Don’t Let Bad Phone Habits Disconnect Your Customers


It’s well known that one the quickest ways to increase sales is to improve on the phone.  The opportunity becomes more obvious as the volume of phone calls to businesses skyrockets.  More mobile shopping, more targeted marketing, more car shoppers than ever before. This means more calls and more competition.

Before you decide to tackle this poisonous leak at your store, there are some deep rooted truths associated with the phone.  These truths are worth examining:

There are plenty of shiny objects that vendors are desperate to install at your dealership.  The phone isn’t a shiny object. It’s not flashy or sexy. Don’t fall for a “Get rich quick!” Mindset.

The phone requires discipline and fundamentals.  It’s about blocking and tackling, not one-handed catches in the end zone.

There are, however, some activities and areas that will quickly have a positive impact on your bottom line.  The challenge is sustaining these tomorrow, next month, and next year.

Dealership consolidation and professional investors are making the competition even stronger.

Dealers who do not improve their core phone processes will fall behind.  It’s not too late, but you must act fast.  

Be CRISPphone

The best mindset to attack and sustain healthy phone processes is to be CRISP. The tenants of CRISP are simple. They work. That doesn’t mean being CRISP is easy though.  Remember, this is about hard stuff like blocking and tackling.  

Connect more calls

The C in CRISP stands for Connecting phone calls. Most importantly, connecting calls to someone who can actually help the prospect. It’s a given that a receptionist will answer when the phone rings.  That’s good, but not the whole story. The problem rests in the post-pick up process.

Many dealers only connect inbound calls to a qualified agent 50-60% of time.  Out of 100 sales leads, 40-50 may never even speak with someone who can help. That’s half the business!   These shoppers are left stranded and unhappy. The worst part? They are calling your competition.

The reasons for stranded call aren’t surprising but still make you cringe: Hang ups on while hold, bouncing between departments, voicemails, and scribbled messages left on post-it notes.

Dealerships who focus on connecting more calls to qualified agents see a bump in total leads.  They do more with the hard earned and expensive shoppers already knocking on their door. This means more appointments, sales, and market share.  Customers are more satisfied with their sales experience and willing to refer friends and family.

Request and Invite the prospect

The R and I in CRISP stands for Requesting and Inviting prospects.  If the phone is a tool, it’s purpose is to ensure prospects visit your dealership in person.  Every phone lead should receive a request to meet in person to see why buying from you is the only possible course of action.

The huge value in requesting more appointments is a sheer numbers game.  Right now, the average dealership invites a prospect for an appointment on only 44% of sales opportunities. Out of 100 hot sales leads, 56 are not even offered the privilege of visiting a dealership in person.  What if that same dealership offered just 30 more appointments in a week? It’s fair to say they would see a healthy bump in appointments without increasing marketing costs or adding personnel.

Everyone knows that appointment invites are critical, yet training is rarely built into the phone culture of dealerships.  Managers get busy. End of month is here before we know it. Top performing dealerships see this appointment leak address it daily.  Try this: Tape a piece of paper to each telephone in the sales department The paper should simply say “Every sales call has an appointment request.”  Phone handlers will see this paper as a reminder to invite the prospect!

Set firm appointments

When more prospects are invited in, more appointments can be set with a firm date and time.  The S in CRISP stands for Setting firm appointments. Imagine these two unique conversations: One that ends with a prospect politely agreeing to “maybe come in this weekend.” The other conversation ends with a prospect confirming a visit at 6:15 on Tuesday.  Without a doubt, the second option offers a much better chance of selling a car.

For years the industry has utilized specific phone skills to set more firm appointments.  A salesperson should offer two appointments times. They should assure a prospect that they will help find the perfect car.  The prospect should write down the appointment time on a piece of paper. These are important techniques but nothing matters without management buy in.

Dealer principals, general managers, and sales managers are responsible for creating an appointment driven culture.  Every sales meeting must include training specific to setting a firm appointment. Phone appointments should be tracked and celebrated.   Top performers should handle more sales calls. This fundamental change in how dealership management views the phone will have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Outbound Pursuit of opportunities 

Every inbound phone up is critical.  However, dealerships will lose market share without a healthy outbound process.  The P is CRISP stands for Pursue and guides dealerships toward a system that places calls to the best possible prospects.  These warm prospects are often hidden away in CRM. It’s the AutoTrader lead who wasn’t offered an appointment or the website sales call who softly agreed to stop by.  Outbound pursuit of this low hanging fruit should be done quickly and if possible, by a manager. Politely greet the caller with a reminder that your store can find a vehicle to meet their needs.  Reengage their desires and give them the chance to meet you, the manager, in person. Shoppers appreciate the personal attention and can be intercepted before visiting another store.

The best performing dealerships also realize the huge difference between simply dialing the phone and actually having a live conversation.  At a typical dealership, 100 outbound calls will only result in 5-10 live conversations with the prospect. A CRISP dealer aims to better their pursuit by increasing the total count of actual live conversations.   Imagine the same number of salespeople making the amount of calls, but engaging more prospects in conversation. This uptick creates more efficiency and output to the bottom line.

The Road is Long but Paved with Gold

If the phone were easy, any dealership could master it.  Instead, it’s a long play that requires disciple and deliberate attention.  Stop letting phone leads trickle out the back door and down the street to your competition.  Buckle down and focus on being CRISP. No one said it would be easy, just worth it.