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How to Make or Break a Deal with the First Contact

make or break a deal
Article Highlights:

  • Are you interacting with customers the way they want to?
  • "The customer will see you as a road block in the buying process."

I’ve been researching locations for an upcoming family vacation. We’re talking 17 people in one house for a week! Since I’m just researching, I email my questions instead of call. My goal is to collect the information I need as quickly as possible, put it in my vacation spreadsheet, and review all options at once.

One of the company’s return emails did not answer any of my questions. It did not provide any value for me. It was a push to get me on the phone with someone, and honestly it was a waste of my time and made me angry. So, I didn’t respond. And I didn’t respond to the next five emails. Finally, I responded to the sixth email, asking the company to quit emailing me.

I began thinking of this experience and how hard and time consuming it was going to be to plan this vacation without having to make several phone calls for just a few simple questions.

And then it hit me… this is just like shopping for my last vehicle. I emailed a few dealerships with specific questions about a specific vehicle, and they blew up my phone for three days without giving me any valuable information. All they wanted was to get me in the store; they didn’t seem to listen to me or care about what I wanted.

Working in the automotive industry, I understand the importance of getting consumers in your store – it’s crucial. But how you handle that first contact is even more important. If you don’t handle it properly, you will never get a shot.

Here are a few simple tips to handle the first response properly:


1) Respond to customers in the medium they contact you.

If a customer emails you, it means she doesn’t want to talk to you and she doesn’t want to come into your store – YET. She wants an answer to her question quickly and easily.

When you try to force consumers into a phone call or visit before they’re ready, they will almost always stop contacting you.


2) Answer their question with specifics and alternatives.

This seems simple, yet most dealerships overlook it. A customer wouldn’t waste their time, or yours, asking questions if he wasn’t interested. So you shouldn’t waste his time responding with generic answers. It will make the shopping experience worse for your customers and hinder any chance of them contacting you a second time.

When you provide a specific answer with alternative options, it will ease the shopping experience and move them along in the process faster, potentially bringing them into your dealership.


3) Add value to your follow-up.

When doing follow-up there is much to consider, but the major point is value. If you didn’t answer the customer’s specific question in the initial response, you likely won’t be able to add any value moving forward, and none of your messages will be received (like my vacation experience).

Make sure you add something new and specific to each individual contact attempt. This will keep the customer engaged and lead him to recognize you as an expert who wants to win his business.



This is the new way consumers, especially Millennials, shop – at home, from their computers and tablets, sending emails for quick, easy, and valuable answers. If your dealership isn’t handling initial contacts properly, the customer will see you as a road block in the buying process and you risk losing the customer to another dealership.

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Director, Brand Marketing, Reynolds and Reynolds

Ashley is a Director of Marketing Communications for Reynolds and Reynolds. In her 10 years with Reynolds, she has managed the marketing strategy for several key Reynolds solutions and branding initiatives. Today, she leads the U.S. and Canadian marketing teams to drive brand awareness, product penetration, and content strategy for Reynolds and other key brands within the Reynolds Retail Management System.

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