If process is the foundation of superior Internet sales performance, then structure and people are what leverage that foundation to create success. Implement the right structure and people and your sales will soar.
What structure and people optimize performance?
Let’s start with the process that must be supported. At a high level, best practice is to respond to an incoming lead within 10 minutes with an e-mailed quote. Then someone should follow up in 10 minutes with a phone call. Then, someone should maintain regular personal follow-up for 5-10 days if the customer has not yet purchased. Then an automated follow-up process should ensue. Of course if that ongoing follow-up yields a reactivated customer, someone should call the customer in 10 minutes. Once the customer agrees to an appointment, then of course the key is for someone to confirm it the day before, and for someone to be available at the scheduled time, meet, greet, and carry forward to the sale.
Who is the “someone?”
Assuming you have used technology to ensure that a multi-vehicle price quote has been sent in 10 minutes and you have effective automated follow-up email solutions in place, the next challenge is how to set up your structure, internal processes and people selections to ensure the right “someone” connects with the customer at the right time every time.
Getting this to actually happen is difficult, because dealer personnel get busy. Things happen. Leads arrive when people aren’t available. And yet, an MIT study (across multiple industries) shows that you are 100X more likely to reach the customer if the call is made within five minutes of lead arrival as compared to 30 minutes. Speed of contact is absolutely essential. To achieve it, the key is to create the necessary structure, job requirements, people selections and processes. And the primary organizing principle is, “solve first for the 10 minute lead follow-up call.”
A key factor is dealership size.
If you receive 100 leads or less a month, your structure options are limited. You simply don’t have enough lead volume to optimize staffing for all hours of the business week. So every choice has tradeoffs. There are three choices available to you:
- One Internet sales rep handles the customer from beginning to end
- GSM receives leads and directs them to reps on the floor for follow-up
- Receptionist makes initial phone call then forwards to sales rep for ongoing follow-up
Of these alternatives, only the third holds realistic potential for the initial phone call to occur within 10 minutes of lead arrival most of the time. Let the receptionist initiate the call after the quote has gone out. He or she calls “on behalf of our sales manager ____.” She makes just one attempt; after that the lead is assigned to a rep for follow-up. The mission is to make the call within 10 minutes, ask the key qualifying questions, gather the key info and request an appointment.
It should be noted that this approach comes with a drawback: at times, the receptionist will be on a lead follow-up call when an inbound call comes in. In such situations, the inbound call must be forwarded to whoever else is available. Let the receptionist concentrate on the call she’s on—it’s a hot prospect, and the yield from a well-executed lead follow-up call is likely to be an appointment. With this approach, you’ll need receptionist coverage at least during the “sweet spot hours” of 10 AM – 7 PM 7 days a week. Pay the receptionists $10 for every filled appointment—that will keep them focused.
If you have between 100 – 400 leads, your structure options expand:
- Internet sales team. With a ratio of 100 leads per rep, we’re talking 1-4 Internet sales reps depending on size. Rep handles from beginning to end.
- Internet store. Leads directly round robined to floor reps, who have responsibility for follow-up.
- Internet sales director or GSM is the point person for lead forwarding to floor sales reps.
- Internet assistant supporting internet sales team. Assistant makes initial call; one attempt. If connects, seeks appointment. If not, forwards to Internet team.
Again, I find the final option best. The Internet assistant is in a position to catch that lead and make the call fast because it’s the only thing he or she is responsible for. And the faster the initial call, the more likely your dealership will be the one that establishes the inside track towards the sale.
If you have more than 400 leads, you can add another option:
- An internal BDC, which can sit in front of an Internet sales team or an Internet store structure.
Using a BDC approach, the lead follow-up call is most likely to occur within 10 minutes. Again, the BDC rep presents himself or herself as the assistant to the sales manager, and seeks to gain answers to key qualifying questions and to set an appointment. But rather than forwarding to a salesperson after the first attempt, the BDC can continue to seek the first live connection. Only after the customer has been qualified and / or an appointment set does the lead get forwarded to a salesperson. BDC’s also can handle ongoing follow-up calls.
Once you have decided on structure, it’s important to have clear job descriptions. Does your Internet sales director have authority to make pricing decisions? To buy or cancel lead sources? To buy a DRM (digital response management) solution? To change CRM’s? Similarly, what exactly do you want your receptionist to do? Your Internet assistant? Your Internet sales rep? Your floor rep? How you define the authority and limits of each job are vital factors determining the ultimate success of the individual in that position.
With clear job descriptions in place, it’s time to find the talent. At the end of the day, the quality of your people selections will be a much greater factor in your success than anything. In my experience, the best Internet sales directors tend to be comfortable with detail (they can “get granular” when they need to), are systems smart and data oriented. They also have a clearly defined process that drives how they manage themselves and their teams. And they are very good at executing consistent with that process.
For Internet sales reps, many dealers look for tech savvy people. This is a mistake. The best Internet sales reps are people savvy, and are effective at building relationships with people over the phone. The must have a strong work ethic and be results oriented. Of course, they also need to have strong product knowledge so that they can accurately represent the customer’s choice set.
At the end of the day, a strong process, right-sized structure and solid people will deliver you the results you seek: strong Internet sales and happy customers.