The online buying service, Autobytel, Inc. is reducing the number of leads it sends to its client dealers. That's a change from the early years of the Internet when third-party referral services touted how many leads they were providing dealers.

The problem is that dealership Internet sales operations in the last few years have been flooded with leads from shoppers not ready to buy a vehicle. Internet sales people consequently waste time on unserious “leads.”

Autobytel is now focusing on validating leads it sends to dealers. The idea is to provide qualified vehicle purchase requests to increase closing ratios.

The firm's new system checks leads from its Web site by calling every customer's primary phone number, testing each email address and using Web site screening to separate casual lookers from serious buyers.