Just Promoted to Internet Manager? What to Do First!
By David Kain
Congratulations to the new group of internet managers out there! You are embarking on an exciting adventure that will allow you to increase your income by serving the fastest-growing segment of the automotive marketplace. Hopefully, you are excited about the opportunity and have a lot of energy to bring to the role. Regardless of what situation you walked into, there are some important first steps you should take to ensure you have solid success now and in the future.
I first offered this advice a couple of years ago and decided to provide this updated version to address the changes from the past two years. Take these steps first, and you will set the stage for good results.
- Identify Expectations It is important to find out what your management team expects from your internet operation. In some dealerships, your manager may not have this well-defined; in that case, it is important for you to outline your vision and goals and have them endorsed before you proceed. Be sure to ask your manager to indicate how the success of the department will be measured. It is best to outline objective goals that you feel you can reach with proper planning, budget and staffing. You also should understand what actions are necessary to achieve the goals and how management will work with you to support your efforts.
- Dealership website leads — www.yourdealership.com
- Search engines — Google, Yahoo!, MSN, etc.
- Manufacturer leads — forddirect.com, buyatoyota.com, gmbuypower.com, etc.
- Third Party Leads — Autobytel.com, AutoUSA.com, Cars.com, etc.
- Online classified leads — AutoTrader.com, Cars.com, AutoExtra.com, etc.
- Online auctions — Ebay.com, Overstock.com, etc.
- Identify Resources Tools. Today’s progressive internet departments should have the following tools in place to effectively manage leads and allow your internet sales team the flexibility to work with customers both in and away from their office. The basics:
Prospects/lead provider: Not just any prospect/lead provider will ensure success. You have to be vigilant in your marketing efforts to ensure that you obtain the best quality possible. If your dealership currently receives leads, you will want to meet with the lead source company's representatives to gain a thorough understanding of how its systems work and the quality you can expect.
- Laptop computer with wireless, high-speed internet access
- Lead management (LMT) customer relations management (CRM) tool, preferably web-based or accessible remotely so you can manage leads on the go
- Cell phone, preferably with email and text capacity so you can respond quickly
It sounds counterintuitive that you will receive telephone calls from the internet, but many prospects use the internet like a phone book and will call in to start the dialogue. Because your email interaction typically tries to motivate customers to call or to accept your call, this tendency eliminates that first step. A good rule of thumb: Generate 80 to 100 leads for each full-time internet salesperson if they work the deals from lead inception to vehicle delivery. Generate 150 to 200 leads for full-time appointment setters if they set appointments for the dealership sales team.
Typical online prospect/lead sources include:
- Outline a Lead-Handling Process There are a lot of different patterns for managing leads, and, fortunately, most of them work if you consistently implement them. I recommend drawing a simple process diagram on a sheet of paper that identifies the steps to take and who should take them to complete the action within your department when a new lead arrives by phone or email.
A simple diagram will clarify for your team the lead-handling process and what action each team member will take. Be specific and carry it out to the fullest detail possible. We have designed a proven process that works for our clients that we identify as the “three-day personal push” coupled with the “two-week press” and followed by “nurture marketing.” This consistency allows the dealers we work with to have solid, ongoing success.
- Learn Your Products Internet customers have easy access to information about their choice of vehicles, and they typically know a great deal about their choices. As a result, they tend to judge the dealership person they communicate with on a more critical basis if they cannot effectively answer questions about their products. To meet internet customers’ expectations, it is important that you ensure that each person on your team is fully committed to learning about the products you represent.
New inventory. Have your team become product-certified by the manufacturer and brush up their skills with product presentations by the dealership sales team. I recommend test-driving the products so you can learn about their unique features and benefits.
Used inventory. Do a daily inventory walk, test-drive new arrivals and ask the salesperson who traded for the vehicle to tell you about the history so you can bring the vehicle to life for the customer.
- Walk in Your Customers’ Shoes To understand what your customer expects from your internet department, it is important that each internet team member visit the sites where your prospects learn about your products and where they complete the forms to submit their requests for information. This will allow you to experience firsthand what messages your prospect receives while shopping and what messaging prompted them to submit their request. This will be an eye-opening experience and will tell you a great deal about how customers are influenced by the lead submission path they take. You will also understand why customers are a little surprised when a dealership emails or calls them after they submit a lead.
There is plenty more to learn, but taking these first steps will give you a head start and allow you to generate sales this week.