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That’s what I heard most at NADA 2012. Dealers are re-building their Internet marketing departments and they’re pretty excited about it. For the first time in years, many dealers are hiring additional staff to help with increased Internet leads and increased sales. Yet they are doing so cautiously, and from what I heard seem to be focused on the following three areas:
Return-On-Investment (ROI): Many dealers were at NADA to learn about all the new tools and technologies available to them for helping drive in-market customers to their dealership. But they also want to know the ROI for the various solutions, and many people I spoke with says it all boils down to cost-per-sale (CPS). The good news is most of today’s technologies do provide a measurable ROI. For instance, one of our customers using a gift card to incent customers into the showroom generates a lead-to-show rate of 35% and a 59% conversion rate with an average CPS of less than $100. Vendors should be able to provide dealers with similar ROI statistics for all their products.
Process Improvement: It’s always a challenge to find good staff, but it’s possible to turn average salespeople into great salespeople with continual process training. Whether a dealer gets leads from their web site, from independent lead providers or from the manufacturer, any lead is only as good as the people and process working it. After all, it’s not rocket science is it? Follow up quickly with a personalized response, provide good customer service, listen, give pricing if asked, etc. The real challenge here is the time it takes to properly follow up all the leads that are coming in. But fortunately, new tools such as an automated virtual assistant (AVA) can help fill the gaps in any sales department by engaging every lead until they are ready to be handed over to the salespeople, as well as re-engaging older leads.
Social Media: Many dealers still aren’t quite sure how to approach social media. The consensus is that it’s best not to use it as a selling platform, and should be used to bring potential customers down-funnel. But why not leverage social media platforms to attract in-market customers as well? Posting inventory on a Facebook page is a great way to engage people interested in buying (creating a separate tab so as not to alienate the more casual visitors). Creating the right balance with messaging is key as being too pushy is a turn-off for many consumers, and especially the younger ones who are most active in social media.
Overall, it’s an exciting time to be an Internet Sales Manager and sales predictions for 2012 promise a rewarding year for auto dealers. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Using tools and technologies can definitely make the sales process more efficient, but the best tools in the world will never replace the final interaction between salesperson and customer, and the basic selling skills required to make that transaction a successful one.
As an Internet Sales Manager who may be in the process of “putting your band back together,” what are your biggest concerns and what are you most excited about?