Your email chimes, but you let it go because you’re way too busy. It’s time to get out on the floor and close some sales. You’ll get to that email later — or maybe tomorrow.

Guess what: You just lost a sale. This lead could be as hot as the up in your showroom. How you respond makes all the difference.

10 best practices that turn emails into sales.
When it comes to email, new rules of competition and customer engagement apply. If you don’t jump on that lead, another dealer certainly will. But how quickly should you respond? What should you say? And when is it okay to use an auto responder? Here are some proven practices that provide answers and deliver sales.

1. Respond to every single lead.
You would never ignore a customer who just walked into your dealership. So don’t pass up the customer in your inbox. Customers who reach out to the dealership via phone or by email are close to purchase and take action quickly. According to Experian, 61% of shoppers who contact a dealership via phone or email buy a vehicle. And 41% buy within 30 days.*
2. Get back to the customer within minutes.
People shopping online are used to instant access to information. The longer you wait to respond to their initial inquiry, the greater the chance that they will get the information from someone else. So it pays to respond to customers with an actual, personalized email within 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Truly answer their email inquiries.
Was the vehicle owned by nonsmokers? Do you have service records for the vehicle? Car shoppers wouldn’t email you unless they wanted to know something specific. So take the time to read their email carefully, and then respond with clear details. This will prove you’re interested in their inquiry and their business.
4. When you’re at your desk, turn off your auto responder.
Remember, an auto response is not a response. So whenever you are at your computer, turn off the auto responder. That will help ensure you make the all-important one-to-one connection by writing the prospect back.
5. When you’re on the floor, manage your auto responder.
When you have to be away from your desk, set up your auto responder with a brief message that lets the customer know you will reply as soon as possible. For example: “Thank you for your interest. I am currently away from my desk assisting a customer. Your inquiry is very important to us, and I will get back to you shortly.”
6. When it’s after hours, make that clear in auto responder.
When the dealership is closed, email is not. Set up your auto response to clearly state your business hours. Most importantly — tell customers that you will get back to them the next business day.
7. If you don’t hear back, make a service call.
You’ve responded fast with a personal email, but you’re still not hearing back from a shopper. It’s time for a service call. Simply look up the shopper’s phone number and follow up to make sure a spam filter didn’t block your response. Note: Be sure to let the customer know that you are making a service call, not a sales call. You should simply state that you are concerned that he or she did not get your response, and wouldn’t want him or her to think you ignored the inquiry.

Here are some websites that allow you to look up phone numbers:

8. If you still don’t hear back, email again.
You’ve emailed and called, but you still have no response. Don’t let the lead cool. If you don’t hear back via email or telephone within 1 hour, send one more email.
9. Don’t give up. Follow up.
Keep following up on a weekly basis for the first 30 days. After 30 days the prospect should be added to your database for regular follow up communications. Remember a lead isn’t dead until he or she purchases a car from your dealership, indicates they’ve purchased from another dealership or aren’t in the market for another reason. (For additional examples on lead follow up click here to read an article from our March edition of dealerAdvantage. It contains useful examples of follow up offers and scripts.)
10. Treat all email leads equally.
Email is the great equalizer because it may not be entirely clear who the customer is on the other end, so treat all car shoppers respectfully and make no assumptions about the individual contacting you. For example, the chart below shows women influence 83% of new vehicle purchase decisions. You cannot afford to unintentionally alienate any potential car buyers.


Remember, when you hear your email chime, there may be a customer on the line. So always make timely, personal and informative responses, and watch your emails transform into sales.

*Experian Automotive, Auto Leads Analysis, September 2004 – August 2005