(This is a reproduction of an article that appeared in Accelerate Magazine in May 2017)
An incoming call to your dealership could represent another step towards your quarterly sales target but as Declan Gaule - co-founder of automotive prospecting specialist MFG – explains, if a potential customer’s call isn’t handled correctly first time then you may never hear from them again.
At The MFG Group we work with hundreds of dealerships across the UK every year so we know how important it is to make sure that every sales lead is followed up and every customer request is answered in a professional and confident manner.
The prospecting challenge
In the majority of cases, our brief is to help sales teams to generate leads from scratch using existing customer data – identifying those people that are in the purchasing sweet spot, warming them up with some marketing communications and then completing the loop with outbound telephone calls.
This is often the part where sales teams struggle.
In our experience, while many sales executives are comfortable dealing with people face to face in the showroom, they often feel daunted by the thought of getting on the phone and calling customers at home or work.
The art of conversation doesn’t flow as naturally when the call comes out of the blue, when the customer is only vaguely aware of your offer or might not even have been considering changing their vehicle in the first place.
As a result, converting a cold lead into a warm appointment and then a profitable sale takes commitment, skill and time.
Don’t ignore the gift horse
Given the effort that goes into this outbound prospecting, you can see why incoming calls from hot prospects are so important. In this situation you really are on the front foot – the customer has done their research, they are in the mood to buy a car and they’ve chosen your dealership ahead of some very stiff competition.
As a result, you need to make sure that their call - be it the first one they make to you or whether it’s another call as part of the ongoing purchase process – exceeds the customer’s expectations.
If your standards fall at any point then they’ll always have somewhere else to go. In fact, with carwow there are four other alternative dealers they can contact straight away.
So, what can you do to improve your chances of turning these calls into cash? Here are five quick wins:
1. Get the process right
You need to have a structured process in place so that people know what to do when a hot prospect calls the showroom. Make sure the phone is answered as quickly as possible and avoid automated answering services (press 1, press 2, etc.) which are often a turn off. Once answered, make sure the reception team knows where to transfer calls and make sure you have a backup plan should the primary dealership contact be unavailable (and maybe another point of contact if the backup is busy too).
The true test of your process is to get someone in the dealership management team to phone in themselves and see what the experience is like. Is everything working seamlessly?
2. Get the people right
One of the biggest errors that dealers make is to put their least experienced sales people on incoming phone duty. Often these people with have little training on how to handle incoming leads and will be less familiar with phone interaction than some of their more experienced counterparts.
Interestingly, while they can probably manage a twitter exchange without breaking sweat, they will often panic on a live call. So, think carefully about your nominated points of contact. Do they have what it takes?
3. Timing is everything
For much of the working population, the best time to make personal calls is during a lunch break – the first chance during the day that people have to down tools and have some time to themselves. This can create an increase in call volumes during the middle of the day.
You might also find that a lot of people discuss personal purchases while they are with partners over the weekend which can increase call numbers early in the week. Make sure your team is available and ready.
4. Be helpful, not pushy
These incoming calls are from prospects who are already keen to buy – so there’s no need to dive straight in and try to close a deal.
Be sure to listen to everything the customer has to say, be ready to discuss alternative options and have all of the information you may need to hand – including stock lists, delivery times and latest offers. A basic script can also help support the flow of a call to ensure all of the key information is captured in an efficient way.
Remember, it’s a good idea to do exactly what you said you would for the customer. You’d be amazed at how rare that can be!
5. Remember to smile
Often it’s not about the cheapest deal, it’s about the best service and people like to buy from people they have made a positive connection with. Even though you are not face to face with a customer, it’s still important to smile when you pick up the phone. This will put you in a positive frame of mind, it will help you start the conversation correctly and is a good way to help you maintain a helpful and warm tone throughout.
Inbound calls from hot prospects are one of the quickest ways for your dealership to turn potential into profit. With the right people, processes and attitudes in place you will enjoy an increase in showroom footfall and more profitable sales.
For more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01308 802 030.