By Mariana Castillo, marketing specialist at Callbox
Ask any dealer — the optimal outcome of a prospective buyer calling your dealership is an appointment set to come into the dealership for a test drive. However, not all appointments are created equal. Let’s dig deeper into the different appointment types: soft appointments and firm appointments.
A soft appointment does not lock in a specific date and time for the visit. For instance, the customer may say, “I will stop by the dealership sometime tomorrow for a test drive” or “Let me talk with my spouse and we will come in this weekend.” These soft appointments don’t instill accountability and lack commitment.
On the other hand, firm appointments include an agreed upon, specific date and time. For example, an appointment on Saturday at 3:45 p.m. is considered firm. A firm appointment creates accountability for the customer to show up.
Did you know that the difference in show rates between these two appointment types is shocking? Studies indicate that only 25% of soft appointments will actually show up, while 75% of firm appointments will. Think about those odds: One out of every four customers you invite to the dealership will show for soft appointments, while three out of four will show for firm appointments.
Inviting customers into the dealership is only valuable if they actually show up. While extending an invitation is a great first step, it’s how you go about inviting prospective buyers to stop by that determines show rate.
Let’s talk about a few strategies to become an appointment-setting machine and improve your show rate:
- Leverage the Whittle & Shepard Technique: When inviting a customer into the dealership, start with broad questions and work your way to a firm date and time. Asking a prospect to come in “sometime this week” will only end with false promises. Set a firm date and time so they feel more inclined to show up. For example:
Does today or tomorrow work better? Tomorrow.
Great. Morning or afternoon? Afternoon.
I have a 3:15 or a 4:45 available, which one works best for you? 4:45.
Offering time and date options makes your prospects feel as though they’ve already agreed to the appointment and will naturally choose between the two. Furthermore, get those specific times written down and remind your prospects of their appointment in an email immediately after hanging up. This leaves less room for surprise cancellations or forgetfulness on either side.
- Paint the Picture: Once you agree on a firm appointment with the customer, go the extra step by painting the picture for what the customer can expect when he or she arrives at your dealership.
Walking into a car dealership is an everyday occurrence for you. It’s familiar and comfortable. For your customer, however, it’s a fairly unique scenario. The average person purchases a vehicle once every five to six years. That’s not often enough for them to become comfortable with the car-buying process.
The more comfortable you can make a customer walking into your showroom, the more likely he or she is to choose to do business with your dealership. For example, let the customer know where to park and what to do upon arrival — “Park by the flagpole out front and walk through the main entrance. You’ll be greeted by Sandy, our receptionist. Tell her you’re there to see me, Mark, and I’ll have your vehicle ready to test drive.”
- Offer a Tentative Appointment: Despite your best effort with the strategies we just discussed, there will be times when a customer simply can’t or won’t commit to a specific time. When the customer remains on the fence, the next best move is to offer a tentative appointment and ask him or her to contact you if that time doesn’t work. A tentative appointment still implies personal responsibility on the customer’s part to let you know if he or she won’t be able to make it. “I understand you have a busy Saturday and can’t commit to a specific time yet. I’m going to pencil you in for 11:00 a.m. so that I make sure I’m available for you. Just give me a call if that’s not going to work out.”
Remember, most agents don’t need more leads; they need to handle the leads they have more effectively. Having agents who recognize the importance of creating firm appointments helps you capture more of the opportunities you’re already driving to your dealership. Furthermore, effectively setting appointments is a critical first step in providing customers a top-notch experience.