Dealerships need to manage to the right metrics and be smart with technology to maximize phone success. BY MIKE HAEG
It’s 2 p.m. on a typical Tuesday. Unfortunately, the weekend sales numbers weren’t great and now it feels like a ghost town around the dealership. Foot traffic is light. Inbound phone calls are slim. There’s no buzz of sales energy; the atmosphere is dead. Yikes, it’s one of those afternoons when it’s quiet … too quiet.
I bet this scenario sounds familiar. Every dealership goes through a lull here and there. However, great dealerships fight through the periods of downtime and keep them from compounding. They create their own opportunities and develop a culture of action, not reaction. Slow-moving Tuesdays are when they kick it up a notch and have their people hit the phones.
Great dealerships own the phone in one area where others fall prey to apathy and laziness: Outbound sales calls.
What makes a great outbound-calling culture? In my opinion, it takes a simple infusion of leadership, technology and the right metrics to empower managers to hold their teams accountable, encourage the right activities and stay confident in their people’s efficiency.
Managing To The Right Metric
Traditional thinking in our business holds that a “smile and dial” mentality is what matters most when it comes to outbound calling efforts. In other words, the more outbound calls, the better. Salespeople just need to hit the phones as hard and often as possible.
It’s a numbers game, with total outbound calls being the Holy Grail. If a dealership is managing its outbound processes at all, it more likely than not abides by the simple metric of total outbound calls placed in a day or week. For example, Salesman Steve would be expected to make 25 calls today or 125 calls in a week.
To get your outbound-calling culture off the ground, “smile and dial” isn’t a terrible mindset. In fact, it’s better than nothing. What that approach fails to do, however, is encourage tracking the metric that matters most on an outbound sales call: Executing an actual, live conversation with your prospect.
In reality, a mere 12 percent to 14 percent of outbound calls actually reach an intended prospect and lead to a live conversation. The vast majority of outbound calls are greeted by voice mail, non-stop ringing, spouses or receptionists. Even worse are the fake outbound calls that conniving salespeople place to say, a CVS Pharmacy to rack up their call counts.
Ultimately, would you rather a salesperson have 15 actual live conversations with prospects in a day or simply place 50 outbound calls? There is a fun secret behind layering this new unique metric on outbound accountability: It works.
When that metric is measured, salespeople naturally gravitate toward actions and techniques that will increase their chances for live conversations. For example, a dealer should find his salespeople stop trying to fulfill their outbound call quota at inconvenient times for prospects. Rather, they start peppering their calls throughout the day and into early evening. If the prospect is unavailable, salespeople are more inclined to ask the spouse or receptionist, “When is a better time to reach him or her?” They are more polite to those who answer the phone, because that person may ultimately be a gatekeeper to the decision-maker.
Without adding new staff or investing in expensive new phone systems and/or phone training, a dealership will find the number of quality outbound sales conversations will go up simply by managing its sales team by the right metric.
Utilizing Phone Technology
A strong outbound culture requires tracking outbound phone activity in a meaningful way. Using the right technology is the only way to feel confident on this front, I believe.
The first step is to research, identify and hire a phone technology company to track and actually record outbound phone calls at the agent level. This gives dealership management insight into who is placing phone calls and when. Think of it as a scoreboard for outbound phone calls and live conversations. Salesman Bob will absolutely hate having his name listed below his archrival Saleswoman Sally on the outbound phone call scoreboard.
Recording the outbound phone calls also increases the likelihood of quality (i.e., live) conversations. The simple truth is that salespeople improve their phone performance when phone-tracking is in place.
Plus, the recordings provide valuable training opportunities. Just as with inbound sales calls, top-performing dealerships listen to outbound phone calls during daily and weekly sales meetings. These training sessions aren’t about table-pounding or a Big Brother culture; they should be constructive and open in tone. Both the good and the bad calls should be reviewed. Every salesperson should be subject to having calls reviewed and trained upon each month.
Outbound sales phone calls offer deep value and transparency when integrated into a dealership’s CRM. As we all know, it can be tough getting prospects back on the phone after an initial contact. Outbound call integration would give management easy access to the activity and processes behind every prospect interaction. Imagine that Prospect Pete was considered a hot lead just a few days ago, but he hasn’t even been called back. WIth CRM integration, managers can spot prospects who are falling through the cracks and act first.
Finally, many CRMs even offer outbound click-to-call technology. Sales agents can merely click on a hyperlinked prospect phone number in the CRM to initiate a tracked and recorded outbound call. This functionality is a total game-changer for dealerships looking to step up their outbound sales call game. The process to reach a prospect, track a call and integrate that call into the CRM is easier than ever before.
Right Prospect At Right Time
With phone calls integrated into the CRM, the best dealerships focus much of their time on identifying the right prospects to call at the right time. This is low-hanging fruit to sell more cars.
Take Prospect Patricia, who previously called the dealership about a car she saw on AutoTrader. She is a great lead but unfortunately wasn’t offered a firm appointment to come visit the store.
Great outbound dealerships focus on mining, pursuing and nurturing leads like Prospect Patricia.
Phone Excellence Starts At Top
Excellence starts at the top. That is worth repeating because it’s so important: Excellence starts at the top. Any dealership with a strong outbound phone culture is anchored by a dealer principal, GM and general sales manager who are committed to excellence.
As dealerships continue to invest their time and money in people, processes and technology, those that fail to do so will be exposed. An outbound culture driven by accountability and technology is no longer something to be considered. It is a must for any dealership aiming to stay ahead of the competition.