The car business attracts all types of buyers: some people buy cars on impulse, like a bar of chocolate in the queue, while others spend days, weeks, or even months searching for the right car, deal, and dealership. Regardless of the type of buyer though, life can get in the way sometimes, causing car shopping to get put on the back burner.
In my former life handling leads at a six-store dealer group, I found that timing was one of the main reasons why even our most effective lead sources converted at only 10%-12%. It wasn’t because the customers weren’t serious or decided to buy elsewhere—it was because they didn’t have time, and my dealership was giving up too soon.
Why does that matter to you? If you want to drive more sales from existing leads, you need to optimise your lead follow-up strategy.
Prompt, relevant follow up engages more shoppers
Timely and engaging responses are important right off the bat: conversion rates increase by 391% when companies make a call attempt within a minute of receiving a lead. You have to attack every lead as quickly as you can to ensure you’re starting the conversation. Of course, it’s frustrating for your team to reach out and not get responses, but the truth is, the majority of buyers are just trying to get a sense of what’s available, what the purchase process is like, and who they feel the most comfortable doing business with. So respond right away, and meet your buyer where they’re at in the sales process.
Lead follow-up beyond your initial response is crucial
At CarGurus, I often hear dealers say, “I called and emailed the customer. They never got back to me.” My response to that is always, “Okay, but then what did you do?”
According to The Marketing Donut, 80% of sales are made after five follow-ups, yet 44% of salespeople give up after only one follow-up. If you knew you could make a sale if you followed up on a lead five times, wouldn’t you consider the extra time investment worth it? Implementing a strategic, long-term follow-up schedule will impact your 30+ day close rates on inbound email leads and help you build a pipeline that will grow month over month.
Working at a dealership, I saw how crucial long-term follow up can be with one OEM that sent my group leads that were converting well, or so I thought. When I dove deeper into the numbers, I realised most of our sales were coming within the first 30 days. We had an almost 0% conversion rate on 30-90-day-old leads.
Like many dealers, I was only thinking about how many leads I got versus how many cars I sold, and figured my dealership was doing great closing 14% each month. What I was overlooking was the 86% of leads that went nowhere.
Implementing a lead follow-up schedule boosts sales
I wondered how many more sales my dealership could make if we just stayed in contact with our leads. Revamping our lead follow-up strategy was the first step, so we mapped out a schedule:
- Days 1-7: A combination of emails and calls, heaviest during the first week.
- Days 8-30: Follow up shifted mainly to email, with two calls per 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.
Within the first month, we saw our 30-60-day lead conversions go from 0.6% to 3.6%—a huge jump. At 150 leads per month, that’s going from one extra deal to five. For 60-90-day-old leads, we went from a 0% conversion rate to 1.3% or another two deals.
At a £1,200 average front-end per sale, we had found an extra £8,000 in the first month—before after-sell and financing. This wasn’t a fluke, but rather the start of a new process that helped build up our sales over time to where we were consistently getting an extra 12-16 deals per month from leads we’d just been sitting on.
Working on the customer’s timeline helps win the sale
Sometimes the dealer who wins the sale is the one who is willing to work with a customer on their timeline, not the dealership’s. The reason many CarGurus dealerships experience such a big jump in lead conversions when upgrading their listings package isn’t that they’re getting better leads or more leads, they’re simply able to follow up more times and work them over a longer period of time.
Following up on leads quickly and frequently is so important—and it’s completely within your control. With the right follow-up schedule, you can avoid missing out on quality leads and sales for your dealership.