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It’s Impossible For Dealers To Manage Phone Performance Too Aggressively

CRISP principles for using the phone can easily be taught in-house, and their specific goals are really helpful. BY MIKE HAEG

Your dealership has spent a ton of money on marketing. After all, more marketing is supposed to mean more leads, and more leads means your dealership moves metal. With so much going on, you even start to lose track of all the online and print campaigns that your dealership is running. Yet, it never seems like enough.

Then it happens: The phone rings. Repeatedly.

How does your sales team respond when they move from face-to-face interaction to the phone? How do your managers feel about the phone skills among the teams in sales, F&I and elsewhere? How do you feel, knowing the dealership spent the big bucks on advertising designed to drive phone leads, yet quantifying phone performance feels impossible?

Answering To The Phone Master

It’s easy to start feeling like the phone owns you. It’s unfortunately all too common for a dealer to constantly worry about his store’s phone performance. Sure, you know it’s important, but where do you start when trying to get your people better on the phone?

How do you even quantify the entire store’s performance? Maybe your veteran sales agent is killing it on every call, but your new guy has no clue what to do. The truth is, you just really aren’t sure.

This is what we call “Phonxiety.”

Anxiety about the phone leads a surprising number of dealers toward some unnecessary, expensive options. Many general managers think if they blindly throw more money into marketing, they can ignore botched phone opportunities because lead volume is up. When those marketing efforts lead to more calls, the sales team may not be able to handle them. They’ll need phone training to be prepared.

Training doesn’t have to be expensive. It can start today with the CRISP technique, which is composed of the four key points of a call that should lead to a successful appointment: Connect, request and invite, set and pursue. All sales managers should know CRISP and manage their sales team by its principles — the CRISP technique is the best way to be thorough on every phone opportunity. Seventy-seven percent of all calls are from new customers, and if you’re not handling them properly, you’re just not going to get people through the doors.

CRISP Devotion Is Best Practice

The best dealerships follow CRISP principles. Your team and you should set goals for every phone call based on CRISP, and measure growth in terms of how often your sales team implements these tactics. These goals could include having your team dedicate time solely to picking up calls, or using the end of the day to call back customers who were missed. Creating a checklist for every metric also helps define clear goals.

It is vital for the dealership to connect the customer quickly to a friendly agent who is qualified to help (and that means more than just answering the phone!). A lot of shoppers are looking for an excuse to rule dealerships out of their car-buying process. If they can’t even reach a salesperson, they’ll simply call a competitor down the street.

Customers who don’t have to wait long to accomplish their shopping mission are happier and more willing to do business with you. The best dealerships connect callers to someone who can actually help on at least 75% of their calls; anything below 60% and you’re in trouble.

Request the appointment by inviting the caller into the dealership. What’s the point of spending the big bucks on advertising if you don’t ask customers to take a look around the lot? Every single sales call should have an appointment request, no exceptions!

Get That Appointment!

A common tactic for an appointment request would unfold something like this: A customer calls and asks about a specific vehicle. The best practice here is to say, “Let me look that specific vehicle up. If we could find you a similar vehicle that would save you some money, would you be interested in coming in to see it?” This establishes trust with the customer and allows you to subtly request the appointment.

If your team is requesting appointments at least 80 percent of the time, they’re really playing with the big boys, but the ultimate goal is requesting during every call.

Set the appointment for a firm date and time, with clear expectations. It’s important that you know when your customers are visiting so you can give them your undivided attention. Customers who make firm appointments are much more likely to show up; wishy-washy customers are just trying to get your sales guys off the phone.

It’s easy to get stuck with a soft acceptance when a customer agrees to come in “this afternoon” or worse, “sometime later this week.” Don’t accept that from your sales team. Any more than 40 percent soft acceptances, and you’re losing money and time.

Don’t Neglect Outbound Calls

Finally, pursue the missed opportunities that didn’t connect. Everyone makes mistakes, but the highest-performing dealerships don’t let them stay mistakes. Make sure your sales team pursues customers by making outbound calls and reaching out to those interested customers whose needs were not met, such as those who didn’t reach the person for whom they were looking. Many dealerships don’t place as much emphasis on outbound connections over inbound, but the best ones pursue at least 70 percent of missed opportunities.

If you’ve been using the wrong phone processes and don’t know how to properly answer and handle every call, alarm bells should sound: You’re not handling business correctly! Put your efforts where they matter most and educate your team on CRISP.

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Mike Haeg
Mike Haeg
Mike’s company produces the Car Wars automotive call-tracking program. He loves fusing technology with people to help dealerships “own the phone.”

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