By David Kain, Kain Automotive

Some things in life are simple, and others are a bit more complicated. When it comes to talking to strangers, befriending them and selling them a $40,000 vehicle, one would have to guess that this action would fall into the complicated category. The fact is, if done correctly, it is actually pretty simple and can be done in about an hour. Comparatively, I think selling an appointment to come in and test drive a vehicle is actually more difficult. However, I have found that if you are willing to spend five minutes or more building rapport and really showing a genuine interest in the prospect, setting an appointment is not that hard.

Ask veteran car salespeople and they can verify that selling vehicles is a mix of art and science. The art is in building rapport, earning the trust of your customers and persuading them to let you sell them a vehicle. The science is in the preparation – knowing your product, knowing your inventory, understanding what your dealership processes are for handling trades and financing and knowing how you can use them to better assist the customer. If it really is this simple for some people to sell an expensive vehicle to a stranger then one could then ask how hard is it really to get an internet customer to set an appointment when you make an outbound call.

In my own experience, I think it is easier to sell a car to someone at the dealership than it is to sell an appointment to someone who inquires about a vehicle over the internet. At the dealership, the customer has shown clear physical intent to purchase by showing up. Additionally, you have the product right there and in a variety of colors and equipment to motivate prospects to test drive the car and fall in love with it. With internet leads, you first have to get them to respond to your email, and then you have to get them on the phone so you can start trying to talk them into coming to the dealership. There are some who will make an appointment via email, but my own experience in working with multiple dealerships is that these are few and far between.

Getting someone to answer the phone is definitely part of the science of the process. The best thing to do is to call as soon as you respond with your personal email. The hope is that you catch shoppers when they are actively shopping online. Some internet managers believe there are key times that you should make the calls to have the best chance of catching the customers. These include around 9 a.m., when they first get to work if it is a business number, lunchtime at home or work and then early evening.

Be Over Prepared

Preparing for the call is essential and before you rush to pick up the phone and dial find out as much as you can about the prospect and what caused them to generate the request for price, information, trade value, etc. Research the lead by checking their name in your DMS or CRM database to determine if they are a previous sales or service customer. Next check where the lead came from and then duplicate the path if you can to see what the customer was exposed to before they clicked “submit”. You may find that the customer is expecting certain things from your dealership that the website they visited promised you would deliver. By understanding what they expect you will do a better job in meeting their expectations. Make sure you know if you have what they are looking for or if you have to locate a vehicle. Also, it is important to read their comments if any and to see if they have identified a trade in. Think through what you are going to say and how you intend to build rapport and then make the call.

Being over prepared will reward you over and over because most of your competitors are simply making the call to prove to themselves that the customer is not really interested. Be prepared and optimistic and you will do much better on the call.

Take Your Time

Recently I was at a dealership that uses call tracking technology. The dealer principal shared with me that since the store began measuring calls, fewer appointments are set for sales and service when the calls last two to three minutes. However, when the calls lasted an average of five minutes or longer, the appointment rate was two to three times greater. By taking the time to build rapport and show genuine interest, the salespeople found prospects much more receptive and willing to come in for a test drive. It reminds me of the old saying: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

Most call scripts are designed to be brief – which is truly a design problem. The call should take as long as necessary to serve prospects’ needs without being too long to bore them. A common concern when I go over scripting with BDC reps or salespeople is that they are too long, and they do not want to be on the call with the customer that long. There is a balance, and that is where you have to blend art and science and hone your skills. If you have call tracking technology, start measuring the time and see if the results for you are similar. If you don’t, then just use a clock or watch and see for yourself the benefits of warming up customers and exceeding their needs on the call. It is time for a paradigm shift in this area. Aim for five minutes or longer and I can assure you that your prospects will be more receptive to scheduling an appointment, and you’ll have many more show because they find it better to deal with someone who truly cares about their needs.

This article used with permission from Kain Autmotive.