Phone-Ups…Does Your Staff Sound Like Everyone Else?

Proper training in taking phone-ups opens the door for effective dialogue with the customer and increases your chances of getting them into the showroom. BY DAVID LEWIS

One of the most necessary things to accomplish in sales is to be different from your competition. For some, this may not be so easy. In automotive sales, this is especially important since most salespeople have been trained from the same playbook that has been used for decades. It is hard to change the mindset that says, “That’s the way we have always done it.”  By utilizing new and fresh ideas, as well as having a well-structured sales process, you can distinguish yourself from what customers have come to expect when they call a car dealership to speak with someone in sales.

My main priority over the years has been to create new training methods and materials that, when utilized, will advance the skills and success of those who use them. As you know, if you have read my book, Secrets of Inspirational Selling, my unique sales techniques are designed to distinguish those we train from the typical salespeople working in today’s dealerships. By being unique and different from what customers have come to expect, a salesperson can increase their results substantially and impact their customers in a way that brings them back whenever they or someone they know needs a new vehicle.

Though it is not common knowledge among car salespeople, the most reliable source for buyers is the phone-up. Reliable industry statistics have shown that phone-up customers become buyers more consistently than those just walking onto the lot in their search for a vehicle. Many salespeople tend to prefer the walk-in customer and that is certainly understandable. When someone comes to your dealership, you want to make sure they are greeted as quickly as possible. However, learning how to properly handle a phone-up should be at the top of your list if you are looking for ways to increase sales, profits and income. This makes phone-up skills a critical part of the car sales tool kit.

To begin with, it is important to understand why the phone-up customer offers so much potential for making a sale. Today’s shoppers are highly informed. With more than 80 percent of them having Internet access, it is highly likely that they already know what you sell. Also, if they have spent any time on your dealership website, they probably have specific information on some of the vehicles in your inventory. Subsequently, by calling your dealership, they have in a sense, already partially qualified themselves for you.

With that knowledge and the three known priorities that buyers have when they are looking for a vehicle, you can now focus your efforts on giving them reasons to make an appointment to come to your dealership. A shopper’s three main buying priorities are the right vehicle, the right salesperson and the right dealership.

Now, here’s the problem: Most salespeople have the right goal in mind when they take a phone-up, but they rush to it within the first 30 seconds of the call. They immediately try to get the shopper’s phone number and make an appointment for them to come to the dealership. This approach only makes the customer more defensive and confirms in their mind that the salesperson’s one and only goal is to get them to the dealership where they can be pressured into buying ASAP.

This is certainly not creative selling and in most cases, has no real effect on the customer’s decision-making process. If anything, it makes them sound like every other salesperson they may have already spoken to. Unless they can stand out by being unique and inspiring, their chances of getting the customer in for an appointment are no better than the next guy’s. If they sound just like every other salesperson, why should the customer expect to be treated any differently if they go to their dealership?

The goal of the “Inspirational Selling” concept is to make the customer feel good about the salesperson and the dealership. It lets the customer know right away that they are sincerely interested in helping them achieve their purchasing goals. By taking the time for a proper meet and greet and asking the right questions, the salesperson can discover what the customer is looking for and quickly focus on helping them accomplish their goal for calling. This helps to relieve their natural defensiveness and creates the potential for effective dialogue.

The verbiage you use can make all the difference in whether they will open up to you or stay on the defense and focus their questions on price and availability. By avoiding talking about price, credit, down payment or trade-in, you can focus primarily on questions and statements that will not raise the customer’s defensive levels. Your using unique verbiage helps them feel like you are putting their interests before your own.

Terms like “information gathering” takes pressure off of the customer and will give them the sense that you aren’t trying to rush them into the sale. When the customer says they are just starting to shop and the salesperson responds with, “So I am going to treat this conversation as an information-gathering process for you,” this eliminates the customer’s fear of losing control and creates an opening for non-threatening dialogue that can lead quickly to an appointment.

Shoppers who spend time on the Internet are gathering information that will help them when they are ready to purchase. When you acknowledge their right to do that and offer to assist with that process, you give yourself a good chance for creating an ongoing dialogue and earning their business.   By doing so, you can catch customers pleasantly off guard and by using unique verbiage, you have a better chance of keeping them in the conversation and securing an appointment.

Being well prepared to take a phone-up when one comes your way is important for getting the best result. When taking a phone-up, you should be alert and in a place where you have paper and pen ready to write down what the customer is saying. It helps to be standing up as well since this tends to create a sense of professionalism and confidence that will subconsciously transfer over the phone to the customer. Having a well structured sales process that will keep you on track toward the goal of getting an appointment is far better than shooting from the hip with each new caller.

When making the appointment, you should always ask for the customer’s permission to get their contact information and give them yours in case something comes up that would require rescheduling. If the appointment is for another day, you should let them know you will be calling them to confirm as a matter of courtesy and to clarify that they have good directions to your dealership. This gives you a good reason for asking for their contact information and will not seem unreasonable if they are serious about the appointment.

Being different from the competition is not something that is achieved by luck or chance. It is accomplished by a determined effort to learn a better way to sell cars. Doing things the way they have always been done is a sure way to get the same results you have always been getting. Today’s customers are changing and you must change as well if you expect to get your share of the business that is out there in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

David Lewis
David Lewis
David’s firm is a national training and consulting business that specializes in the retail automotive industry. He also is the author of four industry-related books, “The Secrets of Inspirational Selling,” “The Leadership Factor,” “Understanding Your Customer” and “The Common Mistakes Automotive Salespeople Make.” Visit his website at

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