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Posts by Melissa Roberts
It used to be as a Dealer Principal or manager; you would consider yourself lucky to have a salesperson willing to make an outbound sales call, and even luckier still, if the sales person actually asked for an appointment. I have filled out hundreds and hundreds of Internet forms over the past year, and have noticed a new breed of salesperson. This eager, yet untrained, salesperson gladly picks up the phone, confidently dials a number and charges though that call with little or no knowledge of what the customer wants or needs. None of this matters to “Johnny-on-the-phone”, for he is in a race against himself towards an appointment. I am hearing untrained sales people very proudly and abruptly demanding an appointment within 20 seconds of the call. Believe it or not, I see salespeople do the same thing online. Being so bold as to ask for an appointment in an auto-responder. I have even see salespeople ask for an appointment at the end of every email exchanged regardless of the message of the email. It’s fine to focus on an appointment, but don’t charge through your opportunities and ask for an appointment without even addressing the customer’s needs. We appreciate the effort, “Johnny-on-the-phone”. We know you mean well, just… stop.
You need to be prepared to have an actual conversation, via phone or internet. The (again) untrained, but well-meaning salesperson knows this, and will use the weakest technique in the book: “Do you have any questions?” Of course they have questions, why else would they even bother to contact your dealership? Assume what those questions will be and be prepared to answer proactively. Face it… customers are already asking questions; you just might not realize it. They are clicking on buttons with labels like: “Request more info” “Get a Quote” or “Get Financed”. They are leaving comments about their needs. By making them repeat themselves, the customer may think you are playing “hard-to-get” with the information they are looking for, or they will simply think: “Wow. This dealership really isn’t listening.” The 5 little words, “Do you have any questions?” while well intended, can do more harm than good.
Developing rapport over the phone or internet is not easy, so take every opportunity to show the customer you are listening and make a good impression. Be more specific and lead into your questions: “I like the color of this one, what drew you to it?” Be ready and able to engage in an actual conversation about the vehicle by doing some research on it before you pick up the phone to make the call. You must be prepared to build some momentum over the phone and bring the customer to a place where they want to come in.
Having filled out hundreds of those Internet forms, I have had those 5 words thrown at me 75% of the time. My first response is usually: Well I already asked for a question… what’s the price?”. The untrained salesperson usually responds with” “My Internet manager didn’t tell me that.” or “That information wasn’t on there.” Both excuses are Bullshit. Get the information. It exists somewhere and it is up to you to hunt it down. Your contact management tool or Internet lead provider is the best place to start if you are not sure how to find it yourself. If you rely on another person to share contact information with you, make sure you ask the questions: “What form did this customer fill out? Were there any comments with it?” Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. We are in the information age after all, and you are the only one to blame if you are uninformed.
We have already established that communication via telephone is not the most natural form of communication. That being the case, I have heard hundreds of salespeople ask questions that have nothing to do with the task at hand (setting an appointment). Before you ask a customer a question over the phone, first ask yourself this: “Does the answer to this question get me any closer to an appointment?” Here are the top 5 questions NOT to ask an inbound sales call.
Your top sales people have spent their careers fine-tuning their selling skills. Since communicating over the phone is so unnatural for some, they simply default to the sales skills in which they have experienced success with. I hear them say a lot of things that would be best said on the showroom floor. They tend to steer the conversation into a place that is comfortable for them. I have noticed the skill set employed by these sales people seems to be the presentation of the vehicle. With a customer on the floor, giving a detailed vehicle presentation and demonstration would only make sense, after all it is one of the components that pave the way to a sale; That said, it’s pretty pointless over the phone. Reading a mundane list of features, or even worse, a build sheet, to someone over the phone is boring. Obviously, those details are far more impressive to see than to hear. I realize the vehicle description is not a question, but it’s still not something that is going to get you any closer to an appointment.
Generally, after a salesperson has read off a list of details, I hear them ask the customer: “Does this sound like something you would be interested in?” This leads me to the second pointless question: “Does this sound like something you are interested in? Considering the fact that 86% of people end up buying a vehicle other than the one they initially inquired about, the answer to this question isn’t going to make a difference as far as an appointment is concerned. On the showroom floor, the answer would lead to paperwork, and ultimately a sale. On the phone, it only leads to awkward silence.
Number three on the list of worst questions to ask a customer: “Is this going to be for you?” These days, it’s pretty common for a someone to employ a friend or family member to call a dealership and inquire about a vehicle on their behalf for any number of reasons. Mostly, because the potential buyer is afraid of; or is intimidated by, “car sales people”. Either way, the buyer, who has asked their Dad to call your dealership, has decided you need to sell Dad before you can sell them. So, untrained salespeople ask the caller this pointless question hoping for what? How do you plan to proceed with the conversation with a yes or no answer? Asking the caller if the vehicle is for them is not going to get the buyer on the showroom floor any faster or easier. When I hear a sales person ask this question, all I can think of is that they are afraid they may have to do more work. Guess what, it’s your job, so get to work! Assume the person on the phone is the buyer and sell the appointment. Sure, you may have to sell an entire extended family on an appointment before you get a chance to sell the buyer, but the one willing to go the extra mile will get the sale.
Number four on the list of Worst Questions is also a sign you have a lazy salesperson: asking about credit scores, or financial situations. It’s too soon! Let me set a scene for you. During a call, something is said that gives the salesperson the impression that the caller has poor or no credit. Something like: “I need a payment under $150 a month” or “Do I need a cosigner for that $129 a month lease I saw on TV?” Once the salesperson has used their magical mind reading skills and decides within 20 seconds that there is no way this caller could EVER buy a car, they set themselves to the task of talking the customer out of visiting the Dealership. There is no way on earth you can determine whether or not a person can buy a vehicle without that person in front of you on the showroom floor. Nor can you convince them to do anything such as borrow money for a down payment, or ask a friend or family member to cosign for them if there is no value built in the vehicle. If you have this potential customer in front of you, you can develop deeper rapport with them and advise the customer to go to any of these measures. The customer will also have more emotion for a particular vehicle once they have been given a full vehicle demonstration along with a demo ride. You need to have the attitude that you are going to sell a vehicle to every single caller, regardless of the potential obstacles you may have to overcome along the way. Most importantly, you can’t sell them anything unless you’re able to sell an appointment first.
Finally, topping off the list of the 5 worst questions to ask a phone up is: “When are you looking to buy this thing?” Asking this question is a great way to get a customer to put their guard up. It puts pressure on them and causes them to distrust you. Assume and proceed as if the caller is planning on buying today. If they are asking for a price on a new vehicle, quote them with the price of the car today, even if it is the last day of the month and you know incentives or finance rates are due to change tomorrow.
You should always have a reason as to why today is the best day to buy. The reason doesn’t necessarily have to pertain to price either. Perhaps you are having a big sale today, or your manager is in a FANTASTIC mood today, or you are giving away free oil changes today. There is an average of 30 days in a month, so try to come up with 30 reasons as to why today is the best day. This way, you also have a reason to follow up with a customer until they make a purchase. Keep yourself focused on an appointment on the phone, and save those great sales skills for the showroom floor.
Dealer Principals spend thousands of dollars every month on advertising. No matter what media they choose, from newspaper to magazine ads, posting inventory online or blasting an email, from a direct mail campaign to a billboard, the goal is to get the phones ringing. The main focus of your salespeople and BDC agents should be to turn those phone calls into floor traffic where it is far more likely a sale will occur. Over the past year, I have listened to tens of thousands of inbound calls from all over the country, and noticed that most salespeople have a hard time separating sales skills from phone skills. It is important to recognize the difference and use each set of skills at the appropriate times.
When you break it down, talking to another person on the phone is not exactly a natural form of communication. This is why, despite billions of attempts over the years to interact with pets and newborns using the phone continue to fail. Unlike your dog, your newborn will eventually be able to communicate with you by phone as they develop the skills necessary to do so. At first, they will let you hold the phone to their ear while they glare at you confused. They wonder why you insist this talking toy you are holding to their head is their Daddy. After some months go by, that look of confusion turns to delight as they learn the talking toy has Daddy’s voice in it. Finally, they learn Daddy can hear their voice on the talking toy too which is extremely fun for them. Notice that the entire time a toddler is using the phone they are instinctively looking at your face. Facial expression and body language are the corner stones of communication. Your little one is looking at you for those familiar visual cues we rely on for effective communication.
It takes them a few years to get it, but they have a lot to put together at that age. Your salespeople and BDC team won’t understand the intricacies of phone handling any quicker which is why training them early helps them grasp those skills a little faster than your baby.
One with exceptional phone skills can compensate for the lack of facial expression and body language necessary for effective communication, with carefully selected words, voice inflection and speed. Stay tuned for tips and strategies on how to get your sales team to stop trying to sell cars over the phone, and start selling appointments. While your best salesperson is a master of face-to-face communication, they probably don’t realize how weak their phone skills really are. You know salespeople… they know everything already.