Henry Ford was once asked why he visited his executives rather than having them come to his office when problems arose or he needed questions answered. “I go to save them time,” said Ford. “I’ve found that I can leave the other fellow’s office a lot quicker than I can get him to leave mine.” Ford knew the necessity of gaining information. He also knew that being more efficient in gathering that information would save both his time and also make the executive more efficient in their work.
Internet leads have been around for almost 2 decades now. As their volume progressed, dealers started paying closer attention. To this day, however, most leads – whether third-party- or organic – contain very little information and are often inaccurate. Customers may be willing to provide their email address to gather information, but they may give a false phone number. This causes dealers who are on top of their game to waste a lot of time chasing a squirrel.
Great dealerships will convert Internet leads into customers showing at their dealerships and a sale somewhere in the 10-15% range. The reason for that is that most dealerships respond to leads based on the simple information they have, which is typically only the vehicle they’re interested in, what the dealership’s “best price” is, perhaps what their trade-in is worth and, finally, what a payment would look like.
Different dealerships have vastly different strategies when responding to leads. Some dealers will send the “When can you come in?” message. Some will respond with a “best price” that includes every rebate and incentive known to man. And some will start an in-depth inquisition of the customer which can easily cease the engagement.
Just like that customer that walks onto a dealership’s lot, the more you know about the customer, the easier it is not only to sell them but also build trust. By providing a more informed answer to the consumer’s questions, the dealership is able to begin a relationship that doesn’t start on an adversarial basis. Consumers are already leery of car dealerships. As a survey by Gallup indicates, consumer trust in car salespeople ranks at the bottom of the list – right below members of Congress.
Dealerships also know that the more information they have about a customer, the more accurate they can be in providing information to the customer. , this isn’t always possible which causes friction from the beginning of the relationship when a dealership quotes one price yet is unable to honor it simply because of credit (or other) factors involving that specific consumer that they weren’t aware of.
Today’s technology has the ability to offer more robust information to a dealer so that they are able to respond to customers based on factual information and personalized to that specific customer.
Imagine engaging a customer after a chat conversation and being able to – in real-time, right after the chat conversation – being able to provide them with the information that they seek already having an idea of not only who they are but also what their credit score is. Wouldn’t that allow you to give the consumer better information? Wouldn’t it allow you to provide a better experience rather than having a customer come in with unrealistic expectations only to be disappointed and irritated when you can’t deliver? What typically happens then? Chances are high that they leave your dealership angry, go to the next dealership and restart the process. Only this time, the second dealership reinforces what you already told them, so they end up buying at the second dealership – and not yours.
Car dealerships are slaves to information. The more they have, the easier the sale is. The less they have, the more inefficient and the higher the probability that the customer gets upset, the transaction takes longer, and the customer inevitably leaves without buying a car.
Stop chasing squirrels and start gathering information in a more efficient manner by going to the customer’s office (to collect information) in order to provide accurate answers to the customer’s questions that engage you and without making them come to the dealership (your office) to do so. By making it a priority to find the right technology partner that can provide you with this information, you will not only engage more consumers but also sell more cars and be able to do so faster thus freeing up your sales staff to engage with even more customers.
And in the end, that’s what matters.
 Fadiman, C. & Bernard, A. Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes, Page 210, Revised Edition 1985
Author: Todd Smith
Todd Smith began in the business washing cars and eventually worked his way up to the General Manager of a multi-store group. When the Internet first launched in the car business in 1995-1996, Todd was there looking for ways to figure out how to use it within the dealership. It wasn’t until 1998 that Todd wrote the manual “Automotive retailing on the Internet”, which helped dealerships understand how to take advantage of the Internet as a business. Through the years Todd has worked alongside manufacturers, large dealer groups, single point dealerships, and automotive community vendors. Todd is an active speaker at many industry events helping dealerships understand how to leverage technology to achieve sales and organizational goals.