DONNA HARRIS

Consultant: Turning Internet leads into sales can be ‘like pushing rope’

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing for Automotive News

The sales force often gets blamed when Internet leads fall through the cracks at auto dealerships. But sometimes the fault lies with middle managers, consultants say.

Some sales managers and finance managers can feel threatened by competition from an Internet department, says Stephen Stauning, a Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, sales trainer and consultant.

“They sabotage the process,” he says. “They don’t give them a quote or don’t give it to them in a timely fashion.”

Neil Gale, a Belleville, Ill., consultant, proposed creating an Internet department for one of his dealer clients. To gauge how much business the Internet generated, he told the dealer to survey customers.

The store’s managers produced phony surveys to hide the fact that significant traffic came from the Web, Gale says, and the bogus surveys suggested most customers were drive-bys.

“They thought an Internet department would only show them they were not doing their jobs right,” he says.

Kathi Kruse, a Newport Beach, Calif., consultant specializing in social media, tells of a Southern California dealership that bought 90 leads over four months.

This should have been easy, she says. The dealership had the e-mail addresses, names and phone numbers. But there was no evidence the staff turned one lead into a deal.

Said Kruse: “It was like pushing rope.”

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