Car sales have changed because car customers have changed.
The key to mastering these phone tips for car salesmen is recognizing that the car market has changed. Specifically, that car customers have changed. They have different needs now, and much higher expectations.
Customers come to dealerships armed with safety ratings, car accident reports, Blue Book estimates, and more. They aren’t really there to hear your sales pitch. In many cases, they’ve already located a car from your online inventory and they’re only there for a test drive.
When a customer calls into your dealership, it’s the same deal. They’ve done their research, they’ve already decided on the make and model they want, what features they need, etc. Odds are, they’re only after specific information about a car in your inventory, or questions about your financing.
Top phone tips for car salesmen.
How you handle customers’ questions and concerns over the phone will determine whether you’ll ever meet them in person on the lot. That’s why we assembled these 15 essential phone tips for car salesmen.
#1. Wear a headset.
Most phones, whether a desk model or a cell phone, come with an option to plug in a headset. Use it. When you’re on the phone with a customer, it helps when you’re free to use your hands. Even though the customer can’t see you, the ability to gesture with your hands can make you more comfortable. You’re also free to use the computer or take notes without awkwardly pinning the phone between your cheek and shoulder.
#2. Know why the customer is calling.
If you’re in sales, then you should only answer calls from customers interested in buying. You shouldn’t tie up your line (and time) directing calls to another department. The right phone system streamlines your call routing so this isn’t an issue. It should also provide callers with recorded messages that deliver the kind of information that’s available on your website, like dealership location and hours. That way your time on the phone is spent effectively, with customers who are looking to talk to a salesperson.
#3. Let the customer hear the smile in your voice.
This isn’t the first place you’ve read this advice. And it won’t be the last. However often you’ve heard this nugget of wisdom, it’s undeniably true. Customers will notice your tone. They’ll know whether you’re smiling. But it’s not the smile that’s so important. A smile is simply the tensing and relaxing of facial muscles. When we say customers hear the smile in your voice, it means they’re gauging your sincerity. Do you really want to be on the phone with them? Are you passionate about your job, or simply passing the time? If you’re not engaged on the phone, then you can bet customers will find another salesperson who is.
#4. Have a script so you don’t have to wing it.
Many salespeople shy away from the word “script”—with good reason. Maybe “guide,” “process,” or “outline” would be better. Whatever word you choose, it helps to have a plan when a customer calls.
Start by listing the types of calls that come in and the questions you typically encounter. Using those, you can draft possible responses and plan how you want the conversation to go. This also helps you know what resources to have on-hand during a call. You can’t control conversations 100 percent because you can never fully anticipate what a customer will do. But having a plan helps you assert some control over the call. Here are a few links to script templates specifically for car salespeople.
#5. Rehearse the script.
The reason salespeople loathe the word “script” is because nothing turns off a customer faster than hearing someone read one at them. So it’s not enough to commit a script or outline to paper. You have to internalize it and make it your own. That way, when the situation fits, you can draw from the script without sounding insincere. To accomplish that, review the scripts in your off-time. It might even help to role play using the scripts with your co-workers.
#6. Get up and move around if you have to.
Standing or walking during a call keeps your energy level up and makes it easier to stay engaged. When you’re sitting during a call, your mind tends to drift. So if you have a headset, use it to stand at your desk or to take a walk. Just make sure you avoid places with a lot of background noise.
#7. Don’t sell cars over the phone.
A dismal record of success has lead to the common dealership refrain: “Don’t sell cars over the phone. Set appointments instead.” It bears repeating: customers on the phone aren’t going to buy a car. They want answers to their questions. If you angle for more than that, you risk losing them.
#8. Collect as much information as possible.
A secondary goal, besides setting an appointment, should be to collect what information you can about the customer. The customer’s name, contact info, what type of car they’re looking for—gather as much as you can. But never turn the call into an interrogation. Take down whatever information naturally comes up during the conversation. As you prepare and practice your scripts, tailor your responses to elicit as much information as possible. Customers may prove reluctant to give up some information, but if you’ve done a good job building rapport and showing sincerity, they’ll respond with trust.
#9. Use the customer’s name during the call.
Once you have his or her name, don’t be afraid to use it. The sound of a person’s name can set him or her at ease. Encourage them to do the same with you. Exchanging names is a natural way to break the ice, build rapport, and set the tone for the rest of the call.
#10. Prioritize listening over talking.
The customer isn’t there to hear you talk. They called so you could hear them out and help where you can. Encourage them to volunteer their thoughts and preferences. Always ask open-ended questions—no “yes/no” questions if you can. Letting customers talk is also a great way to gather information, so give them room to express themselves.
#11. Anticipate and avoid unhelpful questions.
Some questions may come up that you’ll want to avoid, like down payments, monthly payments, interest rates, etc. When a customer wants to talk specifics about money, they’re painting you into a corner. First, it’s hard to settle on financials over the phone. You can’t really answer about those until they’ve come into the dealership and ironed things out. Second, if you do wind up quoting them a price that’s too high or low, you risk either scaring the customer off or just giving them a quote they can use to negotiate with a competitor. The best thing to do is tell them that you can’t really give them a number until they come in.
#12. Leave people on hold too long and you’ll lose them.
Remember: when you have a customer on hold, you’re the one on the clock. Don’t ever keep them waiting too long. You can apologize and blame call volume all you want, but all customers hear is that their business isn’t valued. Set a maximum hold time as a goal, like 30 seconds, and maintain it as best you can. Perhaps set up a competition in the dealership to see who keeps their customer on hold the least.
#13. Schedule an appointment.
Your goal should be to set an appointment for the customer to come in and look at cars. Give the customer a few times to choose from. Set a specific time, date, and perhaps even a place in the dealership where you’ll meet them.
#14. Confirm the appointment.
Double check with the customer about your appointment. If possible, have them repeat back to you when they’re planning on coming by.
#15. Give your no-shows a classy follow up call.
After going to all the trouble to win a customer’s trust, build rapport, and set an appointment—what happens if they don’t show?
The temptation to call them up and chew them out is hard to resist. Don’t burn any bridges, though. Call them back and show class and zero judgement. Tell them you’re sorry you missed them, but the dealership was just so busy with this cool deal you have going on. This gives the customer a chance to admit that he or she simply didn’t come. You can then respond with, “I’m glad I didn’t miss you!” This leaves you an opening to still work with the customer, even after they stood you up.
Effective phone strategies will only take you so far.
The right phone strategy allows you to really wow customers and win their trust. But these basic phone tips for car salesmen will only take you so far. It also helps to have the right phone system in place. Download our ebook to learn how a Hosted VoIP phone system can raise your dealership to new heights.