Best PracticesDealership Marketing

De-mystifying the Third-Party “Mystery” Lead

When I think back to the days of running an Internet department, I have many fond memories. I loved the hustle and bustle of the dealership and the smiles on the faces of people driving away in their new car.

My BDC was set up so that I was in the same area as my team and one thing I often heard from my team was the dreaded, “This person said they never submitted a lead and wants to know how I got their information.”

These “mystery leads” frustrated me. I felt like I paid for an opportunity that was now deemed useless to my dealership. As I learned more, I realized this thought process doesn’t make sense and, dare I say in most cases, is a more often misleading statement from the consumer.

Let me share ways you and your team can work the third-party lead smarter to avoid frustration and ultimately help you win the sale.


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Acquire Leads from Reputable Sources

For starters, always make sure that the leads you are purchasing come from reputable sources that require shoppers to select your dealership when submitting their information. Most third-party lead providers practice this, but not all. If you’re buying leads from a source where people aren’t actually choosing your dealership, then confusion will reign.

Consider the Shopper’s Third-party Site Experience

Let’s say I’m in the market for a new Porsche 911 Coupe (hey, I can dream big – it’s my scenario). I decide to do research first on a random third-party automotive site and then choose to request a quote from a dealer.

The first thing the site asks me for is the Make and Model I’m interested in along with my zip code. Contrary to popular belief, my computer does not automatically know this information so I must physically enter the information myself. (Hint – your customers’ computers aren’t telepathic either).

Once I hit the continue button, I’m shown the dealership(s) that currently receive leads on the model I’ve selected in the zip code I’ve entered and I have the opportunity to request more information. Notice that no one is twisting my arm to fill out the information and once again, my computer cannot automatically enter the information for me.

Shoppers on reputable third-party automotive sites will automatically receive an email from the site letting them know you’ll be contacting them. There should be no surprises, yet when you contact them they act surprised or in some instances violated.

At this point, let’s consider a few of the things the shopper might be saying to you without words:

“I’ve had a bad car buying experience in the past and I’m not ready to talk to you yet.”
“I’m still researching and am not ready to talk to you yet.”
“I’m not ready for the pressure yet.”
“I asked for a price quote and you didn’t send one. Why should I talk to you if you can’t give me what I want?”
“I don’t trust you.”

Do’s and Dont’s for Your “Mystery” Lead

Here are a few tips to respect the shopper while still maintaining your follow up.

  • Set up an automated follow-up process specific to the lead source from which the lead was acquired. Also be sure to follow-up personally.
  • NEVER, EVER, under any circumstances call the shopper a lead. In fact, the word “lead” should never leave your mouth when talking to a shopper during any conversation.
  • Respect that they aren’t ready to talk to you.
  • Send them a price quote – it’s what they asked for to begin with.
  • Offer your assistance. Let them know that you’re here to help them and want to make the process as easy as possible for them.
  • Don’t pressure them about coming into the dealership. Just continue to feed them the information they’re looking for.
  • Continue your normal 90-120 day follow up procedure via email.
  • Follow up periodically with emails about incentives and specials, as well as used car inventory that is comparable to their initial request.

When you understand the steps a shopper goes through to submit an inquiry through a third-party automotive site, is it plausible that the shopper really has no idea how you got their information and are shocked that you are calling? Yes, it is, and attempting to convince them they are wrong or forgot will never win them over.

Take the time to optimize your follow-up process to be personalized and specific to each individual lead source, be swift with your follow-up, and be mindful that the shopper may truly not understand how you obtained their information or they simply aren’t comfortable in talking with you, which gives you an opportunity to earn their trust.

Until next time – Happy Car Selling!

Author’s Note: This Editorial was contributed by Cassie Perkins, Sr. Manager, Account Management Team and Programs for Autobytel.