Mike Capps
Mike Capps

Goodson Auto Group
Internet Sales Director
Ken Forsyth
Ken Forsyth

Penske Automotive
Regional IT Director

When responding to requests for information from online shoppers, minutes matter. To what extent? According to data from Goodson Auto Group’s two Houston Honda stores, the sale itself hangs in the balance. Let’s look at how the time it takes to respond to prospects affects your odds of desking the deal.

At Goodson, internet sales director Mike Capps began tracking response time approximately three years ago to ensure processes were consistently followed and to measure their effectiveness. With 14 Honda stores in the market competing for more than their fair share of the business, he knew nothing could be left to chance.

“We keep a very close eye on response times,” he said. “We find time to respond directly correlates to sales and closing ratios. The biggest thing we found is that it’s just not answering email leads but following up with a phone call, too. That’s where we think the biggest opportunity is: It’s with the phone work.”

To illustrate the connection, Capps shared recent statistics for nearly 900 new- and used-car leads. The leads were purchased from third-party providers or originated with emails submitted by shoppers checking out his stores’ websites and listings on automotive shopping sites.

Capps tracks close rates against 30-minute response time intervals. While closing rates remain a solid 14.65 percent for leads followed-up on within a half-hour of receipt, a different story begins to emerge at minute 31. Close rates for leads handled 31 to 60 minutes after they arrive fall by more than one-third. What happens after an additional 30 minutes passes? Fewer than 7 percent of the prospects will buy the car.

“It’s no different than the floor; it’s just a different source for the customer,” said Ken Forsyth, Goodson’s IT director who helped Capps implement the tracking system. “I tell people: If you’re not answering quickly, that’s like shoppers walked on the showroom floor and just kept walking out the side door. You’ll never see them again.

“Would you do that to someone who walked on to the floor?” Forsyth asked. “That’s the same mindset you need to have in the internet department. As soon as the lead hits your system, that’s someone who just walked in the front door. How long are you going to wait before you respond to that customer?”



Beyond validating the need for a prompt response to inquiries, the data supports other department priorities and objectives. Capps and Forsyth said it’s helped them:

  • Staff for the Sale: Knowing your average response times also helps you determine how many salespeople you need on staff and how many leads each one can manage. Capp said he works to set a limit of 100 so individuals can focus on qualifying prospects, answering the questions and selling the appointment rather than rushing to make the next call. “We found that there’s a number of leads you can get where you start losing business,” he said.

  • Remain Process-Focused: “A fast response will not make up for a number of other sins,” Forsyth said. “Answering the customers questions, providing relevant information, building rapport and trust are the keys to any sales process, internet or otherwise.”
  • Use the Buddy System: Because Capps’ salespeople work deals from the initial inquiry through the close, he keeps close tabs on their availability. If a request is sent to a salesperson who is working with a customer, Capp reroutes it to the next available team member.
  • Stick With the Shopper: Although Capps insists his salespeople work to connect with shoppers and close the sale as quickly as possible, his tracking uncovered business that was being left on the table. “Twenty-nine percent of the people are still in the buying process after 72 days,” he said. “We’re concentrating on our follow-up more so than ever.” As a result, Capps saw closing ratios at his stores improve 2 percent in recent months. With each dealership managing approximately 800 leads per month, that seemingly slight increase translates into an additional 32 cars. “If you do the math,” he says, “that’s like a million dollars to the bottom line.”

“It’s just like when customers walk through the door of your dealership, only on the internet we figure they’re walking through four or five other doors at the same time,” Capp said. “We’ve got to do better than the other guy. We’ve got to answer quickly and begin selling the appointment. Until you get that person into the dealership, you’ve got nothing.”

Additional Resources

Looking for additional tips you can implement in your store today to drive more traffic with your online advertising and desk more deals with your internet sales processes? Check out Cars.com’s DealerCenter. Here, you can read previous editions of our DealerADvantage newsletter or listen to archived recordings of our DealerADvantage Live webinar series.