When it comes to handling Internet leads, the rules of engagement are still evolving. But the core rules of the sales game remain the same. I'm frequently asked what the best strategy for selling online is, or what my personal "best practices" are. My response is that I stick to a three-part process: e-mail, phone, showroom.
Sounds simple, right? Well, that's because it is. From my observations while working in different stores around the country, I've noticed that we sometimes search for the magic bullet instead of utilizing the remedy that's sitting right in front of us. We buy expensive treatments for a wound and forget that the aloe tree growing on the kitchen window sill works just as well.
I've seen determined sales professionals and business development center reps work deals by phone, or send extremely long e-mails, only to be discouraged when a customer doesn't respond or buys a car from a competitor. Naturally, the salesperson or rep thinks the fault lies with the customer, but the real culprit is the salesperson. And without a sound strategy for driving business over the Internet, they'll continue to lose sales. Let's take a closer look at a few key ways to approach this.
You've Got Mail: One of the keys to e-mail is to create engagement. The goal should not be to sell the car. Rather, it should be viewed as an opportunity to start separating yourself from the competition. This is where you'll set the expectations and lay the groundwork for the next steps. Good e-mail etiquette and the ability to move a customer to the next step comes from understanding two main principles of sales communication: Effective communication explains, and persuasive communication sells.
For instance, consider all those enticing credit card offers many of us receive in the mail. I'm sure you're familiar with the ones offering low APR rates or quadruple points for spending a certain amount. Those offers are written by creative writers because they are designed to persuade you.
Now, once you sign up, you'll get a letter in the mail with your new card. The letter inside unfolds like an accordion to reveal pages of small print detailing the terms and conditions. These words are written by technical writers and explain what will and won't happen with the card. Now, which writer are you when you send out those e-mails? Are you persuading or communicating? This is a critical determination, so give it some thought and ask for someone else's opinion.
On the Horn: Interacting with a customer over the phone represents an opportunity for you to establish value and gain control of the process. "Control" is not a bad word. In fact, lack of control contributes to the loss of gross and blown deals on a daily basis.
Winning the phone game is all about conversion. You must compel the customer to take the next step. To create greater influence, you need to make a greater impact when discussing what's in it for the customer if they make an appointment to visit the store.
You also should eliminate "wish" questions from your vocabulary. "Have you driven yet?" and "Are you familiar with the options?" are classic examples. Asking these questions means you're wishing for a "No" answer. And if you get that response, that's your cue to utter that line I detest the most: "Come on down."
So, what do you do when the customer says yes to those questions? You know where that conversation is headed: Death Valley, otherwise known as "What's your best price?" land.
Consider using strategies that revolve around the value in visiting the showroom or the promise of a different or better experience. Schedule them for a VIP appointment or tell them about the things you will do for them prior to their arrival that will make their no-obligation shopping experience better.
Get Them to the Showroom: I'm going to assume that you know what to do once a customer visits your showroom, which is why I focused more on converting e-mail and phone-in leads. Consider focusing more on the customer experience than the road to the sale and you will reap the benefits of these new opportunities. It may sound touchy-feely, but a wise man once taught me that it's not about what you or I like, it's simply about what the customer responds to the best. Find it, and do more of it!