Internet Car Sales is Competitive.

There is a reason that it takes a while to become an internet sales manager at a dealership. You need to have perfected your skills on the sales floor before you go out and wrestle with the internet leads. Below you will find my curated Internet Car Sales Tips that will help set you apart.

What makes Internet Car Sales Different?

Though there are exceptions, the internet customer has higher expectations than the floor sales customer. The internet customer wants to set the pace, and if you don’t comply, they will simply disappear and stop responding. The internet car sales tips below will help address these specific customers.

They tend to shop prices more, they are better informed, and they are often overconfident.

I think that the abundance of information online is fantastic.

It’s the overconfidence that is difficult to handle. To illustrate, I’ll share a personal anecdote.

IOC: Internet Over Confidence

About 2 months ago I was sitting at home on a quiet Tuesday night, enjoying a black mirror episode with Alyssa, my girlfriend. It was warm in my house and we were cuddled up, just her, myself, and her wonderful little “chip”.

being likeable is one of my secret internet car sales tips

Should have known from the look in his eyes…

Chip is, at this point in time, fast asleep, and looking like a perfect napping black bear. Absolutely adorable.

I can get enough of how cute he is as he sleeps, and I lean in, close, until our noses are almost touching.

It’s at this moment that Alyssa’s devil hound “chip” wakes, and bears down on my nose with all 7 of his remaining teeth.

a much more scary dog's teeth

Just like this, but smaller and fewer teeth

There was much blood.

After I was all bandaged up, I got into bed and went to sleep, figuring I’ll ask a professional the next day what if there were any shots I would be needing.

a picture of a white guy with a small cut on his nose

I swear it looked worse in person

Just kidding, I immediately jumped on Google

a picture of google search for rabies

It wasn’t the best idea to search for this…

The results were endless. I read and read, out of anxiety and adrenaline, and decided that I was infected with Rabies.

Infection with this virus is almost invariably fatal; just three unvaccinated individuals have been known to survive. … Rabies virus is typically transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mammal, often a carnivore or a bat.

How lethal is rabies virus?

I began the next day dropping into my family doctor’s office. In the sterile white room, I met with my friendly nurse practitioner. She inspected the wound, gave me a TDAP booster and sent me home. On the way out she assured me that there was little to no chance that I was infected.

I got to my car, still stressed. I called three local hospitals and eventually managed to get through to an ER doctor. He assured me, again, that I didn’t have rabies. Actually, his exact words were:

The fact that this dog has had a rabies shot a few years ago, and that he is a domesticated dog, in this city, means that your chance of getting rabies is somewhere between 0 and you’re wasting my time.

The point of the story…

In fairness, I was a total idiot. I didn’t have rabies. I didn’t slowly succumb to a terrible virus, and my nose scar is almost gone.

picture of a red virus drawing is not one of the internet car sales tips

My rabies nightmares

I learned a valuable lesson though, which is pretty simple: The Internet, combined with stress, makes trusting others difficult.

Why should I expect my customers, who are shopping online, trying not to get taken advantage of, to trust me off the bat? I didn’t trust doctors that were trying to help me!

So that’s the thing. Most of us have some form of this internet overconfidence. We disregard people who know in favor of popular opinion and anecdote. We read sources and then figure ourselves as experts.

These are your internet customers in a nutshell. This story is designed to help teach you one of the best internet car sales tips I have, which is to understand what your customers are thinking. Let’s talk about how to sell them cars.

Pricing: My Best Internet Car Sales Tips

Since I touched on most everything other than price in my last article, let’s start with the elephant in the room. Pricing is a great area to focus for my list of internet car sales tips.

Goldilocks Pricing

Pricing is hard for a number of reasons. If you offer too little you fear that other dealerships will undercut you. If you offer too much you have little room to slide.

Let’s address this one at a time.

Not Discounting Enough

First off, being ignored is rarely actually a problem. Here is an actual email that I received yesterday. This type of email is common:

Although I appreciate you taking the time getting those quotes to me on a timely matter and I’d love to buy a car from your dealership considering you’re my local dealership. I’m going to have to pass based on those quotes.
Thank you for your time!

Spoiler alert, he isn’t saying this because he wants me to stop emailing. He has started the negotiation.

Quoting too little will get you an email telling you that you are quoting too little.

My goal for this customer is to now to find out if we have a car that he would like. I would probably respond with an excuse and explanation and then paste in inventory for him to browse.

Once he selects what car he’s interested in, I’ll circle back to price.

Discounting too Much

This is a far more significant problem.

When you quote too low, you don’t earn the customers trust. I’ll repeat, when you quote too low, you don’t earn the customers trust.

You may, however, make them think:

  1. There is something wrong with the car you are sending
  2. You are hiding something or looking to trick them

Even if they aren’t that suspicious, they will believe that you still have room to slide. You’ve now painted yourself in a corner.

Let’s say you quote what is realistically your bottom number, under which you really can’t move further without an upper-level manager’s approval.

Your customer will now take this quote that you sent them and share it with every other dealership. Remember “Matthew” above? He just sent copy pasted your quote and sent it to every other dealer.

So you haven’t won the business, but you have potentially created a new normal in the market.

Bad move.

Adjusted Market Pricing: Just right for volume

Your best bet? Using what I call adjusted market pricing. AMP for short. AMP is a useful strategy for pricing volume cars, not cars that you consider “supply limited”.

Here is how it works. Let’s say I wanted to make a AMP guide for the 2018 Audi Q5. My dealer sells 50+ Q5 a month, so I have plenty of data to look at.

I would start by taking the most common MSRP of the 2018 Audi Q5. Let’s say it’s a $52500 MSRP.

I would then plug that configuration into Truecar and KBB, take that data, and do this math:

(Truecar Discount)+(KBB Discount)+(My stores average discount)

I would divide that number by 3 to get our AMP. This number weighs in what the customer is reading online with what we are actually doing at the dealer.

I need to leave myself some room in my quote, so I take the AMP, and I add 2% of the MSRP of the car that I am selling. In the case of the Q5, if the AMP is $3200, I would take the $3200 and subtract 2% of $52500. I end up with an AMP discount of $2150.

This is my base discount that I will offer to customers that request pricing online. I’ll never be the cheapest right off the bat, but I will be within the zone that customers will still talk to me.

If a customer only contacts my dealer and only likes the car I have, I’ll sell the car for a bit above market average.

So that’s the simplest way to offer a fair discount that won’t be too little to dissuade potentially customers. It also leaves you a little room to make the deal if needed.

Remember the Human: How It Applies To Internet Car Sales Tips

The AMP strategy above, when combined with the basics, will open the conversation with most of the customers that inquire on your website that are actively looking to buy a car.

Now that you have them interested, you need to figure out how to keep them engaged and get them to work with you.

Read Automotive Journals

How do you get in their head? Read what they read.

If the customer is interested in 2018 Audi Q5, make sure you know what the automotive journalists say about this car. Read Consumer Reports and Car and Driver about the 2018 Audi Q5, and keep up to date what the journalists like and don’t like about the cars.

When what you say on the phone and in email lines up with what they read online, you will build trust. You have corroborated their sources.

Car Forums can give you Internet Car Sales Tips

For many younger customers, forums are the most trusted source of information. The younger customers believe that the major news outlets and pricing websites are susceptible to advertiser intervention. Forums are everyday people sharing what they know.

Never mind that I often find forums full of half truths and exaggerations. It’s not about what is true. It’s about what the customer thinks is true.

If you have a customer that reads forums, you need to know what they have learned.

One of my favorite internet car sales tips is to read up on what others are reading

Time to do some reading!

A great move is to make an account on the most popular forums for your brand. I know that the Audi World forums are very popular, so I make an account. In my downtime (say, Monday morning) I see if I can jump online and add some value.

If you are going to master the world of forums, you need to learn Gary Vaynerchuk’s advice, which boils down to add value, add value, add value, then ask for the sale:

It goes without saying that you should always be looking for ways to provide others with value, (in life too, not just business). Creating a media site, writing articles, and making videos builds relationships with existing and new customers, as well as business partners. It is the number one way to sell a product right now.

But there’s another side to this that I don’t often bring up. This other side is just as important as providing that value. Because when you’re giving people something you know they will need and enjoy, it’s because you’re building up a relationship that could some day mean something, right? A business opportunity or a sale or drinks or a new job? Well, of course. All relationships need to be a two way street to be functional. But really, before any of that happens: you need to give with zero expectation of return.

Because the truth is, people like people. We’re wired for it. And people do business with other people. So when you learn to generally give to those people without expecting them to do something in return, you win. You’ll perceive the world differently, and be a better person because of it.

What you should take away from that quote is that people on forums can spot a “corporate shill” from miles away. Don’t expect to generate leads from being on the forums right away. Just use them to add value and build your brand.

Most importantly, participate in forums to keep your ear to the ground and know what your young customers are reading.

Why is THIS car special?

It’s important to figure out what makes the car you have special that the customer is interested in. Is it a car that exists in abundance at every dealer? Or does your car have a color or option that sets it apart?

If you a customer clicks on a car that’s in stock at your dealer, you need to figure out if they were just clicking on that car on a whim or if there is something that sets your vehicle apart.

I did a bit of write up on this in a previous article. As an educated seller, you need to understand the supply and demand of the car you have. Mastering your market knowledge is one of the key internet car sales tips.

Internet Car Sales Tips: Other Situations

Not all leads are created equal. This is a simple run down of some other situations and how to react to them.

No Specific Car

You can’t hit a target you can’t see.

If a customer inquires online and asks for “best price” right away, you need to redirect them to pick out a car. Tell them that you are happy to get them a fantastic price, but you need to know what exact vehicle you have that would work for them.

What if you don’t have one?

Then don’t quote. You can’t win. If a customer says this:

What’s your best quote on a Q5?

Then your best bet is to respond with this:

I have a lease special Q5 that is currently our best deal. Does this car work for you:


If so, we have this awesome lease special running right now:


They are, more than likely, not going to want the lease special car. They very will not want to lease. That’s fine; you are only looking for them just to say what they actually want. You are hunting for information.

Topic Of My Favorite Internet Car Sales Tips: Pay Attention To Credit App Leads!

Most dealers have a way for customers to submit credit applications online for “pre-approval.” Make no mistake, these are your hottest new business customers. These customers are so ready to make a purchase that they went ahead and put their social security number into your website.

That’s amazing.

Email them only to tell them to call you, then call them until they pick up.

This customer is buying in all likelihood in the next 72 hours. If you don’t get them on the phone someone else will.

Lease End Customers

Although I’ll talk about this in much more detail in a future article, suffice to say that your lease end customers are your most important customers. They are on the shortest sustainable new car cycle, they typically like the new cars that come out, and they essentially produce used cars (with their lease drops).

If your Internet Managers are also in charge of the lease portfolio (quite common) make sure that they know that these “leads” are worth 10x what a fresh internet lead is worth.

I can’t stress that one enough.

Managing Managers (on price)

Internet sales managers (IM for short) are, by the nature of the role, volume focused. In that vein, they tend to gain an intimate knowledge of the “market”. They will see competing quotes daily, provided in excess by their customers.

Now, this is an important part of their role. The issue that can emerge stems from the fact that this knowledge is power. At volume dealers, the upper management will instruct their IMs to sell more cars.

This leads to saying “yes” to more deals, mostly bigger losers. The deals can be justified just by saying:

I was beating a quote they had…

Now, thats all well and good. If you are an Internet Manager yourself, you know how true this can be.

The thing is, the IM, on this program, will get used to giving loser deals. All the deals will begin to shift downward as the IM will, inevitably, get lazy.

One Of My FAVORITE Internet Car Sales Tips: What is Reported is Reviewed

This is where external and internal management and reporting must come in.

Let’s take this data set as an example:

Group 1: Orange IM and Blue IM

internet car sales tips include diligent reporting

Plotting gross profit on Q1 of 2018

This graph, as you can probably figure out, is the total profit of a specific model, plotted out over the first quarter of 2018. The blue and orange dots show the individual deals of two different IMs.

What you want to see when you plot data like this is spread.

If an IM is lazy, you will see less spread, as deals all approach a similar sales price. If your IM is being proactive you will see spread, with the difference between the best deals and the worst deals being quite large. I would categorize the orange and blue IMs performance in this first quarter data set as decent.

Group 2: Yellow IM and Gray IM

What I would rather see would be something more like the graph below, of 2 different IMs. The data is the same metrics, on the same model, over the same time frame:

a graph showing better spread of two better performing IMs

Same things plotted as above, but better spread

You see immediately why these are better reps. Both have some net positive deals, and the spread is huge. Whereas both graphs show a negative $4k deal, the second graph shows a few positive deals in the $2k-$4k range.

When the graphs are bunched in one area, you know that your reps are missing opportunities to make money.

A quick point to make. If I plotted one of these out and found one representative had all the deals much higher grossing than everyone else, I would not immediately label him or her a superstar.

I would, however, investigate their deals (in the CRM). Are they missing some lower grossing deals that I would have wanted them to make? Or do they have some value that they are offering their customers that I can replicate to bring the whole team’s total profit up. Important things to learn.

Notes on Negotiation: Internet Car Sales Tips Goldmine

I think that some starting IMs believe that all negotiating is supposed to be done on the computer before a customer comes in. Although this is sometimes the case, generally the negotiation with an internet customer happens in two steps.

Step 1: The Online Quote

This is exactly what I touch on above with the AMP discounts. Offer fair pricing and get the customer on a car that they would want to buy. Offer them options, such as used cars and cars with the right options but different colors.

If you do this step right, you should be setting plenty of appointments.

Step 2: In Person, Wrapping it up

Generally, once the customer is in the store, they will have a target they want to hit. Human nature being what it is, this target will always be below whatever you had offered them online (this is why you must leave the room!)

The most important step when negotiating with an internet customer is to have them like you enough to share their objection.

Why they must like you…

Let me explain.

Real or imagined, most customers will come in with the idea that there is still room to negotiate when they come in. Often, this will be inspired by a quote from another dealer.

The fact of the matter is, unless you have a no-compromise perfect car in stock, they aren’t going to want to share that quote with you.

This is where winning them over comes in. Make sure that your test drive and product overview is top notch. You must dress well, and you must be likable. Only then will the customer share. Once they share, you have your target to hit.

If the target is realistic, make the deal happen. Respect their time.

If the target is unrealistic, because of confusion or intentionally vague wording in a competitors quote, stay calm. Don’t get confrontational. Use the data that you have on your computer (and your persuasive skills) to close the gap. Use the room you have to compromise.

This step is not possible if they don’t like you.

Getting a customer to like you (quickly)

In stand up comedy, marketing, and sales, it is critical to know your audience. Let’s dive into why knowing your audience is one of the excellent internet car sales tips

Here are the first names of my customers in for 4/1/18 through 4/15/18:

  1. Erik
  2. Lisa
  3. Mark
  4. In
  5. Mo
  6. Jin
  7. Karen
  8. Sachin
  9. Andrew
  10. Vidita
  11. Daniel
  12. Deryk
  13. Yu
  14. Simon

So far in April, I had 100% tech company employees. I had fully 50% from other countries that are here on visas.

If they are going to love me, I need to know what makes them tick. I need to understand the tech economy. I need to know something about India, something about China.

I have found that taking 汉语 (Chinese language) classes for the past year has been a great help in connecting with my Chinese customers.

It’s about what sets you apart.

Review: Internet Car Sales Tips

So in this article, we focused mostly on pricing and what makes internet car sales just a tad harder than floor sales. Let me know what you think about these internet car sales tips in the comments below!