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Category Archive: Internet Sales

Alan Ram

Is Your Dealership in Conflict?


Here’s the problem at many dealerships: In our heads, we know what we want our people to be doing on a daily basis, but our actions and processes (or lack thereof) contradict what our heads are thinking, and we end up sending our staff conflicting messages. What do many of you see as you walk through your showroom? You might see five salespeople standing out on the point for three hours, waiting for one customer while discussing their upcoming fantasy football draft. As a dealer, that should make you crazy. What do you want to see? You want to see your people working the phones EFFECTIVELY and driving better quality traffic to the dealership.

Here are a couple issues I see at play at many dealerships:

First and foremost is your open floor. There is absolutely no benefit to you as a dealer in having an open floor. NONE!! All an open floor does is encourage your people to stand around and do nothing while they wait around for a floor up that was coming in anyway.

I see this happen all the time; a dealership has my training and their people are excited to work the phones. A couple salespeople, who don’t necessarily think it’s part of their job to actually follow up or generate anything, continue to stand out on the lot…and wait. Luckily for them, they don’t have to compete anymore for floor traffic with all the salespeople who are doing what you want them to do on the phones. Let’s just say that one of the salespeople standing around happens to bump into a customer that buys a car. Pretty soon the salespeople who are on the telephone, doing what you want them to do, start realizing that they’re not having a chance to even get an up. Now human nature takes over and they start the migration back to the front door. They indirectly feel that they are being punished by doing what you asked them to do. Your open floor is hurting productivity and needs to go.

Have you ever had to bribe your kids to get them to eat their candy and ice cream? “Now Billy, if you don’t eat your ice cream, you’re not going to get any candy.” I doubt that’s a conversation that happens at anyone’s house. It’s more like, “If you don’t eat your Brussels sprouts, you don’t get dessert”. You don’t need to convince them to eat their candy and ice cream. They were going to eat that anyway. To me, spiffing your salespeople for selling your floor ups is the same thing. They’re going to take your floor ups whether you spiff them or not! If a salesperson that sold 25 cars off strictly floor ups was to leave tomorrow, how many deals would you lose? Probably none. Why? Because those customers would still come in. They would just be distributed differently. What about that salesperson that sells 20 cars a month off primarily their own efforts to repeat and referral clients? If that salesperson was to leave, how many deals would you lose? I would say all of them. Therefore, a salesperson that sells repeat and referral customers is far more valuable to you than one that sells floor ups. If you’re going to have a spiff program, let’s spiff them for what you want them to do versus what they were going to do anyway! A referral spiff for example. If it really is a referral your salesperson generated through their efforts, wouldn’t it make sense to spiff them for it?

We also all want our sales staff doing a better job at working (mining) their sold customer base. What if we spiff them for selling repeat customers or for turning service customers back into sales clients. Now you have your salespeople thinking, “I make more money by selling a repeat or referral client than I do a floor up.” That’s when they’ll start focusing on those things you want them to focus on. That’s when you’re using your spiff money to change their behavior and ultimately change the culture. You will not sell one less car by eliminating a unit bonus, but you’ll sell a lot more cars by instituting a repeat and referral spiff.

The key to this coming together and getting the results you want is obviously training. Your people need to be trained on how to get results on the phone. When they’re trained it gives them confidence. When they have confidence, they’re much more likely to be successful and they gain momentum. It all starts with training and having processes in place that are consistent with, and not in conflict with, what you want to see happening on your showroom floor.

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Ali Mendiola

40 Percent or More of Your Website Traffic Comes from Mobile. Are You Ready?


You build a website thinking that customers will take the time to go to a computer and do their research. After all, they’re going to spend thousands of dollars on a new or pre-owned vehicle, so you want the experience they have on your website to be scalable, colorful and rich in content and tools.

And you’d be right. Your website must offer lots of brilliant content in a design that makes your cars shine, and with digital retailing tools you must connect the online world with your in-store shopping experience. Your website must be a digital conversion machine.

There’s only one catch: That picture is changing, and fast. Today, according to comScore and Mobile Metrix, around 80 percent of people in the U.S. own smartphones. So when it comes to car shoppers, it makes sense that many are actually using a smartphone, or tablet, to visit your site, search inventory and conduct those all-important first purchase steps. In fact, according to traffic on the network, more than 40 percent of visits to dealership websites come from mobile devices.

That’s four out of ten potential buyers looking at your inventory on a screen that could be as small as a business card.

That’s not a trend. It’s a fact. Mobile shopping behavior will and is continuing to gain momentum, to the point that your sales and marketing solution must accommodate the differences. Check out this interesting article from on the most important differences between Responsive, Adaptive and Seamless mobile design. Part of that design approach must also include retail tools that help ease the process of conversion from shopper to buyer.

It’s not enough to have a search-and-user friendly mobile experience; the same digital steps that dealers count on to help speed car buyers through the initial purchase steps of a website should do the same on the mobile equivalent. From searching inventory to calculating payment, checking realistic finance offers and trade-in values, these types of efficient digital tools – when designed correctly – are more valuable because they’re available when and how consumers want to shop, and when they want to buy. That sort of on-demand and mobile-first approach to digital retail is a significant difference maker.

It’s critical that dealers provide consistency across their sites and apps, no matter what device is being used to access the information. That’s not only about the look, feel, and information displayed on a site, but also when it comes to providing an online shopping environment. Too often, in fact, talk of a mobile experience ends at the research phase when what dealers need is a complete package which includes mobile and tablet-ready Digital Retailing tools. From trade-in to finance, those tools empower shoppers to find the perfect vehicle, serve up pricing and payment solutions in line with your dealership criteria, and even provide trade-in offers based on your inventory needs.

The reason? Convenience amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life. The reality is that people want to complete more of shopping transaction wherever and whenever they can – sitting in the carpool line before the school bell rings, between meetings, or waiting at the doctor’s office. Those spare 10 minutes are valuable opportunities to get shopping and research done via whichever type of device consumers wish to use. Dealers and their staff, as a result, have to be ready. Those that are ready will improve sales and the overall buyer’s experience.

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Alan Ram

To be or not to BDC? That is the question.


Here’s a question for you:
Is your BDC the result of a failure in training?

That should have your attention.  If I’ve ever written an article that will be misconstrued, this will be the one! Let’s get this straight; your people don’t suck on the phones because you don’t have a BDC! They suck because you haven’t properly trained them! As I’ve talked to dealers over the years, I’ve seen many BDC’s spring up out of knee-jerk frustration. While there are obviously exceptions to the rule, this is something I’ve seen repeated in the industry over the past several years.  A dealer says, “We tried training our salespeople, but they’re still terrible at handling phones, so we’ve hired three people and all they’re going to do now is handle our inbound sales calls, as well as Internet leads.” I have a number of different problems with this thought process, and I’m happy to tell you about them:

1) So you’re telling me that the people that you’ve hired to sell Lexus in Chicago are capable of talking to a customer that walks into the dealership, but for some reason, it blows their flipping minds to talk to that same customer on the telephone or communicate via email? I’m not willing to accept that.

2) I have trained tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of salespeople and BDC reps over the years. In that period of time, I have found that it takes every minute as long to PROPERLY train a BDC rep as it does a salesperson. The operative word in the previous sentence is “properly.” As a matter of fact, it takes longer to train a BDC rep. Why? Because while the sales staff already knows the product, the BDC staff is starting from scratch. I’ve asked BDC reps specific product questions before, and you may as well be asking some of them the gross domestic product of Bolivia. So while you think you’re solving one problem, you’re really creating another. Most of the calls I listen to that are made into BDC’s do not represent an improvement over the sales staff. At most, it’s the “get the customer’s name and number” department while trying to set up an appointment without giving the customer an actual reason to come in. I’m not trying to be harsh here. This is fact. We are creating an unnecessary level of specialization at many dealerships.

3) In this day and age, where the number one thing I hear when I do dealer 20 group meetings is “expense, expense, expense!”, shouldn’t the number one expense be hiring a second group of people to do the job the first group should have been doing? We’re talking about communicating with customers on the telephone and Internet here! This stuff isn’t quantum physics. It amazes me that the same dealers who throw up in a trash can when they get a $1000 invoice for training have absolutely no problem adding as much as 20-40k of expense per month in creating a BDC.

4) With that model, no one will want to work for you! Your dealership will compound one of the biggest challenges we already have in this industry, which is the struggle to find good salespeople.  Put yourself in the position of a good sales-person looking for a place to work. You walk into a dealership to interview; it’s a beautiful facility and a great brand. Then the person interviewing you drops the bomb, “by the way, our BDC takes all sales calls as well as handles our Internet leads”. At that point, I would imagine you would stand up, thank the interviewer for their time, and walk out the door to the dealership that lets you handle phone-ups and Internet leads. Do not kid yourself! That is a huge challenge that many dealers hadn’t considered but are now facing. Good salespeople avoid working at those dealerships that severely restrict their opportunities, and those dealerships tend to become a culture of telemarketers and greeters.

Here’s the solution:
Train your people to do the jobs you hired them to do.

If I’m hired to sell cars at your dealership, I should be capable of communicating with customers in person, on the telephone, and online. That would be part of being a well-rounded salesperson. Unfortunately, salespeople don’t necessarily arrive on your doorstep well-rounded. It’s your job to train them. The sad fact is that much of what dealers have bought over the years in the name of training, hasn’t been anything close to training at all. Going to the Marriott and listening to myself or anyone else talk for eight hours is as much training as going to a baseball game is training for baseball. You might get educated, but you’re not necessarily going to get trained. For something to be considered training, three elements need to be present: 1) Education 2) Simulation 3) Accountability. If any of those three elements is missing, whatever you’re trying to accomplish probably isn’t going to happen.

Now I’m not trying to convince anyone to dismantle their BDC. What I’m telling you to do is make sure that you’re not replacing one group of people that you didn’t train properly, with another layer of expense that you’re not training properly either.

BDC’s ARE GREAT and provide a wonderful return on investment when you have them doing the right things the right way. For example, following up unsold customers. 39% of people surveyed say that the reason they would not come back to a dealership is because they didn’t like the salesperson for whatever reason. Too tall, too short, reminded them of their ex-brother-in-law or smelled like smoke. What this is saying is that your sales staff does not have a shot with 39% of what you think are their be-back opportunities. When the customer doesn’t like the salesperson they won’t tell him or her “we didn’t like you”. What will they say? “We’ve decided to hold off” or “We’re not going to do anything right now.” They won’t tell the salesperson, but they will tell someone else. That’s why it is critical that every dealership have someone in ADDITION to salespeople following up on each and every customer that visits the store. That is a great function for your BDC.

Another thing you can do is shift their focus to your service department. I have worked with many dealerships that have amazing success in having BDC representatives schedule both repair as well as recommended maintenance. They can actively be following up on recall notices and generating service revenue.  This is a huge opportunity.  Your service advisors are on the drive talking to customers. They’re in the shop checking on vehicles. Call your dealership. Try to get a hold of the service advisor sometime and see how often you get voicemail or get put on hold for a period of time.

So again, I’m not telling you to dismantle your BDC. Business Development Centers are great when they are actually developing business. Let’s just make sure you have yours focused on the proper opportunities.


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Jonathan Dawson

5 Unique Questions to Ask on the Phone to Get Appointments

Office Phone

When you take a phone call from a potential customer, how confident are you that you can turn the conversation into an appointment? Many sales people do not treat incoming calls as excellent opportunities for prospects. Some even think, “If they were serious about buying, they’d come in instead.”

I believe the reason many incoming calls do not turn into great appointments is because sales people ask poor questions! I want to teach you five unique questions to ask on the phone in order to build rapport and get better appointments. Here is the list, in no particular order.

Unique Question #1:

Are you familiar with this vehicle because you own something similar?

This question does two positive things for you. The first result is that it will open up the comparison between what they’re driving now and what they’re looking for. Knowing what they drive now will give you valuable information, such as an idea of their financial status and what type of vehicle they’re familiar with.

Another benefit of asking this question is learning about the type of research the customer has done on the vehicle they’re considering. Did they read about it? Do they know a friend driving it who loves it? Have they been looking for this specific vehicle for a long time? Knowing these facts will allow you to add information value, which will motivate the customer to continue the conversation in person.

Unique Question #2:

If I had similar vehicles to also show you, what is most important to you in your next car?

This is a great, unique question to ask in order to test your customer’s flexibility. Are they set on the specific car they’re inquiring about or are they willing to consider similar options, especially if they could save money? The question will also help you uncover the customer’s hot buttons when they share what’s most important to them in their next vehicle. Typical themes in responses can include safety, economy, style, or space.

Unique Question #3:

Are you familiar with our dealership and how we do business?

Most likely, the customer will not be very familiar with your dealership, and it will give you an opportunity to describe your dealership’s unique selling proposition, pricing strategy, and customer service commitment. For example, you could say something like this: “As a family-owned dealership, we are committed to treating customers like family. That promise includes transparent, no hassle pricing. Our reviews and customer satisfaction ratings put us #1 in the entire state …” etc.

Unique Question #4:

Other than getting the right vehicle and a great deal, what else is important to you when you’re car shopping?

This question affirms your primary goal of finding the right car and offering a fair deal. It also invites the customer to share questions or concerns about the car buying experience and to possibly share any negative experiences they may have had.

Unique Question #5:

In order to make this the best car buying experience you’ve ever had, what do I need to know?

This question stresses the importance of customer service and your commitment to providing an excellent buying experience. In many cases, the customer will tell you what will make them comfortable and all you have to do as a sales person is to provide it.

I believe customers call in because they’re serious buyers. It is up to you as a professional sales person to respect and engage them effectively. Start asking these five unique questions today to build rapport and to get better appointments!

FO Roadshow 4

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Jody DeVere

Marketing to Women in the Dealer World: She Loves Her Mobile Device


Diamonds may have been a girl’s best friend, but today’s women prefer ringtones to rings.

In a recent study, Time, Inc. and Nuance Digital Marketing discovered that women are increasingly attached to their mobile devices. In fact, the study called “Women + Mobile: The Unbreakable Bond,” found that 60% of women say their smartphone is the most important device they own, and 88% of women say their phones give them something to do during their “empty” time every day. What does that mean for you and your dealership? Well, if you’re not fully engaging the mobile space in your marketing to women efforts, you’re missing out.

Text Reminders and Alerts

If you’re not taking steps to go paperless at your dealership, you’re in danger of being left behind by dealers who are. Not only is paper becoming increasingly cost-prohibitive (if you don’t believe us, just take a look at how much you spend each year on printing alone), but women are very responsive to auto dealers who have green practices – and going paperless is a major step in that direction.

Using paperless agreements, email, web, and mobile advertising, online appointment scheduling and finance qualification, and even utilizing text messaging to keep in touch with your customers after the sale are great ways to make sure your dealership remains front-of-mind for your women customers.  Service reminders, 30k, 60k, and 90k maintenance notices, recall information and more can all be transmitted wirelessly straight to the conduit via which she gets all her other important updates: her mobile phone.

The Mobile Web

Of course, you also want to use the mobile space to reach women who aren’t already your customers, and the mobile web is where you do that.  Smartphone and tablet users are threatening to overtake the population of desktop PC users on the web, so if your dealership is still using a website designed for desktop viewing, it’s time to give that site a face-lift and retrofit to fit inside the mobile space. It’ll make your site cleaner, simpler, and easier to navigate from a smaller screen, with some added benefits on the back-end as well: mobile SEO.

Giving your website a mobile makeover is a great time to revisit your SEO practices, ensure your entire website is “crawlable,” that you’re still targeting the right keywords, and most importantly, that you’re capitalizing on SEO geared at the mobile user. Mobile searchers are on the go, which means she’s actively looking for a business like yours if they’re searching for a car dealer on her phone – so if you’re not taking steps to make sure she finds you first, you’re going to miss out on important sales opportunities.

The Pitfalls

When it comes to advertising on the web, mobile or otherwise, most women don’t mind ads as long as they can control the experience. Location-based offers are very effective right now, as 41% of women saying they prefer ads that are relevant to where they’re searching from. While 52% say they prefer ads that are relevant to what they’re currently doing on the web. And the number one negative? Intrusive ads – 91% of women say they hate ads that pop up, take over, or otherwise distract from her browsing experience, so stay away from that! Simply make yourself visible, mobile friendly, and allow your business to become part of her mobile web space, and when she finds herself ready to shop for a new car, she’ll find you!

Jody Devere is the CEO of and a new guest contributor to the Up To Speed blog.  Through, Jody provides automotive education to women consumers and certification and training for automotive retailers on how to attract, sell, retain and market to women. She is also a featured subject matter expert on NCM OnDemand, NCM Associates’ new virtual training and communications platform.


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Garry House

Are Some of Your Used Vehicle Deals Really “Special”?

specialsI have always believed that there was a very valid reason why dealership website designers decided to include a “Used Vehicle Specials (UVS)” page in their master plan. Because if I were a used vehicle prospect, cruising dealers’ websites, when I clicked on “Used Vehicles” (or “Pre-Owned Inventory”), and a drop-down appeared, with one of the choices being “Specials” (or “Featured Vehicles”), I would certainly go there first, before taking a deep dive into the overall used vehicle inventory. However, most dealership managers must not think that the normal used vehicle prospect is like me… If so, they’d pay more attention to their UVS page, if the dealer even still allows them the luxury of having one!

I’ve always encouraged my client-dealers to regularly maintain and update this particular web page. (And most of my clients know that when I use the term “regularly” in the used vehicle arena, I mean “daily.”) I also harp on my clients about letting the browsing internet prospect know WHY we say a vehicle is “Special.” Is it the price? Is it the scarcity? Is it distressed merchandise? Are we overstocked in this year/make/model? Our UVS page must clearly define and SCREAM what “Special” means for each vehicle listed.

Before taking the time to write this article, I decided to conduct some research. Although I accurately predicted the results of this brief study, I had sincerely hoped to be wrong. From my list of nearly 500 past and current client-dealer rooftops, I checked out 30 dealership websites… big dealers, small dealers, private mega-dealers, public cap dealers… and looked at their UVS pages. The sample size was statistically significant to me. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Only five of the dealerships (less than 20%) did, what I considered to be, at least an adequate job on their UVS page. The positive components on those pages included statements such as, “Must Go Now, Note the Huge Price Drop”, ”Lowest Price on Like Vehicles Within 500 Miles”, ”All Vehicles On This Page Eligible for Additional $500 Coupon Discount! Click Below”, ”Bad CarFax, Bad Paint, A/C Not Cold, Runs Like a Top, And Really, Really Cheap!”
  2. Three of the dealerships (10%) no longer had a UVS page. When I called the Dealer Operator (or GM), each said, in his/her own way, “I just couldn’t make it happen on a continuous basis. Poor accountability management on my part! So rather than have a ‘Bad’ UVS, I decided to eliminate it completely.”
  3. When I clicked on the UVS on six of the dealerships, the resulting message took a form similar to the following: “Look for great Used Car Sales coming soon!”, ”See all 82 vehicles in inventory.” or  “Sorry, no specials are available at this time. Please check back later!”
  4. The remaining 16 rooftops (more than 50%) had a myriad of different offerings on their UVSs, none of which were “Special.” A few examples: Copies of their display ads (one was unreadable)…a half dozen pictures with year/make/model, stock number, and price…a reproduction of their normal used vehicle listings with 25+ vehicles featured.

In which above category is your dealership? If you don’t know, check out your UVS page! I hope you won’t be disappointed. If your page is in category #1, congratulations! If not, I suggest you GET IT FIXED immediately! Next week, January 7th and 8th, NCMi will be conducting a 1½ day regional training program in Orlando Florida, titled How to Make the Phone Ring and the Door Swing in YOUR Used Vehicle Department. To learn more, click here. Enroll now if you want to Jump-Start your Used Vehicle Department in 2014!roadshow_orlando

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Russell Grant

Five Must-Ask Questions to Better Position Your Marketing Spread

puzzleAs I speak to dealers it is clear that it is becoming increasingly difficult to develop a marketing strategy as more and more services and programs are being offered. Innovation due to big data has flooded the marketplace with plenty of marketing options. Dealers are left with tough decisions with respect to their ad spend.

Here are Five Questions to Consider with your Marketing Budget

1. Are you at the front of the food chain? Not a day that goes by that a dealer doesn’t tell me that more and more customers are shopping them on the Internet. Because of this, once the customer gets to the dealership the profit in the deal is minimal. Even this is a best case scenario because sometimes the customer doesn’t even get to the dealership. This is when I ask dealers this question: Tell me about your lead generation and your spend?

Dealers usually tell me how much they spend on 3rd party leads and how frustrating it is. I ask them about using their owner data so they achieve more 1st party leads than 3rd party leads. The key is using the data to drive your marketing so that you can identify your customer at the front of the buying cycle. The more 1st party leads you create, the less 3rd party leads you will need. Remember, a 3rd party lead has been passed out to several other dealers. Your success rate and ability to make more gross is diminished the further down the line you are.

2. Are you spending the majority of your budget on the people with whom you will have the greatest impact? I would compare this to politics. The first goal is to rally and excite your base. Second is to go after the swing votes. The further you move from left to right or right to left, the less impact you will have. The same is true in marketing. Start with an Owner Marketing Plan. Next, look at becoming more strategic with conquest marketing. Conquesting has become more cost effective with digital techniques. In the future, this will become more advantageous as you will be able to use better data to streamline your efforts.

3. Are you staying in front of customers who have shown interest? This has become a point of emphasis as dealers can drive a lot of visitors to their website, but conversion to an actual appointment is often low. Retargeting has become a great way to stay in front of these customers. Remember, customers are now in the market and doing research for up to 180 days before they buy. It is vital that we stay in front of this customer beyond initial contact. Email campaigns are a cost-effective way to accomplish this goal.

4. Are you making it easy to buy from your dealership? Great marketing should go beyond a response; it should also make it easier to buy from your dealership. When we get a customer response, if we don’t make it easy to buy, then it becomes too easy for the consumer to just go to another dealer’s website. Marketing has to push people down the sales funnel. By engaging your customer this way, it takes your customer to a deeper level within your dealership and diminishes the need for the customer to visit other dealership websites. We should value marketing that creates more dealership appointments and test drives.

5. Are we measuring correctly? Every dealer I speak to wants measurable results. Who can blame them? The challenge is: are we using measurements that correctly gauge how customers buy? Measuring customer timeframes will help us calculate the effectiveness of our spend. We should also calculate how much time on average it takes to close the sale. For example, if it takes an average of 62 days from initial contact to close of sale, then you need to figure how to lower the average number of days to close. Choose a sales process or marketing tool that will help you better track each customer, expedite the process and keep the sale in-house.

Look at your budget and ask these five questions, then look at programs for the future. This should give you a great start and, more importantly, a better position for your dealership’s budget. Innovation is coming to the marketplace – make sure you’re positioned to benefit from it.


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David Kain

It’s Time for 3rd Party New Vehicle Lead Providers to be Transparent

fishbowlThe 3rd party new lead providers I know are operated by genuinely good people who want to provide a valuable service to the auto shoppers, dealers and manufacturers they serve. For more than 15 years in some cases, companies like Autobytel have worked diligently to bring car buyers and car dealers together using the magic of the Internet. Like Autobytel, AutoUSA and Dealix are also very well-intended companies that realize in order to grow their business they must also grow the businesses of the dealerships that write the checks for their leads. Beyond the well-known 3rd party new vehicle lead providers are other new vehicle lead providers that don’t have the marquee profile of these industry stalwarts, but send leads in the thousands each month to dealerships all over the country in the name of vehicle manufacturers. These companies are Shift Digital and Urban Science and their new vehicle leads show up in your CRM or lead management tool as Manufacturer 3rd Party Leads.  All are necessary and generally beneficial to the healthy growth of new vehicle sales across the country.

However…if they want to thrive in the future (not just survive), they need to be totally transparent with the originating source of the leads they sell to dealers. The business model used by most 3rd party new vehicle lead providers is that of a lead aggregator. They sell leads to dealers and manufacturers from their own sites (AutoByTel & AutoUSA) and sites they own (Dealix owns InvoiceDealers), as well as leads they buy and then “aggregate” to dealers from root lead sources.   There are literally hundreds of these root lead sources that are not well known to dealers, but you can easily find them if you search for your brands’ current make and models in your community.

These root lead sources typically show up on the side bar with the other pay per click advertisements just to the right of the organic search.  A recent search I conducted on Google using the terms “2013 Ford Fusion Lexington KY” returned several pay per click options, including one that said Ford Fusion with a sub-message that promoted “Don’t Pay $21,700 for a Ford Fusion – Submit Form for a Free Quote!”…A click on the link took us to a site where the headline reads, “Did You Know Every New Ford Fusion Has a Secret Price?” Once I filled out the form to obtain my Secret Price and hit submit, I was then provided the option to get additional pricing on a Mazda, Honda and Chevrolet.  Wow, four quotes for the effort of filling out the form just one time! Sadly, four dealerships will now receive this 3rd party new vehicle lead from a presumed buyer interested in their brand, but the salesperson will likely not know the original root source because it will be masked as a well-known source; in my opinion, too often as a manufacturer 3rd party lead.  Oh…these four dealers that received my test lead…they will each pay for the lead even though none of them will know whether their brand was the primary selection of the auto shopper.

Here’s where we come in. We teach dealers each day how to effectively respond to their leads and how to motivate car buyers to come in to their dealerships. One technique is to read the lead and identify the source.  When the source is identified as a Manufacturer Partner Lead or a Manufacturer 3rd Party Lead or even one of the Big 3 lead providers (Autobytel, AutoUSA and Dealix) the salesperson or Business Development Center agent can’t be sure of the original source and therefore, they will not know what the customer experienced during the lead submission process.

We encourage dealers to take electronic field trips online with their Internet sales team to click where the customer clicks so they can have a clear understanding of their experience before they hit submit. When a dealer knows what the customer experienced, the dealer can respond in kind knowing what the customer was told during the shopping process. This helps buyer and seller appreciate one another more, especially when a salesperson or agent states during the call or email that they are the preferred dealership representing the root lead source. This works great when the sources are clear-cut such as Kelley Blue Book or, but they are confusing when the source is called Manufacturer Partner or 3rd Party leads.

There is no good reason why this root lead source isn’t clearly identified to the dealership that buys the leads. The reasons for not providing the names of these obscure sources are likely to keep the dealers from being concerned with the quality of individual sources, but that’s not fair to the ones who are writing the checks. All dealers appreciate that leads are scrubbed for working phone numbers and email addresses before they are sent to them. The leads I am concerned about are the leads that get through the filters without telling the dealerships they are likely the 3rd brand choice, or that a price has already been provided below invoice. This would be great for the salesperson or agent responding to know so they can provide a more valuable reply to the auto shopper.

If Trilogy SmartLeads and TrueCar can provide the sources of their leads, so can all the 3rd party new vehicle lead providers. It’s time to help car buyers and selling dealers by reducing unnecessary tension.  Let the buyers know that a dealer will likely be calling them to provide a price, and tell selling dealers that a buyer has selected their vehicle, it was their second or 3rd choice, and they already know the invoice and were told they should pay less. It’s only fair and it’s also the best way for your business and you’re paying dealers to thrive. Just my two cents.

This article was reprinted with permission from David Kain is a well-known speaker and trainer on Internet sales and management best practices for automotive dealers and he also moderates NCM’s Internet 20 Groups. To find out more about NCM 20 Groups for Internet Directors and Managers, call 877.803.3627


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