Last Modified: June 14, 2024

Written By:Olivia Barickman

|Published Date: June 14, 2024|9 min read

Automotive Lead Management: Strategies for a Faster, Higher-Quality Lead Response

A photo of a man and a woman in a dealership. The man points at a car in the distance while the woman next to him listens and holds a folder.
Customers expect dealership salespeople to respond quickly, but how can you respond fast enough while still delivering a high-quality, personalized experience? When it comes to automotive lead management, “stopping the clock” isn’t the only key to success. This blog will cover how to improve crucial areas of your lead response:
  • How quickly you should respond to internet inquiries and when and how to conduct follow up
  • Strategies for balancing quick responses with high-quality outreach that converts
  • Tools to improve your first quality responses (FQRs) and test if your messages are actually accessible
  • The channels you need to master to ensure every lead feels valued
While we can’t control every outcome when it comes to lead responses, the right tools, strategies, and preparation can transform your automotive lead management. This blog contains insights from Covideo’s Margaret Henney, Brian Pasch of Pasch Group, and Jason Price from Fairway.

Speaker Graphic - Speed vs Quality Webinar

Dealerships are responding faster to leads

Automotive dealerships have made huge strides in responding rapidly to online customer inquiries. That means automotive lead management is more important than ever. Recently, Pied Piper Management Co. summited “mystery shopper” customer inquiries to 1,614 dealerships representing 17 dealership groups. For 24 hours, Pied Piper tracked the dealerships’ responses and scored them on a scale of 1-100. The survey identified that salespeople are responding faster than last year.What does this mean for dealerships’ automotive lead management strategy?“What everyone has learned is that responding quickly to customer inquiries translates to high web lead close rates,” said Pied Piper CEO Fran O’Hagan. At the same time, O’Hagan cautioned dealerships against putting too much emphasis on “stopping the clock” when managing automotive leads. If dealerships automate responses or ignore customer inquiries, they hurt their chances of conversion.

Get deeper insights with our free guide, Speed and Quality: A Guide to Mastering the Balance of Lead Responses!

Findings from 2023 Pied Piper PSI Internet Lead Effectiveness Study

  • Top performing dealership groups were three times more likely to respond to website customers within 30 minutes versus the typical dealership.
  • Most major dealerships improved response times.
  • The overall industry average grew three points (from 58 to 55).

Leads: Your most precious resource

Nothing is more important to sales than effectively handling inbound leads! Getting more leads is great, but converting more leads is even more important. This could potentially be the most crucial part of automotive lead management because nothing can move forward without filling the top of the sales funnel.Your ultimate goal for virtual leads should be bringing them into the physical dealership. You can get there with stellar customer service, consultative sales strategies, and mimicking the in-person experience online. Stay tuned, and we’ll show you how.
Want to score your FQRs and take the first step to wowing your internet leads? Covideo Dealer Services is the #1 video software for dealerships, and we’ve helped thousands of your peers transform their automotive lead management strategy. Talk to our experts!

Brian Pasch’s 4x60 Rule for Automotive Lead Management

So, how many leads should you actually convert into paying customers?When thinking of conversions, apply Brian Pasch’s 4 x 60 rule, which says that out of 100 internet leads, 60 should lead to two-way conversations. Out of those conversations, 36 will lead to appointments. Those 36 appointments will lead to 22 people showing up. And finally, those appointment attendees will turn into 13 closed sales. This is a great way to evaluate your automotive lead management at each step.
An inverted pyramid graphic where each tier gets lighter blue. It says 100 internet leads / 60 two-way conversions / 36 appointmnets / 22 shown appointments / 13 sales.

Finding the problems in your funnel

If there is a place in the funnel where you are falling under this number, you can use that knowledge to diagnose the problem with your automotive lead management. If you are struggling to move from 100 internet leads to 60 two-way conversations, you may have an effort, timing, or technology problem. If you struggle to move from 60 conversations to 36 appointments, your salespeople may not be listening to the customer, building enough rapport with them, or finding relevant solutions.

Most common dealership challenges for FQRs

Here are some typical challenges that can block you from an effective FQR:
  • Not following up fast enough (or at all)
  • Using completely generic/automated replies
  • Only leveraging one channel of communication
  • Sending long, overly detailed replies
  • Not addressing direct questions
  • Failing to give a compelling reason for lead to respond
  • Reaching out once and giving up
We polled some dealerships about which of these struggles was the biggest challenge for them. 22% of dealers said not addressing direct questions and using completely automated or generic replies were the biggest struggles when it comes to lead response.

Keeping automotive lead management personal

You need to give leads a compelling reason to respond to you. Jumping in and asking them when they can come in shouldn’t always be your first move. Here’s how to be a trusted adviser and keep them interested:
  • Ask follow-up questions about what they are interested in before asking when they can visit.
  • Let them know about upcoming offers you may have, such as, “At the end of the month there could be a 0% OEM financing offer for you to take advantage of.”
  • Take notes on their preferences, lifestyle, and interest to bring up these points in future conversations.

Why speed matters for automotive lead management

When you’re trying to move an online inquiry to a two-way conversation with a customer, speed is everything. Ideally, you respond to internet leads within five minutes and have a plan of communication for the following 24 hours after a lead contacts you. Stay tuned for our suggested communication plan.We polled dealerships and found most of them responded to internet leads within 30 minutes, with about 28% meeting that crucial five-minute window for automotive lead management.Also, keep these stats in mind:
  • You’re 100x more likely to connect and convert leads when you respond in five minutes or less. (Chili Piper)
  • Your odds of qualifying a lead decreases by 400% when your response time goes from five to ten minutes. (Harvard Business Review)
  • 78% of customers purchase from the first responder. (Lead Connect)
“When someone asks you a question, wait five minutes before you answer it, and see how awkward that becomes—until they walk away. That’s how we need to approach internet leads.” -Jason Price

Auditing your communications tools

Responding to leads quickly is important, but if your communication and technology tools are not set up in the most impactful and helpful way, you’re going to slow yourself down! Part of automotive lead management involves making sure all your channels are functioning smoothly. If a lead can’t get ahold of you easily, they’ll just move on to the next dealership!Remember to check all your communications tools:
  • Phone calls
  • Texting
  • Live chat online
  • Form fills/request a test drive option
  • Personalized video
  • Automated messages
  • Emails
When someone fills in a form, does it route to your CRM? When you call someone, do you show up as an "unknown caller" on their caller ID? Does your website load quickly? Check out our ebook for more information on auditing your communications tools.

First impressions in automotive lead management

The saying is true, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression!” Consider the “halo effect,” first coined by journalist and author Malcom Gladwell. This cognitive bias says that when we have a positive/negative interaction with someone, we make additional positive/negative judgements of them as a person.
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People make first impressions almost instantaneously, and these impressions set the foundation for long-term relationships.We polled dealerships, and 95% of them said they personalize over automating their first response to leads!When you respond to leads, do you do the following?
  • Show interest (call them by name, address their questions/concerns, and ask related/relevant follow up questions that give me a reason to respond)
  • Be friendly (smile, be expressive, and have a positive/energetic tone)
  • Display positive body language (make eye contact, be relaxed/comfortable, have open and upright posture, etc.)

Watch our webinar, Speed vs. Quality: Mastering the Balance of Auto Lead Responses, to level up your FQRs!

“Stopping the clock” in automotive lead management

Salespeople are no strangers to “stop the clock” rules, which are often set by OEMs to ensure dealerships respond to leads as quickly as possible. This can help OEMs understand the productivity of a sales team, but it also doesn’t enforce the importance of personalization. Salespeople may fear they cannot make thoughtful, helpful responses under the pressure to respond quickly. The right technology can give you some of this time back.In your automotive lead management strategy, it’s important to understand which actions “stop the clock” in your CRM. Creating a “work note” in a CRM does not automatically “stop the clock,” and you may have to make edits to properly track your actions. This is why technologgy integrations are so important! For example, Elead seamlessly integrates with Covideo’s video messaging software, tracking as an “email activity type” that stops the clock.

Making an automotive lead management communications plan

While every customer is different, it’s good to have expectations of when and how your team will communicate at each step of the process. We’ve created some timelines and ideas to guide you as you craft an automotive lead management plan.

Mastering the “Golden Hour”

We call the first, crucial hour after a lead contacts you the “Golden Hour.” Here is our recommended timeline:
A set of five clock images with part of the clock filled in. Each clock has a label: >1 minutes: respond to chat / >5 minutes: phone call with vm / >10 minute: text / >30 minutes: video text / >60 minutes video email
Of course, your automotive lead management will differ based on the channel where a lead contacts you, but this is a good formula to follow:
  • Respond to website live chat within a minute
  • In the first five minutes, call and leave a voicemail
  • Within ten minutes, send a text (and ensure they opt in to text messages)
  • Send a short video within 30 minutes over text
  • Send the same video over email when you hit the one-hour mark

The next 90 days

While you want to capture leads in the Golden Hour, having a follow-up communications plan can potentially bring in future business. Here is what an automotive lead management plan may look like for a lead that goes cold after your first day of outreach:
  • Days 1-7: A combination of emails, videos, calls, and texts, heaviest during the first week
  • Days 8-30: Shift follow-up to email and two calls a week
  • Days 31-60: One call and one email over the next 30 days
  • Days 61-90: Two emails every other week
  • After 90 days: A single email over the next two months, plus monthly batch email campaigns for sales events and promotions
When using this strategy, be sure to respect your buyers’ timelines! If they respond and say, “I’ll be ready to purchase in six months,” don’t ignore their request and keep calling them. You can also automate part of this later outreach when you switch from sales to marketing. Check out Covideo Automation to add video to your marketing solutions!

Final thoughts on automotive lead management

There are so many ways you can improve automotive lead management at your dealership, so don’t get overwhelmed! Step back, review your top challenges, and choose some of our top advice to implement now. Maybe you need to test forms on your website. Maybe you need to set the max time your team responds to internet leads. Maybe you need to add video!

Keep these key takeaways in mind:

  • Respond to online leads in less than five minutes
  • Make a strong first impression by personalizing communication, answering questions directly, and being friendly and open
  • Apply the “Golden Hour” strategy across multiple channels
  • Don’t give up after the first outreach
  • Plan for the following 90 days if you do not reach your customer
  • Ensure your technology (website, online forms, CRM, etc.) are operating effectively and legally
One easy way to elevate your automotive lead management plan is to add personalized video messaging to your outreach. Dealerships can leverage video across many channels, and with Covideo, it’s faster than writing and sending an email! See how Covideo can work for your specific dealership by requesting a demo with our experts.

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