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Best practices: Prospecting inbound and outbound sales leads

Any veteran car salesperson will tell you that much has changed over the past couple of decade – and even more just in the last few years. Coming from someone who has coached salespeople on how to respond to Internet leads, we’ll go over the best ways to handle incoming leads and deal with unsold and upcoming prospects. We’ll also touch on what it means to use social media in day to day selling.

What makes automotive retail prospecting different?

Automotive sales prospecting differs from many other types of retail prospecting like furniture sales in a couple of major ways: Automotive sales prospecting is typically both inbound and outbound, literally meaning that salespeople can find a prospect by walking the lot or by reaching out to previous customers.

What makes a salesperson especially successful is blending the right amount of prospecting and developing their skills on the phone, email, and for in-person social situations, then balancing their time between those.

Given the turnover common in the auto industry, it’s a great idea to ask management about prospecting orphan customers, or customers who bought from your dealership before but the salesperson no longer works there. Many will have already heard of your dealership, and if you use your customer relationship software the right way, you can narrow them down to those who are almost done with their loans.

Best practices for following up

I used to get this question a lot, especially from salespeople who weren’t quite “with it” in the digital world yet. The good news here is that if you are at least texting your customers for follow-up, you are off to a good start in getting in front of their eyes.


Nearly all smartphones and even some software within the auto industry can easily help you take this to the next level: Make a short video introducing yourself – especially if the potential client is looking at a specific vehicle. A short video can help you get your face in front of the customer.

People love watching videos, especially if they are short and to the point. Amongst a potential sea of other salespeople who are sending out text and images, videos can truly stand out.


With that said, you should follow up using multiple methods whenever possible. Leave a fairly short voicemail – but please, at least leave a voicemail so the person you are calling at least knows who you are!

Note that we are aware that people don’t listen to their voicemails quite as often as they used to.


Email follow-ups should be genuine and engaged – offer some information that the client might not know about the vehicle. It should only take you a few seconds to offer things like a vehicle history report or what the service department said while inspecting the vehicle. Keep this information on hand for when you get other leads on the same vehicles.

Handling Incoming Sales calls and leads

Internet Leads

My absolute first suggestion when handling an incoming internet lead is to read the entire lead first: In some cases, the potential client is asking a question about a vehicle that needs a little research or a specific answer. If you don’t answer this right away, the prospect won’t believe you actually read the initial email and you are not off to a great start. Read the lead first.

Response time is second to getting good information: A strong BDC can get back to a customer in less than 5 minutes, but again – get the information the person requested before responding – or respond that you are seeking that information!

Social Media and Selling

Social media can be a selling tool too. We had a few salespeople with their own business pages who regularly posted videos and specials. These pages could invite people from businesses and their friends to like them. It worked and they did get at least a small following.


Prospecting in the automotive business is a bit different from many other retail positions. There are a number of sources to rely on for getting customers and taking care of them with diligent, respectful, and timely follow-up is important. Having the right information helps too!

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Ben Stewart
Ben Stewart
Ben is a contributing writer and reporter for CBT News with 10 years of dealership experience in automotive marketing. Ben loves all things cars and putting together strategies that help dealerships succeed.

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