Lead Conversion for Car Dealers: Best Practices to Convert Auto Leads

By Canada Drives Newsroom | Dealer Services

An email chimes on the internet sales rep’s smartphone and the sales manager’s desktop. It’s a sales lead that’s just arrived seconds ago from a shopper that’s hot. Not warm. HOT. How do you handle it?

For 76% of dealers, contact is made with incoming leads within the first hour. For the other 24%, contact with the lead ranges up to three days, or worse yet, leads never receive a response at all. You cannot understate the importance of fast response times in converting sales leads into rolled units. 

Autotrader’s 2018 Car Buyer Journey reports that car buyers research online for more than 14 hours before contacting a dealer. While only 1 in 3 is settled on a make and model, they’ll average just 1.4 visits to a dealership before making up their mind. 

You don’t have time to let them keep shopping! 

Converting web leads within 24 hours is the minimum standard but far from acceptable. Fast response times drastically improve your odds of qualifying the lead and turning it into a happy buyer by as much as 164% compared with slow responses. But how quickly should you be reaching out to hot leads? 

Reach out immediately!

Managers, internet salespeople, BDC staff, there’s no reason during business hours that leads should wait longer than 15 minutes to receive your undivided attention.

Imagine you’re searching online for a specific item you need badly or want passionately. When you find what you’re looking for and send a request for more information, do you stop shopping? Guaranteed, as soon as you click “SUBMIT” on the request form, you continue browsing the World Wide Web for another supplier.

Time is ticking as soon as the lead rolls in. If 15 minutes or less isn’t achievable, choose another sales representative to take on the lead. The odds of contacting a lead if called in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 100 times. The odds of qualifying a lead if called in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 21 times, according to a Lead Response Management study.

Like millennial shoppers, web leads have different shopping behaviours than walk-in customers. Expect a short attention span, the need for immediate gratification, and the expectation of a variety of options. 

Five conversion techniques you should be using

How should you be responding to hot leads? Canada Drives has compiled five techniques to give you the best odds of converting a higher ratio into sales. 

1. Use the customer’s preferred communication method

Reaching out to all your customers, especially sales leads, should be done by the method they most prefer. It has nothing to do with what’s most convenient for you. Communicate with inquiries and requests using the method they’ve requested. Marketing group PERQ reports that in today’s automotive marketplace, a quarter of customers prefer text messaging as the primary contact method. 67% want you to reach out by email while only 8% desire a phone call. 

2. Be first to respond

A Lead Connect study found that an astounding 78% of shoppers purchased from the company that responded first to their request. Think for a moment about that. If you knew that another dealer could take the sale out of your hands – and your wallet – simply by beating you to the ‘Send’ button by minutes or seconds, would that influence how quickly you respond? It should.

3. Personalization matters

A canned response has little to no effect on web leads. You won’t be able to get them in the doors just by asking for an appointment time. You’ll need to write personalized emails or text messages that immediately address their questions. Whether it’s a credit app, request for specific vehicle information, price, payment, or in-stock availability, you have to answer their question. 

Use their name. Use conversational yet professional language. Ask a question to compel another response. Be personal. You’ll begin to build trust this way.

4. Differentiate yourself from other car dealers

Don’t stop personalizing your responses. Tell the customer WHY you’re their best choice. Let them know you’ll meet them where they are, away from the showroom if necessary. Entice them to engage further with amenities your dealership offers like no-pressure test drives, soft credit pulls, and a breakfast bar or refreshments – whatever you have. Show yourself and your store to be different.

A great differentiator is to offer alternatives. If they’re shopping for a Toyota Corolla, mention your promotions on the Camry and the Yaris as well. Add one or two potential used car options as well as time-sensitive manufacturer incentives including lease options. 

5. Follow up!

It can’t be understated. Follow-up is crucial until you meet face to face, and even after. The Brevet Group reports that 80% of sales require up to five follow-ups. 44% of salespeople stop at just one. That’s leaving money on the table! 

Like the initial contact with a lead, follow up with their preferred contact method. A follow-up sales call script should be developed and loosely adhered to. 

Since two-thirds expect you to email though, that communication should be crafted expertly.

The art of the follow-up email

Follow-up sales emails can be a powerful tool or a turn-off of the highest degree. Learn how to craft an email that is read and responded to:

  • Always write follow-up emails personally. The vocabulary and tone in the message should be yours, the same as the customer will hear from you in person.
  • Be concise. Almost 100% of your customers will read your email on their smartphone. Give enough information without being redundant or overwhelming. Don’t lose their interest before they get to your call to action.
  • Don’t be evasive. Customers know when you’re using sales ‘tactics’ like withholding payments or credit approvals simply to get an appointment. Be honest and transparent, good news or bad. 
  • Ask for a commitment without being forceful. Ask questions like, “What day and time would work best for us to get together?” or “If I can do X for you, would you be ready to take the conversation further?”
  • Give them multiple ways to reply. Offer your cell number and email address, the dealership phone number, or any other methods they can reach you.

What time of day is best for follow up?

For follow-up sales emails after the initial back and forth, think about making it convenient for the customer. The Lead Response Management study shows that 4 to 6 p.m. is the best time to contact a lead, followed by 8 to 9 a.m. The worst time is between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

What are the best days of the week to follow-up?

Two days of the week stand out as better than others for following up. Wednesday and Thursday are best, while Friday is the worst. However, you should qualify the preferred follow-up days and times with your customer if you can.

Barriers to quick response times

Two things get in the way of fast lead response times the most: busyness and after-hours contact. There are workarounds for both since you know you’ll encounter them. 

  • Invest in AI-powered messaging for after-hours leads. You can get more information from the lead than you’d imagine and carry them along until someone is able to make personal contact. 
  • Assign a ‘chain of command’ for incoming leads. If your internet specialist is unable to respond within the first 15 minutes, it must be re-assigned to the next available team member. Ensure a senior salesperson trained in web leads handles it. 

With Canada Drives, you’ll receive consistent quality leads for higher closing rates that can be easily tracked. Ensure your best success by employing effective strategies to make the most out of every lead.




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