I was on-site training a new dealer client’s BDC team last week when I heard the most disturbing thing.  The phone rang and the BD agents began a discussion that went something like this…
“Who’s turn is it?”
“Not mine.”
“Not mine either.”
“Well I just had one, like, two minutes ago.”
“So did I.”
“I think it’s your turn so you take it.”
“I’m in the middle of an email. Can’t one of you?”
“But it’s not my turn.”
“Or mine.”

It was about this time, during the 9th ring of the phone, that I raised my voice and hollered, “Someone pick up the (darn) phone!  There’s a customer waiting!”

That outburst immediately got their attention and at least motivated one of them enough to answer the call.  With a little side-by-side guidance from me, she was able to set an appointment with the prospect.  I wonder how many more rings that customer would have waited through before hanging up and calling another dealer.

Your dealership team must realize that the phone is the lifeline into the store.  I am of firm belief that if you know how to handle an inbound sales call, you never have to take an up in your life.  Maybe it is just the fact that in most Business Development Centers, the phone rings so often it is overlooked.  Had that call gone to the sales floor, in this economy, someone is liable to get stabbed by a coworker for the chance to get the lead.

This was a terrible game the BD agents were playing with an inbound sales call.  It is the automotive dealership’s version of playing Hot Potato.  I see it happen with both phone calls and internet leads now and again during either my in-store consulting or Virtual Dealer Training.  When I asked them why that exchange took place, their excuse was that they only wanted to be fair to the other team members.  They want everyone to have a shot at setting an appointment.  But when do you say enough is enough?  I didn’t want to “tattle” on them to the ownership and suggest they might have a crew too passive to be effective as appointment-setters because I feel everyone can be trained.  Everyone can get better with some coaching.  In this instance, my first lesson to them was that sometimes it is better to be greedy than it is to be fair.

Let it be known that I am 100% in support of having a trained, aggressive Business Development Center team handling inbound sales calls much the same way I believe there is a value to having prepared professionals in an Internet Sales Department managing leads.  There is a benefit to having specialized workers with defined skill sets in these positions.  I’m also all for having a fair distribution of opportunities (phone and email) between those team members.  What I cannot support is when department policy interferes with the level of support you should provide a prospect.

When that phone rings, imagine it is a mystery shop you are receiving from your owner’s 20 group.  You do not want to be the reason your dealership scores low marks in front of their peers.  That could lead to a job loss if the call is mishandled poorly enough.  But let’s look beyond your job security and put yourself in the customer’s shoes.  When you call into a place of business, do you want those employees to look at the ringing phone as an albatross?  A chore?  Of course not!  You are a potential customer that wants, nay, deserves a professional greeting, a kind response, and an intelligent answer to your question.  Recognize this and handle all calls accordingly.

I know this doesn’t happen in many places, but it does indeed happen.  Watch out for it.  Listen to how the calls are being handled and make adjustments… for your sake and the customer’s sake.  And for gosh sake, please stop playing hot potato with your sales calls.