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Stay ahead of the competition by improving this one thing

Stay ahead of the competition by improving this one thing

Now is the the time to be in automotive. We are steaming toward another record year.

But you wouldn’t be reading this article if you were just trying to keep pace. Some of you may be hoping to find new ways to increase your market share and stay ahead of the competition.

I’m going to cut to the chase. The most important tool in your arsenal for that initiative is the phone. It’s the fundamental instrument you can no longer ignore. But, the harsh reality is you are more controlled by the phone than you would like to admit.

Let’s be honest. You know you need to listen to calls but just can’t find the time. You have a lack of accountability because bad habits and unmotivated performance are the norm. You know you can convert more phone calls into firm appointments. But, you’re not sure how because you’re lacking a phone culture that is built around the importance of bringing phone ups through the door.

Now, you may not feel the impact of your phone mismanagement but there is a quiet crisis that is lurking in the background each time the phone rings. All the graphs are trending toward the same thing, an increase in smartphone adoption, more advertising spend and the growth of mobile search.

*SOURCE: BIA/ Kelsey

Whether you like it or not, your dealership will get more phone calls tomorrow than it got today. The 2016 New Autoshopper Study found, “More than half (53%) of automotive internet shoppers use a mobile device in their quest for automotive information.”  Sixty-one percent of those mobile searches in which a customer contacted a vendor, a phone call was generated, according to Google.

There is simply no escaping this…. The phone is not going anywhere.

Quiet Crisis

With the number of calls to businesses on the rise, you can’t afford to live with mediocrity. If you are convinced that you can, you are wrong.

Just imagine, you’re in the middle of a relentless rainy season. Overtime, water droplets start dripping through the ceiling of the dealership. But you either don’t care to address the leak or, better yet, you’re completely blind to it.

Lucky for you, this leak won’t put you out of business tomorrow. On the other hand, since there’s no immediate repercussion, the leak is easy to ignore. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s still costing you business.

This is very similar to the quiet crisis that occurs in dealerships across the nation. However, their pesky leak is rooted in their phone lines.

Bottom line: if you have a problem with managing your phone today, it’s only going to get worse.

Dealerships just think they can add more leads to the funnel while disregarding the leak. But having more leads isn’t the answer. As the amount of phone calls increase, the leak will only intensify.

Ultimately, you will continually have more calls flooding in. You will lose the market share battle to your competitors because you can’t properly manage the abundance of leads. What once was easily ignored is now an unavoidable problem you need to address. 

You may be thinking, “You don’t understand… you have NO idea how bad my guys are on the phone or how hard I’ve tried fix the problem.” Well, I do understand because I’ve heard it before. I know you’re probably stuck managing the mediocrity while trying to overcome the lack of performance by buying more leads which, as I previously pointed out, will only be lost. Inadvertently, you’re just escalating the growing crisis.

The secret to owning the phone

But there’s good news. The fastest and most accessible way to get an immediate lift in revenue and prevent this crisis from infiltrating your dealership is to simply get better on the phone.

1. Connect more calls

  • Understand answer rate versus connection rate.
    • This is the most common misunderstanding among dealers. Just because your receptionist picks up when the phone rings doesn’t mean the call was technically connected. Yes, your receptionist answered an incoming call. But that’s not the point. The problem is that when the call was answered the customer was immediately placed on an extensive hold then eventually sent to a voicemail that wasn’t set up. A common example of an answered call that is often masked as connected is when sales guy Steve is on vacation and your receptionist blindly sends calls to his mailbox… which, might I add, is already full. Does that sound like a successfully connected call to you?
  • Set up phone bridges and eliminate receptionist forced forwards.
    • Better manage the call traffic coming into your dealership by setting up a phone tree that can directly connect callers to the department the customer needs to speak with. Building a phone bridge reduces excessive transfers and hold times by efficiently navigating callers to qualified agents. Setting up a bridge even drops the average connection time by 12-15 seconds.
  • Create warm transfer procedures.
    • Avoid leaving stranded prospects on the line. Remove the option of sending a caller to a voicemail by disconnecting voice mailboxes. Create a safety net to catch callers who may not reach their intended contact by routing those calls back to the receptionist. Your goal is to connect every lead, not to blindly dump them into a voicemail or leave them waiting on the line. 

2. Build a culture around requesting appointments

  • Relate everything you do on the phone around appointments.   
    • Create hype around the importance of requesting appointments! Inviting callers into the dealership is the single most effective way to bring callers through the door. This can be as simple as placing physical reminders on desks and around the dealership that say: “Request an appointment on EVERY call!” Remember, you aren’t selling cars on the phone, you are selling appointments. It’s simple. The more people you get through the door, the more cars you will sell.
  • Hold sales meetings focused on requesting appointments. 
    • Management needs to step up and make appointment requests a consistent item on the agenda during weekly and/or daily sales meetings. You will directly start building a thriving culture by merely reinforcing the importance of inviting callers into the dealerships.
  • Enforce phone timeouts.
    • Handling phone leads is a privilege. If a sales agent is failing to invite callers into the dealership time and time again, don’t be afraid to implement a phone timeout so they can learn the importance of handling valuable phone ups. You’re spending anywhere from $300 to $600 dollars for each lead that calls in. Don’t let those leads go to waste with an agent that is not certified to handle the phone.

3. Pursue actively and properly

  • Stop giving credit for dials.
    • All sales guys know how to get their dials and talk time up without ever talking to a customer. Start measuring quality versus quantity by setting your quotas based on the right metric: live conversations.
  • Prioritize your call activity.
    • Call stranded callers first! Stranded callers are those who hung up on hold or landed in a voice mailbox. Prioritize these callers in your outbound efforts as quickly as possible since they are your hottest leads.
  • Management needs to be involved in call confirmations.
    • Managers should make the most important calls. Those calls include missed opportunities that need to be salvaged or confirmation calls to firm up “soft” appointments – having managers initiate those calls will immediately boost the likelihood of a prospect’s show rate.

Don’t keep ignoring the inevitable problem that is hovering over the automotive space.

The crisis is already here. Are you willing to step up to the plate? 

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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