The Unsold Prospect – Don’t Let Them Get Away!

The Unsold Prospect – Don’t let them get Away

If you ask any dealer, they will tell you that 4 out of 5 prospects that come to their showroom depart without buying a new or used vehicle. What most won’t tell you is that 70%-80% of those prospects left because they just were not ready to make a purchase decision yet. They are still shopping. Why? Because consumers may be confused by all the different variables (i.e. selection, discounts, rebates, interest rates, etc.) or who to purchase from and, in some cases, they just are not ready yet.

NADA published the following survey results:

  • 90% of the prospects bought somewhere within a week.
  • 90% of the buyers were not followed up with after leaving the dealership without making a purchase.
  • The average salesperson sees and talks to as many as seven prospective buyers face-to-face each day.
  • Only 20% of prospects buy on a first visit.
  • 57% of buyers buy within three days of the day they start looking.
  • 42% of buyers actually took the time to shop other dealerships.

At the time, you could pretty much “bank” on the stats and a lot of dealers established the showroom processes based on the logic.

Fast Forward to the Internet Age

Realistically, these statistics are no longer valid because today’s consumers are more “car shopping savvy”. The Internet provides so much information on every available vehicle, including incentives and pricing, that people start shopping earlier and longer than in the past. They are doing their homework on their vehicle choices prior to visiting the dealership and only visiting to test drive and validate options. It also means that many are not purchasing on the first visit, within three days, or even within one week.

According to recent news and various published reports, the good news is that the economy is turning and more people are shopping for vehicles. With the good news comes the bad. Dealers have cut back on sales and sales management staff as well as their BDC staffs. This means fewer dealer staff to meet and greet and then follow up. Also, according to Shulman (2001), most dealerships struggle with the following:

A large percentage of prospects who did not purchase because they were uncomfortable with or did not like the salesperson or manager.
Reduced or no supervision by busy sales managers who are too involved with the dealership problems (other than sales) to monitor sales follow-ups.
The distraction of floor traffic that justifiably competes for the salesperson’s attention for ongoing follow up with prospects.

In an article written by Nat Shulman (2001), George Libin, president of the Automobile Profit Builders in Wayland, MS, a leading showroom control solution providing company, stated“a prompt and properly handled phone call (within 24 hours) to a prospect can bring back 50% of first-time unsold ups. Of these be-backs more than half can be closed. After six weeks, a similar call may bring back another 14%, half of which can be closed.” Very simply put…if they are shopping your dealership…they are most likely shopping other dealerships as well. Basically, the dealership that promotes timely and effective follow up, has the greatest opportunity of earning their prospect’s business.

Given these current conditions, we are seeing more and more dealers taking the proactive steps to use a professional Virtual Business Development Center (VBDC) to manage and call their Unsold Prospects. VBDC’s are designed to contact a dealer’s potential customers within 24 hours of an event to re-establish contact, verify their overall experience, make an offer to return, and schedule appointments with sales management. In essence a VBDC takes the follow up process to a new level that is designed to increase be-back percentages and sales opportunities. The good news is that the VBDC can produce more results at a lower cost while removing the headaches associated with following up on unsold prospects.
Reference: Shulman, N. (2001) What a follow up call can do. Retrieved on November 15, 2009 from

~ Gary Mitchell

Director, Telephony & Virtual BDC Products, DMEautomotive


Gary has 25 years of experience in providing franchised auto dealers with marketing and technology solutions designed to increase revenue and overall profitability. Gary has held national positions with ADP Dealer Services, LML Technologies, and DMEautomotive. He is currently responsible for researching and designing new products and marketing campaigns based on industry trends and specific dealership needs. He directly interfaces with Development and Product Management to monitor market needs and requirements, taking into account emerging technologies, competitor products / services, industry trends, and regulatory / compliance changes for both OEM and regulatory bodies.

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Note: The original blog has been updated to include proper references.

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