Call as soon as possible
We’ve discussed the need for speed before, but this point bears repeating. When customers submit a lead, they have more in mind than simply the “best price.” Car buyers also want to learn about the dealership and the salesperson with whom they’ll be doing business. What they want to know is simple enough — Will I be treated professionally? Will I get a good deal? — but their requests often get lost in the shuffle.

Far too many car buyers tell us that either they don’t receive a response to the leads they submit or they don’t hear from a dealership until after they’ve already bought somewhere else. If possible, reach out to the customer via the telephone. Direct contact with the buyer helps set the relationship and provides a more efficient and effective forum for a conversation. Once you’re talking with the shopper, it’s easier to sell the appointment, the test drive and, ultimately, the car.

Qualify, fact-find and counsel
Although they’ve submitted a lead for a specific car, many shoppers are open to another make and model if it will better suit their needs. The place to begin in finding this match may not be obvious — the car they own now — but asking customers whether they’re replacing their current vehicle allows you to qualify, fact-find and counsel in a way that feels comfortable to the buyer.

Understanding what the prospect likes and needs in a car ensures that the car you’re selling is the car they’re buying. Consumers frequently do not understand the standard equipment and options packages that go into the car they’re considering. Align their requirements and the car you have in inventory, and the match could land you a sale.

Never give up
If the old adage of car sales was “Follow car buyers until they buy, die or move away,” today’s mantra is “Follow car buyers until they buy or die.” In short, never give up not even if the prospect has left town. Car shoppers who submit a lead will buy a car. Perhaps they won’t buy as soon as you’d like, but they will make a purchase.

Help the customer find you
You made an appointment with a customer, but the person didn’t show. Later, you learned that a colleague on the floor sold a car to that buyer right when you were scheduled to meet. What happened? Most dealerships are in the habit of encouraging shoppers to ask about “special internet pricing,” but few direct the customer to the internet sales department. The next time you set an appointment, offer the car buyer an incentive — a $50 gas card, for example — to ask for the internet sales department and sales staff by name when they arrive at the store.

Have a technique that works for you? Send along your showroom-proven tip for converting a lead to a sale. If we like it, we’ll share it in a future issue of DealerADvantage. Send tips to dealeradvantage@cars.com.