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Digital Dealer Overview – Email Leads

In one of my most anticipated presentations at the Digital Dealer Conference, Michael Carrigan of Don’t Hit Send talked about building relationships through e-mail. This is a subject that I find very interesting since I have seen how poorly dealerships deal with internet leads through mystery shops. And despite promoting a completely new and foreign strategy to what I usually recommend, Carrigan had some great ideas that really made me wish I worked in a dealership so I could try them out!

The basis of Carrigan’s theory comes from his studies and experience with Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He suggests that e-mail correspondence is very similar to phone or face-to-face interaction in that people will not necessarily remember what you said but rather how you said it. When someone comes to the dealership and has certain mannerisms, salespeople are trained to mimic them. When someone with a deep accent calls on the phone, it can be effective to take on that accent yourself. Thus, when e-mailing a customer who has submitted an internet lead, you should take whatever you can from their lead and replicate it in your response. If they write in all caps and no punctuation, you write in caps and no punctuation; if they have a subject line, respond with that same subject line; if their grammar sucks, make sure you have some mistakes in your response. In short, you want the customer to see themselves in you (who do we like more than ourselves?) in order to build rapport and put them at ease.

Carrigan went so far as to suggest that your e-mail response should directly reference the questions or comments made in the lead and do nothing more. In doing so, you fulfill the customer’s expectations and avoid the possibility of saying something wrong (or worse yet, proving the customer wrong in some way). I am not sure that I agree 100% with this – I believe that including a couple selling points or promotional offers for your dealership in the initial response can help distinguish your store – though again I would love to test it out.

Some of the suggestions that were made during the session sound very familiar to traditional sales techniques, which is always fun to recognize in an industry that refuses to “change”. One technique that I remember from my days on the floor was the importance of “pacing”. In order to influence someone through e-mail, you should pace (repeat) the information provided as many as three times, then lead them with a pointed question. This verifies the customer’s questions and expresses true concern for and attention to their needs. Much as other speakers focused on utilizing the internet as a tool to help customers, Carrigan emphasized the need to be a resource rather than a salesperson at this stage, to be interested rather than interesting. The more a dealership can focus on communication and building relationships, rather than selling cars, the more cars they will sell.

Again, I have not seen this in practice but I think it is a very interesting way to approach your internet leads. If nothing else, this is an example of a strategy that should probably be tested out, along with any number of others. There are so many opportunities to find the ideal response but most stores simply hand off their e-mails and forget about them. Why not spend a month responding as Carrigan suggests? Then spend a month only sending video responses or colorful, loud e-mails or e-mails with links or with a special offer. With more and more customers flocking to the internet, you have a great testing ground for innovative and effective response systems. If you don’t, someone else will….

 

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