The Secrets to Growing Your Website’s Leads, Calls & Sales: Online Chat is Not an Option!


Online chat.

I know that when some of you hear that you’re thinking “Steve, we tried chat at our dealership, and it didn’t work.” Or, “We’re doing chat right now, but it doesn’t really move any metal.”

To me, these thoughts sound like: “We tried having phones in the dealership, and they didn’t work;” or “The phones don’t really move any metal.”

Online chat is form of communication that is preferred by many of your customers; and it’s often the easiest way for many of them to do everything from getting a quick question answered to scheduling a visit.

Moreover, with today’s focus on online transactions, chat is no longer an option for your dealership website. Even if you’re just looking for a way to generate some low-funnel leads, online chat (when done right) can be your best lead source for both sales and service. (Oh, and when we’re talking about online chat today, we’re also talking about texting and Messenger and any other short format, instant, interactive text – as opposed to voice – application.)

While this post is not a chat processes lesson, it’s important for those of you managing your own chats to understand that in order to have success with these, you should treat your chat sessions and your text messages like miniature phone calls and not like mini emails. This means the same best practices and talk tracks you would employ on the phones should be incorporated into your texting and chats.

A chat session – like a phone call – is not a tennis match; it’s not 411; and it’s not just vomiting information on the prospect. A chat session today, simply put, is about generating leads and sales.

While lead generation is still a big focus of most sales chats; what we’re seeing more and more today are transactional chats. That is, chats that facilitate a purchase. Whether this means a service chat that guides a customer through your online scheduler, or a sales chat that assists an online new car buyer with a few questions as she completes your AutoFi application, transactional chats are the future of chat in automotive – and the primary reason you are foolish not to add chat back to your site.

But, Steve: We Stink at Chat!

Relax, you’re not alone. In fact, according to the most successful automotive chat companies, most dealers use a “hosted” chat service. This means someone other than their team is the primary respondent on all online chat sessions.

With hosted chat from a transactional chat provider, dealers can leave the mundane (like quick questions about hours and directions) to an outside company, while their team remains focused on real opportunities like appointments and sales.

Whether your chat applications are geared toward deal generation or lead generation, it’s important to have a chat partner or in-house team that understands how to balance information sharing with selling cars. Too much information and the prospect eliminates your dealership from consideration. Not enough information and you break trust with the online consumer. Balancing information requires a great chat partner who can help you whether you choose to outsource this or bring it all in-house.

Next up in the series, we’re going to focus on attracting those consumers who will never send a lead, pick up the phone or chat with your team in: Compelling the Web Visitor to Show Up

(If you’re catching this series for the first time, you may want to begin with the first post in the series: Before You Change Even One Word on Your Website…)

About TheManager:

Steve Stauning, creator of The Appointment Culture and an expert in Digital Marketing and Website Conversion. He is also an extremely popular keynote speaker, writer, and industry consultant. Learn more about Steve at