I have worked for over 15 years in the automotive sales industry – my formal education includes a Bachelor’s in engineering and a Masters in marketing. That stated, I in no way intend to demean the intelligence or ability of any of the hard-working people in this business by the title or contents of this article. I consider this business to be challenging, exciting and extremely dynamic given all of the market forces driving change in the traditional business model. Personally, I am privileged to have been able to build a career doing something I love for so long.
The lead management tool, used by most Internet sales organizations, is a necessary and extremely important element to selling cars. The tool manages the prospect data, schedules salesperson actions and reports on key information like response time and closing ratios. It aggregates multiple lead sources into a single database. This tool and the invaluable data about potential customers is critical to the success or failure of any dealer who intends to be where this industry is going and not captivated by past habits. Here’s what I’ve learned in 15 years and by personally experiencing every lead tool available in the market:
The usability of any lead management tool can only be best understood by those who have spent time successfully managing Internet sales within a dealership.
Most of the lead management tools available on the market today have been developed by software programmers unfamiliar with the dealer or the sales environment who then consult well-meaning but unknowledgeable people about what their database should do. So those who barely know have consulted to those who don’t, and quite frankly, shouldn’t know how to manage and run successful internet sales within a dealership.
Which leads us to-
The result - most lead management tools are far too complicated visually and operationally for the people who use them. Multiple paths to arrive at customer data or to generate emails or complete scheduled events creates confusion, dilutes the training experience and kills the intended goal of engaging and managing the customer. It’s even worse for the manager overseeing the sales team who must maximize his time across multiple sales functions to try to manage a system with numerous complicated reports and multiple click paths to get to basic, real-time meaningful information.
Hence, the title - If you give Algebra books to a kindergartners and they color on the pages with crayons, who can blame them? They will naturally operate at the level they need to for their own well being and they will capitalize on the complexity and confusion to justify non-compliance to your Internet sales process.
Evaluating the sales people defines how you evaluate the tool
Being able to quickly understand and evaluate what your Internet sales people actually do during the day is singularly critical when selecting a lead management tool. How quickly was the incoming lead responded to; how many calls in what time-frame and what was said; at what point did the Internet salesperson turn the contacted but non-responsive lead to a manager, etc. etc.? DMS compatibility, Website integration, automated programming, and reporting breakdowns are all secondary reasons to select a lead management tool. Simplicity of the user interface, process creation, reporting and oversight are your primary concerns. Get references and check customer service availability, service uptime, response time and time to resolution as well.
Regardless of the lead tool, it’s the process!
Process management is the key to the ills of poor Internet sales in your dealership. This marketing medium will require more work from your sales staff and managers, but the net is dramatically higher. If you don’t have the same level of measurable control, results and accountability in your Internet sales as you do on the floor, find someone who can help you NOW! You’ll see dramatic results and run circles around your competition who has no clue on how to get results with it. The smart dealers of this market will get in the trenches and figure out what really works.
As a wise man in this industry once said to me - “Not every thing we do in this industry is wrong.” We still have to sell cars and make profit. How we get customers and manage sales people is changing. Select your tools wisely and beware of sales pitches and promises from those who haven’t done what you do, or who don’t use the tools they sell. Look through the eyes of a salesman / manager. In the end, they are the ones who deliver the sales or are hindered from them.
President and founder of Automotive Internet Management Inc.,
An Internet sales training, management and oversight consulting company.