As part of a marketing team, I spend a lot of time creating systems to attract leads, but I rarely become one.
However, when my car died recently I suddenly found myself in that situation.
My week-long car-buying experience was an interesting microcosm of lead conversion. As is the case with many car shoppers and home shoppers alike, my search began online — thus making me an online lead to be converted to a real life sale.
Most homeshoppers begin on a site such as realtor.com, Redfin or Zillow. For car shoppers, sites such as CarMax, TrueCar, Edmunds or KBB are the usual first stops. However, it’s when the experience switches from one of these sites to a local dealership that the true conversion process begins.
In my case, I had to get a car as soon as possible, and I was ready and able to spend money, but I found that many salespeople weren’t able to do what it took to convert me.
Some of the most basic steps were missed. I also found that the chat service — now ubiquitous on websites — were, for the most part, not very helpful. Here are a few other things I learned about online lead conversion from this experience.
1. Be careful handing off leads
I bought my car with a dealership where I had one point of contact throughout the search process. Some of the other dealerships I contacted either passed me to multiple people or blitzed me with several contacts at once.
2. Pay attention to communication preferences
I prefer email or text and always specify that on forms. However, I noticed that several people ignored that on lead forms and called me multiple times.
The salesperson I worked with did need to talk to me by phone several times, but she asked me first and respected my desire to communicate mostly via email.
3. Avoid the bait-and-switch
Search processes are never perfect, and a lot of times, what’s online might not be available. When that’s the case, provide alternative options. Be specific when possible.
Several times I spoke with dealerships that told me they didn’t have the car I inquired about, and then, when I asked about others, they told me to search the website instead of providing me with specific options.
4. Ask the right questions
Not one of the people I worked with asked me why I needed a new car or about my commute and lifestyle. They assumed that I’d done all the research to know exactly what I wanted and seemed to have little or no curiosity about whether the car I’d chosen was truly right for me.
I’ve noticed the same thing with real estate agents; some let the consumer guide the search — but often the consumer could benefit from your expertise.
5. Know your products
This should be pretty basic; you should know and love what you are selling. That doesn’t mean you need to go into hyper-salesperson mode.
It simply means that showing a home or car, at any budget or price point, should convey some level of excitement. Too often the sales experience becomes one where the product is presented but not really sold.
There’s a certain vulnerability that comes with needing a new home or car. It’s an emotional time. Although it might seem commonplace for us because we handle these types of transactions on a daily basis, it’s an anomaly in your prospect’s life.
The salesperson I bought from got my business because she spent time with me, she provided specific guidance without steering me in any direction, and she respected my preferences.
Knowledge, compassion and commitment to customer service can help turn the online lead into a new client.