Debunking the Myth of the Mystery Lead

Avoid the frustration of customer complaints, and turn more Internet leads into sales

When I think back to my days of running an Internet department, I have many fond memories. I loved the hustle and bustle of the dealership and the smiles on the faces of people driving away in their new cars. I set up my business development center so that I was in the same area as my team. As a result, a comment I often heard was the dreaded “This person said they never submitted a lead and wants to know how I got their information.”

In my dealership days, this “mystery lead” would frustrate me. I felt like I paid for an opportunity that was now deemed useless to my dealership. After I learned more, I realized this thought process didn’t make sense, and in most cases, was a misleading statement from the consumer.

Using Internet leads from Autobytel as an example, here are ways your team can work any lead smarter to avoid frustration, and ultimately help you win a sale.

How Autobytel leads work

All lead sources in the Autobytel network are dealer select–based. This means consumers have to select which dealership(s) they want to submit their contact information to and receive information from. The average person selects two dealerships to compare.

For example, if I’m in the market for a new Porsche 911 coupe (I can dream big—it’s my scenario), after I do my research at, I’d decide it’s time to request a quote from a dealer. The first thing the site asks me for is the make and model I’m interested in, along with my zip code.

My computer does not automatically know this information telepathically, so I must physically enter the information myself. (Hint: Your customers’ computers aren’t telepathic either.) After I press the Continue button, I’m shown the dealership(s) that receive leads on the model I’ve selected in the zip code I’ve entered, and can request more information by filling in my name, address, phone number, and email address. No one is twisting my arm to fill out the information and, again, my computer can’t enter the data for me.

Now that you understand the steps it takes to submit an inquiry through the Autobytel network, do you think it’s plausible that shoppers had no idea how you got their information, and are shocked you’re calling?

Still, I recommend you set up your dealership’s program with a personal message. In addition, shoppers will automatically receive an email from Autobytel letting them know you’ll be calling. So there really are no surprises, nor is there anything fishy going on.

Dealing with objections

Now that the myth of the mystery lead has been debunked, let’s consider a few of the other objections Internet leads might make when you contact them:

  • “I’ve had a bad car-buying experience in the past and I’m not ready to talk to you yet.”
  • “I’m still researching and am not ready to talk to you yet.”
  • “I’m not ready for the pressure yet.”
  • “I asked for a price quote and you didn’t send one. Why should I talk to you if you can’t give me what I want?”
  • “I don’t trust you.”
  • “Another dealer responded already with the information I need.”

What should you do? Here are seven tips to show respect to shoppers when you follow up with them:

  1. Don’t give up, but don’t hound them either. Respect that they aren’t ready to talk to you.
  2. Send them a price quote—it’s what they asked for to begin with.
  3. Offer your assistance. Let them know that you’re there to help, and want to make the process as easy as possible for them.
  4. Don’t hound them about coming in for a test drive. Just continue to feed them the information they’re looking for.
  5. Continue your normal 90–120-day follow-up procedure via email.
  6. Follow up periodically with emails about incentives and specials, as well as used car inventory that is comparable to their initial request.
  7. Never, under any circumstances, call the shopper a lead. In fact, the word lead should never leave your mouth when talking to a shopper during any conversation.

In most cases, when our team connected with the leads in question, shoppers told us they simply didn’t want to speak to the dealership yet.

By using these tips, your sales team can avoid the frustration of customer complaints, and turn more Internet leads into sales.

Cassie Perkins is senior manager, account management team and programs for Autobytel, offering the industry a full suite of high-quality lead products and advertising services, including Autobytel Direct pay-per-click advertising, TextShield, SaleMove, and Payment Pro. For more information, text or call (949) 431-6256 or email For more dealer training, tips, advice, and news, visit

Cassie Perkins

1 Comment

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    Mike Haas June 09, 2017

    Actually Autobytel has an affiliate program that allows third parties to send unverified leads through their system. I would be cautious about assuming it was the consumer.


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