The average car dealership has 166 qualified sales leads each month. That may sound like 166 deals waiting to happen, but it’s just the beginning of the story. Almost a quarter of a dealer’s leads don’t receive a follow-up within 24 hours. Even worse, close to 70% of those leads don’t even hear back within a week.
There’s more than one problem here. Slow response times can be a symptom of kinks in your sales process, but, more importantly, online leads go cold very, very quickly. In a study of the life cycle of 1.25 million sales leads, a Harvard Business Review study found that replying to potential buyers within one hour means you’re seven times more likely to close a sale than if you waited two hours to reach out. Yes, even a 60-minute delay can make or break a deal.
The digital retailing revolution that took the industry by storm in 2020 can serve up a pipeline of highly qualified leads to dealers, but converting those leads into profitable sales is never guaranteed. The average car buyer considers 2.6 brands, visits 2.5 dealerships, and submits an average of three lead forms to request more information. To confirm that they’ve made the right decision by sending their info to you specifically, show that you value their time. And with the average time consumers spend in market shrinking from 118 days to just 96 days in the past two years, the clock is ticking.
How can you hit the ground running?
Step 1. Name Your Digital Retailing Guru: Digital retailing leads convert at 16.9% on average, so you need someone who can truly focus on making sure those leads get the attention they deserve. Someone within the dealership needs to be responsible for initiating conversation and collecting information from the prospect after they show interest, from their trade information to what drew them to a particular make and model.
Step 2. Start the Clock: Customers who use the digital retailing tools you’ve put in place expect a quick—and human—response. Your online-only competitors are initiating conversations just a few seconds after a buyer starts browsing their site. That’s not always feasible for the average dealer, but set a goal to respond to all inquiries in under an hour if possible.
Step 3. Personalize Your Response: Autoresponders can be worse than no response at all, especially if they never hear back from you with a personalized response. Respond to online leads the same way you would as if they were sitting in front of you. Prove you took the time to review their information and be prepared to answer their specific questions when you make first contact. No one wants to repeat themselves.
Step 4. Be Proactive: Follow up is important, but there’s a science to it. An email to prospects can help move inventory at the end of the month, but only if your message is customer-centric. Make it personal and don’t just ask if they’re still in the market—let them know when the price on the vehicle they were interested in drops, if the vehicle sold but something else on the lot may fit the bill, or if there’s a limited-time incentive.
Remember, your digital leads have already qualified themselves by deciding that you have the right car at the right price and handing their contact information over to you. Put the right steps in place so you can be confident you’re not losing these valuable customers because someone else hit “send” first.