Solving the Lead Management Good / Fast / Cheap Problem
by Matt Trudell
About Matt: After running high-performing Internet Sales departments for more than a decade, Matt Trudell brought his skills to the Maritz team in 2016 and has seen superb success as a Performance Manager and coach to automotive dealerships. His clients have gained valuable insights into their own operations, allowing them to improve their customer experience, lower their response times, set more appointments and convert more leads into sales.
Matt understands the market is competitive and that response time is important. However, dealers need to focus on the quality of the content they send to prospective customers, not just when they send it. This brief article summarizes his feelings on what dealers should prioritize in addition to quick responses.
Most of you are already familiar with the concept of Good / Fast / Cheap and the unfortunate fact that (barring an infinite budget) reality typically limits us to a combination of only two when it comes to business decisions.
Here’s what those combinations look like in dealerships around the country.
Fast + Good = Expensive
This is often a high performing BDC or Internet Sales Department with well compensated (maybe even salaried? *GASP*) members.
This approach brings a hefty payroll requirement, but a carefully crafted team and processes essentially guarantee strong returns on that monthly investment.
I’d argue this is the right approach, but I’m not writing any checks. The challenge lies in justifying the cost – especially as the efforts first get going.
You’ll pay for qualified staff and fast results. Are you ready to write that check?
Cheap + Fast = Low Quality
You know what’s cheap and might work if you’re lucky? Using the resources you already have in place!
This is a dealership which hands out leads to its existing sales team in a round robin fashion, never trains on lead handling practices, “trusts the process,” and is left wondering why customers don’t respond, appointments aren’t getting set, and the OEM keeps reaching out to talk about close rates.
The upside is this implementation is that it’s typically free, and you’ll usually respond quickly to customers, but there’s just too much sacrificed in terms of quality and consistency.
Good + Cheap = Too Slow
I imagine this combo as a store with a tech savvy salesperson who gets the entire load of leads dumped in their lap.
They’re the poor souls answering 95 leads every Monday morning.
Their responses will generally be of decent quality, or at least better than whatever process was in place before they arrived, but they’ll need training and support to maximize their success.
The problem here is that one person is often being pulled in multiple directions, and they’ll eventually (probably quickly) become overwhelmed. Remember: they’re tasked with following up with every lead at your store plus everything else that gets thrown at them.
Every month. Forever.
Once that overload happens, you’ll notice response times increasing, a decrease in the quality of follow-up, more opportunities being missed, and that the employee may not be as enthusiastic as they once were.
They might even leave and put you back at square one.
“But at least we didn’t waste money training them!”
Do The Impossible: Combine All Three
I think auto dealerships can build an Internet team that responds quickly, offers quality responses, and is quite friendly to the bottom line.
They need to pick the right vendor partners though.
The Maritz Automotive team has been helping dealers nail all three elements for almost 10 years at this point, and here’s how we tackle the challenge.
How Can We Be Good?
Good quality lead response requires a serious commitment that can be secured from your existing team or developed from the ground up depending on your needs.
It means developing a viewpoint that a lead is the beginning of a conversation, understanding what the customer is telling you, and finding the way to smoothly continue the conversation by email, text, video, or phone.
It’s having consistent messaging that provides what customers want as well as what your store needs to put in front of them to give them reasons to choose your store.
It’s understanding customers demand convenience and that many aren’t in a hurry to come to a dealership to “kick tires” – your team needs to earn their presence in your showroom.
(Are you still throwing out the “Come on down” messaging?)
It’s being ready to answer questions about price, payment, financing, trade, down payment, product info, competitive comparisons, and the 42 other topics your team’s been asked about this year.
Think of it as taking your common showroom conversations and finding ways to have them when the customer isn’t sitting in the showroom with you.
It’s building a team with the right mindset on how you’ll succeed today and be even stronger in a year.
It’s following up for 60, 90, or even 180 days with marketing and branding messages that offer value to your customers.
What Does It Take to Be Fast?
Every new vehicle dealer is striving to meet an OEM mandate for response time, and we help them smash those goals while keeping the quality of Day 1 communications high.
Speedy responses require the right number of people for your lead volume.
It doesn’t matter if you have a dedicated Internet team who are responsible for all your first responses and follow up, or if you spread your leads across the entire sales team at your store, as long as everyone is on board with responding both quickly and with high quality.
Your process can’t fall apart when one person takes a day off or goes on vacation
You must have templates for your common lead situations ready to go. The team also needs to know when to customize the template to cater to a customer and when a template isn’t the answer at all.
(When was the last time you performed an audit of your templates, by the way?)
Your processes must prioritize Internet leads and ensure your Internet team isn’t waiting minutes for a price from a manager who’s working 3 deals, for a product expert to free up to answer a detailed question about tow capacity, or an entire day for a trade value because “the buyer’s out of the building.”
Internet leads should be one of the highest priorities for your team – essentially the highest after a customer who is sitting across the desk from them.
“Alright, hot shot, show me how this can be done for Cheap.”
Cheap is relative, of course, but what can you do to protect your margins while delivering Good and Fast?
- Recognize that training is necessary for growth, but that it does not have to carry a 5-digit monthly cost.
- Use the existing resources at your store: teach your team the fundamentals of lead handling, get them ready to provide a good response quickly, and then provide ongoing oversight to ensure they rise to the challenge.
- Find staffers who are struggling and work to help overcome their challenges.
- Highlight the team’s wins while continually pointing out opportunities for improvement.
- Recognize staff who excel and train them on advanced lead management strategies to increase engagement, appointment volume, and close rates.
What I’m saying is choose a training and oversight partner who specializes in lead management practices. A company who coaches your team every week virtually for a surprisingly reasonable monthly cost.
My coworkers and I will never refer to the work we do as “cheap” but I’m confident you’re going to see it as an incredible value. Let’s talk about how Internet Sales Coach will create more conversations, appointments, and sales from your Internet opportunities.
This blog is heavily inspired by Benek Lisefski’s blog on this topic and I want to offer proper credit. Go read it for an interesting perspective on the topic of Good / Cheap / Fast.