Five best practices in handling online leads


In this age of online marketing, automation, lead capture, and CRM response databases, we often lose the basics of handling online leads. Leads are people, and we need to get back to the basics of a timely, thoughtful, and warm response, which will lead to sales. Since we’ve become so addicted to technology and the time-saving advantages thereof, this is an area that’s ready for a lot of improvement.

Let’s run through some simple best practices on handling online leads.

Some Realities

Today, your lead pool fills with bots, falsified addresses, made up phone numbers, and even test leads. Do you know what’s providing your most successful sales-qualified leads? Which search terms bring you the most organic sales-qualified leads? Which ad platforms deliver the best paid sales-qualified leads? Doing this research will improve your leads’ quality over time and give you a clear plan.

Integrating a CRM system (Customer Relationship Management) is essential to everyone, of course. Having a place where customer data lives lets you put together a process for engagement, follow-up, and report generating. But it won’t log details on its own, so you need to input 100% of your leads and consumer interactions. The average dealership’s unlogged leads are 17%. Unlogged leads could also mean unlogged interactions, which cause consumer frustration and lost sales. A CRM doesn’t work by itself.

An older Harvard Business Review study says it best: “CRM isn’t a software tool that will manage customer relationships for you. CRM is the bundling of customer strategy and processes, supported by the relevant software, to improve customer loyalty and, eventually, corporate profitability.”leads

The thing to remember is no software or process survives without people. And it’s people-to-people interaction that turns leads into sales.

So how is that done?

Be Ready for a Quick Response

With Instagram and Facebook always on, consumers expect immediate responses. And the expectation is that you’ll respond just as quickly, whether on social media or email. It may not be fair, but it’s the world in which you live.

A mystery shopper study by Digital Airstrike showed, “Only 16% of all dealerships responded within 15 minutes, and 18% didn’t respond at all. While the remaining 66% of dealerships eventually responded, the average time across all stores and all OEMs to respond was more than 24 hours. Some dealers took up to four days to respond. Dealership best practices indicate when responses arrive within 10 minutes, a customer is three times more likely to visit the dealership.”

If you’re in the 16% who responded with 15 minutes, you’re on the road to getting a 20% close rate instead of the 11% you’ve accepted as standard.

Although you may work until 9 pm in a brick and mortar building, shoppers are online at all times after hours. If consumers spend a few minutes to search you out and contact through Facebook after hours, they deserve a quick response. Studies show that after-hours inquiries could be up to 40% of your leads. With tools like HootSuite, you can see every question in each social media space and respond in real-time – even when you’re closed. Yes, it’s tough, but it’s necessary.

By responding quickly, you genuinely distinguish yourself and your organization from your competitors.

Related: Sean Gardner on Converting Both Digital Leads and Unsold Customers (video)

Be Professional

Amazingly, this is still a subject that we discuss. For illustration, how many times have you received an email response to your request for something with the first line saying, “Dear [customers name here]” or the email is full of typos, regardless of the personal touch? Responses should be free of mistakes, inconsistencies, and information without addressing the customer’s questions. If you have to, get a Grammarly account. It might change your professional life or improve your lead response rates by helping you with grammar, style, spelling, and punctuation.

To assist the team, make sure you have set up templates, approved tone of voice, and image standards for everyone, including the receptionist. Social media and electronic responses live for a long time and can help or hurt you and your dealership for years.

Additionally, be courteous in your responses since it’s often the first contact a customer will have with the dealership. That can be a standout quality in these days of stress and anxiety. Sincerity and a courteous tone throughout the process will turn into car sales, and those turn into referrals on social media. In a recent post, ‘Sincerity – The Secret Sauce for Effective Marketing,’ Judy Murdoch said, “First, it’s important to remember the real role of marketing in your business. Marketing is not about making a sale. Marketing is about creating a relationship based in trust and safety so that a sale can occur.”

Answer their Questions

“Answer questions” sounds simple. And since you should be responding personally instead of through an automated email, this shouldn’t be a challenge. However, in automotive dealers studies, with customer inquiries including questions about specific vehicles, 53% of dealerships not only failed to respond to consumer questions but didn’t address particular vehicle questions.

As simple as it sounds, one-to-one communication gives you the ability to answer their questions directly, and it can:

  • Personalize the dealership and gives it a human face.
  • Builds a personal relationship and provides trust. People trust people when shopping for an automobile.
  • Gives the consumer a chance to be heard.
  • It helps you identify needs and the understanding of what’s motivating their consideration.
  • Let’s you provide factual information and deal with questions and objections, which eliminates fear.
  • Motivates them to take action.

Today, consumers spend hours, days, and months researching online. By the time you get a qualified lead, nothing beats face-face communication with them. And oddly enough, that face-to-face begins with your first response.

If you are faster, better, and more effective in answering questions and concerns in all of your leads, you’re going to prevent them from contacting your friends across the street.

It’s All About Service

Handling online leads with customer service is a stand-out differentiator for a dealership. As it is, 60% of customers stop doing business with a brand after one poor service experience. And 67% of this customer churn is preventable when the problem is resolved during the first interaction. If you start out providing excellent customer service, you’ll retain the lead, and you’ll acquire your competitors’ leads as well.

A well-trained, positive, and responsive sales team can help make your dealership the best version of itself. A simple ability to communicate directly with customers can revolutionize the process and turn online leads into owners.

Related: Effectively Manage Your Internet Leads with These Proven Strategies

Did you enjoy this article from Steve Mitchell? Read other articles from him here.

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