Recently, I wrote an article, “Back to Basics,” about the need for salespeople to refocus attention on their phone interactions with customers. After listening to actual calls, mostly inbound, it was apparent that this important part of the sales process had taken a back seat, costing sales. In my opinion, the inbound call is easier to handle than outbound since most customers call after becoming familiar with your web site and online inventory. With outbound calls you typically speak with customers in varying stages of the shopping process.
Handling the phone call properly to secure the appointment, leading to the sale, is the summit of the mountain. With that said, I’d like to provide some direction in managing the phone call with the customer. And yes, there is a big difference between managing the conversation and just being part of one.
Having a plan and practicing makes it easier to quickly gain confidence on the phone. I’ll summarize a logical flow to the call and with practice it will quickly allow you take control of the conversation.
I’m certainly aware that no two calls are alike, but again, having a game plan will allow you to manage the conversation and engage the customer.
1. Start with a warm, professional greeting
Enthusiasm and personality go a long way in drawing customers into a conversation. With outbound calls, a good way to “take the curse off the call” is to introduce yourself, acknowledge receipt of their “request for information” (calling it a lead immediately implies you will attempt to sell them, making the customer defensive) and confirm that you responded to their e-mail. Regardless of whether they have seen your e-mail response, it confirms that you acknowledge their preferred method of contact. Next, tell them you are simply following-up to make sure they received your e-mail and you are available to answer questions.
It’s important you follow-up with this open-ended question:
“Some of my customers prefer to tell me what they hope to accomplish, others prefer to have me share how we can be of great benefit to them – where would you prefer to start?”
What you will find is that by giving them a choice and allowing them to control this early conversation many will openly and comfortably engage in conversation.
This might be the most important part of the conversation as you learn the buying motivations of your customer. Clarify the information they have provided and using open-ended questions seek to understand what they hope to accomplish.
Example: “I have some basic information here (customer’s name), but so I can better understand could you confirm:
- Review vehicle they have requested information regarding
- Review possible trade information
- Provide overview of dealership trade process (if applicable) and how it benefits the customer
- Ask additional open-ended questions
3. Review and summarize the conversation
Simply summarize what you have learned to make sure you and the customer are on the same page.
Example: “(Customer’s name), thank you for sharing the information with me. I have a much better idea of what you’re hoping to accomplish. Based on what we discussed, the way I understand it is…” (Repeat a summary of all you learned in the “discovery” process).
“Is that what we need to accomplish in order to move forward?”
4. Provide broad, solution based information
This is where salespeople instinctively tend to sell the car rather than the reason to visit the dealership. The likelihood of sale is much higher if the customer visits, of course, there are exceptions and customers will purchase over the phone. Your best bet is to provide broad options. Again, there will always be exceptions for the customers who know exactly what they want and in these cases you must deliver or risk losing the customer by withholding information.
Example: “(Customer’s name), in addition to specializing in working with Internet customers, like yourself, and delivering the simplest buying process, I also have a thorough understanding of how to help you enjoy your new vehicle, while saving you money. You’ll get the right car and should you be considering making monthly payments I’ll work with you to explore options that provide the right terms for you. I recently helped others in a similar situation and they had no idea there was so much flexibility in helping them get their car at their budget. I’ll be more than happy to do the same for you.”
5. Transition to set appointment for dealership visit
Of course the desired result is to schedule an appointment for a dealership visit, but providing choices allows the customer to decide and either way you move closer to a sale.
Example: “(Customer’s name), to begin saving you time and money we can move forward one of two ways:
- You can provide me with a bit of detailed information so I can begin exploring financing options for you.
- Or we can set aside time for you to visit. I’ll be waiting for you with specific options or a specific car and our time together will provide all the answers so you can decide how you might like to proceed.
(Customer’s name), how would you prefer to proceed?”