Lead Response: What’s the Goal?


(Here’s another quick, helpful excerpt from the free 2015 Car Dealer Mystery Shop Study of more than 400 dealers.)

What is the Goal of Your Team’s Lead Response?

What should be your dealership’s goal when responding to e-leads? If the prospect is inquiring about a specific vehicle, should your goal be to have them reconsider their choice and start looking at other available vehicles or specials? Should your goal be to encourage them to visit your competition? Should it be to scare them away, or should it be to confuse them?

If you reviewed the bulk of the responses in our study, you’d be convinced that the goals of many dealers are – like those above – not aligned with selling cars. It’s not their fault. Over the years, CRM companies, consultants, trainers and other industry “experts” provided lousy advice to dealers when it came to responding to e-leads. Today, many dealership responses seem to just spew words and provide nothing of value to the prospect or, more importantly, the dealership.

For successful e-dealers, there exists a single valid goal for email and voicemail responses to e-leads: to drive a reconnection. Specifically, to get the prospect on the phone.

In our study, we judged the quality of a dealer’s response on its ability to facilitate that phone call.

Car Dealer Mystery Shops

The Email Response

In determining the criteria for grading the email responses to our mystery shops we worked backwards from the sale to the shown appointment to the phone call to the email response. Despite the efforts to sell cars entirely online, it’s still not practical for dealers to jump from the email response to the sale without first getting the customer on the phone and setting an appointment that shows. Therefore, our focus on the quality of these responses was heavily weighted on the email response providing an adequate call-to-action.

The calls-to-action that scored highest? “Call me at…”

The calls-to-action that scored lowest? “We’re open ‘til 8 tonight…” and “be sure and ask for me.”

It is important to note that all communications received in this study were in response to the original e-lead we submitted. There was never interaction with a dealership; we just acted as any non-responsive prospect would for 30 days while we graded the store’s ability to attempt a reconnection.

Previous studies of email responses were often critical of dealers for not prominently including information like dealership hours, directions and other similar data. We think this criticism was, at best, misguided. Providing dealership hours and directions can, in effect, encourage consumers to drive to the dealership without setting an appointment. If you agree with our findings that appointments can and do close at a rate 2.5 to 4 times better than Traditional Ups – and that appointments provide the dealer with better CSI and higher grosses – then why would you want to send an email response that encourages the internet prospect to become a Traditional Up?

Moreover, when you provide your dealership’s hours, directions to the dealership, and verbiage like “when you come in, be sure and ask for me” in your emails to non-responsive prospects, your team is basically telling the potential customer “we’re not busy; come on down whenever you want; the car you desire will be here forever.” (None of which, we’re hopeful, is true of your dealership.)

While we didn’t immediately discount superfluous information (“5-Time Presidents Award Winner!”), images or links when judging the quality of dealer responses, we did downgrade dealers when these bits and pieces of data created emails that became so long they often took five or more pages to print.

Beyond grading the quality of the call-to-action, we also looked closely at the obvious turn-offs to many consumers: grammatical mistakes, formatting and typographical errors.

In the early days of e-leads, these issues were a nuisance; in 2015, these errors are unacceptable. Every email your team sends to a non-responsive prospect should originate from an edited, prewritten, preapproved template. There is no reason and no excuse for allowing anyone on your team to “personalize” your email responses (beyond the first response) to a prospect that submitted an e-lead and then never reconnected.

Great CRM tools made the need for hand-typed emails to non-responsive prospects obsolete long ago. Not surprisingly, the lowest-scoring emails received during the study were clearly “personalized.”

The Phone Response

When a prospect provides both a valid email address and a valid phone number, it’s important for the dealership’s team to leverage all available means of communication to drive the reconnection. However, our experience has proven that well-written emails enjoy only marginal success at driving that reconnection when compared to well-crafted voicemails.

Voicemails matter; they can be extremely effective at driving reconnections. Voicemails matter more than emails. Great emails to non-responsive prospects can and should be automated, but great voicemails require a human to pick up the phone and take an action.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter that salespeople know making phone calls and leaving voicemails will help them sell more cars, given that many dealerships continue to struggle to get anyone to actually pick up the phone and call a prospect. In fact, over a third of the dealership teams in our study made no phone calls despite the presence of a valid, working phone number in the e-lead.

How can a dealer ensure their team is making all of the required calls short of sitting side-by-side with their salespeople? There are two extremely cost-effective tools that some dealers are leveraging today to be certain their team is responding as required.

The first tool is free (or nearly free): mystery shop your own dealership. By using a free email address and either a free (Google Voice) or cost-effective (CopyCall.com, for example) online call forwarding and voicemail service, dealers can read and hear what their team is actually sending and saying to prospects whenever they wish.

The second tool is one that many dealerships may already be paying for and not even know it. It’s called Computer-Telephony Integration or CTI. It’s not new and it’s not complicated. Basically, CTI is your phone system talking to your CRM. With properly working CTI, you can know if and when calls are being made, how long each call took and (in some states and with some systems) even listen to your outbound calls right from the specific customer record in your CRM tool.

(I’m hopeful this excerpt helps you better understand and manage your lead response processes. Remember, you can download and read the White Paper for this study for free by following this link: Car Dealer Mystery Shops.)