While training a 13-store dealer group this week, I had the pleasure of meeting a salesperson and manager who assured me they were tip-top at taking sales calls. I was ecstatic. It isn’t everyday you’re brought in to advance dealerships in need of Internet and phone help and immediately run into someone that has such confidence in their expertise that it would (if I believed them) eliminate their need for any training. How wonderful. (I hope you can sense the sarcasm)
Just in case they were being overconfident, I had the Internet Director pull a recorded example of this individual taking a sales call. The first one we found, we played for the group. Over the next 16 minutes…(that’s right, 16 minutes!) we listened to this true sales professional get straight up manhandled by a customer. Over the quarter hour, this product expert at the dealership answered no less than 40 questions for this customer. He did eventually take the initiative to invite the customer in (at 12 minutes 46 seconds into the call), but the damage was done. He had proven himself not to be a salesperson, but more suited to work the information kiosk at a mall. No appointment was made. An utter waste of time.
Sales calls are vitally important to the profitability of your dealership. Call handling requires structure, dedication, word tracks, and skill to remain in control of the conversation and go for the appointment every time, before giving away too much. And while we live in an age of transparency, I think we all can agree that it is just as important to ask questions of the customers on the phone than it is to answer them.
As a dealership training firm, much of our time is spent reviewing how well sales and Internet teams handle their sales calls and e-leads. One specific trend keeps reoccurring over and over. Today’s dealership salespeople are answering machines. A sales call comes in, a salesperson picks it up, and spends minute after minute allowing the customer to remain in charge of the call, ask all the questions, and get what they need with little asked of them in return. Salespeople think it necessary to prove just how much they know about the vehicle in question so they over-educate the caller. They get into conversations about towing capacity, trim levels, option packages, pricing, how financing works, then back to different build packages. It amazes me how salespeople feel all of this is necessary to occur on a phone call. It usually isn’t.
Listen to your recorded sales calls. Are your people trying to overeducate every caller? Are they giving away too much to the prospect with little in return. Do your salespeople honestly believe that the customer gets off the phone and says “That fella seemed to know a lot about the horsepower of that model. I’ll make sure to work with them.” If they do think that is occurring, they’re idiots and shouldn’t be allowed to touch calls at all.
I’ve said before that we need to educate our customers instead of always selling to them, but there is a time and place for everything. Sure, you should always hope your team is building rapport, serving the customers, and starting a relationship, but attempting to answer every single question from a caller isn’t relationship-building. It’s the action of a clerk. A phone call should never turn into a college course on how vehicles are built. It is an opportunity to schedule an appointment. Nothing more.
Urge your personal to stop being answering machines and start asking the questions. It might be the only way they get any playback. And to the salesperson that conceded he could use some assistance on phone handling after the embarrassing display in front of his coworkers… thank you for admitting you need help. Acceptance is the first step to improving.