Inventory and chip shortages have been a hot topic the past couple of years. While it has been hard to overcome and dealers have had to get creative on ways to retain customers, we know the inventory crisis isn’t going to last forever. Dealers have fallen off their A game as selling cars hasn’t been the challenge. It’s easy to sit back and relax while the cars on your lot are selling quickly. It’s inevitable that the tides will turn, inventory will return and dealers will once again face fierce competition. Top dealers are preparing today and investing their time, energy and resources so they don’t get caught tomorrow.
Take a step back and go back to the basics of accountability and phone processes that got the automotive industry to where it is today – one of the largest and most successful industries in the world. Prepare your dealership by sharpening up on these four processes before the tides turn.
Implementing a warm transfer process will quickly and efficiently get every customer ear-to-ear with the right party. Warm transfers remove the frustration of customers repeating their inquiries to multiple people and ensure customers aren’t left stranded in voicemail. Many opportunities are missed when customers hang up on hold without leaving a voicemail or even leave a message in an unattended voicemail. In fact, 41% of calls to dealerships in 2021 were not connected to someone who could help. Warm transfers allow you to set expectations with the customer about placing them on hold while you ensure the requested party is available. If the requested party is not available, it is your job to assist the customer in any way you can. For any remaining questions, send the caller to a manager. After three rings of a manager not answering, now you can take a message. Be sure to always follow up with the customer to create a positive customer experience that will keep them choosing you as their dealership. As the tides change, customer retention will become even more valuable. Try setting these cards at your sales agents’ desks as a reminder!
Soft Phone Skills
Soft phone skills are easily overlooked, especially when cars are selling on their own, but small changes in verbiage go a long way in how your dealership is perceived over the phone. A phone call is the customer’s first interaction with your dealership, so it is vital they have a good first impression. Soft phone skills ensure you are giving off positive sentiment and best practices may be:
- Smiling on the phone
- Sharpen up on sales agents’ greetings. Instead of answering the phone with “Hello?” have each agent add a personal touch like, “Good morning! This is Steve with ABC Ford. How can I help you?”
- Note the customer’s name and repeat it throughout the conversation.
- Set clear expectations for the customer’s visit. That may look like providing instructions, such as, “Park out by the flagpole and Maggie, our receptionist, will be at the front desk ready to greet you. Ask for Tony, and I’ll have the car parked out front ready for you to test drive!”
- Asking questions about their needs and relating to them when possible. For example, if they have two kids and you have three, you can understand needing a bench row!
Overcoming Objections: Whittle and Shepard Technique
Converting a customer’s call into a booked firm appointment can be a difficult task. Customers will always have objections. When a potential buyer is having a difficult time picking a firm time and date to come in for a test drive, utilize the “whittle and shepherd” technique. This technique entails sales agents asking A/B questions to narrow down a firm appointment and avoid the customer needing to mentally shuffle through their schedule. That conversation will look like:
Sales Agent: “Does earlier or later in the week work better for you?”
Sales Agent: “Great! Are mornings or afternoons better?”
Sales Agent: “No problem. How does 3:15pm or 4:30pm work for you on Monday?”
Customers who agree to a firm appointment versus a soft appointment (i.e. I’ll stop by this weekend) are 75% more likely to show up!
The importance of making outbound calls has faded the past few years while there are limited cars to sell. Dealers haven’t felt the need to follow up on missed calls, confirm soft appointments or proactively notify interested buyers of newly available inventory since every car that arrives flies off the lot. Sharpen up on outbound accountability at your dealership. One type of outbound call that should always be made is quickly following up on missed opportunities. It’s easy to let strong leads fall through the cracks, so make it a habit to set time each day to call back every missed sales opportunity before they are at your competitor’s door. Whether it’s an outbound call to someone who called after hours or someone who hung up dissatisfied with their experience, outbound calls will only benefit you. As inventory grows and competition is on fire, your team will be prepared to pick up the phones and sell.
Don’t be one of the dealerships that has been in hiding and left unprepared when the tides change. Polish up on your warm transfers, soft phone skills, objection handling and outbound accountability to prepare your team for success. Sharpening up on your phone handling processes now will elevate your dealership’s bottom line long-term and provide an outstanding customer buying journey.
To learn more about how Car Wars is helping thousands of dealerships sharpen their phone handling processes to prepare for the challenges ahead, visit https://carwars.com/home/.