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Is Your Internet Lead Process Dated?

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Article Highlights:

  • Shopping behavior has changed... so should your lead follow-up process!
  • "Internet leads are ready to buy and waiting on the dealership's response."

In 2000, only 54% of new car buyers used the Internet to aid in the shopping process, according to a J.D. Power and Associates Whitepaper. The Internet was not viewed as a “hotbed” of eager purchasers, so dealerships didn’t prioritize following up with Internet leads in a timely fashion.

That’s not the case today. As of 2014, almost 80% of customers searching for a new vehicle use the Internet to aid in the process. And by the time a shopper submits an Internet lead form, he’s likely narrowed your dealership down as a top choice and is ready to buy in the next few days.

Somewhat surprisingly, a considerable number of dealerships I visit today still view Internet shoppers the same way they did 15 years ago. These dealerships don’t realize their Internet leads are ready to buy and waiting on the dealership’s response.

Let’s look at some tips to ensure you are aligned with today’s Internet shoppers.

1. Follow Up Sooner Rather Than Later

In the past, many dealerships considered it a “best practice” to follow up with Internet leads within a few days or even months. Such a generous time frame existed because dealers knew customers required more time for research.

That is not the case with today’s consumers. They spend hours and hours doing research on vehicles and dealerships before deciding to submit a lead form to your dealership. So, when someone does submit an Internet lead, consider it a signal from a serious prospect that actually wants you to contact them and is ready to buy within the next few days.

That Internet lead won’t be shopping in a months time; he will be cruising down the road in the new vehicle he purchased from the dealership across town.

2. Sharpen Your Follow-up Skills

Prepare your staff to take the appropriate actions when an Internet lead comes in. Here’s a list of follow-up process “musts”:

  • A personalized first email within 20 minutes answering the customer’s questions with specifics.
  • A phone call to follow up on that email ensuring it didn’t hit the customer’s SPAM folder.
  • Strong phone skills to turn that Internet lead into an appointment, and ultimately a sale.

A properly trained sales team will not only know how to follow up with Internet leads, they’ll also move quickly and deliberately.

3. Update Your Email Templates

Take a hard look at the email templates you send.  Are the phone numbers, addresses, hyperlinks, and personnel information outdated? Are they the same templates you’ve been sending for years? If the answer is yes, then an email template overhaul is in order.

You should also consider training your staff to create personal emails instead of using templates. Internet leads don’t want a generic cookie-cutter email response. They want a specific answer to their specific question. If you can provide this, you’re well on your way to being the store they actually visit and buy from.


I’ve seen salespeople take all the right steps in the follow-up process, but then go into autopilot, as if to say, “The ball is in their [the lead’s] court now… I’ve done all I can do.” But depending on the situation, it might require a little extra persistence.

Even after you’ve answered the lead’s specific questions and it appears the lead has ruled your dealership out, an extra phone call may be exactly what’s needed. Assess the situation and determine whether or not to turn up the persistence.

The extra effort could be just what it takes to make a sale.

For more information on training and system utilization improvement, contact Reynolds Consulting Services at 888.204.6092, or send an email to consulting@reyrey.com.

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Scott had 12 years of automotive retail experience as a Finance Manager, General Manager, Sales Manager, and sales associate. He joined Reynolds Consulting Services in 2012 and was qualified to consult on CRM processes and Retail Sales Operations.

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