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Dragging Heels On Sales Lead Follow-Up Can Kill Dealerships

Your people must take a disciplined, structured approach to following up on leads by phone or online. BY GRANT CARDONE

The landscape of the automotive industry has changed dramatically since I started out selling cars 32 years ago. You used to get most of your leads from people walking onto your showroom floor who were responding either to the big sign outside or to some print or TV advertisement.

Digital marketing has come to dominate dealership advertising and is expected to exceed total TV advertising spend by 2018. This digital shift is driving an unprecedented number of customers to websites and landing pages.

In turn, this creates both new problems and bigger opportunities for automotive salespeople who can figure out how to effectively respond to these prospects. Regardless of whether the customer’s first appearance comes on foot or through the Internet, you must be prepared to follow up with him or her.

How big is the risk from failing to follow up in a timely fashion? Well, have you ever reached out to a business’ website, diligently filled out a form and ended up completely ignored anyway? Of course, you have.

Huge Issues With Follow-Up

I recently created a “mystery shop” campaign to demonstrate to companies the size of the risk involved. Three companies selling completely different products hired me to evaluate their website response and sales teams. One was a luxury jewelry store, another a large group of automotive dealerships, and the third a services company.

The automobile dealership sent an automated response to the leads, and the other two companies still had not responded after three days.

Having studied this follow-up phenomenon, I can tell you the problem is massive. Sixty-five percent of all companies admit they have no processes to nurture leads. When a lead walks into your showroom, you aren’t going to close with him or her unless you know how to follow up.

Whether the lead arrives is in person or online, the follow-up separates the ordinary salespeople from the skilled professionals. And, the reality is there is no commitment from most businesses to follow up. Their cultures have made that failure okay.

If your salespeople don’t know how to effectively follow up – what to say, how to text, when to e-mail, when to call – then how can they even make a useful second call, much less the five to 12 calls typically necessary to convert a lead to a purchase?

At the right are some rules to follow to take your follow-up game to professional status:

When using the phone to follow up on any lead

  1. Always leave a message
  2. Call sooner rather than later
  3. Be consistent with the phone (daily use)
  4. Call everyone back – no exceptions
  5. Try to call when floor traffic is lightest
  6. Always be enthusiastic, upbeat and positive
  7. Always offer alternatives that benefit the buyer
  8. Give the buyer reasons to return
  9. Have a designated time for your outbound calls
  10. Ask for referrals on the outbound call

Speed Counts With Leads

The faster your dealership can respond, the better your chances of converting and qualifying a sales lead. The first company that follows up typically lands 50 percent of the business.

And, the key to increasing your speed in following up with leads is to utilize every communication tool you have available. Don’t just rely on phone calls and leaving voicemails. E-mail. Text. Send smoke signals and carrier pigeons, if you have to.

If you have the data to text a client within the first five minutes of contact, your chances of conversion go up almost 300 times.

When following up on online leads

  1. Share the facts about lead response, and follow up with your team
  • Average response time for an Internet lead is 44 hours
  • 65 percent of all companies don’t nurture leads
  • Only 25 percent of all salespeople make at least two contact attempts
  • 80 percent of all transactions require five to 12 follow-ups
  1. Make a commitment to follow up at your company. This is about your culture and is bigger than any decision by executive management.
  2. Give your staff a very precise schedule and actions for each follow-up attempt, using a variety of means. An example may look like this:
  • Automated response within 5 minutes: “Thank you. Someone will be right with you.”
  • Text message or e-mail (text preferred) response, with information overload and terms guarantee
  • A same-day call from quality service
  • A same-day e-mail message: “Please call me immediately regarding your interest. I have a way for you to take advantage of great savings.”
  • Third-party touch, management call: “What can we do to earn your business?”

Create Long-Term Follow-Up Plan

If you still fail to convert the lead, then you must create an exact follow-up process for day two through the next 12 months. Don’t just write it off, don’t quit – dominate and stay on your schedule. I give the more than 15 hours of these and other training and tips in my “Automotive Sales Training for New Hires MP3” course. It also covers how to put the buyer at ease, building up buyer profiles, handling objections and more.

The purpose of the follow-up is to demonstrate interest in this prospective customer and in the things that are important to him or her. If your salespeople have an issue showing genuine interest, then your dealership needs to immediately work out this shortcoming. Only when you are genuinely interested will you be able to effectively understand or implement the three points.

Your future in the dealership business will be determined by your ability and willingness to be creative, consistent and persistent in staying interested in your customers through follow-up. Every contact is helps lubricate the relationship, separate your dealership from its competitors and demonstrate that you are there for your customer all the time, not just when its time to close the deal.

I assure you that by being creative, consistent and persistent in staying interested and following up with customers you don’t sell as well as those you do, you will improve your sales volume, closing ratios and profit margins – as well as your salespeople’s self-esteem.

Stop struggling. Take advantage of this opportunity and differentiate yourself in today’s market. Create a solid follow-up system and make it a part of your culture, not just your work culture.

Follow up or die out.

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Grant Cardone
Grant Cardone
Grant, a national speaker and motivator, is a respected, highly regarded master salesperson whose passion is to teach people how to sell themselves, their products and services regardless of economic climate. His books, audio packages and seminars provide people of all professional backgrounds with the practical tools necessary to achieve high levels of success. Follow him on Twitter @grantcardone.

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