A Tin Hat Opinion

Autotrader, Cars.com, & Car Gurus: How to respond to your third party leads

Written by Christine Plunkett

Written on August 15, 2020

So, what’s your strategy for responding to leads from Autotrader, Cars.com and Cargurus? Do you use the same first response template for all of your lead types? Well, here’s the rub. You’re probably not the only dealer getting a swing at these customers. An automotive sales lead pinged you and four other dealers simultaneously. Not only do you need to respond quickly, but you need to differentiate yourself from “Down The Road Motors.” How? Simple. Give them what they want. 🤯 Strange but true, you’ll be the only one who does. Send personalized payment and price information that helps them understand that buying the vehicle from YOU is a better choice than Jim with the decades-old template.

The most complex problems often have very simple solutions. Take automotive lead response, for instance. As long as there have been car dealers and car shoppers, our industry has struggled to define what a “correct” lead reply should look like. Dealers, trainers, experts, gurus, and disruptors (<– let’s kill this one with fire, btw) have all taken a stab at designing the perfect internet lead reply.  “It must have an eye-catching subject line”, “You gotta ask for the phone number”, “East/West appointment prompt”, “Ask qualifying questions”, etc.

Spoiler alert, they’re all garbage.

Every customer who submits an automotive internet lead wants to know at least two things, and they want the answers instantly.

  1. Is the vehicle I want available at your store?
  2. How much will it cost me?

    Regardless of your automotive experience, your slick-talking, mind-ninja’ing, and effervescent personality, failure to address the two most important questions your customer is asking results in poor engagement and less sales. Any response other than, “Yes it’s available, and here’s how much it will cost you…”, is simply a waste of your customer’s time. It’s also the fastest way to condition your customers to ignore subsequent correspondence from anyone at your dealership.


I’ll cut you some slack since, until now, we have not had an easy, quick, or accurate way to deliver personal payment and price options to automotive internet leads. We could, sometimes, throw a price at the customer, after what could only be considered a massive failure to “just get them in the door”, and enduring abuse from the sales manager, but even then it was not the information most customers need. Price is a large number and quite abstract for them. Most people don’t pay cash for their automobiles so “$28,576 +TTL” doesn’t help them figure out if THIS vehicle and YOUR dealership are a good match for their needs. Typically, they want to know what their monthly payment will be with the amount of money they have available for a down payment.


Constructing an accurate monthly payment quote for every new automotive internet lead and deploying it instantly was not conceivable until illumiQUOTE was launched. Now, its not only possible, it happens automatically. No one at your store has to lift a finger.

You’re FRIKIN welcome.

Responding to automotive internet leads with illumiQUOTE is the most effective way to increase your dealerships lead engagement. By deploying a first quality response automatically from your own CRM including personalized, accurate, and interactive payment and price options, you’re demonstrating to your customers that you are open, honest, transparent, and easy to work with. In response, your lead engagement rates will soar.

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