Responding to Digital Leads – Part I of IV: Are You?

Responding to Digital Leads

Are you?

Are you prepared to run a business in the 21st century? Do you have a personal bias preventing you from being successful? Have you not only adopted the latest technologies, but also embraced them?

Prior to my last couple of 20-Group meetings with both RV and Powersports dealers (32 dealers total), I secretly shopped each member in the groups. On each dealer’s website, I found a standard unit and proceeded to “request a quote” on that vehicle. Each lead included a phone number, email address, and five questions.

Every inquiry stated that I had a trade in, and that I was ready to purchase. All the inquiries were submitted between 11:00AM and 1:00PM EST. Other than sending a copy of my bank statement, it would have been hard to throw up many more “I’m a buyer” signals.

When meeting with the owners and GMs in each group, many stated that more than 50% of their vehicle sales were now starting out as digital leads received either through their websites, or affiliate sites.

I then asked how many of the dealers have trained their staff on how to follow up on digital leads. Less than 15% of dealerships gave a positive response. I discovered nearly every dealer conducts training for the walk-in customer, but very few have committed to a solid digital strategy. If you want to be shocked, ask your sales staff to BCC you on their email responses to internet inquiries. Keep some Pepto handy!

In the experiment, each dealer was given up to four days to respond to the inquiry. Each lead was graded on 18 items, with the following considered critical:

  • Was an auto-response received?
  • What was the quality and content of the auto-responder?
  • Was the lead followed up on the same day it was submitted?
  • Were any, some, or all the questions in the email answered?
  • Was a company email address utilized?
  • Did the response create a sense of urgency and a reason to buy?
  • Was a follow up message received?

Amazingly enough, among the members of the two groups, 25% failed to respond within 96 hours of the internet inquiry. It may surprise you the percentage from my study is a little better than has been seen with more wide-ranging studies. When we dug further into the dealerships who failed to respond, we found a variety of reasons the inquiries were idle, including spam-filters, poor communication and emails not being monitored.

Among the dealers who did respond to the inquiries, this small-scale test identified two primary types of responses:

  • Sales Response – The GM or Sales Manager distributes leads to the sales staff who are then “supposed” to follow up with the customer. In many cases, the leads are distributed based on the type of vehicle the customer is inquiring about, and the strengths of the individual sales staff.
  • BDC (Business Development Center) Response – A few dealers have a dedicated group of employees (note that I said employees and not sales staff) who respond to all incoming digital leads (and in some cases all incoming phone calls). BDC responses primarily focus on appointment setting; moving the customer from the keyboard to the showroom.

When the owners and GMs were asked to rank their own dealership’s responses on a scale of 1-10, most rated their own between 3 and 4 (there were even a couple of zeros in there). We also asked each dealer’s peer group to rate each response, with the highest scoring a solid 9.

It’s key for each dealer to understand that the skills and traits that make a great showroom salesperson don’t always translate to the keyboard. While some sales personnel can be as good in person as they can over the internet, most don’t have those skills, and few dealers have spent any time conducting specific training on this topic.

Hopefully, by now I’ve caught your interest. Do you want to know what the most common mistakes dealers make when following up on digital leads? Interested in knowing what should be included in an email response that turns shoppers into buyers? Then tune in for parts 2 and 3.

Mark J. Sheffield

Spader Business Management 20 Group Facilitator