking appointments and working their customer lists. My motto:  The Floor Ain't The Door No More! 

I read your post but I haven't read the other comments so maybe someone said this... but man oh man, what do you have for retail salespeople?? You must have a floor full of 30 and 40 car guys?? I mean seriously, if I had all my follow up done for me and all I had to do was help customers and close deals I would sell 100 cars a month! The follow up you are describing your agents having to do is what I would expect a professional salesperson to be doing... are you guys just so busy that there's no way for salespeople to do proper follow up so you need an entire department of "agents" to do it? Maybe one of the sales managers should step down from the podium and break up those groups and get them working harder! But I'm from Maine so I live in a different world I'm sure.... :-)

Bobby Morales

Hello Scott, the environment has definitely changed. We are a smaller based store that sales around 250 vehicles per month with a retail sales staff of now just 10 o 12 when it used to be double that amount. The Internet Dept. has grown to 9 (used to be 5 to 6). 
Follow up in retail sales is first difficult to control as their is right now no accountability. Retail sales only has to put a note in older crm indicating they "LM" (left message) and that covers them for another 72 hours. No way of know if they just wrote it to cover themselves or if they really did call to follow up.
 

Internet is different. each agent is accountable. All calls, emails and texts are recorded and therefore accountability is easily documented. Yes, you are exactly correct, the sales managers need to use the morning time (when few customers are on the lot) to get their retails sales people to work their leads by calling, texting or emailing. When managers are working more direct with sales people, all parties win as a team.
 

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