An individual is interested in a vehicle. They research the vehicle online endlessly. Site after site, they peruse through information regarding pricing, features, specs, model configurations, comparisons, and reviews. To stay away from the stereotypical car sales tricks that they’ve been predisposed to avoid, they decide to send an email inquiring about a specific vehicle to a number of dealerships. This customer could have called a dealership or simply driven to the local dealer quicker. Instead, they do all of their homework, hoping to prepare themselves for their inevitable purchase. Their goal is to receive back information that will help them make the decision between dealers easier. What happens? The customer’s phone rings. Sales representatives call unexpectedly and single-handedly shoot themselves in the foot by not utilizing the same medium that the customer has chosen to begin communication.
Why? Just as the customer has been trained to research and negotiate from the comforts of their own home, the sales associates have been trained to disregard the email and get them on the phone. Now, let me state that I agree with the trainings of some other consultants that there is a proven importance to getting a customer on the phone. However, I disagree with their beliefs that a call to an internet customer comes before an email. That is an antiquated and dangerous philosophy to be teaching people on the floor during these times. I also believe that a 1-miute auto-responder confirming the receipt of the lead is not a worthy enough email to warrant a call. A call to a customer without their permission and without warning is often unwanted and automatically eliminates you from consideration. You are unwilling to take their desires into account when contacting them, they figure, so how are they to trust you in the future?
When do you reach out to them and how do you do so without upsetting today’s temperamental customers? You must begin by sending a detailed, personalized email with information (and pricing) regarding their exact vehicle requested as well as some alternative options. In this personalized, customer-focused email answering all of their questions, you must also state that “I understand you are looking for this information quickly. If I do not hear from you shortly, I will be calling you to confirm you have received this email.” Ten minutes after this lengthy email is sent, you have earned the right to pick up the phone and call. However, the phone call has to be under a guise other than “Hey…got your email. When do ya wanna come in so I can sell you this here car?” Now, I put a twang in that call because that is what I commonly receive while mystery shopping. Priceless. Instead, here is a best practice that I taught my staff at my dealership. The call must be presented as “Hello Mrs./Mr. Customer, my name is (you) and I am with ABC motors. I don’t mean to bother you, but I simply wanted to ensure that you have received the email I sent, answering all of your questions that you inquired about. “Emphasize the last “you” so they realize that they brought this call on themselves and that you are doing them a favor. Continue with “With all of the spam filters out there today, I needed to make sure it landed in your inbox. I’d hate to think that you didn’t get all of your questions answered just because of a mail system.” Whether they have checked or not, once they have acknowledged and understand your unselfish purpose for calling, you can say, “While I have you on the phone, can I ask if you’ve already had the opportunity to test drive this vehicle?” Then follow your normal script/phone structure.
Your initial email has provided them all of the information that they’ve requested. At that point, you have essentially done everything that they have asked of you and more. You gave them a warning shot that alerted them of an impending call. Now, if you receive an email immediately back stating – no call – or anything similar (even if you receive follow up questions), I believe you should continue to use that medium. Email may be their security blanket. Taking that away from them makes you the enemy. Respect their wishes and continue with that medium of communication.
Reaching out to them in the same method in which they contacted you shows your customers respect. We’ve all heard a customer say “if I wanted to talk to someone in person, I would have just called myself.” It’s difficult to talk yourself out of that one. I’ve tried and, more often than not, any potential relationship is shot at that point. So don’t put yourself in that position. Use the customer’s chosen method of communication and only call when you have given them fair warning. Otherwise, you are liable to come off sounding as a telemarketer, or worse, the dreaded car salesperson they were trying to sidestep.
Opening a dialogue on the phone with the customer will forever remain imperative. What is equally important? Knowing the time to call.
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