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Jared Hamilton
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Trace Ordiway

Trace Ordiway Internet Sales Best Practices Consultant

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It’s odd how, in the fortnight that passes between these lite essays, the theme for the next one always appears out of recent dealer visits.  For example, if I write about lead response times it’s because, unexplainably, LRT became an issue multiple times in my visits during the two weeks prior. 

The issue that revealed itself this time is Over-Thinking The Lead.  I had some poor mystery shops, and from stores that should know better and do better.  When we looked for a cause it was, in most cases, because the salesperson overanalyzed the eLead instead of just responding to it.  And the more they analyzed it the worse the initial response and follow-up!


One example: my mystery shopper used a phone number that, to my surprise, was still in the store’s CRM from a shop a year earlier.  (My bad).  Their CRM caught the match (though nothing else – name, address or email address – was the same).  The salesman’s first response to my shopper was a phone message saying “I see you have shopped with us before.  The salesman who helped you before is no longer here, but I’ll take good care of you.”   Then I never heard from him again!  To this salesman I have to ask, “Is it not possible that my shopper was a real prospect who accidentally typed in the wrong phone number?”


Another grievous example: my mystery shopper used a phone number with an area code outside the state where the shopped store resides.  The salesman receiving the eLead ignored it altogether.  When questioned on it, he said his logic for ignoring the eLead was, “This guy is from out of state.  I can’t get him here for the appointment, so he’s not really a buyer.” Um, dude, it’s 2011.  Have you never heard of cell phones and a migratory workforce?


Of course, you already see where this is going.  By over-thinking (or dumb-thinking, if you want to look at it that way) the leads, the salespeople are actually cherry-picking.  With potentially fatal results.


The exact opposite is occurring at a local Texas store I am helping and watching with interest.  There’s no cherry-picking whatsoever here because the people responding to eLeads don’t know how.


The GM staffed a quasi-BDC with young women with no retail car experience of any kind. The belief being that, because they come with no preconceptions, they can be trained in the correct eLead response & follow-up process, and they won’t over-think or question the process.  So far it appears to be working.


We are only 30 days into the experiment, so I am reserving any conclusions until we hit the 90 day mark.  But I am very encouraged.  Keeping the young ladies on target requires a lot of daily monitoring and training, to be sure.  But most days I discover that the majority of leads that came in got a correct first quality response (FQR) email and a day one phone call.  Why?  Because the BDC girls were taught that lead response is a process, and that, without exception, they are to always follow the process.  Don’t think too much about it; just always complete the steps.


Since these girls knew nothing about initial lead response procedures we wrote out the process and taped it to their desks.  It is reproduced below:


1.     Respond Quickly.  Responding to a fresh lead via email in less than one hour greatly multiplies your chances of a reply.  Internet shoppers want info NOW, not 5 hours from now.  If an hour or two has passed and they haven’t heard from you they move on – and you are toast.  He who responds fastest wins. 
2.     Read the Lead.  With few exceptions (Autotrader T.I.M., Sam’s Club program, ZAG/USAA and/or other special purchase programs) all eLeads fall into one of 4 categories.*  Take the time to read each lead, determine which of the 4 categories it falls into, then send the appropriate response.  Don’t send the same response to all leads; one size does not fit all. 
3.     Fill-In the Blanks.  If you are using a template be sure the correct sections have been filled-in and any non- applicable wording removed before sending the email.  1st Quality Response templates usually have sections that must be completed by you before sending.  Take the extra couple of minutes and tailor the template to each customer’s request. 
4.     Personalize The Email.  We can’t stress this enough; your efforts will fall flat if the prospect feels that he has received a form letter 1st response.  (Day 1 prospects are looking for a relationship 1st, and a car 2nd.  Form letters do not create relationships).  Find some way to add a personal line or two to the email, even if the lines are unrelated to the car deal.  Say something/anything to let the prospect know that a real person has taken the time to read his inquiry and is replying with a personal touch. 
5.     Give A Price.

 - Not every eLead we get requests a price, true.  But do we always know what “Submit” button the prospect pushed and on what site they were on when they pushed it?  (Can we state with absolute certainty that the button they pushed did not say, in some form, “Get Your Internet Price Quote”)?  And how far along the path to the sale can you get before price comes up anyway? Instead of avoiding the inevitable, let’s present it proudly and be the first to do so. 

 - For those who do request a price you have no choice but to comply. If you withhold the info the prospect wants unless he agrees to come in, he won’t come in.  Period.  
But, there is good news: the strong majority of new car leads are non-VIN specific, therefore, we only need to give them price ranges for their vehicle of choice.  You can’t get in trouble doing that.  Also, when a prospect asks our price on a specific VIN he is often just trying to understand how we price the cars.  (Most people do not end up buying the car they 1st requested a quote on anyway).  And, of course, price is a compelling factor for the used car buyer.  So never be afraid to send a quote via email. 

*4 types of eLeads: 1). New Car General Inquiry, 2). New Car VIN-Specific Inquiry,  3). Used Car VIN-Specific Inquiry and 4). Credit App First.


We are working now on getting their Day 2 – 5 follow-up as good as the Day 1.  In a couple months I’ll let you know if the noble experiment is a success.

Lindsey Auguste
Trace, that's a really interesting strategy you've taken with the BDC. It sort of reminds me of Jim Bell's recent post about the Green Pea drive ( - the do anything, try anything attitude. When you come to work without preconceived notions of what will be successful (in any job, in any position), you can follow the scheme that has been effective time and time again Of course, you don't want to stifle creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, but following a process can prove beneficial because you're not cutting corners or assuming you already know the answers. Thats what gets you in trouble. I'd be really interested to hear how it's looking after 90 days. Keep us updated!

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