Don’t tell your salespeople to get on the phones

Instead, lead by example.

Get on the phones, make appointments!” is one of the most single, dreaded statements to the panicked ears of dealership salespeople.

Whenever walk-in traffic dwindles or when dealerships are behind their monthly sales target, sales managers print customer lists from the store’s database and distribute them with scowls to terrified salespeople.

Salespeople are instructed to call and offer new vehicle upgrades for the purpose of acquiring fresh trade-ins and to sell new vehicles. They scatter in every direction like rats on a sinking ship to avoid the prospect of calling the dealership’s current customers in search of new business: “Oh, I have a delivery,” or “Oh, I have a customer on the way,” or “Oh, I have to call my sick auntie,” and so on. This scenario plays out on a monthly basis at dealerships across the country.

From inception, Canadian companies like Absolute Results, OTC and others realized that most dealerships were uncomfortable and even unwilling to contact their own previous customers to have them buy newer vehicles.

Hence, these companies create innovative marketing campaigns with incentives (both digital and print) and contact the dealership’s database of customers by mail, e-mail, text, phone, and any and all technologies. In effect, these thriving organizations are now doing the job of the dealership and their salespeople.

This begs the question: why is there so much fear and resistance to making these outbound calls? The reasons are quite simple and fixable.

The problem: The distribution of customer lists and the barking of sales managers creates the perception that calling customers is a class detention or a trip to the penalty box. Calling customers is often presented as a punishment for sagging sales or the angry reaction of a sales manager under pressure.

The fix: During the hiring and on-boarding process of new salespeople, carefully review your dealership’s showroom and digital sales process and discuss with potential candidates that making outbound phone calls is a positive and productive part of your dealership’s culture—and an expectation.

Create a schedule whereby outbound calls are made as a group doing phone blitzes two or three times per week (or more) at two scheduled intervals per day to accommodate sales team shifts.

Create competition by writing down appointments on a large appointment board. Have periodic spiffs for most appointments or most appointments that show, for example. Show as much recognition and enthusiasm for appointments as you do for vehicle sales.

The problem: Many salespeople have not been told why they are calling current customers; sales managers have not “sold” this method of seeking new customers to their teams by positioning outbound phone calls as a high-percentage opportunity to sell more vehicles.

The fix: These calls are most often made to our current customers—people that have purchased vehicles from us in the past with most still doing business with us in our service and parts departments. Hence, these are not cold calls; these are warm calls.

At any given time, 20 per cent or more of a dealership’s customer database is willing to purchase a newer vehicle, now, if proactively contacted by the dealership. No doubt, there will be many calls that go unanswered due to busy customer lifestyles or those that are simply unwilling to answer their cell.

In these situations, a text accompanied by a one-minute video (with the current dealer and manufacturer offers) can also be effective.

However, dealerships that regularly make outbound phone calls (as a collective team), are often met with friendly, receptive customers. Rarely are people upset by the solicitation if done in a thoughtful and professional manner.

And do phone blitzes work? You bet they do! In a recent in-dealership training assignment just weeks ago on the west coast, one of our trainers trained and coordinated phone blitzes.

Just three hours of well-thought-out calls yielded 28 appointments at a Volkswagen dealership, one and a half hours of calls yielded 16 appointments at a Hyundai dealership, and one and a half hours of calls yielded 48 appointments at a Chrysler dealership.

These phone blitzes set in motion an energized sales team and a highly productive week of new and pre-owned vehicle sales.

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