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The adventures of a mystery shopper

By Bob McCann

Bob McCann 2011I often go mystery shopping on the web on behalf of OEMs. I get to see the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of lead management and follow-up, and I use that evidence to help ARI dealer clients implement best practices and stay away from major deal breakers.

I once submitted quote requests to 10 dealerships representing the same brand. The results were astonishing:

  • I received four responses.
  • Only two actually answered my question.
  • One didn’t answer by question, but sent me 10 paragraphs of endless rambling — seven days later.

Avoid these lead generation pitfalls, by implementing these three lead management principles to drive customers from your website to your showroom floor:

1. You snooze, you lose. When a customer walks into your dealership, you naturally stop whatever you’re doing and greet them immediately. Web leads should be given the same prompt, undivided attention. It’s just another way of talking to customers. In this case, it is especially important to be responsive because you’re competing with other dealers online. The good news is that most of them will not respond! Based on ARI secret shopper studies, we’ve found that nearly 60 percent of online leads go completely unanswered, so this is your chance to shine.

When you receive an email inquiry, respond promptly. I’m talking about measuring response in minutes — not hours or days! I suspect you wouldn’t make a customer wait in your lobby for more than a few minutes without saying hello. Why treat online leads any differently? Start by setting an online lead response goal of 120 minutes during working hours and implement a plan of action to reduce that number over time to less than 30 minutes.

2. Save the e-pitch and call. It can be tempting to start selling a bike or negotiating a deal using email, but your best first course of action is to pick up the phone. In our secret shopper research, we provided more than 1,300 dealers with our phone number, but we only received 260 calls, that’s a meager 19 percent.

If no phone number is provided, email can be an effective tool for information gathering, but once prospects have initiated contact, you should pick up the phone to get them through the door. When you write an email, no matter how many exclamation points and upper case letters you use, your prospect doesn’t hear what you’re really saying. Are you helpful or pushy, subtle or bold, casual or formal? Chances are that your attitude and tone are lost in translation. When all is said and written, the odds are your message didn’t get across or worse — the prospect misunderstood you or is frustrated because all he or she wanted was a simple answer.

Your email response is an electronic handshake. Thank the customer for inquiring, briefly and directly answer questions and set the stage for a phone call. If the inquiry includes a phone number, mention that you will call them to answer any further questions they may have. If the inquiry doesn’t include a phone number, indicate your interest in calling them to further assist them and offer your direct line as an alternative.

If you want to fully leverage the power of the web, always respond to inquiries, be prompt and to the point, and create the opportunity for a phone call to get prospects in the showroom for a scheduled appointment.  The good news is that you can leverage proven, affordable lead management solutions to automate portions of the sales process and foster customer relationships. At ARI, we find that successful dealers — small and large — rely on these easy-to-use processes to do the heavy lifting and generate web-based, incremental traffic and sales.

3. Keep your ears open, listen effectively and ask engaging questions. Once on the phone, you have two goals: begin building a relationship and secure an appointment at the dealership. Most people think they’re good listeners when, in fact, they mostly pay enough attention to be able to phrase their comeback remark — a sure way to annoy your prospect right off the bat.

Listen intently to their words as well as the pitch and volume of the voice. That way, you can read between the lines and respond to any concerns or desires. When answering prospects’ questions, be direct and to the point. When the time is right, ask open-ended questions to engage them. Get them to talk about their motivations, experience, family size, other hobbies, likes and dislikes of their present machine and any other models they are considering. Use these hot buttons to create the desire to take the next step and visit your showroom.

Bottom line, profitable businesses treat their website and resulting leads like gold. There is no magic, one-size-fits-all formula, but there are affordable solutions from industry-leading providers that can help you increase sales and profitability.

Bob McCann is ARI’s director of education. ARI creates award-winning software solutions that help equipment manufacturers, distributors and dealers Sell More Stuff! — online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in automotive tire and wheel, powersports, outdoor power equipment, marine, RV and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage our website and eCatalog platforms to Sell More Stuff!

Contact: mccann@arinet.com; 877-806-2150

Website: www.arinet.com

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