Autotrader.com conducted a study of all of its dealership clients to determine the best practices of its most successful dealers.

The idea came from California dealer Joe Drew, says Autotrader CEO Chip Perry.

“I was visiting Drew Ford in San Diego,” says Perry. “Mr. Drew called me into his office and wanted to know what we could tell him about the best practices of other dealers using our service.”

Autotrader, the largest online buying service for used vehicles, subsequently ranked its dealer customers based on the total number of phone and email leads received through its service.

“We found our top dealers were consistently doing one of three things,” Perry says. “The vehicles listed had detailed descriptions, including numerous pictures; the web site presentation and description of the dealerships were extensive; and there was liberal use of incentives and coupons.”

These dealers get 5-10 times more responses per vehicle, says Perry.

“Very few of the dealers are doing all three,” he notes. “But the top ones are strong at least in one of those areas.”

Some of the web sites have detailed window stickers; others a narrative walk around of the vehicle. Other sites simply had bulleted selling points of the vehicle.

“Different styles fit different dealers,” Perry says. “They pick how to present themselves and the vehicles. Innovative dealers figured this out on their own as to how to best communicate to Internet prospects.”