How Can I Get Internet Leads to Respond?

The Internet is a significant part of selling cars for a living today.  Working leads is often where the process begins, but getting internet leads to respond is crucial. We all love Fresh Ups that bypass the Internet and head straight for the showroom, but car buyers that walk on your car lot without spending time on the Internet beforehand are becoming a thing of the past. This phenomenon is not new, it’s been happening for years, and many of you have been working Internet car leads for years and taking Fresh Ups simultaneously.

Now even that scenario has changed, with many dealerships dedicating salespeople to handle only Internet leads. This practice of working Internet car leads is commonly known as “Cradle to Grave.” This means the Internet Sales Manager or salesperson derives all their potential customers from Internet Leads. Leads are generated by the dealership website, manufacturer’s websites, and third-party lead sources.

With these leads, they make first contact, communicate, set appointments, meet and greet, test drive, sell their appointments, sell cars and perform deliveries. (Sounds simple, yeah, right!) However, BDC departments also process the leads, sell the appointment, and set the appointment. Then if the potential customer shows up for their appointment, the salespeople on the floor take over the process.

Car Sales Internet Leads to RespondNo matter what scenario your dealership uses to process Internet sales leads, getting customers to respond to your various attempts to contact them is very frustrating. Getting Internet leads to respond is one of the most common questions I get from readers here at

If you have been working on Internet car sales leads for any length of time, you know that the best and most receptive leads come from your website. The source of these leads is people that have been on your website and know about your dealership or at least spotted a vehicle that interests them. You may be able to reach them by telephone. If not, a pleasant email will often get communications going in the right direction.

Internet Leads Will Respond

However, it’s a different story when we start talking about sales leads from the automaker’s websites and third-party Internet leads. These leads often go to several dealerships in the area, and every one of those dealerships is calling them and trying to turn them into appointments. If they don’t reach them by phone, they send an email with a template they use. Some dealers even send a lowball price to get the customer’s attention.

Car dealerships can subscribe to services that automatically shoot out a pre-determined price along with a used and/or Certified model. No matter how it is done, a small percentage will respond. Sometimes they have questions, and on VERY RARE occasions, they would like to make an appointment for a test drive. We all know these Internet sales lead submitters are the lowest-hanging fruit, but you will never make a living selling cars waiting for those. This is not the way to sell more cars. Consider those gifts for the car gods and move on.

Back to the real world now, most Internet car sales leads will not respond, period. Your job is to get them to respond and turn them into customers because that is the only way you will sell more cars via the Internet. Our ultimate goal is to sell them a car, but the second most important goal is getting them to enter the dealership (preferably without giving them a price). We all know that we can do magic when we have them in front of us, and we can use our charm, wit, and product knowledge. But that is where the real challenge lies, and we can’t do that unless we get them to respond and start communicating.

How to Get a Response

Let’s get to the meat of this post and the main reason you have read it this far. A small percentage of Internet leads won’t respond simply because they weren’t interested, they were screwing around online, or they thought that they would see a price that was 50% off the list price come out of the magic box on their desk. These are just wasted leads that usually total around 10% of your manufacturer and third-party leads. Forget about those, and let’s worry about the other 90%. Internet sales leads often don’t respond because you haven’t given them a reason to respond or at least one they can comprehend.

A phone call that results in a voicemail saying I got your email requesting info on the new model car. Your request, “Please call me back so I can help you with your car buying questions or needs,” does not compel me to return a phone call. If that gets you to pick up the phone and return the call, please send me a lead or call me the next time you need a car because I have a deal for you.

Now multiply that message by 3,4, or 5 of these voicemails. Which one would you call? I wouldn’t call them because nobody gave me a good reason. As a consumer, I can get pretty much all the information I need online, including a price from 4 or more other dealers, and I can see if you have it in stock by visiting your dealership website. Thanks, but no thanks.

Internet Car Leads Need a Reason to Respond

When you call a potential customer from an Internet sales lead (if the number is good, which is not often) that has submitted a lead, you better give them a reason. A reason to either come in to see you or call back if you leave a voice mail. The same old, same old isn’t working anymore, so it’s time to step it up.

Whether you are talking to them in person or leaving a voice message, you need to be enthusiastic, polite, and different than the next salesperson who will leave a message or call. You need to use your imagination: Start with great news. Your timing couldn’t be better. We just had a sales meeting, and our General Sales Manager informed us that we have an extra shipment of cars coming in, and we are already tight for space. Therefore he said he would do practically anything to sell down our inventory to make room.

You might also consider telling them you are in the middle of an unadvertised sale, and they could save some big money in the next few days. The story about having a sales meeting earlier can often make them listen and sound believable. Then put a twist on the rest as I did above, or sales were down slightly, and the General Sales Manager said we need to move some cars and there is no limit to the kind of deal he will accept.

Internet Car Sales and Leads


These types of statements make customers listen to what you are saying. Telling them that your brand has incentives, low-rate financing, and rebates are not unique because they know all dealers will have the same incentives. Stories sell more cars and set appointments that show. Be creative but not ridiculous. Give them a reason to return a call, set an appointment and see you.

Ok, no phone number or lousy phone number (standard). Your only choice is email, so you will have to get them to respond, earn some trust and provide them with information. This is your only option for getting them on the phone. Much like the voicemail, you must give them a reason to email you back.

Are you using the same old tired template you have used for years? If you are, you need to throw it away. When you open a personal email that is 5 paragraphs long and very wordy, do you read every word, or do you scan the message for the main point? Everyone scans their email messages; some delete them after reading the subject line.

Your email must be short, with as few words as possible. Plus, it should be neat, clean, and uncluttered. It should look like you typed it based on their lead or email. Address any questions they have, and you should ask one or two questions of them to get a dialogue going. You may need to ask them if their lead was accurate regarding make and model.

Inform them that the email or lead came through your system requesting manual transmission, and you want to know if it was what they wanted. Of course, 99.9 times out of a hundred, they don’t want a manual trans. Communicate through email as if they were texting you. They want quick, to-the-point, and easy-to-understand information. Your attention to detail and style of getting right to the point will impress them. Many people use email today, but few are efficient typists, so texting is popular.

The subject line is one of the most essential parts of the email and getting customers to respond. Before they can respond, they need to open your email, and if the subject line is weak, they will probably click delete. Your subject line needs to arouse their curiosity. When they want a price and are waiting for it, the subject line is not as important, but it is critical if you are trying to get a response.

As discussed above, use your imagination, be creative, and get them to open your email. Use words that make them curious, like revised, updated, thought you should know, you asked about, the big news, there was a change, I was just informed, and anything else you can think of that would make you want to open an email.

You can use a template, but it should be a template that you can use for almost every situation. It can contain a header, preferably typed, not a graphic, a line that addresses the customer, such as Hi, Dear, Hello…etc. The template should be blank down to the picture of yourself (a headshot is the best) and your signature line, which can even contain a link to a video hosted at

A 30-second video introducing yourself and the dealership is becoming a real attention-getter. Dealers nationwide tell me about using video in their presentations, especially regarding used cars.

More on your template for getting Internet sales leads to respond. The body of your email should be short and sweet. You can load your template with different sentences that can be deleted based on the situation, or you can type each one. The personalized touch is getting a much better response based on the research I have been doing.

Type your email body, make it short and to the point, and ask a question or request a response. When they opened the email because of your excellent subject line, you made it simple, easy to read, and asked for a response. They usually will respond as long as it’s not buried at the bottom of 3 or 4 paragraphs.

Today’s best practice for working with Internet sales leads is treating the customer as they stand before you. If they ask for something, answer them, they want a price, give them a price. Almost everyone that submits a lead wants a price, and the form they filled out told them they would get a price.

If a customer were standing before you, would you ignore their question? If you did, they would probably leave, and that is what they do through email. For some people, it’s all about price and nothing else. To others, they want a price so they can take your email to their local dealer and ask them to meet or beat the price. Many want to make sure you are in the ballpark.

When getting Internet leads to respond to your attempts to contact them, make it simple as if you were talking to a friend. You will see that simple usually works the best.

Later, Fresh Up on the Lot


Start Selling More Cars via the Internet: