Ultimate Key to Close More Internet Leads

Dear DQB,

How can my dealership close more Internet leads?  Our customers are coming to us from online before they are coming into the store. How do we get them into the store so we can sell more cars?

— Anonymous Dealership GSM


Hello GSM,

So you’re taking in 500-1000 Internet leads and closing 5-10% — IF you are lucky, and at the end of each month, you’re not seeing enough vehicle sales tied directly to your Internet department.

The answer to your question is really far more simplistic than you may think. Really. It’s true!

The answer: Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up!

NADA states for every 60 tasks not completed from your CRM, you are losing 8 deals.  How many uncompleted tasks are sitting in your CRM, or worse, piling up. This is not about your CRM, though. It’s about holding your team accountable. Your CRM is merely a tool to help you keep accountability. What you do with the information it provides is a completely different blog entry!

Back to your Internet issues. What would my experience be if I sent an Internet lead to your dealership? Would your rep(s) attempt to reach me by telephone multiple times in the first 72 hours? If they could not get me by phone, are they leaving messages. Are their messages compelling, or the blah and overheard “GREAT NEWS!”? Are they attempting to send a text message? Is your prospect getting 1-2 e-mails the first day, and at least one email for the next 7 days (until real contact is made)? If your dealership is doing all of this, and still does not have a high closing ratio, you may need to evaluate your providers. But often, I have found that dealers are quick to blame vendors for “crap leads” but don’t have consistent processes in place to maximize the leads they have coming in.

So let’s revisit that last paragraph, and break it down further:

Would your rep(s) attempt to reach me by telephone multiple times in the first 72 hours?

You want to catch your prospect while they are still on the computer and shopping – if possible. During your operating hours, you MUST attempt to connect with your prospect within the first 15-30 minutes of their inquiry — AND THE SOONER THE BETTER — as you are leaving the door open for your competition to make first contact.  You don’t want to become too much of a stalker, but selling a product, beit an appointment or a car, is not a one sided event.  The 15-30 minute thing may not be realistic outside of operating hours (and I DO NOT advocate forcing your Internet staff to answer incoming leads in their personal time), but the better you get at making contact in the most crucial first hours, the better your closing ratios will be.

If they could not get me by phone, are they leaving compelling messages? (Yes, just combined two questions!)

These days, most of the accurate numbers you are provided are cell phones, which as we all know, have some form of caller id showing the incoming number. For land lines, there is a 50/50 chance you are calling a number with a caller id that includes the name of the account holder on the phone line.  With that many phones that can identify who is calling in to them, where is the logic of not leaving a message? If you don’t leave a message, the recipient will assume it to be a sales (or collections) call, and ignore you forever after. If you leave a message, the person may not listen to it, but at least if they do, they know who belongs to the number calling them — and you stand a better chance of a return call.

Your message must be compelling, and appeal to the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) of the prospect. The truth is that with most of your new leads, you don’t know the motivations of the prospect until you speak with them, which makes leaving compelling messages difficult. So you script a handful of attention grabbing messages covering incentives, lease opportunities, trade values, etc. The message needs to be generic, but valuable. “Hey Mr. Smith, this is Dani from XYZ Motors. We just got your Internet Request about the new AB model, and noticed you may have been looking for a trade value on your current DeLorean! What a great vehicle you’ve got. I have some important information about the value of your current vehicle, please return my call at 555-1212. It’s really important that I catch you, so if I don’t hear back from you in a few hours, I will try again to reach you. Again, this is Dani at XYZ Motors and my call can be returned at 555-1212.” Alternatively, “XYZ has an exclusive discount you may qualify to receive, and we need to confirm your eligibility by the end of the business day tomorrow!”….. You get the point. You always want your messages to have value to the prospect, but you’ll have plenty of time in further follow-up for messages like “Mr. Smith, we’re calling because we have a potential buyer for your car. Please call us if you still own that vehicle!” The choice is yours to use the “GREAT NEWS!” pitch – but realize that there is a chance that every other call the prospect receives will be using that verbiage.

Are they attempting to send a text message?

Yes, this can be tricky territory. If you are using texts, you want to make sure you are in compliance with regulations.  To keep this segment short, let me share the following quote, and you can visit the site for more details:

“Why should service advisor, sales person or your BDC text? Put yourself in your client’s shoes. A teacher in a classroom, a worker in the field, a professional in a meeting – all of them can reply to a text much faster and with more convenience than they can answer a call or return a voicemail. The data supports this as texts are replied to, on average, within 4 minutes. The expectation for a return call to a voicemail is the same day and the expectation for an email is 24 hours. A teacher can text while class is in session, the carpenter can text with work in full swing and a lawyer can text while in a meeting.”  — http://bit.ly/TCPATextRules

Is your prospect getting 1-2 e-mails in the first day, and at least one e-mail daily for the next 7 days (until real contact is made)?

These days, technology is hurting us more than it is helping – spam filters prevent our important notes from reaching the prospect, and then the prospect assumes we don’t care, because they never saw our e-mail. Some people don’t even know what a spam filter is, and some internet providers have spam filters that keep e-mails in cyber space, never to be found! Hence the necessity to reach out by telephone and text. But unless you have a hard bounce on the e-mail, you have to make continued attempts to reach out by that avenue as well. These filters do the funniest things, but you need just ONE e-mail to get to the inbox! Creating e-mails to attempt to foil spam filters is yet another blog, but you can use Google to find some ideas if you’re not sure how to get around the electronic gatekeeper.  The first e-mail sent should provide as much information as possible, with consideration to the lead and the lead provider. Did the prospect ask a question? Answer it! Did they request a specific vehicle? Tell them whether that vehicle is available, and provide options for similar vehicles (even if it IS available!).  Ask 1-2 OPEN ENDED questions requiring a response that is more than yes/no. “The Camry is a great sedan. What other vehicles are you comparing it against?” or  “The Cruze is a great economy car that has many optional features available. What features are you expecting your next car to include?”….  The idea here is not for the customer to know the difference between what’s included in a base model, vs what they would have to get a Technology package to have — the idea is to get 2-way communication, simultaneously learning about their hot spots.


So, to recap, if your dealership is working each new Internet lead with these processes, you should have a satisfactory closing ratio, and if you don’t, then the issue may just be the lead sources. We’ll save that topic for another day.  An additional thought — above I asked if you are following up for the first 7 days, but the reality is that you MUST have continuous, consistent follow-up processes in place by telephone, text, and e-mail for at least 120 – 180 days! Unfortunately, in my mystery shopping, I have not been seeing 72 hour follow-up, so it is not surprising to not see it further out — but follow-up is what will equal a higher closing ratio.


Let us Mystery Shop your dealership.  If your dealership needs assistance to implement any or all of these processes, The Dealer Quarterback would love to work with you. Please contact Dani at 310-428-3362 — Text me and I’ll answer within 4 minutes on average!  You may also send me an e-mail at dani@dealerqb.com



Dani aka The Dealer Quarterback

Dani Zandel got her start in the auto dealership world on a rainy day in January, 1998. The rest is history, which includes jumping head first into running Internet Departments before CRMs became popular (using Yahoo! Mail)...before Internet Departments existed... before Internet leads arrived from any source other than the vehicle manufacture! Dang! This bio just aged Dani way too much! Since those early days, Dani has sold vehicles, trained in the F&I office, and excelled at Internet Lead Handling, while exploring other low-cost, high ROI opportunities to sell cars to the community. Some of Dani's accomplishments include Certificates of Completion for the F&I and Internet programs at College of Automotive Management, as well as the Human Resources program at Loyola Marymount University (extension). She has rank advanced as a representative of Send Out Cards, and believes every salesperson and every car dealership should consider the benefits of showing gratitude to car buying prospects and customers. Dani has had the joy and pleasure of working with great dealerships -- most recently training the BDC team at a prominent Los Angeles Cadillac dealership, and previously implementing a BDC from non-existence to operational success for a Toyota dealership, and before that, a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep Ram and Fiat dual rooftop dealership. Her combined experiences in HR Management, Telephone & Internet Communications, and understanding of the technical side of CRMs, in addition to her own car dealership experiences, give Dani a leg up in the organization processes involved to create and install BDC departments, and restructure Internet departments within car dealerships. Dani professionally seeks to work with car dealerships on the specific tasks of CRM Automation, BDC installation, BDC/Internet training, and Appreciation Marketing. Dani's future personal goals include travel to the crystal blue waters of Santorini, Greece, and acclaimed success as a consultant, trainer, and speaker on the circuit of Automotive Dealership Seminars, specializing in the topics related to Internet and BDC success. Dani is the author of "How to Create Customer Loyalty" (available on Amazon) and is currently working on her 2nd book (still untitled) targeting an audience of Car Dealership Owners, GMs, and Sales Managers.