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Successfully managing leads is the cornerstone of a sound dealership experience. A lead represents the first “real” touchpoint a car shopper has with your dealership, offering a glimpse into the quality of service. In today’s fast-paced digital world, where consumers initiate contact online well before visiting a dealership, rapid response, maintaining engagement, and equipping your team with the right tools for each channel is quintessential to your success.

Whether a lead is generated through email, lead form, live chat, text message, phone call, or even a dealership walk-in, a proactive approach to responding and engaging is vital. Regardless of the channel or source, each interaction provides an opportunity for pipeline development, lead nurturing and sales growth. We’ve broken down three key areas to help our dealer partners craft a strong lead handling and management strategy.


Did you know approximately 3-in-4 buyers contact a dealer through various channels before setting foot in a showroom?1  In the contemporary digital landscape, where information moves at the speed of light, businesses must adapt and respond with equal swiftness. This need for rapid response is particularly crucial in the automotive industry, where potential customers often explore their options online before visiting a dealership. Follow the tips in our Lead Management Best Practices Guide to develop an effective response strategy.


Engagement serves as the groundwork that transforms leads into satisfied customers. It’s about offering answers and alternative solutions. Even when a customer inquires about a sold vehicle, consider it an opportunity rather than a dead end. To cultivate engagement, and kickstart lead nurturing efforts, connect with the prospect three times within the first 24 hours with new information, and continue communicating with the lead past the 30-day mark, adjusting your strategy as needed. Prospect engagement becomes vital to long-term success by cultivating trust, securing loyalty, and maintaining friendly, ongoing dialogue.

40% of car shoppers prioritize a fair price and amazing customer service


Equipping your dealership staff with appropriate lead management tools facilitates efficient and successful management of leads. These tools ensure that every lead is promptly attended to and staff interactions with prospects are meaningful and productive. Some tools to consider using at your dealership include a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, such as Activix CRM and Consumer Insights as well as Enriched Lead, offered in AutoTrader’s Used Vehicle Listings – Superior. Learn more about the benefits and uses of these tools in our Lead Management Best Practices Guide. Lead Form

Lead Management by Channel


When responding to leads, the primary goal is to secure appointments and maintain a high level of engagement. When handling phone leads, it is imperative to answer all incoming calls within the first few rings. Missing a call could mean losing a prospect to a competitor. When you answer the call, ask insightful questions that deepen your understanding of their inquiry, to foster a conversational interaction rather than providing brief, one-word responses. For effective response tactics, consult our Lead Management Best Practices Guide.

Email or Lead Form

Automated responses are a thing of the past. Rather, aim for a real person to reply to all e-leads within five minutes or less. To keep leads engaged, ensure you address their inquiries, ask follow-up questions, and provide supplementary resources, including reviews and testimonials, custom accessories, your dealership’s appraisal process, and more. When developing your email lead management process, consider that many customers make purchasing decisions 30 days or later into their journey, so be prepared to adjust your strategy at the 30-day mark to sustain engagement.

Chat or Text Message

Regardless of the channel or source through which leads are generated, it is essential to respond promptly and engage with all prospective customers. Many chat platforms provide insights into the specific vehicles that pique their interest; use this information to ask relevant questions about what they seek. For more content examples and tools to manage chat leads, consult our Lead Management Best Practices Guide.

Dealership Walk-Ins

On average, consumers visit three dealership lots during their car purchase journey.¹ Your lead management process can influence getting your dealership on a car shopper’s shortlist. While most prospects visit a dealership with an appointment, knowing how to handle walk-ins is crucial to capture all potential leads. Start by matching walk-ins with a suitable dealership representative, and promptly capture their contact information for entry into your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform so that you can follow up with them after the showroom visit.

Lead handling and management serves as the initial point of contact between a car shopper and your dealership, setting the expectations for their experience as a customer. Our Lead Management Best Practices Guide offers fulsome insights into crafting a surefire response strategy as well as implementing effective engagement tactics tailored to each communication channel, to put your dealership on the front foot to enhancing your lead management process through a personalized experience for every lead – ultimately driving success in the competitive automotive landscape. Chat Feature

Source: Dig Insights, Vehicle Path to Purchase, July 2022, (n=1,369). Lead Management Guide

Lead Management Best Practices

Your Ultimate Guide to Lead Handling & Management to Maximize Success & Drive Lasting Customer Relationships

Learn the fundamentals of building a strong lead handling and management strategy with our complimentary best practices guide.