My first GSM told me that customers would tell me how to sell them – I just had to listen. I’ve carried that belief with me throughout my career and continue to find that customers – both sold and unsold – are the absolute best source of intelligence about the effectiveness of a process.
Recently we conducted an independent lead survey on behalf of one of our client dealers. The dealer was hearing from his salespeople that the Internet leads they were getting were “no good.” So we contacted the consumers who submitted leads that were forwarded to the dealer in the last two months. What we found was eye opening:
- Of the consumers who we contacted, more than 60% had purchased a vehicle in the last 45 days.
- More than half of all customers contacted did not remember being contacted, or were sure they were not contacted by the dealer.
- Customers who purchased elsewhere said they bought from the dealer’s competition because that dealer contacted them – they had the vehicle they wanted, a better price, or because of location. In short, the competition had given these customers a compelling reason to buy from them.
After seeing the results of the survey the dealer concluded it was the process, not the quality of leads, that was resulting in lost sales. If, like this dealer, you’re not getting the results from your leads that you’re looking for, you may want to consider asking your customer what you can do to improve. Some of the areas that consistently present opportunities:
1) Extended follow-up plan: It’s natural for Internet salespeople to view the freshest leads as the best leads. A few years ago, this may have been true. The majority of purchases happened quickly and if the salesperson did not respond quickly, they often lost a sale to the competition. Lately, however, the buying cycle has been extended. Customers are taking more time to find the best deal. Many salespeople haven’t adapted to this extended buying cycle and still focus only on the newest leads. Whether you use technology to automate the long-term engagement of your Internet customers or you expect your salespeople to do it, it’s critical to have extended follow up if you want to extract maximum value from each lead.
2) Customize your conversations: Customers submit leads for different reasons – many of which tell you their hot button or likely points of resistance. For instance, if you use a trade-in evaluator on your web site like Kelley Blue Book’s LeadDriver, some customers will choose to engage your dealerships by getting a trade-in value on your web site. When you respond, if you ignore the trade, you’re less likely to get a response and start a meaningful conversation. If they submitted a lead on a particular vehicle in your inventory you have listed online and they’ve got to pass three other dealers who have similar vehicles, let them know you’ll make the visit worthwhile after the long drive. Even online, they’ll tell you how to sell them.
3) Provide options: This may seem obvious, yet many salespeople don’t do this on a consistent basis. AutoNation recently found that one-third of customers who submitted new car leads and purchased from them ended up buying a used car. Just because a customer submits a lead on a certain make and model doesn’t mean they wouldn’t consider anything else. Savvy salespeople respond to leads by telling the customer they have (or can get) the vehicle of their choice, but they also submit handful of new and used options for the customer to consider, along with compelling reasons or comparisons to engage the customer.
4) Don’t give up: Have a process in place to discuss leads in sales meetings. If a salesperson has not been able to make contact with a customer before closing out that lead, have them turn it over to another salesperson or manager. You never know, the associate may click with the customer or they may have better luck.
5) Shop the competition: If you’re consistently losing deals to a competitor, test their process. Find out what they’re offering that you’re not – it’s obviously appealing to your customers if they’re choosing to purchase there.
6) Test your process: Before you close out an unresponsive lead, send a message from the GM (most CRMs can automate this). Keep it simple and straightforward, letting the customer know that you’re sorry you couldn’t get something worked out for them. Ask the customer to call the GM’s number directly if there’s anything at all he can do to help the customer in the process – whether it’s find the right vehicle or just listen to feedback. If the GM gets a lot of calls from this e-mail, your store may not be communicating effectively with leads before closing them out.
There are always opportunities to improve – sometimes it’s just hard to see them when we’re so close to the process. Listen to those who go through your process every day and you’re likely to learn, very quickly, what you can do to stand out, to meet their wants and needs and to gain market share.