“He shoots… he scores!” Those are words that echo in the minds of many. For those of us who grew up in the eighties and nineties, watching basketball was a real treat. The best in the game were superheroes that adorned our bedroom walls. Defense was a word that only applied to football. And, like high school, scoring was all that mattered.
Something I often talk about with clients, but have written little about, is lead scoring. For those of you who don’t know, lead scoring is a methodology used to rank prospects against a scale of defined value. The score is then used to prioritize leads and/or reassign them to another department (or entity). The practice is actually not new, however, the ability analyze massive quantities of dissociative data has recently become more efficient and cost of effective. This is the practical application of Big Data.
For whatever reason, the phrase “lead scoring” just sounds like blasphemy to some dealers. After personally spending two years developing the technology, and working with dealers to implement it, I can say that it felt like something akin to missionary work in the most hostile of territories. But, whether it’s Polk, Urban Science, or the stuff I worked on at Trilogy, all I can say is that it’s the closest thing to alchemy that I’ve ever seen. There is good news for those dealers who can get over their misconceptions. You don’t need PhDs, supercomputers, or alien intuition to understand lead scoring. You just need to know a little basketball.
For many of us who grew up in that generation, watching Sports Center was part of our morning routine. Besides watching highlight reels and hearing cool catch-phrases like “en fuego,” “from way downtown…bang,” and “mojo(!),” we got to hear about field goal percentage, high percentage shots, and shot selection. As the years pressed on, they had cool graphics that would display where shots were hit and missed. Viewers could actually see all 68,000 shots Iverson took in a game, as well as see Shaq’s 15 dunks (and 20 missed three-footers). It also showed, live and in living color, the best in the game knew when to shoot, and when to pass.
The best Internet Sales Managers don’t share an awful lot in common with the best in the NBA. There’s that whole height thing. They certainly don’t make league minimum (probably closer to that of the Gatorade brigade). Wearing a Nike jump suit to work would probably get most fired (unless you’re in New Jersey). There is one common trait, however, that the best of both worlds share in common: fantastic shot selection.
Shot selection is an instantaneous decision a player must make when the ball hits their hands. Within a fraction of a second a player must decide if their body is properly positioned for the shot, if their defender(s) are properly positioned to guard the shot, if it’s a shot they typically hit in practice, if the team can properly react if the shot is missed, and if it’s a shot the team would expect them to make. Otherwise they need to pass.
Like basketball players, ISMs are forced to make split-second decisions when an email hits or a phone rings. They need to decide if they’re in the proper position to take the lead, if they’re prepared to adapt their word tracks to overcome objections, if this is the typical customer they can sell, if their management can compensate for a missed opportunity, and if it’s a lead they’re expected to close. The ball gets inbounded as the prospect pushes the button. Let’s see what happens:
The Full Court Shot
Unless you’ve never watched any basketball, you know that this is the most desperate of shots. A player catches a rebound, or the ball is inbounded, and then it’s haphazardly thrown in the general direction of the other teams basket. If it goes in, it’s a miracle. When it misses, it typically obliterates some dude’s Nikon. This is like when an ISM opens up their lead management tool, sees a four-hour-old new lead, picks up the phone, and just calls the customer. The ISM doesn’t know if the vehicle of interest is new or used, if the customer is two states over, or where the lead came from. Hell, they haven’t even read the customer’s name. They’ll chuck-up an eighty footer to just get ‘em in.
The Half Court Shot
The half court shot is typically reserved for out-of-shape spectators like myself. If we hit the shot, we win $50,000. If we miss we get to hear 20,000 fellow spectators collectively go “awwww.” This is similar to an ISM coming off the bench, checking their inventory, picking up the phone, and calling the customer once. If you practice enough, sure it can be successful. But at the end of the day, it’s a low percentage shot, and 20,000 people won’t be there to console you.
The Three Point Shot
Many dealerships have a Steve Kerr on their staff. Not the most versatile player on the roster, but serviceable in certain situations. Three-point specialists are great at being open, throwing a good pick on occasion, and dropping a three when it counts. Like a clutch three-point shooter, some ISMs can make big plays. They’re really good at gathering the details, sending out pricing, and a making a call within an hour. But, after that first day, they’re nowhere to be found. They’re busy hoisting up more three pointers the next day.
The Slam Dunk
The slam dunk is firmly cemented in the American vernacular as an accomplishment that’s easily done. When you’re over seven feet tall with more than a 36 inch vertical leap, it just makes sense to hang out under the basket (Wilt Chamberlain had a 72.7 field goal percentage during one season). However, the same guys who can throw the ball down from a foot over the rim, often cannot take a shot from a foot from the rim. Many ISMs just take the slam dunks. They’re happy to pounce on the orphan lease returns, the credit app submissions, and the local buyers. Give them all the Accord leads, all the Camry leads, and all of the F-150 leads. When they’re out of they’re comfort zone, expect them to lay more bricks than a stone mason.
The Best Shot
The real legends of the NBA were not one-trick-ponies. They weren’t stuck behind the arc, or constantly battling in the paint: they were effective from anywhere. Michael Jordan and Larry Bird could see plays unfold in a blink of an eye, allowing them to take high percentage shots, and making them lethal from anywhere on the court. The best ISMs have that same ability. With relative immediacy, they can scan the lead details, looking at names, addresses (physical and electronic), phone numbers, the vehicle, the lead source, and come up with four strategies to tackle objections before you can say “coffee is for closers.” They know their inventory forwards and backwards, and they have their OEM portal open, ready to scan other dealers’ inventory, just in case. They know when to go straight for the appointment, or set up a necessary follow up action for themselves. They manage their time to efficiently to maximize results, as well as to wear down their opponents. They show up early for practice, and turn the lights out when the work is done.
Shot selection is a good thing. Sure, lacing up a pair of Air Jordans from one of aforementioned organizations allows dealers to take their data, append broader demographic data, psychographic data, behavioral data, consumer spending data, and make realtime adjustments based on disposition data…essentially giving the greenest ISM the ability to be like Mike. However, every ISM has the tools available to effectively score leads. With meticulous notes, access to deal jackets, knowledge of Excel, a ton of hard work, and a bunch of internal training, most dealerships could fashion their own scoring system. That same strong discipline makes ordinary athletes into superstars.
I could go on forever making basketball analogies, but I’m guessing you get the point. Sure, it’s easier to spend money for technology to make decisions for us, but many don’t have that luxury. We can all become better players with hard work. We can build better teams by trading weaknesses for strengths, taking shots we know we can make, and making strategic passes to maximize results.
Do you want to be a hall-of-famer, or do you just want to stare at a wrinkled rookie card wondering what could have been?