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Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov famously tantalized his dogs by ringing a bell to alert them that food was about to be served. The dogs, soon wise enough to associate the sound of a tinkling bell with a big juicy steak, began to salivate each time the bell tolled.
This associated behavior is known as “classical conditioning,” and the parallel between the doghouse and the dealership cannot be clearer. Obviously, the incoming lead is the “ringing bell” in your dealership, and the dealers are the hungry dogs pouncing on the lead.
Instead, what I hear all too often in my visits around the nation’s dealerships are lackluster lead responses like “Ahh, that can wait a little bit.” or “Somebody else can take the phone call.” Over the past four or five months, I’ve noticed this non-responsive attitude toward leads becoming more common than ever.
What happened to the urgency? Shouldn’t every Internet sales person know by now that the first fifteen minutes are the most critical when it comes to new automotive leads? Why are all the Internet sales processes taught in OEM seminars and Dealer Group guidelines going out the window?
To understand this seemingly irrational behavior, we must return to Pavlov’s dogs.
In the same experiment, Pavlov began ringing the bell WITHOUT providing food, to see if the dogs would still respond with salivating and pouncing. Result: Without the food (stimuli), the bell elicited less and less “drooling” and, after a while, the behavior became extinct.
The moral of the story? For a variety of reasons, Internet Sales Managers have stopped associating leads with sales. As a result, sales urgency is out and “lead lethargy” is in. In order to understand why, we must identify the reasons and establish best practices around digital automotive lead management.
Why Automotive Leads “Overflow” is Turning Alpha Dogs into Lapdogs
Why have so many dealers stopped associating leads with sales? Believe it or not, one key reason is the sheer abundance of leads. Digital automotive marketing has done its job almost too well, and as a result, there is an unprecedented flow of leads and lead sources. Like Pavlov’s ringing bell,today’s Internet Managers are inundated with nonstop chimes, buzzers, pages and calls, all alerting them that leads are pouring in.
With “too many” leads for one Internet Salesperson to handle; the reward for selling a car will be still there, but the closing ratio will drop. This drop will probably defeat company’s policies (closing ration >10% and so on). If a dealership has an average of 200 leads coming in per month, even if an Internet Salesperson sells 18 cars a month, they will still not be able to make a dent. Realizing this, the salesperson begins “cherry picking,” handling the lower hanging fruit (e.g the rare used car in inventory with tons of inquiries), and neglecting the fresh 3rd party leads, most likely the leads w/ the highest cost per sale ratio.
How to Yank the Leash on Automotive Lead Management Apathy
1.Staff up. Many managers hear this story and think the answer is to decrease leads. Instead of canceling leads, I suggest converting one or more salesperson into your Internet team and supplying them with the lead “overflow.” By sharing the wealth, you get to keep all your leads and still make sure each one gets the attention it deserves.
2.Limit leads per person. Even a dog faced with 2,000 juicy steaks can’t eat them all. Sharpen sales concentration by limiting the number of start-to-finish leads to 80-90 per person/month. If they are an absolute pro, 120 start-to-finish leads may be doable, but don’t risk it unless you are sure this person is well-versed in your internal process.
3.Correlate effort and reward. To keep that urgency going, you have to make sure the stimulus is there. Let your team know “This next incoming lead will be the only one for today.” Limiting leads will stretch the necessity to handle each lead with thoroughness, according to your automotive lead management process. Needless to say, it was also increase staff motivation. All of a sudden the dog who was sitting with his tail between his legs will be streaking after the tennis ball.
These lead management practices work, I can assure you. I have turned around 3 franchises in the last 6 months to #1 CPO in state, #2 CPO in the country, and #1 New Car dealer objective, and so on. By integrating these practices, I have helped dealership realize the most Internet department sales ever, not by minimizing lead count, but by allocating the right resources in my eCommerce departments.
In conclusion, while I do not expect Internet Sales people to start drooling and pawing when an Internet Sales phone page comes across, these lead management practices should urge them to get out of their chair and “take care about business” right away.
And? Did this post ring a bell?
VJ - The Social Media Buzzer
PHOENIX -- ATLANTA