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The Black Hole of Lost Internet Sales: Who Services Internet Sales Leads When Internet Salespeople are Busy with Customers?

What happens to your dealership’s Internet lead coverage while your Internet Salesperson leaves their computer to sell a vehicle, taking the time needed to confirm the customer’s needs, test drive, negotiate, close, and deliver? In the average dealership, this process creates several hours of a “black hole” of aging Internet leads—lost sales!—needing attention. We all know that “speed wins” sales on the Internet, and the black hole can happen even with a large Internet Department on a busy day. So what’s the solution to prevent these lost sales? We have at least three approaches: adopt the best and right technology tools to assure the most attention possible from the Internet Department to the leads; train the entire sales team for Internet sales in order to create an “Internet Dealership”, not just an Internet Department; or use a Business Development Center that fields sales calls and Internet leads and sets appointments for the floor sales staff. (see the .pdf for the rest!)
The Black Hole of Lost Internet Sales.pdf

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Tags: appointment, bdc, crm, ilm, internet, lost, sales

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Comment by Keith Shetterly on July 8, 2009 at 4:14pm
I know that buyers, if they contact, call by the larger majority, and I agree with that point from Ralph. I think his data is very valid. I think what you've seen is the Internet replace the newspaper as the communication vehicle and then augment it as a research platform. I think what Ralph may also be saying is that the # of folks contacting us on the Internet isn't much different than the % that did from the newspaper. I also think, however, that we don't do a good enough job capturing those visitor that WILL want and allow contact.

I'm really of the opinion that the phones have been mis-handled for years, and that the Internet did NOT improve that. The #1 skill I look for in an Internet salesperson today is PHONE skills, because I can template emails and be sure of some quality control there. I let my Internet folks handle sales calls that originate from our website, not because that is particularly an "Internet" function but because they have, overall, the better phone skills. I'd rather a BDC handled all the phone and the Internet and set appointments, doing a triage to qualified salespeople if there is a need/question they can't answer, than any salesperson handle the phone.
We've spent decades trying to improve phone skills . . . the Internet didn't change the need to have the phones handled well. It actually amp'd the need, and also brought with it a focus on measurement tools that show the results if you don't handle the phone well . . . not pretty!
Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 8, 2009 at 3:54pm
@Matt - Keep in mind that the same JD Power studies have been showing the same results for year after year after year, so we know the numbers are both valid and consistent... HOWEVER, don't make the mistake most people make in identifying the pool of consumers who make up the group, and the answer to the right question, which is "79% of what group of people?". The answer is; those customers who bought a car, and reported that they had visited the selling dealership's web site before coming to the dealership and purchasing the vehicle. In other words, the JD Power numbers do NOT show that 79% of web site visitors bought a car from the dealership, NOR does the study suggest that 79% of the dealership's sales come from people who have already visited the store's web site... Quite simply, of all the people who bought a car after visiting the selling dealer's web site, less than 20% bothered to fill out a form or contact the dealership in any way prior to their physical visit to the dealership which resulted in their buying a vehicle.

What I am surprised at is that none of the comments ventured a guess as to the breakdown of contact methods... Here's the answer; Over 85% of the car buyers who DID CONTACT the dealer before their visit and after visiting the dealer's website, chose to call the dealership by phone... Less than 25% of the buyers who contacted the dealership used email or a web form. The overlap represents customers who did both a web form or email, and a phone call. Keep in mind, that all of these numbers start with the people who REALLY DID BUY CARS from a dealership, since these were post purchase car buyer surveys.
Comment by Kim Clouse on July 8, 2009 at 3:16pm
Everyone who has interaction with a customer in a dealership should be trained, evaluated and verified on all processes period. It is a big problem though isn't it.
I am of the opinion as well that you have to suffer through it until everyone see's the value and the black hole will start shrinking.
Comment by Keith Shetterly on July 8, 2009 at 1:04pm
Here's something from what we were all discussing: www.buick.com. You can get pricing there with incentives . . . but see the details: "2009 Buick Enclave FWD CX. Tax, title, license, dealer fees and optional equipment extra. Price not available with special GMAC finance or lease offers. Take delivery by 07-31-2009. Residency restrictions apply. See dealer for details."

Essentially, this is a new "MSRP" without whatever factory packages and then dealer prep on the car. Sets the stage for some disappointment if not handled right on the floor.
Comment by Matt Watson on July 8, 2009 at 8:55am
@Clarence

I agree with everything your saying... I'm not saying dealers shouldn't have lead forms, I'm just saying there is a percentage of people that will never fill them out, that's all. I find that 79% JD Power statistic to be a little weird myself. That percentage seems extremely high.

We have a real time incentives integration our dealers can use, so it is available.
Comment by Clarence U Romero on July 8, 2009 at 6:54am
Matt,

Maybe in one store those numbers are correct but that is not correct as a whole. People do see a dealers site, and go to the store, but that number is more like 40%. A large majority call the dealer before submitting a lead form. So what your saying is dealers should not have lead forms? They should just list their best price on line and hope the customer will come in and tell them they saw their best price on line? Also incentives change often and website updates don't happen that fast, they should, but don't.

Allot of people do submit leads. Why do you think Keith posted this blog? If it's not allot of people, then who is filling out these lead forms? There are all different types of buyers, and we should be catering to them all. Try selling a website to a dealer, and telling them not to expect web form contacts cause more than 79% are going to come in. Today everything has to be traceable, and phone calls, and web forms are the conversion methods. I do agree that websites should be informative and should have a price, and an internet price something to make them call or submit a traceable call to action.
Comment by Matt Watson on July 8, 2009 at 6:03am
@Ralph

"Of all the car buyers who find the vehicle they want on a dealer's website, more than 79% go directly to the dealership and do not contact the dealer in any way prior to arriving at the store."

This goes directly to what I was saying before about how there are a lot of customers who will never submit a lead on a business website. People know they will be contacted and they don't want to. They want to window shop.

Based on your statistics I would think car dealers would put MORE info on their sites. If 3 Ford dealers sell the same product, but one website gave me more info and showed the car was slightly cheaper and what the current incentives were, I'm more likely to drive to that store based on the statistics you gave. For example, one store had pictures of their cars, all the options installed, factory color, current rebates, advertised finance specials, and showed the dealer was willing to sell for a few hundred bucks less than MSRP. Versus another dealer who lists virtually nothing on their website and posts MSRP price on their site. (Which most dealer websites fall in to the latter category)
Comment by Keith Shetterly on July 8, 2009 at 4:56am
Clarence, thank you!

Ralph, that was a lot of great information in all your posts, but the Monroni sticker history with Iacocca was really interesting. Thank you, as well.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on July 7, 2009 at 9:26pm
Keith, I wanted to comment on your statement; "They have many reasonsf for this. First, there are difficult items like regional incentives they can't discuss nationally, the customer might incorrectly think they are entitled to some loyalty money, the customer might be part of a private offer already that doesn't fully mix, etc. Next, they well know that dealerships make their living on a margin and on the aftermarket (tint, financing, etc.) that can affect the price. So, they stick with MSRP." Which refers to the OEM web sites... First and foremost, the technology exists, and is both affordable and accurate, for an interactive process to provide car shoppers with accurate rebates, incentives and a Private Offer list-check look up. For example, when you go into KBB.com, the consumer must enter their zip code, which results in different valuations based on regional differences made available by the consumer putting their zip code it. Likewise, the same process for pulling a GM manifest of Private Offer customers assigned to your dealership using GM DealerWorld, then searching for the customer's name using the Adobe search function for a PDF, could also be built in about a week for GM, but i am sure the work has already been done... They have a lot of cool stuff that never makes it out of committee. Think the Federal Government, and getting more so every day!

The REAL challenge is all the various state and federal legislation that forbids and prevents car companies from being involved in providing ANY pricing guidance OTHER THAN THE MSRP! There is so much legislation in place that prevents car companies from providing any type of price control, influence or guidance outside of that Federally Mandated MSRP window sticker, it is downright scary for OEM attorneys to see even something as harmless as displaying each dealer's inventory on the web. Just like our government is constitutionally required to maintain a clear separation between any Church and the State, Car Companies are supposed to be as far removed from any pricing, discounting or anything else outside of that Monroni Sticker... Senator Monroni.was the lead sponsor of the federal legislation that created the now infamous "Window Sticker".

I am old enough top remember the very first car company "Rebates" with Lee Iaccoca holding his hand out with $500 in his fist, telling customer that "I'll pay YOU to buy a new Chrysler, Plymouth or Dodge...". Those very first rebates were on Chrysler K cars, and there were a lot of people that raised the question of "how can you have a rebate with those window stickers on the car... That means the federal government's law making every car company put a price tag on every car is now bullshit..." At the time, the government had guaranteed a LOT of loans for Chrysler to stay in business, and the conventional wisdom is that everybody looked the other way on the rebate issue violating federal law requiring a true MSRP window sticker, because it was Chrysler doing it and the congress did not want to have to explain why the taxpayer would get stuck with those loan guarantees if Chrysler defaulted... My, my... Have things ever changed since then!

There were many articles at the time that said if there were going to be rebates, then car companies should be required to issue and ship new window stickers, with the rebate disclosed on them.

Anyways, just wanted to let you know that all the car companies COULD provide a lot more technology around consumer access to actual transaction prices, but there would have to be changes made in both federal and just about every state's legislation that seeks to protect dealers from their own suppliers, the car companies that issue their franchises... My, my... How BK laws now make all those state laws protecting dealer franchises look like so much gibberish!
Comment by Clarence U Romero on July 7, 2009 at 9:07pm
Keith, it was a great post.

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