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4 Mistakes with Lead Responses | And How to Avoid Them

September 27, 2021

Lead Response is generally the first and most important contact with a potential buyer and can set the tone for the entire relationship.  


It’s like online dating. You are either thrilled with the level of conversation, the questions/answers, and excited to meet again, or are less than impressed and will continue to swipe until you find what you are looking for. 


If your lead response is lacking, your customers will continue to swipe left until they find what they need and want. Don’t leave them bored and looking for a real connection. Here are 4 of the most common lead response mistakes, and how to make sure you avoid them.


Boring Subject Lines/ Clickbait Subject Lines


Subject lines are like the equivalent of a profile picture on any site. It is the first thing anyone sees, and they will immediately take an action based on how they interpret that one to the two-sentence statement. Once a consumer reads your subject line, they have to make a decision:


  1. Do I ignore the email?
  2. Do I open the email?
  3. Do I send the email to spam?


Subject lines are THAT important, yet we don’t spend nearly enough time cultivating and creating ones that are effective and accurate. If the subject line is boring or non-descriptive, the customer may ignore the email. If the subject line is clickbait and the email content does not match the subject line, the customer may send your email to spam. The sweet spot is in the middle: getting the customer to open your email. 


Here are a few tips that can help:


  • Spend 2x the time on your subject line as you did in the creation of the email. The subject is what will convince the customer to open the email. Don’t rush it and don’t think good enough is fine.
  • Keep it short and sweet. An overly long subject line won’t be fully seen and is a waste of time. The industry standard is to keep it under 40 characters and no more than 7 words. That is not always easy, but the results are generally worth it.
  • Avoid “spammy” terms like “Buy Now,” “Free,” and the like.
  • DO ask open-ended questions or provide a clear command to the consumer. Those engage the customer and make them feel more involved in the contents of the email.


Slow Lead Responses/ No Lead Responses 


The digitization of our profession has lead to many changes in how we create relationships with potential customers. According to Google, 95% of automotive customers start their shopping online (mostly mobile), and those customers are submitting leads. How we handle those leads, regardless of what time they come in or how many people are in the showroom, is a direct correlation to increased business. 


According to the canonical Lead Response Management Study, there is a 100x difference in answering a lead within 5 min. as opposed to 30 min, regardless of when the lead was submitted. The overall average lead response time across the industry is 24 hours. 


18% of leads submitted are never responded to.


Only 16% of all leads are responded to in 15 minutes.


That is a lot of money left on the table. And with more and more people looking for contactless ways to do the majority of their purchases, we need to get better. Afterhour leads represent between 40-45% of your total leads according to BCP data, and you cannot assume that these are all 16-year-olds kicking tires


How to Respond Faster:

  • Have a process in place for all leads to be responded to by a real person. All Leads. 
  • Make sure you re-connect with your overnight leads the next day as soon as possible
  • Have a 15 minute or less policy on a live response (not an auto-responder). If your BDC is busy, have a backup plan that you can utilize. (If you need a backup plan or just a team to fill in the gaps, Overnight BDC can help)


Not Answering Questions in the Lead


When I am shopping online, I am looking for specific information. I generally want to know more about the product, and I always want to know the price. That goes for purchases big and small alike. How many of you would look for homes and be okay if no prices were listed? 


It is critical to answer any questions that customers ask in the lead. Pricing is readily available on multiple platforms, and not providing it if asked removes all transparency and trust.


How to Respond Better:

  • Review the lead in detail--not just the vehicle of interest. 15% of the time, consumers are leaving comments and asking questions in the leads. Your team must read through every lead, read the question, and then either address or answer the questions and comments in the first response. Provide the information the customer is looking for quickly, and they are more likely to feel loyal to your dealership and want to do business with you.
  • Around 53% of dealers respond to a lead without a price. Be the dealer that provides all the information (including price) and gains the trust of the customer.
  • Provide options on vehicles. While they may be inquiring about specific vehicles, The research shows that most customers do not buy the same vehicle they submitted an inquiry on. Give them options and showcase both new and preowned vehicles.




Even with the AI enhancements, autoresponders cannot take the place of real live people. I saw it stated that “Autoresponders are what you use when you go on a vacation. Not when you are starting a new relationship.” And how true is that?


Think about it from a customer’s perspective: you see something you really like, you submit a lead at 8:00pm, and you only receive a canned response with the value props and hours of operation. Then you submit a different lead at a different dealership and get a response in 15 minutes from a person who greeted you, addressed your questions, and provided options and value. 


I’m going to dealership #2. 


If you don’t have the agents or the bandwidth to respond to all of your leads, 24/7 with live, real-time responses, BCP can help. 


How to Avoid Autoresponders:

  • Turn them off
  • Train your BDC
  • Find a solution that can work with you and your team to ensure all leads are responded to in 15 or less with live people who address questions and comments.


What Now?

The average automotive customer is in-market for 96 days (Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey), and 95% of this journey starts online. Make sure every lead, every inquiry is responded to quickly, is engaging and provides value to the customer, and then follow up with a solid engagement process. 96 days is a lot longer than the 10-day follow-up many dealerships have. Start strong, stay strong through the process, and end strong!


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Let us show you how Better Car People can improve your leads and sales funnel.