“Get on the phones, make appointments!” is one of the most single, dreaded statements to the panicked ears of dealership salespeople. Whenever walk-in traffic dwindles or when dealerships are behind their monthly sales target, Sales Managers print customer lists from the dealership’s database and distribute them with scowls to terrified salespeople. Salespeople are instructed to call and offer new vehicle upgrades for the purpose of acquiring fresh trade-ins and to sell new vehicles. Salespeople scatter in every direction like rats on a sinking ship to avoid the prospect of calling the dealership’s current customers in search of new business; “Oh, I have a delivery”, “Oh, I customer on the way”, “Oh, I have to book my body wax”, “Oh, I have to call my sick auntie”, “Oh, I have to run home and feed my ferret”, “Oh, I have to watch Tiger King”, “Oh, I have to plan my son’s Bar Mitzvah”, “Oh, I have diarrhea”, etc. This scenario plays out on a monthly basis at dealerships across the country.
From inception, Canadian companies like Absolute Results, OTC and others realized that most dealerships were uncomfortable and even unwilling to contact their own previous customers in order to have them buy newer vehicles. Hence, these companies create innovative marketing campaigns with incentives (both digital and print) and contact the dealership’s database of customers by mail, e-mail, text, phone and any and all technologies. In effect, these thriving organizations are now doing the job of their client dealerships and their salespeople.
This begs the question; Why is there so much fear and resistance to making these outbound calls? The reasons are quite simple and fixable.
The distribution of customer lists and the barking of Sales Managers creates the perception that calling customers is a class detention or a trip to the penalty box. Calling customers is often presented as a punishment for sagging sales or the angry reaction of a Sales Manager under pressure.
During the hiring and onboarding process of new salespeople, carefully review your dealership’s showroom and digital sales process and discuss with potential candidates that making outbound phone calls is a positive and productive part of your dealership’s culture – and an expectation. Create a schedule whereby outbound calls are made as a group (Phone Ninja Blitzes) 2 or 3 times per week (or more) at two scheduled intervals per day to accommodate sales team shifts. Create competition by writing down appointments on a large Appointment Board. Have periodic spiffs for MOST APPOINTMENTS or MOST APPOINTMENTS that SHOW, etc. Show as much recognition and enthusiasm for APPOINTMENTS as you do for vehicles sales.
Many salespeople have not been told WHY they are calling current customers; Sales Managers have not “sold” this method of seeking new customers to their teams by positioning outbound phone calls as a high-percentage opportunity to sell more vehicles.
These calls are most often made to our current customers; people that have purchased vehicles from us in the past with most still doing business with us in our Service and Parts departments. Hence, these are not COLD calls; these are WARM calls. At any given time, 20% or more of a dealership’s customer database is willing to purchase a newer vehicle NOW if proactively contacted by the dealership. No doubt, there will be many calls that go unanswered due to busy customer lifestyles or those that are simply unwilling to answer their cell. In these situations, a text accompanied by a 1-minute video (with the current dealer and manufacturer offers) can also be effective. However, dealerships that regularly make outbound phones calls (as a collective team), are often met with friendly, receptive customers. Rarely are people upset by the solicitation if done in a thoughtful and professional manner. And do Phone Ninja Blitzes work? You bet they do! In a recent in-dealership training assignment just weeks ago on the west coast, one of our trainers trained and coordinated Phone Ninja Blitzes. Just 3 hours of well-thought-out calls yielded 28 appointments at a VW dealership, 1.5 hours of calls yielded 16 appointments at a Hyundai dealership and 1.5 hours of calls yielded 48 appointments at a Chrysler dealership. These Phone Ninja Blitzes set in motion an energized sales team and a highly productive week of new and pre-owned vehicle sales.
Regardless of industry experience, many salespeople simply don’t know HOW to make effective outbound phone calls (and their Sales Managers assume they do).
Train salespeople HOW to make effective outbound phone calls. Instead of passing out a one-size-fits-all call script, have Sales Managers sit down with each salesperson and create several call scripts (together) that fit each salesperson’s selling style, personality and comfort level. Role play the calls. Then, sitting at the salesperson’s work station, take turns making outbound phone calls TOGETHER. If your Sales Managers do not have the knowledge, expertise or experience to train this critically important skill, outsource and bring sales trainers right to your dealership showroom to work with your entire sales and leadership team.
Consider the following are talk-points when making outbound phone calls:
“We want YOUR vehicle. The current used vehicle market is like Canada’s housing market – it’s booming and (as a dealership) we are running very low on used vehicle inventory. The best place for us to find high quality used vehicles is with our own customers. Would you consider allowing us to buy your vehicle, and as compensation, we could offer you a brand-new vehicle at an extremely attractive payment? We would begin the process with a NO CHARGE, NO OBLIGATION Certified Appraisal and show you the difference in monthly payments to UPGRADE your vehicle. It’s easy and relaxed. If upgrading your vehicle doesn’t make sense to you based on the numbers, then you continue to drive a great vehicle. If the numbers do make sense, you get beautiful new styling, more features, ever-increasing safety and worry-free driving with a new factory warranty and roadside assistance”. Is this something that you would consider?”
“Since inventory levels of our new vehicles are at record LOWS, we are contacting all of our customers to offer customized factory-orders. The arrival of the factory-order may just be the perfect time for you to exchange your current vehicle.”
“Many of us that have been lucky enough to work through the pandemic have actually saved money. We did not take luxury vacations, spend money of concerts, sporting events, theatres and weddings. We have not been spending as much money at restaurants and bars. We have not been buying clothes, spending money on dry cleaning, business lunches and public transit. As a result, many of our customer are deciding to reward themselves by upgrading their present vehicle. It’s a little retail therapy to reward yourself and celebrate the end the pandemic.”
“According to CAA, the average Canadian spends an average of $1,400 in vehicle maintenance and repairs after the factory warranty expires. This would theoretically increase your current monthly payment by approximately $116 per month. Would you consider allowing us to take back your present vehicle; we could offer you a brand-new 2021/2022 at an extremely attractive payment with new styling, improved safety technology, more state-of-the-art convenience features and a fresh, factory warranty reset back to day one?”
Most salespeople resent being told to perform tasks that their Sales Managers are unwilling to do WITH THEM. This is the single biggest reason why salespeople resist making outbound phone calls.
Sales Managers MUST make calls with their salespeople if they wish this to be a positive and productive activity. Making outbound phone calls can be uncomfortable and awkward for salespeople of all experience levels – as well as Sales Managers. Most salespeople don’t expect perfection in their Sales Managers or have the notion that they are expert at all facets of selling. However, when Sales Managers are willing to make outbounds phone calls with their sales team, this is an act of leadership AND learning. At a recent in-dealership training assignment on the west coast, our sales trainer organized a 1.5-hour Phone Ninja Blitz at 10:00 a.m. The 11 salespeople comprising the morning shift, 2 Sales Managers, the General Sales Manager, the General Manager and the sales trainer all attacked the phones with an appointment target combined with energy and enthusiasm. The salespeople watched their leadership team work the phones with the same intensity and focus as they did. The sales team was energized and proud of their managers. More importantly the appointment results and subsequent vehicles sold were astounding. Leadership is not a title. It is action and example. Hence, don’t tell your salespeople to get on the phones; instead get on the phones WITH THEM!
Chris Schulthies is a National Sales Trainer and Consultant with Toronto-based Wye Management. Wye Management provides sales and management training (showroom and digital) for dealerships, dealer groups, OEMs and industry suppliers in Canada and the U.S.