If you’ve been reading closely, you’ll know that I have been refining a list of critical internet sales success factors for some time. Here is my latest list:
- Competitive pricing
- Initial response
- High touch
- Happy employees
- Grow lead volume
- Lifetime customers
- Master social
- Continuously improve
The verdict is in: if you can execute effectively in all 10 domains, you will experience 10X Internet sales success. Let’s go through each:
The goal is not to maximize front and back gross margin per vehicle. The goal is to maximize profit. Profit = margin per vehicle X units. So pricing must take into account supply and demand factors, as expressed in the prevailing prices out in the market. If profit maximization is the goal, your mission is to price no greater than the average price for any model / trim. The average might be high, if it’s a hot item in short supply. Or the opposite might be true. But if you keep your prices at or below average on all vehicles at all times, you have taken the first critical step in 10X internet success.
The research is clear. Consumers expect transparent pricing from you, and if they don’t get it they conclude your prices are high. When you embrace a “transparency” philosophy, you empower your entire sales staff to share pricing and availability information with customers openly, at any stage in the purchase process. Transparency is the second step in 10X Internet success.
When a lead comes in, the best practice response is a multi-vehicle price quote, with up-to-date incentive information and full vehicle details shown, sent back from the assigned rep in 10 minutes or less on every lead every time. Today, less than 7% of customers receive such a response. If you can be in the 7%, you gain powerful advantage over the store down the road that also received the lead. And if you can follow with a phone call in 30 minutes, on every lead every time, you have taken the next big step in 10X Internet success.
The best practice follow-up process extends 14 days. It looks like this:
- Day 1: one call, one e-mail
- Day 2: one call (different time than first day); send e-mail; send text
- Day 3: e-mail; call
- Day 5: Manager phone call; e-mail
- Day 8: GSM call; e-mail
- Day 11: e-mail; call
- Day 14: e-mail; call
- Then leave to automated follow-up
Think about what it takes to deliver the following customer experience:
- Customer sends in a request for quote
- Multi-vehicle quote sent in 10 minutes
- First phone call in 30 minutes
- 14-day follow-up process
- Test drive scheduled
- Appointment confirmed
- Customer arrives; professional meet/greet/sale process
- Efficient F&I
- Efficient, informative delivery
- After-delivery follow-up
- Dealer survey to rate experience
- Request of those who rate highly to post online
Now think about the modifications required for a phone-up (answer on second ring), a live chat (respond within 30 seconds), and a walk-in walkaway (follow up with quote on vehicle of interest). The reality is that delivering a high-touch customer experience consistently—every customer, every time– requires extensive work with structure, staffing, processes, training and tools. For each scenario (internet lead, phone-up, live chat, walk-in walkaway), think in terms of structure and roles (who is responsible?), staffing times and levels (can we meet the service level requirement?), training (what do my folks need to know to perform well?), tools and partnerships (can a tool or partner do it better or less expensively than me?). Delivering “high touch” is about detailed planning and careful execution. Take the time to do it well, and you will be well down the road towards 10X dealer success.
If you have created the structure, roles, skills, tools and partnerships necessary to deliver a high touch customer experience, you are ready to work on your culture. Happy employees create happy customers. Happy customers drive up CSI, improve your social ratings, win you better inventory allocations and allow you to grow your profits. Survey your employees: do they feel fairly compensated? Do they understand what’s expected of them? Do they feel well trained? Do they trust their superior? Do they feel good about the culture of the dealership?
If you are tuned into your employees’ needs, and seek to align the dealership’s goals with the goals of your team, you will have taken another key step on the road towards 10X Internet success.
Grow lead volume
There are four key drivers of lead volume:
- Pre-owned merchandising
- Dealer website SEO/SEM
- Third-party lead providers
- Promotion plan
Fully leverage your pre-owned inventory. Always price every vehicle, using vAuto, FirstLook or AAX to price competitively. Include at least 25 photos per vehicle. Write seller’s notes on all vehicles and turn photos into video, whenever possible. Showcase your CPO status. And populate your inventory everywhere: your website, Cars.com, Autotrader, Craigslist, and your Facebook page for starters.
Optimize SEO and SEM. Find a consultant to help you on this. Take full advantage of the potential of your website to attract visitors by optimizing key words, links and content so as to drive up your page rank. Test SEM programs, optimizing cost /return until it’s driving maximum value for you.
Take full advantage of third party lead providers. Each lead provider has quirks that create opportunity. Some lead providers allow you to expand or contract your radius—test constantly so as to optimize.
You’re a retailer. Build a promotion plan! Turn every holiday into a promotional event driven by email marketing, and then create some of your own (i.e. Truck Month). Create a newsletter. Present promotional offers, and test the results so you can improve over time.
These steps are sure to drive up your lead volume, another key stepping stone on the road to 10X Internet success.
Your opportunity does not stop when you sell a car. Create lifetime customers by remaining engaged throughout the customer’s life cycle. This requires that you retain high-quality data. Update your DMS data quarterly to keep the contact information fresh. When a customer is coming off lease, begin engagement nine months out. When a customer’s purchased vehicle crosses over three years old, begin engagement. Keep in touch with service reminders and other lifecycle communications. Do so, and you will be living 10X Internet success.
Twenty-eight percent of car shoppers added a dealership to consideration, and three percent removed one, as a result of social media, according to the Dealer.com 2011 Social Media Study. That means you must establish your robust social presence, publish frequently to engage consumers and proactively manage your reputation as consumers comment on you. As with SEO, this is best done with the help of a partner company that can put you in command of your social agenda. If you win at social, you are in the 10X Internet success circle.
The 10 critical factors in 10X Internet success require constant work. You are never “done”. So it’s important to apply continuous improvement principles to your work. Set monthly SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Results-based and Time-bound) for each member of your leadership team. Measure performance against those goals in weekly leadership meetings, where you rank each goal “Green” (going well), “Yellow” (in trouble) or “Red” (in the ditch). Keep everyone’s feet to the fire to continuously improve every aspect of these critical 10 factors.
If you can diligently pursue work in these 10 areas, every day, every week, every month, you will move inexorably into the elite, rarified air of 10X Internet success.