How to turn online enquiries into sales

Man on Laptop

Customers are increasingly heading online to search for their next car.  Make sure your sales team has the skills to grasp the opportunity

There’s a shift coming to the industry, and I’m not talking about vehicle electrification. Customers are increasingly using a range of different methods to get in touch with dealers and ask about the car they’re interested in.

People are shunning the phone and trips to the showroom. Instead, they’re firing up their computers and tablets and making their first enquiry using the web.

I won’t name the company, but one firm I work with received a total of 298 online enquiries in April, compared with 143 showroom visits and 122 telephone calls. You can see where the trend is heading, but are dealerships ready to handle it?

Traditionally, customer approaches have been handled in a fairly structured way. Walk-in visits are generally simple, as it involves sales staff speaking directly with them, putting them at ease, answering their questions and finding out what they need.

Over the phone, it’s a similar story. If the call happens to be missed initially, you simply reply in a timely fashion. But until recently, web enquiries were seen as a bit of a distraction. Given the numbers, that needs to change. So, where to start?

Conversions are everything

The key to any enquiry is turning it into a sale, and as web traffic increases, having the knowledge and the training to do that will be critical.

TalkSales Europe – and there are plenty of other training companies out there – knows just how important online enquiries are becoming. That’s why we created the Web Connect Programme, which offers sales staff a clear structure for this increasingly important lead generator.

Businesses need to look at the numbers and decide if it’s an area that’s worth investing in for them. Generally, my assumption is that it is. From there, they need to figure out if they have the resources and knowledge to deliver the necessary training to convert those online enquiries into sales. Fundamentally though, there aren’t any shortcuts.

Vital skills

In most of the groups I work with, I run an induction programme for new starters. It’s a series of two-hour sessions over five days, covering the whole sales process, starting with how you handle a customer when they walk through the door. The key takeaway is that you need to apply the same level of intensity for all paths: walk-ins, phone calls and web enquiries. They’re all equally important.
Customers will always have the option of walking into or calling a dealership, but those aren’t necessarily going to remain the initial points of contact. The shift to online enquiries is an important one, partly accelerated by the pandemic. And it’s here to stay. Training staff properly in online sales could be the difference between converting an enquiry into a sale and losing out entirely.

Richard Beagle MIMI is Director at TalkSales Europe Ltd. He was talking to James Scoltock

This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership. Time to find out more about becoming a member of the most influential community in UK automotive…?