Should Your Sales Staff Be Answering the Phones?

It’s time to hit dealers with a very inconvenient truth. One I am sure you have heard before but maybe you weren’t quite sure how to handle it. If you are a salesperson, don’t take it personally.

Your sales team SUCKS at answering the phones.

There, I said it! Now before I go any further I should mention that there are exceptions to every rule. I have encountered guys and gals who work on the sales floor who do an exceptional job with the phones. You might be lucky and have one or two of these folks on your sales team. But if you are like most dealerships I have worked in and mystery shopped in my career, your dealership is losing profits by the day over botched phone calls.

Now I wouldn’t dare make such a bold claim without TONS of justification. I also wouldn’t serve up such a huge problem for dealerships without offering up a solution that works.

By now you are probably a little rattled at what I am saying and you might even disagree. You have put your sales team through phone training, invested in them, you have communicated your expectations about how you want the phones to be handled, and you feel as though your sales people can be counted on to do things the right way. I am here to tell you that your sales people….MOST sales people ain’t cutting it on the phones.

Training your sales associates on how to handle phone calls may improve things, but I can assure you that in most cases it isn’t the best overall fix.

The long and short of the matter is that it’s all about “END GAME”. What is the desired end game for your sales people? How are dealerships nationwide set up to reward sales people? Simple. Your sales people get paid to sell cars. The “END GAME” for sales people is a customer driving away in their new vehicle. (The right answer to the question by the way for GREAT salespeople and what their end game is would be something along the lines of building relationships, getting repeat and referral business, etc. but that also isn’t on most sales people’s minds on a day to day basis the way it should be. That’s another blog and another day.)

The end game for any inbound lead that isn’t standing on your lot or showroom: internet, phone, fax, etc. should be to get them to be standing on your lot or showroom. Great dealerships are aware of this, but even the ones who realize it aren’t all taking real strides in making it happen.

So by now you are wondering, “Allright Kid Car Business, what do you propose we do if the answer isn’t training?” Quite simple really. I suggest you put someone else in charge of answering your phones!

This isn’t to punish sales people. It isn’t because your salespeople are bad. You might have bad salespeople, but it ain’t because of their phone skills. Not in 2012. Salespeople are driven to have a one track mind. It doesn’t make them bad, it’s just what business dictates.

Sales people want to deliver a car. The person you have answering your phones should want to deliver a customer!

That’s it! That’s my secret! Salespeople are trying to sell cars. The people you have handling inbound leads should be trying to sell…are you ready?…APPOINTMENTS!

This has probably been the single, most important advice I have received in my career managing Internet Sales and setting up BDC’s. “Sell the appointment, not the car.” You have heard this before. We all know we can’t sell a car over the phone. So why do we have our sales people on the front lines trying to find out things like credit, budget, down payment, etc. and virtually talking people OUT of coming into the dealership vs. reducing stress and inviting them in? The questions are OK, but the timing is all off. You see, what you need to do is position yourself to have that conversation at the appropriate time. If you choose to do this before your client visits the showroom, chances are your client won’t visit the showroom.

BDC’s or one-person Internet Departments work best when the people staffing them are rewarded for and trained to set appointments…not try to sell cars over the phone. Your sales people for the most part are conditioned to qualify, learn about credit, discuss price and payments and even ask financial questions that probe too deep for a phone call that ends in a set appointment. Remember, all we want from the phone call is the chance to sell them on the idea that our place should be the first and last word in their car buying experience.

While your customers might think that they are shopping a price on a new car, what they are really shopping for is the person and place that they want to do business with. It isn’t hard, MOST places don’t have it figured out and will talk the customer OUT of coming in. You want your place to stand out on the phones and internet now more than ever. Especially in a time when the ability to produce traffic is what will help you dominate your competition.

My suggestion on how to address this is to start small and expand as quickly as you can. A BDC (That’s Business Development Center) can be staffed with 2 or 3 people. For most stores this is enough to effectively handle all of the inbound phone calls, e-mails, and internet requests in a professional manner and cover all of your business hours. The department will reward you with more customers standing in your showroom, more service appointments, and more revenue! Provide them with an effective system for managing leads, a variety of lead sources (you can add more as you grow), train them on how to handle the calls and leads effectively for maximum appointments, and watch your business grow!

If you need help setting up your BDC or Internet Department, call me right away!

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2 responses to “Should Your Sales Staff Be Answering the Phones?

  1. And here’s to proving you right in 2012! Getting an appointment is easier than I thought (in most cases, you’ll always have your “old school” customers who want all the info on the phone). Most of the time, the customer already WANTS to come in and look at the vehicle they’ve just called you about. They’re getting a feeling for the dealership by the way that first phone call is handled. If it feels like they’ll be pressured as soon as they walk into your dealership, they’ll start the call defensively. It’s my goal to break down that barrier, get to know them and put them at ease about the way we do business. I believe, as Andy does, that it’s more important for that first call be handled by someone with more of a marketing spin on it, than a sales one. Sales and marketing are NOT one and the same, though some business owners never learn that.

    My job is to grow the dealership’s customer base – get more dance partners on the floor. The sales staff will handle the dance – the tempo of the music each customer wants, it’s rhythm and melody. I get them to the floor. The greatest challenge the person in this position will have is learning the car business. If they don’t already know it, give them time for that learning curve to get the terms and “jargon” down, then watch them fly. A marketing-based person knows how to grow your customer base but doesn’t need to be the one selling the vehicle.

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