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Stricter Rules Drive Higher Sales

While so many dealers in the 20 groups I address still look upon their internet sales efforts with a bit of shock and awe, the truth is that internet sales are not just relatively easy to master; internet sales are so easy to master that they’re actually kind of boring.

Funny thing is, with just a couple of simple rules, the whole mess becomes incredibly easy to manage and grow.

In this 7-part series, my hope is to detail in plain language how you can stop overthinking much of what goes into making a sale to an internet prospect, and how to use these seven simple strategies to start setting more appointments that show and buy today:

Simple Strategy #3: Stricter Rules Drive Higher Sales

The Problem: In an attempt to increase CRM usage by your floor and internet teams, you created a “72-Hour Rule” or one like it. You believe that a side benefit of your 72-Hour Rule is a reduction in skating, because you can give your team the proper credit for their contact efforts.

The average dealer’s 72-Hour Rule works like this:

If a salesperson or BDC agent shows “meaningful contact” with a prospect in the CRM, and this prospect buys a vehicle within 72 hours of this “meaningful contact” – the salesperson or BDC agent who entered the data in the CRM receives some credit for the sale. In the case of a salesperson, this means they get a split deal with whoever actually sold the customer. For a BDC agent, this means they enjoy their appointment show and sold unit spiffs for this customer.

The Reality: A 72-Hour Rule guarantees your salespeople will make zero calls, while your BDC will rely on soft appointment setting and information vomiting. Additionally, you will be supporting (and even compensating) cherry-picking by anyone handling internet leads and phones.

Don’t believe me?

Here’s some anecdotal evidence that I bet I could find at your dealership if you employ the 72-Hour Rule:

  • End-to-End Internet Salesperson averaging 30 units per month. Dealership managers were so proud of his efforts they gave him an office and left him alone to do his magic. We discovered he was receiving roughly 450 leads each month, making zero actual phone calls (despite showing multiple calls in the CRM), and sending the same email to every prospect: “Here’s my best price. Print this email, come to the dealership and be sure and ask for me.” Because of their 72-Hour Rule, this do-nothing Internet Salesperson received credit for all deals attributable to his “meaningful contact.”
  • End-to-End Internet Salesperson off on Wednesdays seems to always find 3-4 split deals every Thursday from customers who came in on his day off. We listened to his Monday-Tuesday calls and they all included some variation of “We’ll see you on Wednesday.” You see, he was afraid to close and happy to take half deals for those who showed up and bought.
  • BDC Manager spends the last three days of the month comparing what the DMS shows as sold with the names and addresses of those in her database of internet leads. When even a semi-match is found, she “reconciles” the two and shows that the BDC was responsible for an additional sale. This is the all-too-common practice of reconciliation introduced in Simple Strategy #1.
  • BDC Team of three setting about 250 total appointments per month, but only seeing about 60 shows from these, as all 250 were “soft” appointments. Setting real appointments requires work and you often hear “No;” while asking “When would you like to come in?” is polite and non-confrontational (even though it means the prospects are much less likely to show).

You might think you’re being nice or even driving incremental business when you allow your teams to set soft appointments, but you’re not. In fact, you’re costing them and you money.

When you have soft appointment rules – like paying a BDC agent for an appointment that shows a day early (yes, I’ve seen this more often than the alternative of holding to a strict 45 minutes) or giving the salesman credit for a sold unit because he had “meaningful contact” with that prospect in the last 72 hours, you’re actually hurting your sales and your team’s paychecks.

The Solution: This simple strategy states that “stricter rules drive higher sales” and that’s true across the entire dealership; but to solve the cherry-picking, reconciliation and soft appointment setting created by your misguided “72-Hour Rule” you only need to implement a few rules that define what is and what is not a protected prospect.

Here are my favorite Protected Prospect Rules:

  1. The only prospects that will be considered “protected” and will result in either a split deal (where the primary salesperson was unavailable, though in the store) or a zero deal (where the primary salesperson was available, but not given their protected prospect) are the following:
    1. Same Day Be-Backs (where the primary salesperson has properly documented the customer’s visit in the CRM.)
    2. Appointments that arrive within 45 minutes of a scheduled time (where the primary salesperson/appointment coordinator has properly documented the appointment in the CRM.)
    3. Customers who ask for the primary salesperson by name within earshot of a manager (on a day where the salesperson is working.)
  2. No prospects will be “protected” if they arrive on the salesperson’s day off; and no split deals will be offered on these.
  3. Anyone who “Ups” and sells a protected prospect will receive no credit or commission for the sale unless (1) the primary salesperson was unavailable; and (2) a sales manager expressly assigned the prospect to the new salesperson.

Unless you have strict rules in place for what constitutes a valid appointment your BDC will NEVER have the discipline to pin a prospect down on a specific time. Why should they? That takes work, it’s sometimes uncomfortable, and they’re going to get paid either way, right?

Yes it takes work. Yes it’s sometimes uncomfortable. No, they’re not getting paid, because the prospect won’t be showing up.

When your team allows a customer to say something like “I’ll be there before 9” there is almost no chance this appointment will show; because it’s not an appointment. A true appointment requires both a specific day and a specific time. Without a specific time, there is no mental commitment by the prospect to show up, so they generally will not.

Once you force your team to start setting stronger appointments, by paying them only for those that arrive within 45 minutes, their show rates will multiply as will your sold units.

If you think these rules seem a bit too harsh, then continue to encourage cherry-picking and soft appointment setting. Given that today’s buyers visit, on average, fewer than two dealers before they purchase, your competition will thank you.

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This is part 1 of 7 Simple Strategies for Closing More Internet Deals Today!
by Steve Stauning.

Don’t miss out on the complete series:

Part 1Simple Strategy #1: Pay for the Performance You Want

Part 2Simple Strategy #2: Internet & BDC Teams Must be Managed Like Call Centers

Part 3: You’re reading it

Part 4: Simple Strategy #4: Treat EVERY Lead and Call Like an Order

Part 5Simple Strategy #5: Yes, You Should Always Use an Auto Response

Part 6Simple Strategy #6: Email Templates can be Personal AND Automated

Part 7Simple Strategy #7: The First Call Should Be the ONLY Call


Steve is the author of Assumptive Selling: The Complete Guide to Selling More Vehicles for More Money to Today’s Connected Customers;" as well ...