Automotive Digital Marketing

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Selling comes naturally for many of us in the car business...

In most conversations, people in the automotive industry have a tendency to turn the conversation with the techniques we've been taught - building rapport, qualifying, leading the conversation, listening for hot buttons, etc.

On website chat, there's a slightly different mentality required to make it work. Unlike phone and face-to-face conversations, it's more challenging to utilize our natural and trained skills to lead people towards the goal. We have to, in many ways, earn the right to ask for the lead. This is contrary to some philosophies that attempt to go straight for the lead information on chat, but it's better to talk them through it rather than force the issue.


There are two common scenarios that we see on chat today. First, there are those who answer the chat and reply to any question with a request for contact information. Even if they ask something simple like, "what time do you close," the response is always, "I'm not sure but I'll check on that and contact you. May I have your phone number and email address, please?"


The second growing phenomenon is the "lead gate". In this scenario, requests for chat are prompted with a form getting all of their information up front. If they want to ask a simple question, they have to fill out a lead form just to be able to get through to people. It's like calling the dealership and having the receptionist answer by saying, "Thank you for calling Sterns BMW. May I have your name, phone number, and email address, please?"


On the surface, it can seem like a good idea to ask for the information up front. If they're serious, they'll leave the information, right? Wrong. Just because people aren't wanting to leave their information for the dealership doesn't mean they're not serious about buying a car. In fact, many people prefer chat because it's less risky to them. They aren't having to talk to a salesperson on the phone and they don't have to wait for a reply via email.

The wonderful part about chat is that we've seen thousands of instances over the years where a person is a bit standoffish from the start, but after being helpful and answering their questions quickly and informatively, they are willing later in the chat to give their contact information to the chat operator.


Earning a lead on chat means that you're starting off by meeting their needs so that they're more willing to meet your needs. That's the give and take that makes top dealerships the most successful.

Views: 286

Tags: best practices, chat, earning leads, engagement, leads


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Comment by Tim Elliott on August 26, 2014 at 4:35am
Chat is a waste of money if you require something of me BEFOR I start my discussion. I will leave and not return. This is called de-selection. It is the process of eliminations during the path to purchase where a shopper de-selects by not returning. This is why knowing your site return visitors , page bounce rate and time on site are key measurement. If you make it easy for the shopper to get what THEY want, you may get what you want (not a sale) ....but a new raving fan !!
Comment by Michael on August 25, 2014 at 12:52pm

Chat has become 'common' in many retail industries. As with all technology intros. as CHAT years ago, people experience the 'value' and must have it at large. It has become the 'norm' in preamble communications with many retail store entities.

Comment by Michael Smith on August 25, 2014 at 12:38pm

I could not agree more Jeffery.  I spend all day on the phone, email and chatting with customers and my goal is to get people in the door and I want them to be comfortable with me.  People are more likely to make large purchases with someone they trust and like.

Comment by Jeffery Sterns on August 25, 2014 at 12:33pm

You have to create a comfortable environment for the chatter.

Of course Michael! The world might have evolved toward digital but human DNA is still "rapport first".

Thanks for the comment.

Comment by Michael Smith on August 25, 2014 at 12:22pm

Excellent points Jeffery.  You have to create a comfortable environment for the chatter.  Once you do that you can ask or more likely they will give you their information because they want to take it to the next step for you.

Comment by BingBangBong on August 25, 2014 at 8:54am

The dealership I work for has just implemented chat. There was resistance to it at first, but it's already starting to pay off.

Comment by Jeffery Sterns on August 25, 2014 at 8:13am

Good morning Mike! Thanks for taking a look at the post!

I think it's ok that the client knows that you want to sell them a car. Just earn the right, right? Same in chat....earn it the right to ask for their contact info!

While in retail, taking TOs in my stores, I was never shy about saying what we were there for and wanted! We just needed to add some value... which included showing some interest which could lead to a great vehicle suggestion or deal structure.

Your service question:

I LOVE this question because our typical dealer conversation is so "sales lead-centric"...if that's a word... lol. And fixed opps is a big part of chat! In sales and compliance.

40% of our chats are not a sales lead opportunity at all. Whether the chat is an employment question, someone that bought last week asking for a call about how to set their radio or (mainly) a fixed opps part or job question, or wanting to ask about a published special or looking to make an appointment.

Chat is a wonderful way to facilitate any and all of this. Our post-chat CSI results show that the shopper experience is good is this area. (actually, between "very good" and "excellent").

Another benefit is that sometimes a dealership client can "improperly recall" a "promise" that was made to them by the chat operator ("the chat operator said there was a free LOF with tire rotation")  made to them (I know, I know, this is almost impossible to believe!!! :) ). The chat transcripts can be used to protect the dealer in service.

We believe in helping first. An interesting thing about chat opposed to lead that the  shopper often enters chat to ask a question or two anonymously...then after the typical 7-8 minutes (our typical chat ends at 8-9 minutes) , the shopper (like a well handled phone up) didn't get enough info to just hang up (end chat) and gives up their contact info (signaling satisfaction with the conversation thus far). Opening a chat with a request for data.... whether it be a direct requirement to provide contact info to begin a chat or, more subtle ("enter your email for a transcript of this chat" or" case we get disconnected, what is your telephone/ email..." , etc), may gather data but it is sure as heck not opt-in by the shopper to get contacted by the store!! It can cause an early exit by the shopper or (worse?) a shopper getting contacted by the store later....having no idea why they were contacted! (low closing rate, low staff demeanor too!).

Did I address your comment?

Comment by Mike Elliott on August 25, 2014 at 6:53am

Good post Jeffery. I think you highlight a very important facet of human behavior. Helping first gives that potential future customer some proof that you aren't just there to sell them a car. I hope your post encourages everyone to review how they respond to questions in Chat but also those posed via email, the phone or in person.

Aside from your comments here about how Chat can create a lead when there is some trust built, I'd like to hear your comments about how a great Service Department can do the same. Any thoughts in that area?

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