The focus of this article will be to help you convert more car sales leads while making more money.

I’ve studied these topics extensively and have experienced it first hand at the largest Audi dealership in the country. Some of what I’ve written below is currently in use at the dealership, all of it has been at one time or another to generate and convert car sales leads.

Let’s focus on the low hanging fruit.


Converting More Car Sales Leads

Mastering selling your internet car sales leads is critical to your business. Most dealerships will have a certain steady flow of car sales leads from their main site plus a number of leads from companies that provide leads.

Online shoppers can be difficult to nail down for managers who have been in the car business for a long time. They are high volume and often low profit customers, which make them feel like a lot of work.

So yes, car sales leads can be a headache. That being said, I’ll convince you below why they are the best focus of your time, especially for a forward thinking manager.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure

The beauty of internet lead customers is your ability to have incredibly accurate reporting and analysis, often from inside of your CRM.

Contrast this to your floor ups. Your floor ups are often un- or under- reported. Their contact information is only as good as your sales people and it’s very tedious to source how they found out about your dealership.

Compare this typical phone up CRM entry:

So many questions…

With car sales leads CRM entry:

Trackable, actionable

On the first opportunity we know that they have a phone and have our number. We could train and rely on my salespeople for better entries… but that’s a topic for a another time.

On the second opportunity, with no help from my employees, we know the customer:

  1. Has expectations set by Edmunds Price Promise
  2. Plans to buy in 30 days
  3. Most important- we know how much this lead costs!

Your phone opportunity may have heard your radio ad, seen a billboard, or simply received the phone number from a friend.

So, if you want to optimize the conversion of your car sales leads (and eliminate bad car sales leads), get yourself deep into your CRM system’s reporting functionality.

Once you’ve got the numbers in front of you, it’s time to see how much you can  improve using the following best practices.

Compelling Contact – Subject Lines

You have three ways to contact your customers that have inquired online. The easiest to measure in effectiveness, and there for our first focus, is email. What you say (and how you say it!) in email when responding to your car sales leads is critical.

Email is the easiest to measure because you can use modern tools to see the email open percentage and email reply percentage.

Exciting Emails –  Knowing Your Competition

In preparation for this article, I did a full secret shopping experiment. I contacted a few Bay Area dealers, using the same contact email and contact info. I submitted car sales leads with this format:

EMAIL: [email protected]
NOTE: I am very interested in this A3 cabriolet.

Tip: I use this site to do research on the dealerships in my area. It generates email addresses immediately that are active for 24 hours. Just don’t close the tab!

So let’s start with the emails I received back. The subject lines are all similar:

Secret shopping car sales leads

You have to secret shop your competition, is an easy resource


This is what a female peacock looks like:

A picture of a female peacock

Boring, might or might not get the job done

This is what a male peacock looks like:

Picture of brightly colored male peacock

A little more enticing


You want your emails subject lines to be the male peacock.

I’ve found that the subject line is the most important part of the whole email. It doesn’t matter the content if the email gets deleted!

Here are the standard email subject lines that you are probably using:

Spring Sales Event – Exclusive Deals From *Dealer Name*


Presidents Day Specials Extended Through Friday

or, by far the worst, this one:

Thank you for your Inquiry!

These are all vanilla subject lines, often provided by your CRM. Compare that with some of our best subject lines. Note that these have never, after years of use, generated a negative response back (which I still can’t believe). These are some of our best performing subject lines:



We are the cheapest

and finally our best performing of all time:


Is “Harassment” too strong?

Now, you can see clearly why people opened these messages. We create some tension with the subject… and then immediately diffuse it within the email. For example, on the email with the subject line “Harassment” we follow with this email:

SUBJECT: Harassment

We know we have been sending you a lot of emails. I can see that you have been opening them, but not responding.

Would you kindly let us know if you are still in the market? Are we emailing too much? Is there a time that is best to get a hold of you?

Here at *our store here*, we value our customers and their time. We look forward to hearing from you.

See how we changed tune? The customer had no idea what to expect when they opened our email. We were the male peacock. They wanted to check us out and learn more.

Compelling Contact – The Content Of Your Emails

Let’s talk about the goal of your internet department. You want to convert the highest percentage of car sales leads you can while maintaining a decent gross profit.

Let’s review:

  1. Convert the car sales leads
  2. Maintain decent profit

Converting car sales leads has two parts, getting the appointment and selling the appointment. Maintaining decent profit involves knowing the market of the cars you are selling and not getting lazy with pricing.

An In depth Look At The Email From Niello Audi

Let’s review the email I received from Niello Audi.

First step, converting the lead. Niello needed a catchy subject line to catch my attention. This is what I got:

The email response from a car sales lead

His name means nothing to Lej Ruka, the customer

No information, no catch. Just the name of the Internet guy, but unless you have a local celebrity working your internet leads, the name doesn’t carry much water.

Perhaps your customer will Yelp you (in which case Phillip has great reviews!), but usually that is “upstream” of sending in a lead anyways.

Let’s say the customer clicks the email, putting aside the lackluster subject line.

This is what they get:

The response to a car sales lead

This is the customer’s first impression of the dealer

My goal in the email is to convert the car sales leads to appointments and maintain gross profit.

The salesperson confirms that the car is in stock (good!) and provides pricing (potentially good!). The email is decently written, although content wise two things stick out.

First Problem: Content Is King, Don’t Make Stuff Up!

First, the term “Elite Internet Sales” in magenta. If I was shopping for a car and didn’t immediately write off that term…

I would google it, and this is what shows up:

What shows up when I google “audi elite internet sales”


Ok, first result is a different dealership. Odd. Oh! Here we go! Phillip must be referring to the 2016 Magna Society? Let’s click that link:

A picture of the Audi Elite winners from 2016

Where’s Phillip? Where is Niello Audi?

Ok, so “Audi Elite Internet Sales” is something he made up.

The take home is that what you put in your emails matter! Every word is important. This is the internet age.

Second Problem: Don’t Lose Money When You Don’t Need To

Alright, so the email isn’t particularly compelling, but there is a price! Ok, let’s zoom in on that:

The pricing of the Audi

About $5k off!


Is that a good price? Well, if I am Mr. Consumer, I’ll probably go and check in Sacramento, and this is what I’ll find:


The truecar pricing shows that the quoted price is very cheap

According to Truecar, Niello is very very cheap


Wow! They are quoting $600 below what Truecar calls “Exceptional” pricing! On the first email. My first pencil!

So, our subject line is weak, our content is odd, and our pricing is below market. This is a good example of what you don’t want to do.

Now, on the flip side. I know that Audi Niello really wants to sell this car. They’ve had it for 200+ days (relatively difficult for a customer to find this out). It’s ok to want to sell your old inventory, and it’s ok to be cheap.

Supply Side

In this situation, I’m posing as a customer. I sent in a lead saying that I was “interested in this car”. I stated in my lead that I was in the same zip code as the dealer. This car is not an easy car to find if I’m checking out dealer websites. I’ll prove it to you:

Picture of inventory search

A whopping 2 in Northern California


If I am shopping price and comparing like with like, the only other car is at Audi Marin. Here is the drive I’d need to do to check out the competition:

If I sent a car sales lead out for this car, I would need to go to Marin to get the car

Quite the drive


Let’s wrap up our analysis. In the internet department, we want to convert leads, and hold gross profit. In this situation, the internet department didn’t try very hard to convert the lead… and gave away all the profit and then some. Not ideal.

The thing is, Phillip is a great sales guy in person. His Yelp is all 5 stars and he seems to have very happy customers! He just needs to work on his email cadence for his car sales leads.

How Could He Have Done Better?

If I wanted to remake Phillip’s email, I’d do three main things differently.

Number 1: Subject Line Change

Change my subject line from:

Niello Audi – Phillip Najera


2018 Audi A3 Cabriolet at Niello Audi – Limited Availability

In this way, I’ve already established the grounds for holding gross profit, and I’ve brought up immediately what the customer is interested in.

Number 2: Content

In the email I would make sure to:

  1. Confirm vehicle availability – Which he did in his
  2. Offer a fair price, let’s say… $200 above Truecar “average” (you can always negotiate down if needed!)
  3. Introduce myself by mentioning how long I’ve been here, linking to my Yelp reviews (use those 5 star reviews!)
  4. Invite “Lej” in for a specific time, using smart appointment setting *LINK TO OTHER BLOG POST HERE*

Number 3: Format

I’d ditch the image heavy format, simplify everything down. Picture of the car is good, everything else you can get rid of. I’ve seen success with a photo of the salesperson being included in the email. Overall less is better.


Text Messages – Your Customers Text

Your customers text.

Say it back to me.

“My customers text”

Don’t believe me? Spend some time reading these stats:

45 Texting Statistics That Prove Businesses Need to Take SMS Seriously

Texting is the most widely-used and frequently used app on a smartphone, with 97% of Americans using it at least once a day. (Pew Internet)

People worldwide will send 8.3 trillion text messages in just this year alone. That’s almost 23 billion messages per day, or almost 16 million messages per minute. (Portio Research)

Now that we have that out of the way, how should you text your customers?

First, to stay legal, you need to send an opt in. Your CRM will have this built in.

Second, when reviewing your car sales leads, you need to figure out in what way your customers want to communicate.

To do this, when first receiving car sales leads, our team:

  1. Makes a phone call
  2. Sends an Opt in Text
  3. Sends our intro email

We have found great success with this method, since it allows the customer the choice on how to communicate.

If the customer opts in on text, we try to direct my conversation there immediately. As long as the customer is texting, we don’t recommend calling.

The best texts are short and to the point:

Hi! Stock #37874 the Blue Q5 is here. We have availability at 615pm tonight, work for you? Steve @ Audi

If the customer does not opt in then we recommend waiting to send another opt in text after meeting the customer. I’ll ask them:

Thanks for coming in today. To follow up would you prefer text or call?

If they say text, send the opt in immediately or as soon as possible.

Why do we like text? Because our customers like text. It feels efficient for them. It’s easy to get the customer into the dealer with a text. It’s also unnatural to talk price on text, which is a convenient bonus.

Phone Call Schedule

I am a huge fan of having a BDC handle all phone calls, since that is their speciality. I made a guide for improving your BDC here.

Although we will address phone scripts in a future post, we want to simply touch on the frequency of calls for your car sales leads.

When we receive car sales leads, we use the following schedule until we have made contact (note: one voicemail per day!)

Day 1: If lead before noon, call three times (if they don’t answer). If lead is afternoon, call two times.

Day 2: Call in the morning and night

3rd day through 5th day: Call once, alternating morning and night

After that, we move the lead to an unresponsive group, and call on the 7th, 10th, 12th and 15th days. Long term unqualified has calls on the 30th, 45th and 60th day.

Review: Car Sales Leads

Maximizing the conversion of your car sales leads is critical to your business. Make sure to comment below with your thoughts. I’d love to hear what you agree and disagree with!