Listen Up OEMs – The Problem With Automotive Internet Leads

I’m an industry veteran. 21 years at the manufacturer level and 5 at the retail level.I’ve seen many many changes in those years. Not only in the vehicles themselves but also on the change in the customers. From what they buy to how they shop.Id like to talk a bit about how people shop now. We all know its on-line. Either directly or indirectly, the internet is funneling people to dealerships doors and inboxes. Dealers often say to me they have just as much floor traffic as they had pre-internet, which is true. But the internet is responsible for more of that traffic than ever before. Traditional marketing, while still a necessary evil (for now), is providing less and less of a return everyday. Ask your radio advertising sales person how many people heard the commercial. Its all fluff and estimates. Same for TV and even print. I mean, who cares how many papers they print or their subscription numbers. They don’t tell the whole story and don’t even begin to let you know the most important thing on your mind – how many people saw your ad.Ahh, the internet. So many opportunities but very few dealers really understand it as a marketing outlet. But I am getting off topic….Normally, when a person visits a dealership today, they are pretty far along in the buying / shopping / thinking process – at least in their own mind. Every ounce of sales training coming from the automakers for YEARS has been about how to close that customer. Its been beat into the salespeople. What the internet has done has allowed for dealers to speak with the same consumer much earlier in the sales cycle. When dealers use the training they have been given, which is “right now” based, they tend to push these internet customers away. These consumers aren’t at that point yet. What they want is information and they are looking to cross you off their list of dealers they will buy from.If OEMs focused more on providing quality relationship building training for these salespeople and pushing the leads to the dealers, and LESS on approving website / CRM vendors, they would be much better off. The current focus of the automakers of vendor approval and dealer websites / CRMs is wasted if the sales people:

Don’t have quality leads
Don’t know how to build a relationship with these consumers
OEMs should seriously reallocate their efforts and funds to ensuring their dealers get the leads as well as proper training on the process to handle those leads.Just imagine how much more a dealer could accomplish if they did not have to worry about finding quality leads but instead were properly trained in process and relationship building skills so they were better equipped to handle this type of customer.I mean, really, how many times can a sales consultant send the “Are you still interested?” or “When can you come in?” emails?I am a firm believer that most dealers simply have an internet lead close rate in the low to mid teens because either the customer was going to buy there anyway or they have re-entered the market and the customers initial dealer sent way too many “When can you come in?” emails….So listen up Automakers. If your dealerships sales consultants are not able to provide value to the customer at this point, they won’t have the opportunity to be the dealer of choice when they walk in the door. Quite possibly brand rejection could take place. Understand the consumer. Get your dealers QUALITY leads (read: push your tier 1 and 2 there). Put processes in place and train train train.Once you get that down, then worry about approving software. Really, what good is an “approved CRM provider” if the dealer doesn’t understand the consumer or know what to say and when to say it?