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Phil DuPree

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Ten Best Practices for Closing Leads

 

I’d say nearly every Sales Manager has come across the “cherry picker” salesperson – on the front line or in the Internet department. The one who’s smarter than the process and who only needs to see the customer, or the lead, to make a decision on whether it’s a sale or not. As a result, his or her performance lags behind the leaders and costs you sales. But when asked why his or her performance is in the tank, the answer is almost always to blame the quality of the customers.

We see closing rates for Internet leads vary greatly from dealer to dealer, from a few percentage points to as high as thirty percent. While the original source of the lead may have a slight impact on the closing percentage, it’s consistently the process and the person that play the greatest role in maximizing sales.

Before blaming the quality of the leads, dealers should ensure these ten best practices are being followed:

  1. All leads are treated equally. Don’t cherry pick. Treat every lead as if it’s a person coming through the front door and follow a consistent contact process.

  2. Study leads. You can learn a lot from the time of day a lead comes in and whether it’s sent from a work or personal e-mail. Check to see if the person’s name is in the database & if family members have purchased from your dealership. Read comments and questions to see what’s most important to that person.
  3.  Immediate follow up. Every lead should be followed up within 30 minutes. We expect that as consumers in other industries, and the auto industry should be no different. Let the customer dictate how, whether phone or e-mail, and use that method as your initial contact attempt. Then follow up consistently. Up to 40% of customers don’t receive e-mails because of spam filters, so follow up phone calls are crucial.
  4. Persistent follow up. Over the last 3 years, we’ve seen the buying cycle extend significantly, with customers spending more time in the research phase before moving on to purchase. Your dedication to follow-up over the long term – and that’s as long as it takes them to purchase – is key.
  5. Include inventory alternatives. If a customer is interested in a specific vehicle, send an e-mail with alternative choices, including pre-owned vehicles. Very few customers actually purchased the same vehicle about which they inquired, with as many as 1/3 of the new car leads who purchased opting for a used car.
  6. Management must be involved. If salespeople must go to the Internet Director or Sales Manager for every lead they want closed out of the system, they are likely to try a little harder before giving up. And, just like a floor turn, the change of person nets results in many cases.
  7. Final e-mail for all closed leads. For every lead that is closed out, an automatic e-mail should be sent from either the Internet Director or GM’s e-mail address asking how that customer’s experience was with the dealership. The e-mail should contain a cell number so the customer can contact them directly. You’d be surprised how many customers call to say they were never contacted.
  8. Hold accountability meetings. Whether it’s a daily “Save a Lead” meeting or a weekly GM review of key metrics with the Internet department, accountability applies positive pressure. How many leads did we get? How many calls have been made? How many appointments set? The same intensity of management for Internet leads as showroom and phone customers creates responsible Internet salespeople.
  9. BDC “hot” handoff. If you use a BDC/appointment-setter model, ensure that every transfer from the BDC is “hot,” i.e. the lead includes specific information on what the customer wants. Nothing is more annoying to a customer than spending 15 minutes on the phone telling someone what they want, then showing up and the salesperson knows nothing.
  10. Confirm appointments the day before and remind the customer of a reason to come in – whether that’s confirming availability of what they want or simply letting them know you’ll have the right car ready and waiting for them to test drive.

Dealers, do you have additional best practices to add to this list? 

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