Have you ever been in a situation where you were able to review leads prior to assigning those leads to a salesperson?
If so, and if you are a sales manager who cares about increasing sales, you most likely looked at the characteristics of each lead before deciding which salesperson to assign that lead to... For example, when I would see a Corvette lead come into BuzzTrack at Courtesy Chevrolet, I would reassign that new lead to one of maybe 2 or 3 people who I felt qualified to handle the typically challenging questions posed by Corvette buyers. Our closing ratio on Corvette leads was a lot higher, almost double that of other leads...
Why? Because we applied an intelligent decision making process to the assignment of the salesperson to that lead... An intelligent decision that is based upon historical performance and the qualifications of the salesperson being assigned will always out-perform a random process like "Round Robin".
The Round Robin system of lead routing is the worst system ever devised by the auto industry for handling the decisions around how to assign each lead to a salesperson... Period. Random has no place in dealership management, it is the opposite of reason and intelligence... Random Sucks... It is like slapping the Magic Button and imagining that something good will happen... Random is the destroyer of positive business results, Period!
When a project I was assigned to involved the rebuilding of a web based lead management tool in the not so distant past, both myself and the lead developer on the project pushed hard for a feature that we included in the fresh new build of this lead management tool which we called "Intelligent Lead Routing" or "ILR". Whether this feature makes it into the system that dealers will be offered is a political football getting punted around to this day, which I will soon explain.
The basis for Intelligent Lead Routing was fairly simple... To mimic the decision making process that the best sales managers use when they look at a new sales lead and decide which salesperson to assign it to. Except, we decided to do it more "Scientifically" than a sales manager can do based on anecdotal knowledge (like the way I did it at Courtesy Chevrolet)... During the initial installation of ILR we pull all DMS transactional data available and use historical sales data for previously received and sold Internet leads. We then apply a complex algorithm based on key lead characteristics, similar to the way top performing Internet Directors will assign Internet Leads when they have a chance, or need to do so.
What Intelligent Lead Routing does is assign leads within a set of parameters that define eligible sales people (such as used car sales team vs new car sales team) so that leads are assigned based on customer demographics, vehicle of interest, zip code, area code, make, model, price range, vehicle type and other characteristics that are used to match the lead with the salesperson most likely to result in a sale based on historical performance.
We built all kinds of safety mechanisms and ILR can be applied at any point in the lead routing schematics (decision tree) using the "Hypothetical" Lead Management Tool's admin console. The ILR system could also be used to show how, why and who leads WOULD have been assigned to, had the algorithm been applied.
In our pilot testing, ILR was far more effective than the much simpler and more primitive model of lead scoring based on lead characteristics, although it uses many of the same criteria as lead scoring, the scoring is variable based on WHICH SALESPERSON WOULD RECEIVE THE LEAD!
The fact is that in any lead scoring system, introducing the sales person into the predictive analysis creates variable scoring results. For example, it is not uncommon for a lead which is a "9" on a 10 point scale for one salesperson, to become a "4" on the same lead scoring scale when it is assigned to a different salesperson. This variance in predicted outcome, or "Lead Score" is based on the differential in historical closing rates for leads exhibiting the same characteristics, but when assigned to a different sales person.
This is a similar outcome and based on the same characteristics as when the same lead is sent to different dealerships using the same lead scoring system, which almost always results in a different lead score based on the historical results for each dealership based on leads containing similar or same data points... The only difference is that the effect is often times much more dramatic when applied to individual sales people.
For example, we all know certain sales people who do VERY WELL with truck leads... They know EVERYTHING about the Ford, Chevy or Dodge trucks they sell and how their buyers use those trucks... But give them a lead on a Focus or a Malibu and that same salesperson does no better than the rest of the sales team.
Unfortunately for what would seem to be a brilliant system to offer dealers, it may be perceived as interfering with the sale of more conventional "Lead Scoring" systems and as such may be considered too risky to offer for sale to dealers... God forbid they get an advantage that actually sells more cars!
We came up with the idea back when I was working at Courtesy and found that we could increase sales by overriding any type of "round robin" (random) lead routing system.
The whole concept seems to trigger a lot of emotional and hysterical responses from people in the car business... What are your thoughts on an Intelligent Lead Routing system that would assign leads based on the highest probability of making a sale?
Dennis - I like your description of salesperson selection by the customer as a "Marketing Advantage" and Intelligent Lead Routing as a "Sales Advantage"! The obvious question is why not have both? Typically, the ILR selection is the salesperson that the customer gets along with better than any of the others; so in the absence of a customer choosing their own salesperson, why not throw some intelligence into the assignment process?
I would not bat Albert Pujols last on the same premise...Better hitters get more at bats..
Dave Anderson has a great quote that goes as follows....."People are not your greatest asset. The right people are. The wrong people are your greatest catastrophe and mediocre people are your greatest drain on resources.
I like it. We use the same premise when we give all commercial leads to the guy who goes to all the commercial truck seminars, knows every program, and can talk trucks like a pro (because he is). It works with the Corvette sales fanatic, the hispanic salesman who can converse in two languages, etc.
Tom - You obviously understand the principles of ILR, which is simply what we would do if we had time and information, along with the ability to intervene in milliseconds, which is why this is a classic instance of technology being applied to streamline and improve a sales process.
Intelligent Lead Routing works because it is based on reason and ability, rather than emotion and chance. If routing criteria are established based on salesperson experience, training and ability, then the results will yield the best ROI, which is my primary sales goal. Great post!
So I have been struggling with the process as well for the last couple of years. I have tried of few different methods. One thing I found was that my sales team that could sell a Prius to a Corvette lover aren't so great in long term follow up. They are my right brained team members that are creative and personable...but they lack the organizational skills that are required for our internet customers.
The other thing that I found important is matching personalities of customers with our sales team.
So what I have found that works for us (for now) is that I am the official Cherry Picker!!!! I host the lead, if I need an "Expert" early on, I get one involved...if not, I desk the deal, set the appointment, then I pick the best team member for the customer. But long term follow up, I keep involved until the customer is sold.
At the end of the day...working all together as a team and helping each other utlizing our strengths in our team and working with their weaker areas turns into more sales.
Amanda - What you are describing is the kind of "hands on" management that using technology to automate what CAN be automated, frees professionals like yourself to execute the decisions and resource allocations that might otherwise get overlooked if you were bogged down with more mundane task execution.
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