Leads for automotive dealers are not all the same. You need to treat someone who calls you on the phone or emails you differently than someone who walks on to your lot without contacting you ahead of time. Only sales people who understand the nuances of handling each type of lead will successfully nurture and close them.

In the recently published Cars.com Guide to Converting Leads to Sales in the Digital Era, we identify the three main sources of leads as internet, phone, and walk-in – in fact, more than half of consumers are walk-in leads, meaning they don’t contact the dealer before showing up on the lot. It’s tempting for dealers to handle them all the same way, but each presents its own nuances. Email leads, for instance, lack the immediacy of a phone call, but they require more back-and-forth communication to nurture. Here are some points to keep in mind as you assess each type of lead.

Treat both phone and internet leads as pathways to the on-the-lot experience.

In either case, your goal should be to encourage the shopper to visit the lot. Avoid trying to play up vehicle features to nurture these leads – unless the lead asks you to do so. Rather, you should ask the right questions and make the right comments that will sell your dealership’s experience. Doing so on the phone means making statements such as “I will calendar-invite my team so that we will all be prepared to assist you when you arrive.”

On the other hand, with web leads, the key to converting is to interpret customer intent based on the tone and words they use in their correspondence. For instance, someone who asks in an email “Are there extra fees? How much are they?” is still in research mode and will likely reply favorably to your offering answers and additional resources for research. Be prepared for more back-and-forth emails, but the online researcher will appreciate your being a source of useful information and might be more likely to ask for your salespeople by name before they visit your lot.

Seek to understand where walk-in shoppers are in their journey – and meet them there.

Walk-in shoppers might be ready to buy depending on where they are on their research. Walk-ins will also be using their smartphones to research vehicles in real time on your lot and your competitors’ lots. Depending on where they are in the purchase journey, they will be highly engaged and ready to talk prices and details about makes and models. Salespeople can increase their close rates by asking the right questions, such as “Is this your first visit to the lot?” “Are you just starting your research?” “What other makes and models are you looking at, and what are you hearing about them on review sites?” “How about a test drive?”

Being ready to engage at a more detailed level, especially about reviews, means understanding what key review sites like Cars.com are saying about the vehicles, the dealership, and salespeople. For more insight, download our Cars.com Guide to Converting Leads to Sales in the Digital Era. In addition, we’ll host a webinar at 12:00 p.m. CDT on August 23 to dive into more detail about identifying, nurturing, and closing leads. We’re hosting the webinar with Jennifer Suzuki, founder and president of e-Dealer Solutions. Register here and join us August 23!