Lynn Woolf and Cleo Franklin of Franklin Strategic Solutions discuss the topic of leads and how to turn more leads into sales. He discusses improving the customer lead response time and making sure to track and monitor the sales process.

Rural Lifestyle Dealer: The idea of the lead response time, there was the 5days, which is shocking; and then there was the idea about one hour, which has a lot of emphasis on it. What do you think customers are expecting when they're working with our dealers? What are they expecting in terms of response time?

Cleo-Franklin.pngFranklin: We live in an ADD society and a society where things need to happen in an instant. That's unfortunate, but it is the reality. In my experience in working with dealers who are successful and also tracking lead response time with major manufacturers, customers are expecting you to respond to them within an hour.

It is important that you acknowledge them. When you respond and acknowledge that they are interested in doing business with you, you do not have to really get into the sales process and try to sell on that first initial contact. But the acknowledgement, in fact will help you.

The other thing I would say and offer up advice to dealers is sales is not just the sales team's responsibility. This is a mindset and this is a culture. It should be everyone's responsibility to follow up on leads in a very timely manner. And to facilitate that, those leaders that I've seen that have been very successful, they expand that responsibility and show everyone and make them aware of the sales response process within their businesses and what are the goals, and they track it. It's important that you do not just follow up, but follow through as well. Those businesses that make sales lead response time a priority are the ones that win.

Another tip to turn leads into sales is to track and monitor your lead process. Now, we've talked about the fact that response time really is highly correlated to being able to turn a lead into a sale.

I have a few questions for dealers about a lead process, and this is what I would ask businesses: Do you rank or qualify your leads in some sort of system; A, B, C, hot, warm or cold? Is there someone in your organization who really manages the lead process and the follow-up with follow through? How about understanding where and what generates the most leads in your businesses? Also, what's the handoff process when it comes to that person who's managing your leads? And what happens when they're going to hand it out and what requires them to do so? Last thing I want to ask is, do you track your sales closure ratio with your leads?

Having a process and a system that will help you generate leads to track and monitor them will give you an opportunity to close them.

Rural Lifestyle Dealer: Thanks for those tips, Cleo. Dealers have gone through a lot of time and money to set up the websites and to set up social media, so the leads are coming in and that's just something that they're not closing a loop. So, you're saying it really is as simple as having a process and placing focus on it, and you can see almost immediate changes?

Franklin: That's exactly it. I believe what doesn't get measured, doesn't get done. To have an organization that does not have a system and a process to manage what is the critical revenue flow for your business, and that is lead management, I think really is a detriment to all businesses.

What does that process allow you? Well, it affords you a lot of benefits. It gives you real-time opportunity to forecast your sales that are happening for the day, for the week, for the month, quarterly and historical. Now, information that one would not have if they did not have that process and then it would be an estimation. This is based on historical data that you are tracking. You're also able to look at your sales win/loss ratio, not just for the company by the week, by the day, booked by individual rep.

This is the most important point. Having visibility of the process and where there are gaps and bottlenecks, where people are not following up or what within my process is not working gives you a chance to address it, but you must have that process. Because it will help you with your pipeline flow, your cycle length, how long customers come into your sales funnel and how long that it takes to close them. These are very good pieces of information that any business would need to have, and most successful businesses do track and have within their organizations.

Roughly 84% of customers begin their buying process with a referral. The other day, my family bought a vehicle and we wanted to go to a dealership. And before we went to the dealership, we looked online at their rates. We also asked customers and friends that we knew within our network, about this particular dealership and their experience, and how it worked for them. And believe me, it drew our ability to go and make a decision and choose this location to purchase a car.

Two more points: top sales performers ask for referrals two times more than their peers; and only 29% of salespeople ask for referral. It's a lost opportunity, especially when you've sold to a customer and you put forth the energy and the effort to bring them into your family, who could not be a better advocate for your business then that customer and asking them for referral will help you.

Reviews and referrals elevates the customers’ trust and confidence in your business. It also provides — and this is something that we all appreciate — free promotion and advertising. It really will engage your customers to be within your sales force to sell for you and promote your business.

Also, customers spend more than 31% on products with a positive review; and they're attracted to businesses that people believe in and ask through referrals and review. I think we live in a time of a lot of uncertainty and sometimes one of which requires more trust. And for businesses that really embrace this concept of making sure they facilitate reviews and ask for referrals are going to be in a good position to win.

Happy customers talk, but unhappy customers talk a lot. We know the old adage that happy customers speak to 2-5 customers, but an unsatisfied customer is going to talk to 3-4 times as many people. Understanding why customers are really not promoting your store or if there's been a bad experience is important that I feel dealers understand why, and getting reviews will help you.

Rural Lifestyle Dealer: Can you talk about the idea of good and bad reviews? Dealers have to know they'll get a bad review, so it is expected that there will always be an unhappy customer. You know the same saying about, “You can’t please everybody.” There's always that knee-jerk reaction that you should post a response. What do you see us as a best practice for when there are bad reviews, especially on social media?

Franklin: I think the best practice within my years of experience in working with John Deere, as well as Case IH,  New Holland and Mahindra, is to be proactive and immediately engage that customer, to really understand the facts and the drivers for that bad review. There's going to be cases where you have done as much as you possibly could, but I also believe in going with an open mind, acknowledging the customer, trying to understand what has happened. In most cases, in my experience, has turned a bad review into a good review.

Also, there's going to be opportunities where you do have a customer who will not be happy with you. It's important that we do not run away from customer reviews. You want to make sure that you can accumulate and drive to more positive reviews than negative reviews. But just like a positive review, a negative review is all about perspective. Engage early, engage often.

Rural Lifestyle Dealer: I like the point that you made about the blind spot. Reviews can really be a quality control. A dealer can't be at every transaction, they can't be monitoring every delivery and conversation, so a blind spot or quality control should be looked at, as an advantage when tracking those reviews. What do you think about that perspective?

Franklin: I think it’s a great perspective. As I said earlier, the lifeblood of any organization is revenue. This presentation is how do we turn leads into sales? And it’s a process. It’s a system as you move people through the funnel. And as you’ve said, moving them through the funnel from awareness to consideration to trial to purchase and repurchase, and I would think the best place is then advocacy, you need to have an audit system or a quality control to make sure that along the way, at each and every touch point, you know what's happening, for better and for worse.

The quality control is important. If you’re a business that is innovative and looking to learn then you need to be a lifelong learner and you need to establish that quality control, that system of checks to make sure that you are delivering upon your brand products. Without it, you’re going to be blind to it, things are going to happen to you and you cannot manage what you can't see and what you don't know.

Rural Lifestyle Dealer: You also talked about turning around a bad experience. And I read a lot of reviews where they talk about something that happened wrong like with  equipment, but then they talk positively about the business and how the business handled the problem. I think that there's even a review that kind of looks like it might have some negative connotations can still be a win for your dealership based on how your employees handled the customer.

Franklin: The second point about truly making your sales lead process a priority and part of your culture is so important. The way your culture is either driven by your organizational goals and your values and business objectives or it will happen anyway without that. It’s either by design or not by design. Establishing this culture to understand how you can better serve and help your customers by helping your business is important.

And I would not be afraid of any bad reviews. For me, it's about perspective. A good review is an opportunity to showcase and tell the world about how well I’m doing, and also an opportunity to add another customer and advocate to promote my business.A bad review is also an opportunity to find out exactly what went wrong in the process because no one’s perfect and maybe I’m going to learn something. This learner’s mentality that you want to establish within your business is important, and it’s driven by perspective. I wouldn't fear any of those things. As they say, you’re not supposed to face everything and run, you should face everything and learn and rise.