Automotive Salesperson First Contact (Part 3)

As we continue our journey analyzing over 100 automotive dealerships and their response to an Internet lead, we observed lots of room for improvement. Our goal is to help dealerships create the perfect personalized dealership sales process during this experiment.

Since we have already spoken about human and automation collision and the missed opportunities with the dealership’s first impression, now is a perfect time to build on posts one and two.

Today we will be focusing on the first human engagement with the shopper, which you can accomplish via an email, phone call/voicemail, or text message. We will dive in to uncover some different things we learned and how to improve them at your automotive dealership.

Let’s dive right into the grandfather of all contact methods trusted and loved by all the old school automotive car dogs in the world, the telephone. It has been around long before email, texting, or anything digital. When I started selling cars, I was taught that the phone was a magical tool that could rain money down if you used it right.

Well, now the data tells us this tool isn’t as magical anymore in the world of caller ID, Robocalls, SPAM calls, and a host of interfering rings we receive every day. 50% of calls go unanswered in the US based on recent data.

So you need to be prepared to leave a voicemail that gets a response. From our study, 97% of voicemails left stated the salesperson’s name, confirmed the vehicle of interest from the lead, and then asked to be called back to discuss coming in for a test drive.

To succeed and get someone to take action, you need to give a compelling reason to do so on that voicemail. We didn’t see that done at all in our research. Most voicemails seemed hurried and unprepared. We suggest something more in line as follow:

Hi (Customer NAME), I received your request about the (Confirm Vehicle), which is a fantastic vehicle, but before I can schedule a test drive or I send you additional information, I would like to speak with you to understand your needs because this might not be that perfect vehicle that you are looking for. I find after I talk with my clients and truly understand them, some select another car. My only goal is your complete satisfaction. Please call me back today at 800-555-1212

If you notice in the above voicemail script, we completely flipped it and used a take away talking point. This adds an element of curiosity while also removing the I am just here trying to sell you the vehicle in this voicemail. This works because 60% of consumers end up selecting another car from their original lead anyway, so this plays into the shopper’s mindset that it is ok to be unsure about the vehicle and that you aren’t going to pressure them to purchase this specific one. Also, this positions the salesperson in a consultative role.

Play with this a little to find the right words you are comfortable using, but the voicemail’s whole goal is one thing. Get the shopper to call back anything else is a failure. Don’t deliver a monologue on the VM describing the car, price, deal either we heard those message types, and they don’t resonate and come off as pressure selling.

Next, let’s move on to your opening text message. Many stores we tested are operating outside TCPA compliance, which subjects the dealership to potential legal liability. Using a TCPA compliance texting platform on the desktop or your salesperson phone should be a hard rule within the dealership. Letting your sales staff text shoppers from their personal phone number without tracking or opt-out is a huge red flag. Solve that here

Another reason you want to solve this is the pure confusion of phone numbers we saw in our testing. We received calls from one number, text messages from another, and in many cases, the salesperson voicemails asked us to return calls on even a different number. This inconsistency hurts your ability to connect and convert because the shopper doesn’t have a single line of communication. Given your sales team, a dedicated phone number that they can use for voice or text that is trackable should be mandatory at your dealership

Right after your opt-in message should be a personalized text message, which should be a question to get the shopper engaged and dialoguing with you. Most automotive dealerships are in the “Fact Sending” business instead of the lead development business from our research and experiment. Shifting your messaging from the typical, “Is this a good number to text you on?” to a more conversational one will impact results instantly—one question to ask yourself before you hit send. Again if you still need help, refer to the Content Style Guide in our second email for more about finding the voice and brand of your automotive dealership.

Is this text messaging adding value and building a relationship? 

Texting has the highest engagement rate right now, with over 90% of people reading their messages within 5 minutes of receiving it. That compared with a mere 20% open rate for email..

Using an automotive texting platform can give you a competitive advantage is not only your response time but also in the capabilities of information that can be communicated via text. 

Let's move onto the final form of initial contact—the email, which is the steady workhorse of our industry. We found that almost every initial email we received from dealerships would focus solely on the specific vehicle within the lead form. We found this extremely limiting, especially if the consumer wasn’t committed to that particular vehicle yet, but something within that vehicle caught their interest like color, price, etc. So let’s break down the elements of a perfect opening email.

The email opening should reinforce the dealership’s sales process and satisfied existing customers in case shoppers if they only glanced at the autoresponder. The email should also have extended information about the specific vehicle that generated the lead. We also suggest attaching three alternative cars that might be interesting to the shopper based on the shopper’s initial selection. Variety increases the probability of questions, which is precisely what we are looking to accomplish to create engagement. Finally, we need to include a call to action. We have found the best ones tend to create urgency and are specific. Unfortunately, we saw many emails with lines like, “Would you prefer a call, text, or email?” or What is your next step? Open-ended options require shoppers to have to think, and that is exactly what we are not trying to do. Sales are about making the process easy by laying out a clear plan that a shopper can easily follow along to achieve their goal of a new vehicle.

This is a great time to go back and print out your entire process from your Internet department or BDC and map the shopper’s journey through your organization.

Next, we will cover cadence and continually reaching out to maximize the shopper’s interest and unlock a higher level of conversion.

One more thing

We saw many automotive dealerships call then immediately email or vice versa in their initial reach-out process. The issue was less than 5% of salespeople reference the other channel during the communication. A one-two punch can be great if you use it correctly. Think about that in your conversational sales process to link these two items together and to make sure they aren’t just the same information being shared repeatedly across channels. One should build on the other. I just emailed you, but I wanted to add this additional information to your voicemail or text. This is about compounding and making it part of a successful customer development process. 

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