Are you completely buttoned down in your sales processes to manage the 12 key steps in Internet sales?
At my company, for the past three years we have closely studied the Internet sales process. By observing our dealer customers across the country, we have begun to discern best practices that consistently deliver superior results. Our goal is to support the industry’s search for best practice, and so we want to share what we learn.
Achieving optimal sales results is a function of process execution and quality. There are 12 process steps, and in order to drive to outstanding results each step has to be executed. Not just that, each step must be executed well. It’s that combination of process execution and quality that will differentiate the winners from the losers.
So what are the key process steps?
- Respond to an Internet lead with a multi-vehicle price quote in 10 minutes.
- If there is a phone number in the lead, call the customer in 10 minutes.
- If there is no phone number in the lead, e-mail the customer in 10 minutes and request a phone number.
- If the customer e-mails back their phone number, give them a call within 10 minutes.
- If you reach the customer, go through a nine-point call script leading to an appointment request.
- If you don’t reach the customer, leave a compelling, short voice mail and begin 2X / day, five-day follow-up calling process.
- If customer doesn’t e-mail you their phone number, go through nine-point script via e-mail, and seek to win an appointment.
- If you can’t win an appointment in five days, leave it to a compelling, transactional automated follow-up e-mail campaign to try to draw the customer into the purchase process.
- If an appointment is set, e-mail and call for confirmation the day before.
- If the appointment doesn’t show up, e-mail and call to follow up and seek to answer more questions or confirm an new appointment date / time.
- If your follow-up campaign yields a reactivation, call / e-mail the reactivated customer within 10 minutes and follow the process towards an appointment.
- If an appointment shows up, have them ask specifically for you and be there for the meet / greet / lot walk / test drive / sale.
Each of these steps merit more detail
The 10 minute, multi-vehicle price quote is key. It differentiates you from the competition on responsiveness and service quality, while changing the discussion from “can you beat the other guy’s price” (an adversarial conversation) to “do I want new or used, navigation system or not, what can I afford,” etc (a consultative conversation). In achieving this step, it is best to seek a technology solution so you can deliver these personalized, multi-vehicle quotes to the customer with quality, every single time.
Make the phone call in 10 minutes! All this talk about “call in less than 2 hours” is simply off base. The consumer has expressed their interest. They have engaged you, the dealer. Every minute you ignore them is a minute lost to that customer’s other priorities. Don’t let them move on! Engage them right away.
Of course, the issue is that it’s hard to do given dealership realities. To achieve this outcome requires structure and focus. Structurally, a smaller dealership may give its receptionist the assignment of making the initial call back right away on Internet leads, with a $10 bonus for every confirmed appointment. In a larger dealership, a separate Internet assistant or perhaps a BDC can take on this role. Here’s a key point: it’s not realistic for the sales rep to get back that quickly given test drives and other priorities. Get someone else to make that first contact. Then transition over to the sales rep for follow-up if the first call results in a voice mail.
If there is no phone number, e-mail the customer. Keep it short, to the point:
“(CUSTOMER NAME), I just sent you an e-mail with some alternative vehicles for you to consider. Would like to take you through these choices while they’re still available, so I can get a better understanding of exactly what you’re in the market for. What’s your phone number? I can call you right now.
Internet Sales Manager.”
If the customer e-mails their phone number, call the customer right away — no more than 10 minutes.
If you reach the customer, recognize that a live conversation with a customer is precious. Don’t waste the opportunity! Authoritatively and collaboratively, walk through the nine key points that will tell you whether this is a customer you want to do business with:
1. Formally introduce yourself and your dealership.
2. Present the reason for call.
3. Explain dealership’s selling process.
4. Go over the multi-vehicle price quote in detail including value selling the pre-owned options.
5. Compare the features and benefits of the alternative vehicles shown in quote.
6. Discuss financing options, including completion of a credit app.
7. Confirm customer’s purchase time frame.
8. Confirm whether customer wants a trade-in.
9. Set up an appointment for a test drive.
If you don’t reach the customer, leave a compelling voice mail that goes something like this:
“Hi this is John Doe, sales assistant from DEALERSHIP calling regarding your request for a quote on a _______. Our Internet sales manager _________ sent you an e-mail a few minutes ago with a number of alternative vehicles, and HE/SHE would like to go over them with you while the vehicles are still available. Just call ___________ and ask for ________, your Internet sales manager who can help you with all of your questions. Otherwise we’ll try back later.”
Then call twice a day – mid-morning and around 6:30 PM work best – for five consecutive days, seeking to make contact. If you reach the customer, walk through the nine key points. If you don’t, after five days of follow-up, let your automated e-mail follow-up system take over.
If the customer doesn’t e-mail you their phone number, you’re left to e-mail communications. Seek to engage the customer in an e-mail exchange that walks through the nine key points. If you can elicit interaction, you’re much more likely to lead the customer to an appointment.
If you can’t get to an appointment, it’s time for e-mail follow-up. But make sure that your e-mail campaign is designed to NOT be promotional: ISP’s consider that spam. E-mail follow-up must be transactional – asking simple questions, such as, “14 days ago you sent us a request for a Toyota Prius. Are you still interested?” Then have action buttons that allow customers to reveal their interest vs. requiring them to send you back an e-mail. This is best achieved through a technology company that specializes in interactive follow-up marketing campaigns.
If you get an appointment, it’s best practice to both e-mail and call to confirm the appointment at least eight hours prior to the appointed date and time. In your confirmation, be sure to remind the customer why it’s good for them to show up—“I have set aside the vehicle you requested and will keep it available for your visit. With the hot incentives the manufacturer has in place right now I want to be sure your vehicle is still on the lot.”
If the appointment doesn’t show up, call and e-mail the customer two hours after the scheduled appointment time (no more, no less). Indicate: “Hi (CUSTOMER NAME), this is _____ from ____. I put down in my calendar that you were going to stop by for a test drive. I might have gotten it wrong in my calendar and so I want to check in with you. I still have your vehicle set aside. Are you available later this afternoon to come by?”
Perhaps you’re in the e-mail follow-up phase with a customer that never showed up. What happens when the customer responds to your follow-up with a buying signal? I call that a reactivation. Reactivations are more precious than first-time leads!
Call the customer in 10 minutes. Take the same approach as noted above for a first-time contact. You’ll find that reactivated customers, if responded to right away, will convert at a much higher rate than first-time leads, and therefore deserve your best attention.
Of course, it eventually all comes down to the customer arriving on the lot. You know what to do then.
The realities of dealership life make execution of these 12 steps difficult. It’s especially difficult to execute these steps with quality. The best dealerships are relentless in pursuit of perfection. They define their structure, hire, train, monitor, coach and reward in ways that support and advance process execution and quality. It’s ultimately an act of leadership, and if you commit yourself and your organization to continuous improvement, you will eventually become masters of the Internet.