5 Ways to Build Rapport Over the Phone


Smart dealers constantly look to improve show rates and closing percentages — website redesigns, huge direct mail campaigns, big gorillas on the roof and a whole lot more. One secret may be a whole lot simpler.

Emotion. The key is to build emotion with your prospect when he or she calls your store.

There are five things you can do on every sales call to emotionally engage your caller with the vehicle and dealership.

  • Quickly connect callers to someone who can help

If you’re only answering every call, you’re doing it wrong. Your answer rate does not equal your connect rate. Make sure to connect the customer to someone who can actually help with his or her questions. A fast connection gives your caller a positive emotional experience because it shows you care. It shows your dealership is ready to help. Any friction during the call leads to an edgier prospect who will call your competitor down the street.

Here are three ideas to connect calls fast and ensure a quick positive first impression:

  • Set up a bridge/phone tree to get calls where they need to go fast.
  • Instill warm transfer procedures to ensure fewer callers are casually sent to voicemail.
  • Establish a “How can I help you mentality?” Every phone handler should know every phone call is important.

Connection is a quiet area with big impact on your customer’s emotions. It may cost an upwards of $400 to make the phone ring. How much is it worth to you to provide a great first experience?

  1. Watch your tone

We’ve all heard that painful phone greeting from a dealership employee. You know what I’m talking about. The salesperson who begrudgingly answers, coughs, and mumbles, “This is Bob in sales….”

Take a second to think about your current attitude toward the phones. Think about the attitude of those around you. Each phone call must start with a helpful, welcoming mentality. That quickly increases the positive emotion a caller will have toward your dealership.

After reading this, pick up the next call with a smile. Heck, even place a mirror on your desk to be sure. Say your name clearly. Say the dealership’s name clearly. These are simple tactics to get the caller into the showroom.

  1. Tap into emotion

Rather than focusing only on the car’s features, focus on the buyer’s emotions. Assure the caller you’ll take outstanding care of him or her and help find the perfect car. Then, ask one simple question:

  • While I’m checking on that model’s availability, what do you like about the car?

This question is critical. It gets the caller thinking emotionally. It will provide you context about his or her needs and wants. Most importantly, it can help you provide helpful recommendations for other makes and/or models that may meet the caller’s needs.

  1.  Guide the caller toward a visit

Once the caller has agreed to visit for a test drive, execute the “Whittle and Shepherd” technique. This is where you offer two appointment dates and times.

Great, Susie, I’m excited for you to come check out the car! When works better for you? Morning or afternoon?

The morning works best? Which is better — 10:15 or 11:45?

We know callers are more likely to set a firm appointment through the Whittle and Shepherd technique. Of course, that means they are much more likely to actually show up as well. Leading the prospect to a firm appointment means more emotional investment in visiting your dealership.

  1. Ease the caller’s fears about car shopping

Buying a car is scary. It’s a big purchase. There are a ton of options. It seems daunting.  Unfortunately, stereotypes might influence the modern car shopper, too.

It’s important to ease concerns and set visit expectations. State exactly where you’re located and what it’ll be like to visit the dealership.

“We’re located at the corner of Main and Apple, right next to the giant Sam’s Club. You can’t miss it. Susie, when you’re here Friday at 10:15 a.m., park by the flagpole at the front entrance. I’ll be at the front door with a bottled water for you. We’ll then head to the showroom to look at the model. After that, you’ll drive it for 20 minutes to get a feel for how it rides and your comfortability in it.”

Good news — I have two freebies for you to keep the rapport going beyond the first call and to help close the deal:

  1. Have a manager make a follow up call to confirm the appointment. Do you like when your dentist does this? Yes. Do the same for your customers.

2. Meet expectations upon arrival. People get bummed when they expect a certain experience and receive something else. Go above and beyond to take how you made him or her feel on the phone and turn that into a reality at the dealership.