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Internet Lead Lingo: “I’m Not In the Market” Means “Don’t Pressure Me”

I’ve always believed that Internet customers have the same objectives—and objections—as showroom customers: the only difference is the way they choose to contact the dealership.


So it’s interesting to me when I hear from salespeople who have different expectations from their Internet leads than they do from their showroom guests.


Take the classic on-the-lot objection, “I’m not looking,” or “I’m just looking but not buying today.” When a customer visits a showroom and a salesperson hears that phrase, what is the proper response? Get angry? Refuse to help that customer? Pass them off to a co-worker? Of course not. It’s pretty well accepted that “I’m not looking” is code for “don’t pressure me,” and it’s the first objection we train our salespeople to deal with when they start their career.


In such a situation, it’s generally accepted that the salesperson should immediately set the customer at ease. Acknowledge that it’s OK for the customer to just look, and offer to be a resource for them. It doesn’t mean that the customer won’t buy on that visit or that you won’t ask for the sale when the time is right—but they’ve told you the time isn’t right yet. So you work the process, build value in yourself, the dealership and the vehicle of interest, and take them as far as you can during their visit. And if they leave after your best efforts?  Be friendly, offer to help with whatever they need going forward, then follow up, follow up, follow up.


Now, let’s say that a salesperson is sitting at their computer looking at a response from an email sent to an Internet lead. They read “I’m not in the market,” or “I’m just doing research right now, I’m not planning to buy for a while.” The salesperson rolls their eyes, complains that they shouldn’t have gotten the lead, and immediately closes the lead out. That’s the equivalent of a lot drop after the greeting.


Why would they treat that Internet lead any differently than a showroom customer? Here are a few reasons why the response should be the same:


  1. Both showroom and Internet customers have to be brought down funnel. A salesperson has to earn the right to ask a customer for the sale.

  2. Both showroom and Internet customers ARE in the market for a vehicle, despite their objections. Why would anyone take the time to visit a dealership or submit an online lead (which does take some time) if they’re not?

  3. Both showroom and Internet customers have the same first-contact conversion rates. NADA estimates that the conversion rate for first-time, walk-in showroom customers is 12-15%. The average dealership’s close rate for Internet leads from all sources combined is 10-15%.

    Wait a second, you’re thinking. Any decent salesperson can close 30-40% of showroom ups. Maybe even 50%. But that figure includes prospects from a variety of sources; appointments, referrals, repeat visits and first-time walk-ins, all combined. If a floor salesperson was assigned to first-time walk-ins only, they’d close 12-15%. We know that “the point” is the least-productive place to spend your day, and your planner’s where you make your money.

  4. Appointments set with “be-backs” and Internet customers alike show about the half the time. Of those, most stores close upwards of 50%. Customers who set and show up for appointments are more likely to buy, regardless of whether they first contacted the dealer through the Internet or by walking onto their lot.


When faced with objections from Internet leads, some salespeople tend to give up more quickly than they would with a walk-in. But if they invest the same time and effort as they do with showroom customers, focusing on working the sales process and earning the right, they’ll get results. Make the customer comfortable, offer to be a resource, bring them down funnel, and Internet lead conversion rates will improve.


What tips do you have for the “I’m just looking” or “I’m not in the market” objection? Do you think the same tactics that work in the showroom are successful with Internet leads?

Views: 451

Tags: Internet, Manager, Sales, auto, leads, marketing, party, sales, third


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Comment by Jason McCullough on June 8, 2012 at 6:47am

Hey Josh - great article. With the growing importance of eLeads in the marketplace, it's so important our dealers understand that Internet shoppers are just as serious as walk-in/phone shoppers. Nice job.

I'd love to track down that NADA stat where the closing rate shows how close these two groups are - can you post a link?


Comment by Stan Sher on June 1, 2012 at 3:12pm

Great post.

Comment by Tom Gorham on June 1, 2012 at 11:55am

A little story.  We have one rep that stayed in contact with a woman for one year... sounds a little extreme.  But each month he would send an email just to keep in touch.  A few of those times, she wrote back asking a question and he would answer... no pressure.  Almost exactly a year after her initial request, she came in and he wasn't there.  She would not work with anyone else. She bought a car from him.  True story... kudos to Terry Lavigne!

It's not a lot of work to shoot off an email once a month, but so many salespeople resist it.  They act as if the customer has insulted them by not buying NOW!  Get over it, be friendly and helpful, and make a customer for life.

Comment by Michael Del Priore on June 1, 2012 at 8:31am

I agree with you there is a process with the internet customer in the sales process. Some internet customers start their process 90+ days in advance to purchase as they try to determine the make and model best fits their needs for a new purchase. Third Party Lead providers are prime examples  of prospects searching for vehicle 90+ days in advance. The BDC Rep or Internet Salesperson needs to listen to the customer and try to help along the way towards steering that particular customer for an appointment at the dealership. I'm surprised at the the % for Walk In's to purchase the first time they ever visit or contact the dealership. I would have thought that number would be higher.

Comment by Rob Fontano on June 1, 2012 at 7:34am

Nice job Josh. I think the main thing that internet sales people should understand is that when a customer is "Just doing some preliminary research" They have a golden opportunity to serve that customer. "I understand, my role is to answer all of your questions and to supply you with all of the information that you need."  Whatever you can do to differentiate yourself and your store from all of the others that the customer is likely to encounter should provide you with enough of an edge to at least earn an opportunity. 

Comment by Tom Gorham on June 1, 2012 at 7:08am

Excellent insight Josh.  Thank you!

Not only should a salesperson acknowledge what the customer has told them and offer to be a resource, but ask a few pertinent questions about the customer's research.  Ask if it's ok to send them some information that might assist in their research.

Don't you think it is even possible to build a structured but flexible sales process around this in your CRM?

I would point out one thing... just don't write back or say, "What can I do to sell you a car now?" ;-)

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