If sales phone calls are not handled properly at the average dealership, then say good-bye to 30-50 deals a month. Ouch!

During my days on the sales floor, I sold many cars over the phone. I had no trick to it other than building a relationship with the customer on the phone.

Get to know the person, then close. This usually took me several calls over two hours. Then I'd get them to the dealership to see our cars. Or in some cases I would go for the close on the phone.

My manager would ask me where I got this customer. I would tell him from a phone call. The customer was looking for a new van, and I asked for the order over the phone.

The customer was price comparing, so I asked the customer if they ever purchased a new vehicle over the phone. If the person said no, I'd ask if we could come to an agreeable figure on the phone.

If they said yes to that, I'd work the deal as if the customer was sitting right in front of me. I'd ask if they had a major credit card. If they did, I'd ask if they could put $500 on it, and if we could then agree on a number. I would get the card number first then start negotiating. If they did not have a credit card, I would not work the deal. I would get an appointment.

This does not work every time but if you handle the sales call professionally and build some rapport with phone customers, they will do one of two things: One, they will come to your dealership and ask for you. Two, they might even purchase over the phone.

If you owned a company or let's say a car dealership would your incoming sales calls or inquires be important to your overall monthly sales?

Would you like to know how many sales calls were coming in per day per month? Would you want your best people handling these calls? Is there any reason to have your best people handling these calls? How many advertising dollars are you spending to get your phone to ring?

How much are sales calls worth to the sales person and dealership?

Incoming sales calls at the dealership are worth three to five monthly sales for each salesperson. If they are not received properly, the salesperson and dealership can scratch these sales every month.

The telephone sales call is worth a minimum of $7,000 plus income a year for every salesperson.

These sales calls are worth a minimum of $350,000 per year plus for the average dealership.

If sales phone calls are not handled properly at the average dealership, then say good-bye to 30-50 deals a month. Ouch!

So for the sake of yourself and the sales team if you cannot build a relationship with the customer on the phone, if you can't give and get information, if you can't get the customer's name, telephone number, appointment, and if they do not have your name written down, do not take sales calls — until you know how to do it right!

Here's a step-by-step track on handling incoming sales calls:

This may sound like a long spiel, but practice and follow it, and you will see an increase in your appointments and sales.

  1. SMILE! When you pick up the phone, it's for your benefit. The caller will hear it in your voice.

    “Thank you for calling ABC motors. My name is Darin George (first and last name always). And your name is…? And your last name is…?”

    Qualify the customer the exact same way you would if they were on the dealership lot.

  2. “Is this the first time you have called our dealership?”

    Why ask? This question determines if the customer has been dealing with another sales representative, and how they heard about the dealership.

  3. “Did you know that our dealership is having a sale on…?”

    A point of interest about your dealership is always helpful in building credibility. If you are having a special or sale, tell the customer about it.

  4. “So what feature do you want in your new vehicle (don't pause) new or used, two-door or four-door, truck, mini-van, 4 × 4, sports utility, automatic or manual transmission, four-, six- or eight-cylinder engine, air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette or CD player, power windows and locks, sunroof, cloth or leather interior, your color preference dark or light …?

  5. “What do you have in your present vehicle that you want in your new one?”

  6. “Is the vehicle for business, pleasure or family use?”

  7. “How many miles do you drive per month, approximately?”

  8. “Who will be the main driver of the vehicle?”

  9. “Would you be selling us your present vehicle?”

  10. “What type of monthly budget are you looking at?”

  11. “You do not have to get the vehicle today, do you?”

    You ask this to find out where the customer is in the buy cycle, and to relax them. It's reverse psychology.

  12. “Great! Let me check what I have now, as well as what I have coming in the next few days. That will take about 10-15 minutes. Are you calling from home or work? Your number there is…?” (This is how you get the phone number professionally.)

  13. “How do you spell your last name?”

  14. “Great, Mr. Customer, I'm looking over my list of vehicles available. When would you be available, this afternoon or tonight? Good, let's make it…”

  15. “Do you have a pencil and paper? Write this down, D-a-r-i-n G-e-o-r-g-e (spell out your name, do not say it). “OK! Mr. Customer, I'll call you back in 10 to 15 minutes.”

    End the call, and then call them back immediately. This will verify the phone number and show your interest in the customer.

  16. When you call them back, say, “Mr. Customer, I just wanted to know if (refer any option on the car, color, stereo etc…) would be OK?”

  17. You have to call the customer back a second time, approximately 20-30 minutes after the first call back.

    Tell them: “Mr. Customer I have a few vehicles for you to look at, is today at 2:30 OK with you?”

By calling them back several times you are showing them you are really working for them. Almost every other dealership they have called probably never called them back. One of the biggest complaints from consumers regarding calling the sales department of a dealership is that the sales person never called them back.

Have self-control on the phone and be prepared to deal with a customer who's just looking for the best price. Follow this telephone strategy and you will see an increase in your phone sales.

Wrap up

I know this track seems long, but the only way to practice is the hard and long way. Practice this with another sales person, your spouse, or your sales manager. You will see an improvement.

Building rapport over the telephone increases your chance of the customer coming to your dealership or even doing the deal over the phone. Think of your sales calls as Internet dating, a friends' chat line, or how you would talk with your best friend on the phone. Keep your shoulders square, slow down your back swing and keep your head down.

Darin B. George runs the Automotive Sales College that trains new and experienced sales people. He also conducts sales seminars for dealerships and manufacturers. The college is looking for trainers and dealership facilitators. He's at 1-888-681-7355 and ascanada@sprint.ca.