By Todd Smith, Lear LLC

Every time I am in a dealership, the following question always comes up. “Can you look at my numbers while you’re here and tell me how many sales we’re missing?” This is a great question, but the answers don’t always paint a complete picture.

So I’m going to describe the most critical items that you should be watching like a hawk at least on a monthly basis. These are the critical business factors that will help drive your dealership web business with consistent, growing sales.

I want every dealer reading this to sit down for the next hour, close the office door and do the following exercise. We are going to analyze your web business in its entirety. This is a time-consuming process but incredibly rewarding because you will have some unique insight into the internet department.

You will need to compile some information that is critical to making the calculations, so do not guess. This isn’t a case of horseshoes or hand grenades — sort of accurate just isn’t enough. Below this paragraph is a list of example data points with hypothetical numbers so you can plug in your own. If for some reason you aren’t currently tracking these numbers, start right now. This is the modern day desk log and is critical to the successful operation of your dealership.

Exercise Spreadsheet 

  • Total number of unique visitors to your website: 2,500
  • Total number of leads received from your website: 100
  • Number of people that abandon website forms on your site: 45
  • Number of leads that you send pricing information: 80
  • Total unique visitors that didn’t submit their information: 2,400
  • Total number of third-party leads: 200
  • Number of third-party leads that you sent pricing information: 60
  • Incoming sales calls generated from internet marketing: 200
  • Incoming sales calls that don’t set an appointment on the first call: 180
  • Incoming sales calls that set an appointment: 53
  • Total spent on internet marketing: $22,000
  • Total number of vehicles sold: 47
  • Total number of attempts made on each lead: 6

From these core data points, we can determine a lot of information. In fact, you can run your entire web business on these points. Now let me show you how to do it. The first area is the total number of unique visitors. This is significant because it is your online ups counter, similar to your dealership’s walk-in ups log. Having 2,500 people visit your website is good: Imagine having 2,500 people walk into your dealership this month because that is exactly what it is, but only in your online showroom.

Your website is a critical function of your business. Having just any website is not enough. You need to design a site that is easy to navigate, with information and help only one click away. Is your website really an online representation of how you do business in your brick and mortar operations? If it isn’t, change it now; nothing is worse than a website that has too much or too little information with poor navigation or too much flash. You know you’re on the right track when you continue to grow the number of visitors to your website each month. Is your website visitor count growing?

The total number of leads from your website is significant as well. Most dealerships generate an average of 2 percent to 6 percent in leads from the total number of website visitors. This is another significant number since these people took the time to look around your website and request more information.

But the real number is the 2,400 that abandoned your site without taking any action. I dedicated so much time at my dealership racking my brain on this area because it potentially has the greatest payout. Driving more people is important, but getting more of the people you already have on your site right now to take action can have a dramatic impact today. Think of what you can do to make it easier and more inviting for your web shoppers to take action. One of my greatest accomplishments was adding chat to my website. After doing this, I got an incredible lift in the number of leads from our own website and microsites.

The people that are abandoning your web forms are also an important opportunity that you can’t overlook. If you need to put what this means into perspective, think about your dealership and where the cashier window is in relationship to your service drive. Do you have clear signs and directions to give customers not only direction but also reassurance? The web can be a scary place for car shoppers and your goal should be to create a simple and clear path for them.

The next key to keep your eyes on is the amount of customers that are actually receiving price quotes from your dealership and what happens to them after receiving the quote. Are you losing sales to competitors that you are not quoting price at all? This area is so important because it defines your dealership’s overall strategy, which could range from quoting every customer that sends in a lead to quoting only customers that you get on the phone, quoting only MSRP, quoting multiple vehicles and quoting only the lowest and oldest vehicle in stock for that particular model – or any number of variations. You need to put a lot of thought and consideration into what pricing information you provide and how it affects the overall sales operation of your dealership.

Another area that needs to be constantly monitored is the number of phone ups that you are generating through your internet department. Are you making the phone ring? This is accomplished by assigning a unique number to each of your marketing channels. There are plenty of services out there that do this. I would recommend recording not only your incoming calls but also the outgoing ones that your internet department is making. Beware. This is data overload, and you must commit time and energy to review and manage these calls. I find this not only great information for corrective training, but I also like to check on which vehicles people are interested in when they call. Recording this information will give you insight into local market behavior.

Another key piece of tracking for your internet phone leads is trying to increase the number of calls that you can convert to an appointment on the first call. This is critical because the odds that you will get the customer on the phone a second time are diminished. Stretching the call and really going for the appointment is critical. I walk into so many stores that tell customers that they will call them back in 15 minutes. Some actually reach the customer, but they often will never speak to that customer again. This is crazy for a few reasons. First, the customer picked up the phone to get information. At the dealership, we should be picking up the phone prepared to give information on any vehicle. Second, we should be focused on the golden ring (i.e., setting the appointment), not explaining the vehicle in so much detail that customers can qualify themselves without coming into the dealership. The most critical reason we should be attempting to set the appointment on the first call is in the back of a customer’s mind: They slow down their sales process ever so slightly because they know they are going to visit your dealership. That will hopefully put up a little wall against the competition.

Most of the items in the list are self-explanatory, but one I want to touch on is the total number of contact attempts on a lead. This one statistic screams activity. I walk into countless stores that only make one, two or, maybe, three attempts to reach a lead before discarding it. You will never achieve success with this strategy. You will need to make at least six attempts. Great stores might make 15 to 20 attempts before moving a customer into a more automated followup approach. Call like crazy, block your number, route the call from another state, call from your cell. You need to try every conceivable approach. Email won’t work: You must pick up the phone and dial for dollars.

I hope this information will get you thinking about not only what to track but how to track it. A successful internet department must be measured from every angle to ensure that it is actually moving in the right direction. Just tracking the number of vehicle sales is not nearly enough and will only give you a one dimensional view, when the most successful internet departments have a complete three dimensional model of their operation.

This article reprinted with permission from Todd Smith.