Sunday, August 7, 2011


They are tired of doing so much work.

After 250+ mystery shops I think I can safely speak for the group when I say that my mystery shoppers are exhausted. Their eyes hurt and their heads ache.

And all just because they try to launch buyer/seller relationships with car dealers.

If you’ve ever tried researching and selecting a new car or truck online you know that it’s not as easy as one might think. A typical outing starts with a Google search the leads you down a labyrinthine path through dozens of sites and pages. Eventually you reach a vehicle (or a retailer, or both) and are given the opportunity to type in your name and contact info with the promise of getting something of value in return. You comply; hit “Submit” or “Get Your Free Internet Price Quote” or “Make An Offer” or “Get More Information” or whatever, then sit back and wait to see what happens.

We think this is the end of the hard part. But it's not.

The first response emails that land in my eager mystery shoppers’ Inboxes can range from a few lines of painfully pecked-out plain black & white text to big, bulky HTML pages that scroll on forever and contain so much info they can’t be read on a smart phone screen.

Big or small, HTML or text; the emails are usually difficult to read, and often amateurish in appearance and execution. Rarely does my shopper get a first quality response (FQR) email that is concise, informative, attractive and professional-looking. Why is this? Why do we make our customers work so hard for the information they request?

If you are online and send a request to Home Depot, L.L. Bean, Target, Amazon, Cabela’s, J.C. Penney or any one of hundreds of other retailers the email you get in reply is likely to be clean, understandable and pleasing to the eye. Even if the item you inquired about only cost $2.99. Do the same at a car dealership and the email you get in reply is likely to be fugly – and the product you inquired about this time probably cost $29,999. Or more.

Of course, the difference here is that Home Depot, L.L. Bean, Target, Amazon, Cabela’s, and J.C. Penney are big, national retailers with big national media departments. And your dealership is just one little bitty local store. Agreed. But the thing is, in this amazing new world of Internet communications, a world in which all the word and image creation and delivery tools one could ever need are attainable somewhere for cheap to free, the hard cost to produce concise, informative and attractive FQR emails and the cost to produce amateurish and hard to read emails is exactly the same.

It’s not a money thing any longer. It's a people thing.

The future belongs to the communicators.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


They don’t trust you.

We both know it’s largely unfair, but they don’t trust you.

You’ve seen all the polls where buyers say if they could bypass the dealership and buy directly from the manufacturer they would.  They trust the OEM, but they don’t trust you.

A couple weeks ago, I heard a Ford maven say this (I’ll paraphrase): “The more your outgoing emails resemble Tier 1 emails, the more prospects trust you.”   By gawd, he’s on to something.

Ignoring, for the moment, issues like quality of content, font selection, correct spacing & spelling, etc. etc. what is the simplest and most powerful thing we can do to make our outgoing emails resemble Tier 1 emails?

Shared graphics, right?

For example, this month  has “The Best Place To Be” sales event plastered all over the home page.  “The Best Place To Be” is a simple graphic; easy to copy, easy to manipulate, easy to paste into numerous settings.

What happens if a Ford dealer incorporates that image into the graphic header on all its outgoing emails this month?
 - The store piggybacks on all the $$$ Ford is spending driving that message home on the web, on TV and in print. 
 - Prospects, consciously or unconsciously, now align the dealership with the trusted manufacturer.

In the prospect’s mind, the dealership is now perceived more to be an authorized extension of the trusted national brand.  The gap between Tier 1 (OEM) and Tier 3 has just been narrowed.  And the cost to the dealership to accomplish this?  $00.00.

You are already thinking, “This idea Ordiway is proposing is so simple, and so obvious that’s it’s almost no idea at all.”  And you are right.

So how come (to my knowledge) none of the stores in my region are employing this stunningly effective little trick?

Shame on me.


Sunday, July 10, 2011


Our team’s official Ford Motor Company job title is Digital Marketing Consultant.  Sounds cool.  I like it.

But it’s actually a misnomer as it suggests that we want to sell you SEO/SAO, website development, lead generation and other services.  And we don’t.

For some time now I’ve been telling people that our real title should be Best Practices Consultant: Internet-based Retail New Car Sales.  But besides being too long, it’s also inadequate because it suggests (to me, anyway) that the job entails walking into a dealership and pulling out a new car Internet sales best practices playbook.  If there is such a document, I’ve never seen it.

At the end of some dog tired days I think we are really a combination of things:  
 - eCommunications skills teacher +
 - eProspect management practices instructor +
 - Art of salesmanship coach and trainer.

Isn’t Internet-based new car sales really all about those three things?

COMMUNICATION: Many of us in the car sales game consider ourselves to be excellent communicators, and when we’re facing a prospect one-on-one this is often true.  But when we switch from face-to-face communicating to computer-to-computer communicating, we usually come up short.  Here’s an email template communication effectiveness test: print out your templates (if you don’t use them, print out some recently sent email examples) and, pretending there is a prospect sitting across the desk from you, read the templates aloud, in sequence.  How natural do they sound?  How sincere do you feel reading them?  Did the content help you in your quest to meet + greet + qualify the imaginary prospect sitting across from you?

PROSPECT MANAGEMENT: In my region, on average, 35% - 50% of the eProspects who buy do so within 5 days of submitting their lead.  But without a viable, formal eProspect long-term follow-up process built into your CRM, staying on top of last week’s eLead is as difficult as locating last week’s Facebook post.  Here’s an eProspect management success test: log into your CRM and locate all the new car eLeads that came in 6 days ago.  Now look: how many received phone and/or email contact from your store in the past 24 hours?  Past 48 hours?  What scheduled futurecontact activities are shown in the prospects’ profiles?  Any at all?

SALESMANSHIP: If you’ve been in the sales business very long you know that you can never attain perfection in that discipline known as salesmanship.  It’s equivalent to the yogi’s quest for nirvana.  Yet constantly working to improve one’s salesmanship skills is the one guaranteed thing a salesperson can do to insure that his/her sales continually increase.  Which means if your BDC and Internet sales department people are hamstrung by flawed communications and poor prospect management they have no time to improve their salesmanship skills.  Here’s a third and final test: how happy are you with the results of the communications and prospect management tests above?

‘nuff said.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Imagine that you run a restaurant.  

Out in the dining room it’s nothing but surprises: you open each day with no idea how many people are going to come through the doors, what they are going to order, whether you have too much or too little staff or food on hand, etc. etc. etc.  Anything goes, and that’s what makes it fun.

But back in the kitchen there must be order and process: if the kitchen is not systematically organized and operated the dishes will not make it out to the dining room on time (if at all) and the restaurant will crash. 

The dining room makes money out of chaos (and the more the better), the kitchen makes money out of order.

I think the dining room is analogous to a dealership’s sales floor.   And Internet-based car sales is the kitchen.  An Internet department (whether it is standalone, integrated, BDC, or whatever) requires process, method and consistency in order to supply the dining room (new and used car sales departments) with qualified customers.

One of the most difficult things I have to do is tell DPs, GMs, and SMs that, if they want to establish a bona fide Internet-based sales program for their store, they must first 1). Make the commitment to embrace system and process, 2). Put these systems and processes into place, and then (and this is the really difficult part) 3). Leave them alone! 

I tell them, “Do NOT, under any circumstances, change the plan, rip out the process, restructure the department, gut the program or otherwise re-org in any way for a minimum of 90 days.”  For many guys this part is the hardest because it runs so contrary to their nature and culture.  But experience has taught me time and time again that it is absolutely essential if their freshman Internet-based sales effort is to take root and grow.

Which is why it is so gratifying when we see a store actually make a plan, stick to the plan, and succeed with the plan.  I have one in my Region right now that, with great difficulty, resisted the urge to upset the apple carts during the critical first 90 days. They committed to change, launched the program and steadfastly stuck to it.  Today, less than 180 days into this noble experiment, their average lead response time is well under 30 minutes, their closing ratio is already up 1.1%, and their share of eLead RDRs (leads to this store closed by this store vs lost to a rival area Ford dealer) has jumped 15%.

I love happy endings.  :-D

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I just discovered that in the past sixteen months I have launched more than 225 mystery shops.  Wow.  I didn’t realize there had been so many.

You’d think after 225+ mystery shops a guy should have some profound observations and conclusions to share about mystery shops, right?  I don’t know about the profound part, but, yeah, you’re right, it seems that a person should have some observations and conclusions to share.

So I’ve spent the last couple hours ruminating and writing down things that currently stand out in my mind.  Here they are, in no particular order of importance. Feel free to add some of your own or challenge these.

1). The view from out here in shopper land is way different from your view down in dealer land.  I thought I was a pretty good template writer and process builder when I was an Internet salesman; I now see that I wasn’t nearly as good as I credited myself for being.  It took this new outside perspective to show me that.  My advice: seek outside opinions when tweaking your process and content.  Our industry is famous for singing only to its own choir.

2). When a fresh eLead arrives we don’t and can’t know what it is.
- Is it a new car inquiry from someone who actually wants a used car?  
- A person whose lease isn’t up for a year and is just window shopping?  
- A 14 year old kid building his fantasy Mustang on your OEM’s site?  
- Someone hopelessly upside down in their current vehicle, still hoping for a miracle rescue?  
- Someone who thought they were registering online to win a free iPad? 
- A buyer? (Yay)!  But also a grinder?  (Boo). 
- A “Get me bought” with a 500 Beacon?
- Someone who is actually bona fide ready willing and able to buy something today?   
- Or one of at least 1,336,749 other possibilities that can be to added to the list above?
Until a connection with the sender is established (if it ever is), we can’t know what that eLead represents.  Therefore, doesn’t logic say that the only smart way to respond is to attack the lead from all sides using every tool in our arsenal?

Very, very few (maybe 2%) of the dealerships I have shopped do this. Instead, most make some timid outreaches for a day or two and wait for the lead to reveal itself. Meh.

3).  You’ve heard this before: He who responds the fastest wins.  He who responds most often wins. He who responds using the greatest number of media (email, phone, text) wins.  He who responds using all of the above wins big.

4). Let’s say this is a pretty typical Day 1 – 5 Internet response schedule:
- Day 1 – Send a first quality response (FQR) email, make a phone attempt, maybe send a text.
- Day 2 – If lead is unresponsive, send a quality email, make a phone attempt, maybe send a text.
- Day 3 – If lead remains unresponsive, send a quality email, make a phone attempt
- Day 4 – If lead remains unresponsive, send a quality email, make a phone attempt.
- Day 5 – If lead remains unresponsive, send a quality email, make a phone attempt.

With some variations, we all agree that’s pretty much how it should be done, right?  So how come my shopper almost never, ever gets follow-up that even closely resembles this?

If your current Internet salespeoples’ workload and/or work schedule prevents them from being able to accomplish the above, you have a problem with your workload and/or work schedule.  If your workload and/or work schedule provides them the time needed to complete these tasks and they are not completing them – you have a problem with your people.

Bonus info:  Ford Digital Team consultants have access to new car days-to-the-sale data for each of our stores.  In my region, 35% - 50% of all sales take place within 5 days of an eLead’s arrival.  Doesn’t logic say, then, that making sure your people are giving prospects complete coverage Day 1 – 5 is primo importante?

5).  We still think we are selling cars via the Internet.  We are not.  Whether we realize it or not, we are in the eCommunications business instead.

6).  It doesn’t seem to matter if a store has a BDC, a dedicated Internet sales department, or just hands eLeads out to the sales floor.  My shoppers get equally bad service from all three!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Are you still debating whether to employ text messaging in your eLead response process?  This story may get you off the fence.

One day a couple weeks ago, as I do most days, I was sitting in a General Manager’s office reviewing his store’s recent mystery shop. 

When I told him the Lead Response Time (LRT) was a disappointing 5 hours 36 minutes he immediately went to his CRM to verify.  To my surprise, the CRM said the response time was 41 minutes.

Hmmm, OK.  So, was the First Quality Response (FQR) an email or a phone call?  (In Ford-world, only an email stops the clock).  It was an email, and a manually written and sent email at that.  (In Ford-world, autoresponders and other auto-sent emails do not stop the clock).  So everything checks out to support the 41 minute LRT story.

Then the problem is on my end.

My mystery shoppers always have or email addresses and I have all mail to these addresses forwarded to my main Inbox in MS Outlook.  When I opened the mystery shopper’s Gmail account in a browser I discovered that the LRT was indeed 41 minutes!  So, either Google did not forward the email to Outlook for 5 hours, Outlook did not pull down the email for 5 hours, the email floated in cyberspace for 5 hours, or some combination of these events took place.

All of us have experienced occasional problems with our electronic communications: the email that appears in our smart phone but never makes it to our PC, the email forwarded by a friend today that doesn’t arrive until tomorrow, emails from trusted senders that unexplainably go into our Junk/Spam folder and escape detection for days/weeks/forever.   It happens every day.

With a fast Lead Response Time being so critical (is there anybody reading this who does not believe that LRT is critical?) a 41 minute response time perceived by the customer to be a 5 hour 36 minute response time can be fatal.  So why not take an easy preemptive step to insure that your prompt LRT is recognized?

Send a text message.

In the example above, imagine that the salesperson, after sending his FQR, sent a quick text message to the shopper saying “Hi ________, Joe at ABC Motors here.  Got your request, already replied.  Check your email.  Let me know if you do not receive.  Thanks.”

What a difference that could have made!

At the very least I would have seen that text (and how do you NOT see a text message?) and made a mental note that the dealer had contacted me promptly.  At most I would have gotten the text, immediately checked Outlook, and when no email was seen, called/emailed the dealer or checked my webmail to hunt down his missing response.

Granted, not all leads come to us with a cell phone number (or a phone number at all).  But when we do get a cell number, why not utilize it?

Here’s some quick tips:
 - If you don’t know if the prospect’s phone # is a cell phone or not just go to and find out. Takes 20 seconds.
 - If it is a cell number, and your CRM is incapable of outgoing text messaging, go to and send a free text-message from your computer. Now you have a record of the text that you can copy and paste into the prospect’s profile in your CRM.

You can do the same with Google Voice but I prefer the way Joopz messages appear in the smart phone’s window.  Experiment with it a little bit until you get things to appear the way you like.  And did I mention that Joopz is FREE?

At last November’s Digital Dealer Conference I heard a presenter state that the average email receives a reply in 48 hours – and the average text message receives a reply in 4 minutes.

Which do you like best?


Sunday, May 1, 2011


This week a wonderful thing happened.  I got to see real salesmanship in action.

Here’s the set-up: I only mystery shop Ford dealers, and I almost always mystery shop for an F-150.  But this week I got the wild urge to do something different.  I had two stores to shop so I sent the same request to both: the female shopper clicked the “Get  Info” button on a specific 2012 Ford Focus in the dealer’s inventory and, in the Comments/Questions box, wrote “Does this one have a sunroof?”

Here is how Store # 1 replied:

Mystery Shopper,
This particular Focus doesn't have the sunroof.  There are only a couple hatchbacks in entire country with sunroofs right now.  Is there any other design that  you want, or did you want me to notify you when we come across one?

Dealership Salesman

Ouch!  He pretty much shut me down, didn't he?  He said “No” to my question (This particular Focus doesn't have the sunroof), then told me “No” again (There are only a couple hatchbacks in entire country with sunroofs right now), then drove the ball back into my court (Is there any other design that you want, or did you want me to notify you when we come across one?).

In this situation, the shopper’s path of least resistance is to simply hit “Delete” and walk away from both this dealership and further interest in the 2012 Ford Focus. :-(

So imagine my utter surprise and delight when, a few minutes later, Store # 2 replied like this:

Good morning Mystery Shopper!  

Thank you for your inquiry on the 2012 Ford Focus.  I did check the availability on this unit and as of now it is available.  We do however have customers looking at it, but no strong deals as of yet.  You asked if this unit had a sunroof, but it does not.  It is a beautiful vehicle and very well equipped for an SE.  I don't think you will be disappointed with the new Focus.  Have you have the opportunity to drive one yet?  If not, can you stop in this morning for a full demo and test drive or would this afternoon be better for you?  Please give me a call and I'll answer any other questions that you may have.  Thanks Mystery Shopper and I look forward to hearing from you.

Dealership Salesman

Wow!  Same car, same shopper, same exact situation but two completely different replies.  Salesman # 2 is so upbeat and smooth and has so much forward momentum going that I’ve already forgotten about the sunroof.  He is selling urgency (…it is available.  We do however have customers looking at it) , he is selling the product (It is a beautiful vehicle and very well equipped…) and he is selling the appointment (Have you have the opportunity to drive one yet? ).  A three pointer!

In this situation, the shopper’s path of least resistance is to go with the salesman’s momentum and accept an offer for a test drive.  (In fact, I’ll bet if she was too busy to come to the store that day Salesman # 2 would bring the car to her home or office instead).

If I can find any fault in this letter (and, sadly, I must) it’s that there is no reference to price or price range.  So he loses a point for that, but otherwise, I think this is a great FQR (First Quality Response) letter.  Anyone agree?  Disagree?

I know without question that Salesman #1 was trying to be helpful and did not intend his reply to come off the way it did.  But, unfortunately, it did.

So here’s an idea: before we hit the “Send” button, let's pause and ask ourselves, “After he/she reads my email, what will the recipient’s path of least resistance be?  To bail on me?  Or  to go with my momentum?”

As my friend Ronnie Cohen used to say, “Are we making it easy for people to buy a car from us?”


Sunday, April 17, 2011


Last week, while at a dealer client, and while reviewing the mystery shop I had just done for them, I flashed on a story told to me last year by one of my teammates.  First know that this was a pretty typical mystery shop – the shopper received 2 emails and 1 phone call before the store stopped contact attempts.  Now the story:

Bob was 13 years old, in middle school for the first time, and faced with having to ask a girl to an upcoming school dance.  Like a lot of 13 year old boys he had no experience in this area and had no idea what was expected of him.  So, summoning up his courage, he walked up to the girl he wanted and asked if she would go to the dance with him.

She said no.

Dumbfounded by this unexpected setback, he retreated, concluding that he would either have to find another girl to ask, or forgo the dance altogether.

The next day her best friend pulled him aside and said “Bob, you putz, you don’t give up after the first ‘No.’ You’re supposed to ask again.  And again if necessary. She wants to know that you really want her to go with you.  She wants to be courted.”

The best friend was right!  And to my surprise, I've discovered that’s also exactly how an e-shopper feels.

The dealership that sends my shopper a killer 1st response email and/or phone message earns the shopper’s undying respect – until the next day, when I hear nothing from them.  Then it’s, like, out-of-sight, out-of-mind.  A few days later, when clearing out the bottom of my Inbox, I come upon that dealer’s responses and think, “Huh – oh yeah, I remember that shop.  Whatever happened to those guys?”

Remember the prospect you accidentally forgot about?  (We’ve all done it, right)?  The one you apologetically called or wrote days later in a panic hoping to save the relationship, and the one who responded with those cruelest of words, “I guess you guys aren’t very interested in selling a car.”  Yep, that’s how it feels out here on this side. Ouch.

Another true story: on two and only two occasions this year, I have had to call a dealership’s sales manager and ask them to please remove my shopper’s info from the CRM.  The salesperson had been calling & writing and calling & writing so much that, not only did I feel courted, I felt guilty knowing that my prospect was really a shopper who can’t buy anything to reward this salesperson for his/her efforts.  Now, that’s follow-up.

Last year at Digital Dealer Conference I attended a session on e-shopper behavior and one of the presenter’s concluding bullet lines was, “They want to be courted.”  Wow!  There’s that word again

So…it turns out that the store that displays tenacity, the one that is willing to ask for the prospect’s business, again and again if necessary, is the one that gets a “Yes” to the dance invitation.

Ask Bob.

Monday, March 21, 2011


OK, the title of this story is intentionally cheesy, but the rest of it is real.  I mystery shopped some Dallas Region Ford-Lincoln eCommerce Elite (Top 100 stores in USA for new Ford-Lincoln Internet sales) stores recently and was surprised to discover that their response processes are similar.  This piqued my curiosity, so I called my DMC teammate in southern California to ask him how the  #1 new Ford Internet sales store in the country does things.  Turns out they work much the same as the top Dallas Region stores do. So what is the #1 Internet new car sales secret of the eCommerce elite 100 stores that I shopped?  They call.  And call.  And call.  And call.  That’s pretty much it.  I must admit, by the time a pleasant, friendly salesperson leaves four voice messages for my mystery shopper I have to answer or return the call, if for no other reason than I feel guilty ignoring them.  You can’t shut four phone messages out of your mind and pretend they never happened.  (Especially if they are compressed into a 4 or 5 day period).  I also now understand something a presenter said at a recent DDC: “Internet shoppers want to be courted.”  He was right.  When a salesperson is tenacious in his/her attempts to get through to my mystery shopper it earns my respect.  When I was an Internet salesman I hated leaving repeated voice messages.  One, maybe two calls and I was done.  I see now that I was also wrong.  Will blowing up a customer’s phone still be in style ten years from now?  It’s hard to say; though I doubt it.  But for today, while we are in the transition phase, it appears we have to cover our bases and employ all mediums, new and traditional.  Just the other day our program head in Dearborn told me recent studies say it takes four phone calls to get through to most prospects.  So there ya go.  The simple secret to Internet new car sales success: email + call + email + call + email + call. (Let's save the text messaging discussion for another day).

Monday, March 7, 2011


This is a true story told to me in 1996 BC (Before Computers) by sales trainer extraordinaire Diana Ball Cooksey.

Diana was a busy working professional and single parent with little time for projects outside her day to day work and home responsibilities. But she needed to buy some health insurance. So she left voice messages after hours (this is the days before PCs, remember) with three agencies, requesting an estimate/quote and providing her name, the ages of family members she wanted to insure, her insurance purchase goals and explaining that she had little or no time to devote to insurance shopping during the work day.

Agent 1 called the next day during business hours with a message to call him back during business hours.

Agent 2 called the next day during business hours with a message to call him back anytime.

Agent 3 called the next day during business hours and in his message gave her some estimates and a deadline after which these numbers would have to be re-figured.

Diana was busy and did not return the agents calls.

Agent 1 never called again.

Agent 2 called back a few days later during business hours with a message to call him back anytime.

Agent 3 called twice that week with messages offering to meet Diana after hours and/or at her home, if necessary, so she could purchase before the rates deadline.

Diana was busy and did not return the agents calls.

Agent 2 did not call again.

Agent 3 faxed a proposal plus an application and a note offering three times he was available to meet (during or after business hours) with Diana to close the deal before the rates deadline.

Now armed with a proposal/quote from Agent 3 Diana called Agent 2 and asked for a quote for the same type policy. Agent 2 replied the next day that he would need to go over the numbers with her in person in his office and when would she like to come in?

Can you figure out the rest? A few days later Agent 3 was sitting in Diana’s office, after 5pm, selling her the policy.

Oh, and a couple weeks later Agent 2 called to ask if she was still in the market.

Are we doing everything possible to make it easy for people to buy from us? Or are we Agent 1 and Agent 2?


I think I just received the best FQR (First Quality Response) email my mystery shoppers have ever seen. My shoppers always select a specific vehicle from the dealers’ inventory, click on the “Get Your Free Internet Price Quote” button and write a little something in the “Comments” box. In the examples below the shopper was inquiring about a specific 2010 F-150 and under “Comments” wrote “2010 incentives?” That’s it.

Most FQRs I receive read like this actual reply:

I received your request for information on a 2010 Ford F-150. I tried to reach you by phone, so I could get a little more information from you and what we are trying to do. I can be reached by email or phone to better assist you at ....

This doesn’t really provide anything at all that the shopper requested, does it?

Now, here is the FQR I received from another dealer yesterday. And notice that it is not a template! Wow.

Thank you for your inquiry. My name is XXXXXXX, I'm the internet sales manager for XXXXX. I would like to be your sales person and help you from point A to Z with your purchase.

I see that you’re in the market for a new 2010 F150 and would like to know about current incentives. The rebates right now are very high on the remaining 2010's available. The 2011's will be out in December or January so now is the best time to get the best deal on a 2010. The rebates depend on what cab size and series you’re interested in.

The super cab 4x2 STX F150 that you inquired about is available and it's window sticker is pasted below my contact info. This truck has $XXXX in total rebates available and an additional $XXXX rebate if you trade in a 1995 or newer vehicle making it $XXXX. However I would provide you with more discounts then this even. The supercab STX below MSRP's at $XXXXX but your sale price after all rebates (including financing with Ford and the additional trade-in rebate) would be $XXXXX!! This is really cutting to the chase and I can only offer this until the end of the month because the extra $XXXX trade-in rebate will go away on the 2nd of November.

However If you would be interested in a crewcab XLT then there is a total of $XXXX in rebates plus the trade-in rebate making the total $XXXX before my discounts….

As a potential buyer I now feel totally informed, educated and illuminated. This guy just removed all the mystery and obfuscation surrounding pricing and incentives. I trust him, and I am ready to put myself into his hands. Now, whose phone call am I going to return? His, or the guy in the 1st example above who gave me no information up front?

POSTSCRIPT: You know what’s sad about the mystery shop above? The fantastic 1st Quality Response email above is all I ever got from that salesperson. No more emails, no phone calls or text messages at all.


How effective are your email templates? How are they received and perceived by the general public? It’s very hard to know the answer to these questions when you are in the business – we are just too close to the material. However, only yesterday I discovered an invaluable (and free) resource right under my nose – my wife! Unlike me, she is not in the car business. She does not read car magazines. She is only interested in cars for their ability to get her from point A to B, for their safety and their reliability. When her lease is up and it’s time to pick out another car she wants that to be as quick and effortless as possible. Sounds like an average customer, right? I was printing some recent mystery shop results in her office and she began to read them. Some letters she liked. Some she didn’t. And some puzzled her - she couldn’t figure out what they were trying to say! I realized then that, because she is not in the business, all of her reactions were valuable. (Favorite comment: “What is this? No woman would read this.” The email had the car’s Ford window sticker copied and pasted into the center of it). But don't listen to my wife; if you have a spouse, or cousin or friend or whatever, male or female, who is not in the car business (and is not impassioned about cars) ask them to mystery shop you and give you their subjective impressions. It beats paying money for an outside focus group. And you might be surprised by the results.


We’ve all seen (and sometimes used) phone scripts. A good call script helps you maintain and advance the sales momentum - and does it by asking the targeted questions that get the answers that help you keep your prospect on the critical path to closing. Why don’t we employ the same logic with our email templates?

The F/U emails sent to my mystery shoppers usually say “If you have any questions or concerns I am here to help” or “Our goal at ABC Motors is to make lifelong customers” or “We want to provide you with a truly ‘hassle-free’ purchase experience” or something similar, which is all fine and good, but do these messages advance the sales momentum? I think not.

However, there is a challenge; email and phone are different media. Most e-prospects are unresponsive; how can we ask the right questions and keep them on the critical path when there is no interaction?

Consider this: there are 3 key elements to the sale: 1). The vehicle they want to buy, 2). The vehicle they want to trade-in, and 3). The money they will acquire to pay for it. Isn’t it safe to think that the prospect is interested in at least one of these three things? So why not lead him/her down the critical path by offering opportunities - opportunities to get answers and information to these critical components of the sale?

EXAMPLE: “Do you have a trade-in? Want to know what it is worth today? A free, no obligation appraisal at our store takes only minutes.” Or maybe “Would you like to know in advance what kind of financing you can get at ABC Ford? Just click this link, fill-out the credit app and we’ll get right back to you with answers” etc. etc. etc.

Write your F/U emails so that they advance the sales momentum – you can do it by giving the prospect value in each email - value in the form of opportunity.


Love ‘em or not, templates are a necessity in this business. Good ones are rare, and bad ones can be damage inducing. What’s the secret to creating effective templates? There isn’t one. But if you want to challenge your brain, try this experiment: pretend that every eLead you receive has no phone number. You are now denied the opportunity to get ‘em on the phone and get ‘em in. You must make your impact via images and the written word. Can it be done? What do you say in your emails? And how do you insure that they cut through the clutter and noise? Consider this:, L.L. Bean, Home Depot and the hundreds of other companies who email you regularly have to impact you with email only – they can’t call all 1,000,000 people on their prospects list. They send template-based emails that cause people to take a course of action. Why can’t we?


Creating good content requires a wee bit of talent for expressing thought and personality through images and the written word. And, in truth, there are no rules for creating good content, only principles. Good email content is composed of equal parts communication and salesmanship skills, mixed with an eye for graphic design, and assembled with an awareness that “the media is the message.”

COMMUNICATION – The “style” of the email goes a long way toward pushing the message across. For example, technology (email, chat, text) has caused our communications today to be increasingly informal, personal and brief. So, whereas ten years ago formal-sounding business letters were the accepted response to customer inquiries, today short, informal email or text messages do the job nicely.

SALESMANSHIP – Every good floor salesperson working a customer knows that it is his/her job to direct and maintain the sales momentum. (The only person who can stop the sales momentum is the customer, right?) Similarly, our email follow-up letters should be designed to continually advance the sales momentum.

DESIGN – A clean layout will also go a long way toward getting your message across. Fonts and spacings that are easy on the eyes, and tasteful graphics that push the brand message are simple design elements that will give your emails a professional appearance.

MEDIA – People today are very media literate; if you are sending them an email, for example, they have expectations as to how an email should look and behave. Being aware of how people perceive media messages enables you to control your message so that it scores effectively with its intended audience.


If you don't like your curent process feel free to try this one. This all-purpose 180 Day example assumes that the dealership has 10 templates to use in addition to the Auto-Response template and Day 1 First Quality Response templates (if any).

Day 1 – Autoresponse Short and to the point: “I got your inquiry, I’m on the case, I’ll be back soon with your info.” That’s it.

Day 1 – FQR (First Quality Response) template-based. Personalize it!  (Can be based upon a templates appropriate to the four types of leads: New Car General Inquiry, New Car VIN-Specific, Used Car Inquiry or Credit App First inquiry).
Day 1 – Call attempt (if phone # provided) acknowledging receipt & reply; if no answer leave a brief V/M
Day 1 – Text message (if cell # provided) acknowledging receipt & reply – 140 characters max.

Day 2 – 2nd Quality Response Email – template # 2.
Day 2 – Call attempt (if phone # provided) “Did you get yesterday’s reply?” if no answer leave a V/M
Day 2 – Text message (if cell # provided) “Did you get yesterday’s reply?” – 140 characters

Day 3 – 3rd Quality Response Email – template # 3.
Day 3 – Call attempt or text msg (if phone # provided). If no answer leave a v/m

Day 4 – 4th Quality Response Email – template # 4.

Day 5 – Call attempt (if phone # provided). If no answer leave a v/m.


Day 6 - Email – template # 5
Day 8 - Email – template # 6
Day 10 – Email – template # 7
Day 12 – Email – template # 8
Day 15 – Email – template # 9
Day 18 – Email – template # 10
Day 21 – begin to repeat email templates, starting with #3
Day 25 – Email – template # 4
Day 30 – Email – template # 5
Day 40 – Email – template # 6
Day 50 – Email – template # 7
Day 60 – Email – template # 8
Day 70 – Email – template # 9
Day 80 – Email – template # 10
Day 90 – Email – template # 3
Day 100 – Email – template # 4
Day 110 – Email – template # 5
Day 120 ­– Email – template # 6
Day 130 – Email – template # 7
Day 140 – Email – template # 8
Day 150 – Email – template # 9
Day 160 – Email – template # 10
Day 170 – Email – template # 3
Day 180 – Email – template # 4

BULK EMAILS - 5th day of each month send targeted email – and/or - 20th day of each month send targeted email


The more contact attempts you make, the more cars you’ll sell. Everyone knows this is true. Therefore, logic says you want a follow-up process that has your salespeople calling and emailing every prospect in their database every day. However, this is impossible; if a salesperson is receiving, say, 75 fresh eLeads each month, and a hypothetical 10% of them buy each month, then it takes only 90 days for that salesperson to have 200+ working leads in the CRM. Nobody can call and write 200 people every day. It gives them no time to sell.

About 1/3 of your buyers are going to do so within 5 – 10 days of submitting their lead. Therefore you want your salespeople free to devote lots of personal attention to fresh prospects. However, a majority (60% - 70%) of your buyers won’t come around until well after 5 days – and as many as 25% of the buyers won’t do so well after 30 days. We can’t devote the same amount of attention to these late-comers as we must to the hot fresh prospects – but we certainly don’t want to ignore them, either.

The practical solution is to write a Process that tasks salespeople with devoting personal attention to prospect leads who have been in the CRM from 1 - 5 (+/-) days while automating (as much as is possible) an email follow-up schedule that puts your name and face in front of all of the unsold/uncontacted prospects who have been in your CRM for 6 days or longer. In other words, devote lots of personal attention to those folks who are new to your database, but rely upon your CRM to automate (as much as possible) the long term follow-up that your salespeople cannot effectively do.


A lot of dealers have difficulty understanding how to prepare and deliver a good 1st Quality Response (FQR) email. You can’t just wing it – you’ve got to have a defined procedure in place. If you don’t have a defined procedure at your store feel free to borrow this one. We broke it down into 5 easy steps below. Do all 5 with every lead that comes in (in combination with phone calls/attempts) and you will sell more cars. We’re serious.

    1. Respond Quickly. Responding to a fresh lead via email in less than one hour greatly multiplies your chances of a reply. Internet shoppers want info NOW, not 5 hours from now. If an hour or two has passed and they haven’t heard from you they move on – and you are toast. He who responds fastest wins.

    2. Read the Lead. With few exceptions (Autotrader T.I.M., Sam’s Club program, USAA and/or other special purchase programs) all eLeads fall into one of 4 categories.* Take the time to read each lead, determine which of the 4 categories it falls into, then send the appropriate response. Don’t send the same response to all leads; one size does not fit all.

    3. Fill-In the Blanks. If you are using a template be sure the correct sections have been filled-in and any non-applicable wording removed before sending the email. 1st Quality Response templates usually have sections that must be completed by the salesperson before sending. Take the extra couple of minutes and tailor the template to each customer’s request.

    4. Personalize The Email. We can’t stress this enough; your efforts will fall flat if the prospect feels that he has received a form letter 1st response. (Day 1 prospects are looking for a relationship 1st, and a car 2nd. Form letters do not create relationships). Find some way to add a personal line or two to the email, even if the lines are unrelated to the car deal. Say something/anything to let the prospect know that a real person has taken the time to read his inquiry and is replying with a personal touch.

    5. Give A Price. If you withhold info the prospect wants unless he agrees to come in he won’t come in. But, there is good news: 80%+/- of new car leads are non-VIN specific, therefore, we only need to give them price ranges for their vehicle of choice. You can’t get in trouble doing that. Also, when a prospect asks our price on a specific VIN he is often just trying to understand how we price the cars. (Most people do not end up buying the car they 1st requested a quote on anyway). And, of course, price is a compelling factor for the used car buyer. So never be afraid to send a quote via email.

*4 types of eLeads: 1). New Car General Inquiry, 2). New Car VIN-Specific Inquiry, 3). Used Car VIN-Specific Inquiry and 4). Credit App First.


The steps to success are few – and they are not that hard. Really. You just have to do them – everytime.

Paste the list below on your computer monitor and refer to it every day. If you consistently complete all six items below you will sell more cars. Simple as that.

1). LRT (lead response time) of <1 hour. Respond quickly to every elead.

2) LRR (lead response rate) of 90%+ Reply to 90%+ of the leads you receive.

3). Follow-up multiple times, using every media available to you: email, phone, and text message.

4). Consistently send follow-up emails to non-responsive prospects; once every week or two – for at least 180 days.

5). Send a targeted bulk email to all prospects a minimum 1 time each month. Do not underestimate the importance of this one.

6). Review your portal and other e-business metrics reports at least once each month – you can’t know where you’re going if you're not measuring.

To paraphrase an old saying, “Success in Internet sales is simple – but not easy.” All the steps you need for success are listed above. Doing them consistently is the hard part.


For more than 100 years people have been witnessing news and entertainment on movie screens, and for over 50 years now Americans have had television screens in their homes. Then, in just the past 10 -15 years, the computer monitor has become ubiquitous. And with the recent release of high quality flat screen monitors an explosion of text and images has taken place; today you can’t go into a bar, bus terminal, grocery store, airport, classroom, hotel lobby, doctor’s office, restaurant, bedroom, office or dealership lobby without encountering a friggin’ flat screen monitor! The result of this 24/7 bombardment of electronic text and images is this: people today are exposed to so much high visual quality electronic media that they now expect professional looking content on their screens. Any screen. To successfully communicate with today's online car shoppers we must accept that, like it or not, once you put text and/or images onto a screen you are in the professional electronic communications business. And your content had better be of professional quality or the audience is going to think you are a loser. Or worse yet, a car salesman.


What percentage of your leads also send their info to your competitors? Are you sure about that? Some dealers I’ve met say “All of them!” Most have no idea. You can get this number every month from your Lead Details Report. In the Dallas region, most dealers get shotgunned by approx 15% - 30% of their e-prospects. That's it. What does that say? I think it means that most people just want to find one dealer with whom they can establish a trusting relationship. Then they can stop dealer shopping. So they send their info to one dealer, giving him the opportunity to delight them - or disappoint them. This is great - if you delight them, they are yours for life. However, if you disappoint them, you are toast. They move on immediately, and you have very little chance of recapturing them.


I find that most dealers are confused about this. Some say that Internet shoppers all buy within 3 days, others say they take 2 weeks to buy, another says they take 30 days to buy, or whatever. Every person I ask has a unique opinion and not many get it right.

Using Ford OEM new car leads data from, we can piece together an accurate "Days To The Sale" analysis for every store. A typical 2010 Dallas Region store results might look like this:

    34% sales (sold by dealer or lost to rival dealer) = Day 1 – 5
    25% sales (sold by dealer or lost to rival dealer) = Day 6 – 10
    16% sales (sold by dealer or lost to rival dealer) = Day 11 - 30
    25% sales (sold by dealer or lost to rival dealer) = >Day 30
    Average day to buy for those >30 days: Day 70.

This is valuable data. For example; most dealerships get their majority share of the Day 1 – 5 sales, and that makes sense. These are the people with urgency and are, therefore, the low hanging fruit. But starting Day 6 many dealerships start losing majority share to other Ford dealers - and usually the farther out we track it (Day 30 and beyond), the more the market share drops. This is a clear indicator that the store being analyzed does not have a viable long-term follow-up process for eLeads. Fortunately, this is a problem that can be fixed.

In the example above 66% of the buyers did so after Day 5. And a full 25% did so after Day 30. Don’t we all want our fair share of this additional 66%? We can get it - all it takes is a long term follow-up process and somebody willing to insure that the process is worked.


All prospects, when they first encounter you, are in one of two stages: 1). Information Gathering, or, 2). Information Sorting.

The Gatherers are in the early shopping stages and are likely not yet committed to a specific vehicle brand or model. The Sorters are farther along – they now have a short list and are ready to go to the next level.

I believe showroom closing rates today are so high because people can do the majority of their information gathering without having to set foot in a dealership. Therefore, when they walk in the doors to your store a great proportion of ups are already in the Information Sorting stage. This was not possible in the days before the internet. (Think about it, when's the last time you had a person walk into your showroom and say "I just came by to pick up a brochure"?)

However, prospects can’t get everything they need from or the OEM site; matters of inventory and local incentives (to name but two) have to be discussed with a local dealer. And this is where you come in.

With showroom closing rates averaging 35% - 50%, but Internet closing rates averaging 10% - 15%, I have to believe that a lot of our leads come from people who are still in the Information Gathering stage. These people can be weeks away from becoming Sorters.

Gatherers are often immune to hard selling offers - instead, they are seeking 1) information/education, and 2) a dealer with whom they can establish a trusting relationship.


Is an eLead just a phone up that sent you an email instead of calling? I’ve met a lot of dealerships that say “Yes.” And they are right. And then again, they’re wrong. When prospects send their personal contact info to a store or other business they are stating their case and asking for a response. In most instances the prospect is sending you one of the following two messages:

- 1). I am using the Internet to speed things up by giving you what you need to know about me in advance via email. Please read it over, utilize what I have given you, and respond via most appropriate method with the info I requested.

- 2). I am using the Internet because either I do not have time to talk on the phone or do not yet want to get close to you and talk on the phone. Please just respond as best you can via email with the info I requested.

The problem is, when we receive the eLead we often do not know which category it fits into. If it is scenario # 1, then, yes, it’s possible that this prospect is a phone up who sent an email first instead of calling. If it is scenario # 2, then, no, it is NOT a phone up who sent an email first instead of calling. But if we don’t know which category the prospect falls into we have to cover our bases and respond to both scenarios at the same time.

Therefore, our 1st response the majority of the time must be to reply using all available media: 1) Email, 2) Phone, and, if possible, 3) Text Message.


With few exceptions (Autotrader T.I.M., Sam’s Club program, USAA and/or other special programs) all of your incoming new car eLeads fall into one of 4 categories:

- 1). New Car, General Inquiry (Provides name, contact info, name of make and model vehicle desired - and little else. I call this a"'WTF?" lead)

- 2). New Car VIN-Specific Inquiry (Here is my contact info. What’s your price on this particular car?)

- 3). Used Car (Here is my contact info. Is this car still available? and/or What’s your price on this car?), and

- 4). Credit App First. (The prospect begins everything by submitting a credit app).

Each lead type requires its own unique 1st response. Failure to send the correct response can result in a disgusted prospect. Example: the guy who sends you a New Car VIN-Specific Inquiry might be offended if your 1st reply is “I need more information before I can help you. Please call me at….” He already gave you his contact info and told you the VIN or stock number of the specific car he desires. Therefore, your reply could be interpreted as a ploy to get him on the phone without providing any information upfront. There’s a strong chance he has already branded you as an “old school” car salesman who just wants to get him into the store and hose him. If so, you will never, ever hear from this guy again.


In Internet time, a minute seems like an hour and a few seconds wait time is unbearable. (Think about it; how long do you allow the little hourglass to spin before you give up in disgust and move on to something else?). Although the Internet prospect may not respond quickly to you (if at all) he/she nonetheless expects you to respond at lightning speed. This means that a slow response is only slightly better than no response at all. All the studies in this area conclude that he who responds fastest has the overwhelming advantage toward getting the sale. That lead that came in this morning, around 5 hours ago? The one you have not yet responded to? They started shopping your competition 4 hours ago.


Many dealerships assume that, since they have a CRM, they now also have good Process and Content. Not true! While all commercial CRM software systems come out of the box with some semblance of Process and Content included, it’s unlikely you want to use it. Good Process and Content are the responsibility of the dealer. Surprise!


I had two dealer visits this week in which we came face to face with the fact that marketing and selling new cars via the Internet is much harder than doing same with used cars. Much harder. The key differences are fairly obvious: 1). A used car is a one-of-a-kind item and must be purchased today before it’s gone – vs - there's no rush on a new car; buyers can always locate another one if necessary. 2). Thanks to & (and others) there is an existing online used car marketplace where you can offer your wares – vs - there’s no successful equivalent for new cars; you have to market and merchandise them yourself via your websites, banner ads, paid search campaigns, etc. If you have the used car or truck they want, at a price they like, and can make it happen today they will probably buy. Slam dunk. However, there is no equally simple formula for success on the new vehicle side; not only is there no slam dunk, there isn’t even a playbook. Which means there is tremendous upside yet in Internet new car sales; nobody has figured it out! Do you hear that sound? It’s opportunity knocking.


If you write out the core formula for Internet car sales it looks like this:


Yep, that simple. When broken down into its most elementary ingredients Internet-based retail automobile sales turns out to have just 2 primary components.

Listed in order of importance they are: 1). Process, then 2). Content.

PROCESS: As used here the word Process means a logical, timeline-based prospect follow-up system that cues the salesperson to which prospects need a follow-up call or email each day and what message needs to be delivered to each.

Some of you reading this might remember back to the day when we tracked our prospects on 4 X 5 index cards kept in a small box on our desk. We separated the cards with tabbed dividers that read “Monday” “Tuesday” “Wednesday” (etc.) or maybe “1” “2” “3” (days of the month, etc.). Consistent, high achieving salespeople relied upon this card system to organize their prospects so they would know (you guessed it) who needed a follow-up call each day and what message needed to be delivered to each.

Today, your CRM (Salespoint, VinSolutions, ADP, Reynolds & Reynolds CM, Dealersocket, and many, many others) takes the place of the index cards and box. It does everything the cards did and so much more. If set-up correctly, your CRM successfully mates a logical, prospect follow-up Process (like the index cards and tabbed dividers used to provide) with email (and sometimes phone) scripts (i.e. Content) you can employ when making the follow-up attempts. Plus, the CRM maintains prospect activity histories, enables you to send bulk email blasts to the database, and allows us to run reports that we couldn’t even dream of before technology arrived. But the tool is not the Process; the CRM is the sophisticated software system that manages your Process for you. The Process itself is something that you must provide.

The trick to Process is that it must be followed daily; a Process that is not enforced is no Process at all. There are no “days off” from Process.

CONTENT: This is the information you are giving to your prospects via email and/or phone. Some or all of your email replies might be hand typed and personalized. Others, for the sake of timeliness and efficiency, might be “canned” (pre-written) email messages commonly called Templates. If your prospect responds to your initial replies you may have no use for templates content at all. But if the prospect is non-responsive (and the majority are), templates will allow you to stay in front of him/her without having to hand type a personal letter every single time.

Note that Process trumps Content: you can have a good Process and bad Content and still sell cars. But if you have good Content but no Process you will have mediocre results at best.