No time to waste with online sales leads, ‘secret shopper’ study suggests

Five minutes.

That’s the optimum amount of time for responding to a sales lead.

With such a narrow opening, less than 40 percent of automotive dealers respond to queries that quickly, based on data from a study by Conversica, a sales-and-marketing software provider.

The study said that the 49 percent of the dealerships who responded to queries met the five-minute standard and that 94 percent of those who responded did so within 24 hours, but that nearly 20 percent of dealerships surveyed did not respond at all to online queries.

Researchers submitted inquiries through 59 dealer websites as part of a broader “secret shopper” study of 538 companies from nine industries.

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“Internet leads are an expensive resource, crucial to the success of automotive dealerships,” said Alex Terry, Conversica CEO, in a press release about the survey. “Our annual report offers a snapshot of how dealerships are handling leads today and how that behavior is changing over time.”

“We compared real-world execution with best-practice research to help dealerships see where they’re performing well, but also to pinpoint processes that need to improve,” he explained.

Overall grades for lead follow-up skewed higher for the automotive industry than other industries, the report showed, with 38 percent of dealerships receiving an “A” and 52 percent getting a “B” – a total of 90 percent – compared to 67 percent for other industries.

The study showed that almost three quarters (74 percent) of dealerships which responded used four key elements cited by Conversica: a personalized greeting, specific mention of the inquiry, contact information and responding at a time similar to the inquiry.

“But weaknesses persist in the auto sales process,” according to Conversica.

“While the auto industry as a whole performed well compared to other industries, there was still plenty of room for improvement,” suggested Conversica. “One in five (19 percent) did not respond at all to a direct sales inquiry from their website, and 75 percent failed to make the eight or more attempts that research demonstrates are needed to engage an Internet lead.”

Breaking down the numbers further, 24 percent of dealerships made one to two attempts to reach leads, 14 percent made three to four attempts and 19 percent made five to seven attempts.

Only 25 percent of those who responded made the recommended eight attempts per lead.

“While a steady stream of leads from your website or other sources looks like a huge success, you shouldn’t pop the champagne cork just yet,” wrote Conversica’s CEO. “Now is when the real work begins: Engaging each and every one and turning them into revenue for your dealership.”

More details of the survey are available in Conversica’s online report: 2016 Sales Effectiveness Report | Lead Follow-Up in the Automotive Industry.

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