Some car shoppers begin the buying process by driving to the dealership, where they can see the vehicle up close and take it out for a spin. Most customers, however, prefer to call and learn about the features that interest them before scheduling a test drive. Understanding how to manage the conversation, and remembering that most walk-ins begin with a phone-up, improves the odds of converting a phone-up to a walk-in and a walk-in to a sale.

Set the stage
A car shopper on the phone shares two basic concerns with the car shopper in front of you: Do you still have the vehicle? What is your best price?

Yet price likely will not be the determining factor. Although customers ask, they really are trying to learn about its value (i.e., What is its history? How is it equipped?) and to determine if you are willing to negotiate.

To move the conversation forward, acknowledge that you are open to a reasonable offer and shift the focus back to the car. Answering customers’ questions about the vehicle enables you to weave in a few queries of your own to determine how well it fits their needs. Through a brief exchange, you build credibility for the dealership and yourself. You set the stage to guide the phone-up through the sales process vs. acting as an order taker.

Set the appointment
After determining that you have a match with the customer on model and price range, it is time to sell the appointment. While it may be tempting to try to close the deal, most people will be more receptive to beginning the sales process after they have driven or, at least, seen the car.

As we discuss in this month’s Tips & Techniques column on ensuring car shoppers keep their appointments, scheduling meetings on the quarter-hour delivers the best results. Rather than ask an open-ended question about when or whether the customer would like to arrange a test drive, suggest a time: “Would a 5:15 p.m. or a 5:45 p.m. appointment work best for you?”

Many salespeople do not enjoy handling phone-ups because they perceive them as distractions from walk-in customers. While that belief may often be true, the odds are in your favor: Nearly one in two phone-ups from comes from ready-to-buy car shoppers who purchase a vehicle within 30 days.1

1 Experian Automotive, Auto Leads Analysis, September 2004 � August 2005