It’s no secret that dealership website leads close higher than most other lead sources. While most of us accept it as fact, we rarely take the time to consider why that may be. We’ve all heard the rhetoric about some independent auto shopping websites pulling the dealer’s customers away using search terms and how research sites give customers too much information. We may not like that these sites exist, but they do, and for very specific, consumer-driven reasons.
Simply put: customers go online to answer questions. Sometimes, they go to Google. Other times, they know who you are, what you stand for, and that they want to work with you, so they head straight to your dealership’s website. Where they choose to go has a lot to do with the type of question they have. Understanding the questions – the reasons why customers go to different sites – can help you deal more effectively with leads from different sources.
I know. For years you’re heard, “treat every lead the same.” While it’s good to have a process to follow, salespeople should have the flexibility to identify where a customer is in the process so they can effectively advance the customer toward a purchase, just as they would on the showroom floor.
What kind of car is right for me?
Most of us are familiar with the buying cycle – consideration, shopping, and purchase. A customer in the consideration phase is more likely to look for general information, and isn’t settled on one particular make or model. This customer needs to determine what vehicles meet their needs and fit within their budget, so they seek out cross-make and cross-model comparison information and objective peer advice.
Websites that target these customers are usually information-laden, giving consumers a safe and objective environment to explore and, importantly for dealers, move further down funnel toward the identification and purchase of a vehicle. Having your dealership listed on research-oriented sites gives you a chance to intercept the customer before they decide on one specific vehicle or dealership. When you receive these leads, you know you have some work to do – to sell the value in the vehicles you stock, in your service, and in yourself.
If a customer contacts you from these sites, it doesn’t mean they’re settled on the model they requested – or even the make. Identifying what other vehicles this customer is considering can assist you in determining what you need to do to build value in your offerings and land them on the right vehicle.
What’s the best deal I can get?
Some customers make the decision of whether or not to a) consider a vehicle or, b) select a dealership based on the price of the vehicle. I know, it’s shocking – we’ve heard for years that “price doesn’t sell cars.” While it’s not a value add in the sales process, price (or payment) is often a key factor in a customer’s identification of the right vehicle.
Certain sites – mostly search-traffic-oriented sites – target customers with pricing questions. They promise to connect customers with dealers who can provide a price quote, or to show market values for new vehicles. I understand that the ideal situation would be for the consumer to call or walk into the dealership and ask for the price. Just like when you’re ready to purchase a home you ask your Realtor, not the seller, to pull comparable sales, consumers want an independent source of pricing before engaging a dealer. They want to give themselves the best opportunity to have a successful negotiation.
Responding to these leads effectively means having a sound pricing strategy. Is the customer in your primary marketing area? If so, there’s value in your location and the convenience you provide. If they’re in a competitor’s back yard, you may wish to be more aggressive, giving the customer a compelling reason to go the extra mile, literally, to see you.
What cars are available?
Some customers know just what they want, and their searches are geared toward finding specific vehicles that fit their criteria. They visit sites that display actual dealer inventory – and if they contact you, they’re not much different than the phone calls liner ads used to generate. Their first question is usually if the vehicle is still available.
When you receive VIN-specific leads, confirming availability is an important part of your lead response. And just like you likely do on incoming phone calls, you want to create both flexibility and urgency. Include vehicles of both similar style and price as options, and ask questions about what other vehicles they are considering. Communicate clearly that inventory changes frequently, and that, because of the demand, time is of the essence.
Where should I go to buy my car?
Finally, some are looking for where, not what, to buy. They seek out their peers’ feedback and reviews on the purchase and service experience at their local dealers. They search for convenience and ease of purchase. They value the relationship and want someone they can trust and rely on. They may seek out the OEM for contact information of a specific dealership, or they may send a request out to multiple dealerships, looking for a good match.
While it’s hard to determine from an initial lead or lead source if your customer is trying to answer this question specifically, just about all customers want to feel good about the dealer they choose to work with. What sets you and your dealership apart from all the others the customer could choose? If you know it, share it with your customers. If you don’t know it…well, you’re missing deals, so figure it out quickly and share it. If you don’t show these customers value in dealing with your store specifically, they’ll find another alternative.
So, how do you know what kind of customer you have when you first receive a lead? Since customers usually don’t tell you in the comments field, “here’s how to sell me a car,” you have to ask a question or two when you respond initially. It’s no different than the showroom customer. You greet them professionally, then you progress to a needs discovery – and what you learn there should guide the rest of the experience. But unlike the traditional showroom, your needs discovery questions might focus as much on the experience they want, where they are in the process and what sites they’ve been to for their research as they do on the vehicle they’re looking for.