Internet salespeople need to give pricing information to prospective car buyers.

Dealership management often has a hard time understanding why this is important, while some salespeople don’t want to put forth the effort required to get pricing information for customers making online inquiries.

Many “old-school” types still preach selling techniques that are based on ideas that worked before the Internet changed the way people shop for and buy cars.

Whatever the reason, the fact is that you almost always will get better results if you embrace an Internet sales process that includes giving prices.

It isn’t hard to understand why this would be the case when we consider what we know about Internet prospects.

We’ve known for a long time that they contact multiple dealerships, and we know they typically initiate further contact with those dealerships that provide a high level of service and answer their questions.

Trying to bring an Internet prospect into the dealership without providing sufficient information is like having an answering machine take your sales calls.

We recently completed an analysis of Internet leads worked by some of our client dealerships, and compared key results broken down into “gave-pricing” and “didn’t-give-pricing” categories.

The numbers most certainly seem to support our theories about the effectiveness of providing pricing information in your Internet lead responses.

It turned out that twice as many of the sold prospects, 67%, had been given pricing information. We weren’t surprised: Internet prospects need to have their questions answered, and they will look elsewhere if a dealership doesn’t provide the information they want.

Choosing a dealership occurs during the shopping phase, not the buying phase, and shopping involves information gathering. 

Many Internet prospects contact dealerships long before they are ready to buy, sometimes months before. Internet prospects typically are in one of three categories: Those who are going to buy in the next five days, in the next 20 days or who won’t be buying for at least 20 days.

Our best-performing client dealerships do very well across all of these categories. When we look at lesser-performing dealerships, we see them doing well in the first category, but not nearly as well in the second two. 

Some dealerships are more willing to build a relationship with the longer-term shoppers. Those stores provide information, follow up and generally work with the prospect to ultimately bring them into the dealership for the buying phase.

Other retailers put all of their emphasis on getting the prospect into the dealership, which usually is effective only with prospects who are buying within five days of the initial contact.

A much higher percentage of the sold prospects that were given pricing information compared with those that weren’t came from shoppers who took more than 20 days to make a purchase decision.

This indicates that when dealers are willing to provide price, they are much more likely to sell prospects who are taking their time with their decision.

Dealerships that aren’t willing to provide information to their Internet prospects do very poorly with prospects they aren’t able to reach on the telephone.

Even though some Internet sales theories claim that not providing pricing information will result in the prospect contacting the dealership, the numbers seem to contradict that.

Our research shows dealerships that don’t provide pricing information are much less likely to sell to prospects who haven’t immediately provided a phone number. That typically is about 40% of online leads, a pretty big number of potential sales.

Being able to interact with a prospect on the phone or by email is the first step in getting them into the dealership. Engaging the prospect is the next step. If you can’t engage the prospect, they aren’t going to select you.

Response rates show that prospects who received pricing information were much more likely to respond to salesperson phone calls and emails than those who didn’t.

There are many factors to successfully converting Internet prospect opportunities into deliveries. Providing pricing is just one of them.

Others are quality of responses, thoroughness of ongoing follow-up and the degree to which the salesperson embraces the understanding that these leads are opportunities to create sales.

There are many pundits who say, “You can’t sell a car online.” You may not be able to deliver a car online, but you sure can sell it.

Online and off, customers have expectations of the dealership shopping process. When they are disappointed, they go elsewhere.

Al Amersdorfer is the president and CEO of Automotive Internet Technologies. He can be reached and 800-616-2632.