I'm nervous when I hear sales or business-development people use 20-year old word tracks on the telephone with customers.
Sure, the basics haven't changed, but what has changed is the communication process. If we're still saying the same things we said many years ago, we are probably offending, angering or at least frustrating many of our best prospects.
Because so much of our current success hinges on how well we communicate with people on the phone, it is imperative to update our word tracks and appeal to current customer sensibilities. This is especially true when you consider that a rep's job is to straddle the fine line between giving too much and too little information on the phone.
Both Sales and BDC Reps are told to sell the sizzle (appointment) on the phone — not the steak (vehicle).
If you are speaking on the phone at length about pricing, payments, and trade values, then you are trying to sell steak.
If you are creating urgency and selling value in yourself, the dealership and available products, then you are selling sizzle. Appointments scheduled in this regard are more likely to show up.
But as we try to sell the sizzle, a question or objection may come up that can quickly derail the phone call. For instance, reps have historically said the same thing when asked this question by a phone up:
Customer: “How much will you give me for my trade in?”
Rep: “We can't appraise your vehicle over the phone, so we won't give you a specific number. You must bring it in and have our used-car manager look at it. When do you want to do that?”
Most customers fight setting up the appointment because of the response to their trade-in inquiries. They aren't in a rush to come in when they hear, “We can't…We won't…You must…” We are telling the customer they must conform to the way we do business.
Of course, giving the customer a value for their trade is risky business, too. We can offend them by guessing too low or we can get into a trick bag by quoting too high of a number that the dealership can't honor when the vehicle is properly appraised at the store.
So how do we appeal to the customer's sensibilities without putting ourselves in an awkward position?
By using specific words and phrases, paying attention to our cadence and inflection and having a deeper understanding of what customers respond favorably to. Consider the following exchange:
Customer: “How much is my trade in worth?”
Rep: “Are you looking for fair market value or top dollar?”
Customer: “Top dollar!” (Because of their conditioning, customers always give the response that enables us to close on an appointment!)
Rep: “Great! When would be a good time for you to bring the vehicle in so our experts can provide you with that information? Would today or tonight be better?”
One third of the customers will close right then because it is different from anything they have ever heard before. Two thirds will say:
Customer: “Just give me a ball park; I won't hold you to it.”
Rep: “Mr./Ms. Customer, please allow me to ask you a question: Would you buy a used car, sight unseen, over the phone, from someone you've never met?”
Customer: “Of course not!”
Rep: I agree, but that is kind of what you are asking me to do. When is a good time to stop by and get all the money for your vehicle — today or tonight?”
Another third will close right then. The last third will say:
Customer: “I'm not coming in unless you give me a figure!”
Rep: “I understand now that trade value is important to you. In fact, I can direct you to the website that will give you an idea of what wholesale, or average value, is for your vehicle. But you probably won't settle for wholesale value, right?”
Rep: “Then I'll assume your vehicle is in great shape, and if it is, when would be a good time to stop in and allow us to give you maximum or above market value for your trade in — would today or tonight be more convenient?”
Will it work 100% of the time? Of course not. Nothing does. You have to know when to touch base with a manager and get help.
Put this scenario in front of your team and see how they respond. Hopefully, they have lost those old word tracks and are paying closer attention to what they say and how they say it to today's consumers.
Tom O'Connor is President of Precision Training, Inc. and is a facilitator for Harley-Davidson University. He can be reached at [email protected] or 630-212-6925.
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