Train agents to handle sales calls with this mentality and you’ll see a boost in appointment volume and cars sold.
If you missed my last column, I talked about CRISP, a methodology we use at Car Wars to help dealers focus on the four most important metrics of every phone call: Connect, Request and Invite, Set and Pursue. I specifically touched on a mission critical — but easily overlooked — component increasing sales and appointments through the phone: Connect. This one is simple — ensure every inbound caller reaches someone at the dealership who can answer his or her questions.
Once your team has mastered connecting every call, they’re ready for the next CRISP metric: the Request and Invite. Every sale begins at the Request and Invite stage. That’s because the purpose of every phone up is to sell the appointment. I doubt you sell many cars over the phone, so the goal here is inviting every caller to the dealership to see and test drive a vehicle.
Market research reveals a prospect who calls to discuss inventory isn’t shopping around anymore; he or she is buying. That’s good news for you, yet also signals just how important a phone call can be. Take advantage of that reality and get callers into your store so you can do what you do best: sell.
The phone appointment has long been the gold standard for phone success. Managing that, however, is quite tricky. Things get complicated. It feels hard. The important thing is to keep things simple. The only way to put yourself in a position to set an appointment is to simply ask for it.
Let’s see why Request and Invite might not be happening at your store right now, and the steps you can take to fix it.
Ted is a man on a mission. He knows exactly what he wants. He saw it online: a 2017 four-door silver Volkswagen Passat, and knew it would be his. Now he’s curious if the dealership still has it. Salesguy Donnie grabs his contact information and lets him know the vehicle’s price. He also makes sure to use Ted’s name throughout the call. At this point, Ted is begging to know if it’s available on the lot. Donnie ends the call with “Let me go put my hands on the vehicle, and if it’s available, I’ll text you a video of it.”
What went well: It’s excellent Ted got connected to a salesperson who could answer his vehicle-related questions. He’s apparently interested in buying and knows his preferences. He gains some helpful information to move forward (though not too far forward) in his buying journey.
What needed improvement: Every dealership has a guy like Donnie. He sounds assertive, repeats the caller’s name throughout the conversation and seems like he’s always closing deals. However, his fatal flaw lies in his Request and Invite performance. He never asks for the appointment over the phone. That’s unfortunate, as Request and Invite can either make or break your appointment volume.
Furthermore, he told Ted “Let me put my hands on the vehicle, and I’ll call you back.” I come across this all the time, and I don’t like hearing it. When agents say this, they’re unknowingly letting the lead get out of their reach. On top of that, it’s incredibly difficult to get prospects back on the phone; most industry data says it requires eight calls.
In this situation, Donnie should have asked further details regarding what Ted was looking for in case his desired vehicle wasn’t in stock. When someone calls into your store regarding inventory, ask two questions. First: “Let me check on that for you. While I do, what do you like about the car?” Asking this question does a few things for you. It gets callers thinking emotionally and gives you information about what’s important to them in the event you don’t have that inventory piece and need to sell them something else. More importantly, it puts you in a position to ask the critical second question: “Great, that’s a popular model. You’ll love driving it. When would you like to come by and take a look?” Get prospects emotional, then get them booked. Emotion sells cars.
As a manager, you have the power to help your agents improve. If you have a Donnie at your dealership, take action. Don’t let him or her handle any future phone ups until completing some more training. A little training goes a long way, so rather than scolding phone handlers, provide direction on how to best handle appointment opportunity calls.
Customer Betty calls in and instantly reaches Agent John at your dealership. She’s looking to trade in her 2007 truck and gives him the stock number of the new model she wants. John looks it up and finds it’s not available. Betty sounds disappointed, but John perseveres and still invites her in to check out other available units. He then offers a few date and time options that week for her to visit. She declines, and not to be deterred, John asks again, assuring her he can still help her out. She declines again and John apologizes for the dealership not having what she needed. The call ends with another lead lost. Womp womp.
What went well: While John couldn’t force Betty to visit the dealership, he sure did his best to make it happen. He even asked her twice. He’s focused on the importance of Request and Invite, and suggested she check out some other showroom vehicles in the event any pique her interest.
What needed improvement: Did you know more than seven in 10 callers will buy something different than what they initially inquired? With that being said, train agents like John not to get stuck when a customer’s desired vehicle isn’t in stock. This point goes back to The Bad call above. Yes, John offered the invitation, but he should have also asked more questions as to what Betty liked about the truck. He was halfway there; he just needed to remember it’s OK if a specific vehicle isn’t in stock, then be trained on how to best work around it. Since it ended up not being in stock, he needed to ask more vehicle preference questions to get her thinking that another one could interest her. There’s always a way to progress the caller’s buying journey, rather than halt it.
Let’s meet a Request and Invite expert, Alondra:
Interested Isabella chatted with BDC Agent Alondra over Facebook messenger regarding a sedan on the dealership’s Facebook page. Alondra recommended Isabella call to discuss the buying details further. Isabella does and quickly gets connected with Alondra. Since Alondra has been trained extensively to handle sales calls, she knows Isabella’s desired model from front to back and is fully prepared to handle any question or objection. Isabella seems a bit leery about pricing, so Alondra puts what she learned during training into action: never give an exact price over the phone — always a range — and invite the customer into the dealership to assess the vehicle for a trade-in value. “Are you available this week to take a quick tour?” she asks, offering two dates and times for the appointment. Isabella makes her decision and Alondra books the appointment. Nice.
What went well: Based on our data, only 10 percent of prospects decline an appointment request, so Alondra knows how important offering the invitation is on this call (and every call). She even has a sign on her desk that reads: Every call has an appointment request! On top of that, she had been educated on the vehicle and familiar with the proper word tracks to use in order to close the deal and make Isabella feel comfortable. She booked the appointment on the first call and operated with an appointment-driven mindset — this one is crucial. Once you get agents to understand every phone up correlates to sold cars, they’ll have that “Aha!” moment and execute every phone call with that in mind.
What needed improvement: Nothing. This is a great example of how to handle a call where the prospect clearly wants to buy. Don’t waste calls like these and don’t be afraid just to ask “When can you come in?” The worst the caller can say is no. Alondra executed this one with expertise and confidence.
Every sales call should result in a requested appointment, no exceptions. If a prospect is calling you, he or she is no longer just casually shopping; this caller is now in buyer mode. Regardless of whether you think callers will choose your dealership, give them the option to visit and see what your team has to offer. Remember, only 10 percent of callers decline the request; the least your agents can do is ask (I can’t stress that enough). Instilling an appointment-oriented mindset in every agent is possible and straightforward: train them on the metrics that matter, provide phone scripts for different types of calls, supply physical reminders at their desk to Request and Invite, and hold daily meetings to review appointment request performance. What gets measured gets managed.
Do you employ any of the above suggestions to help agents improve on their Request and Invite performance? Do you have a Donnie at your dealership who doesn’t request the appointment, and how did you solve what he or she was doing? Feel free to comment below.