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Automotive Telephone Process...One SIze Does Not Fit All!

Have you heard?
“Automotive Sales Professionals are
Terrible on the Phone” 
.....Really??

So, I had yet another in a long series of epiphanies regarding the business I love as I continue to get older and more exposed to the wise….

Ask most anyone….you will hear that the better the sales representative, the worse they are at handling inbound and outbound calls effectively. And some degree that may be true!

We have heard great reasoning from all the ‘experts’, (yes, including me!)….Sales people have different skill sets; they are ‘influencers’; they use their body language, eye contact to read and lead the customers; they try to sell the car on the phone and not the appointment; they are ‘over-qualified’ to take calls; their personality traits that make them good at sales, make them bad at phone communication; they have A.D.D.; can’t follow process…the list goes on and on.

But how can it be that the very people we trust to give our customers a great experience, that the same sales rep that has a better score on DealerRater than 95 of the dealerships in the country, the very people on whom our success or failure depends are dangerous with a phone in their hands?

I had the pleasure of being introduced to the sales team at a large 7 roof-top group last week by the President of the group. My mission was to share the best practices for Phone Process that we have measured around the country. In his introduction to his sales people he started by apologizing to each and every one. He begged forgiveness for our industry spending so many years making certain they were unable to handle the phone, and then reminding them regularly that they are inept. “I ask your forgiveness for training you to fail, and then blaming you for that failure” ….really???

He went on to outline the methods of failure that they have been taught…. “Don’t give price on the phone”; “Never bring up the trade-in”; “Tell them their presence in the dealership is their best leverage for the best deal”; “Get their name and number and call them back”….. He said “We have taught you to be evasive, provide as little information as you can get away with…we asked you to treat people in ways your mother won’t let you, and when you did it badly, we told you that you suck at this!”. Further, he described the industry wide move to hiring people that had not been poisoned yet, to man the phones for us and protect us from ourselves… often at considerable expense.

Mr. Tony Gomez, President of the LuJack Automotive Group, went on to advise this group of veterans and freshmen that the only thing that they can count on staying the same, is need to be ready to change, and that “today is one of those days…we are going to change”.

The session that followed was by far the most fun and impactful sharing session I have ever experienced. Tony created an atmosphere I never have….40 Sales Pros, interactive, open minded, guilt free, and eager to learn how to use their unique skills and personalities to improve their performance and their value to their customers.

Take a Fresh Look- Its not One Size Fits All for sure!

Certainly Call Centers and BDC's will have their place in certain cultures, but is it time to consider refocusing on the support of the very team we rely on for our successes, and get them the training they deserve? Dealers that have perfected the 'cradle to grave' process have less Sales Comp on their Financial Statements, less turn over in sales, and are less at risk of the "Virtual Dealership to Bricks and Mortar" train wreck.

Most Luxury Dealers have long served the demands of their customers by maintaining the integrity of the Phone to Floor process with their 'Client Advisors'. Its a model worth re-evaluating.

Even with a BDC or Call Center, too often we forget that our Sales Professionals are taking and making calls every day....what support do they need from us to make the "Caller's Journey" a great one?

Views: 428

Tags: Ad, BDC, Call, Leak, Performance, Profit, Tracking, automotive, call, center, More…measurement, phone, skill, training

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Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 4, 2013 at 8:22pm

I consider Joe Healy to be both a friend and professional colleague. I have been to Lone Star Chevrolet several times and have work with Joe on several projects. It is a well run dealership with a female GM that keeps everything humming on all 8 cylinders. Joe is passionately committed to Lone Star Chevy and eats, and breathes that dealership. There are very few automotive marketing professionals as dedicated, knowledgeable and committed to their teams as Joe Healy.

Comment by Philip Zelinger on February 4, 2013 at 6:32pm
Ralph, as always, great minds think alike! You may recall that I suggested the CCC on a long running post on ADM about BDC's with the point being that all departments and methods of communication should run through one central department to promote cross selling between sales and service and to anchor customer relations. No intent to coin the phrase as much as promote the concept. Besides, if it is good for Mercedes it is good for me and mine!
Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 4, 2013 at 6:03pm

Phil and Chip,

When we launched the Mercedes-Benz USA national initiative to implement Business Development Centers in every MB dealership in the USA, the official name was "Customer Communication Center" and MBUSA put serious teeth into the program. In order to receive a factory incentive of $400 per vehicle for every new Mercedes shipped to the dealership, the CCC had to be "Certified". Part of the certification process was facility, equipment, software and tools... But a big part was a dedicated team of customer communication professionals who were trained on the phones and to communicate via email and texting.  That program launched in 2004.  

Comment by Chip King on February 4, 2013 at 8:30am

Phil,

:)   See you there!

Comment by Philip Zelinger on February 4, 2013 at 8:28am
Hey Chip,

Technically all I did was to rename it the Customer Communication Center since they are the true boss we all need to hear from and stay in touch with. See you in Orlando to discuss it further. After all, what are friends and NADA for!
Comment by Chip King on February 4, 2013 at 8:25am

Mr. Zelinger--- I believe you just re-invented the once dreaded "BusinessDetentionCenter"!

In the light of new demands by our customers, much higher traffic on the phone and internet,  we may see a line outside the Virtual Dealership Manager's office asking to be allowed in the 'club'!

"The solution is to staff these centers with the same sales consultants that you trust to meet, greet and sell to your showroom customers. Of course there are teachable techniques required to smile on the phone and today's Internet empowered consumers demand more transparency than suggested by old school philosophies focused on making the appointment vs. a friend but these investments in training and processes can be applied to sales consultants as readily as any dedicated BDC operator."

Comment by Stan Sher on February 4, 2013 at 7:58am

Great stuff Chip!

Comment by Rob Pearson on February 3, 2013 at 9:16pm
Don't assume that all of Lujack's sales people don't understand the phone. Did you meet Greg Reitz? I believe sold 96 cars in one month/800+ in a year. My wife bought a car from him in July and has called us 5 times already.

http://www.autodealermonthly.com/32/3125/ARTICLE/Rietz--Greg--Janua...
Comment by Philip Zelinger on February 3, 2013 at 2:54pm
Hi Chip,

People are part of every process in the dealership and I agree that the relationship between a sales consultant and a customer is strongest when the foundation is built from the first contact to the ultimate sale, delivery and of course after sale referrals earned throughout the process. It is unfortunate that attempts at specializing parts of the process have created a disconnect between the customer and the sales consultant such as when in- bound sales leads and even outbound follow up calls are delegated to supposed specialists.

Coincidentally I am also a strong supporter of developing central communication centers to accommodate the urgency associated with in-bound contacts - phone, email and text - as well as the consistency and frequency demanded by well orchestrated outbound contacts including the same phone, email and text communications. Fortunately these two positions are not mutually exclusive.

The solution is to staff these centers with the same sales consultants that you trust to meet, greet and sell to your showroom customers. Of course there are teachable techniques required to smile on the phone and today's Internet empowered consumers demand more transparency than suggested by old school philosophies focused on making the appointment vs. a friend but these investments in training and processes can be applied to sales consultants as readily as any dedicated BDC operator.

Properly designed schedules, compensation plans and tools such as those provided by Call Review with their monitored call services and other vendors like Driving Loyalty with their automated equity alerts shared simultaneously with the customer and the sales consultant and IntellaCar with thir iPad based sales presentation platform providing competitive product and price information as needed can provide efficiencies and augmented skills that will empower any sales person to compete with the best educated consumer.

Simply put, a fully trained, motivated and incentivized staff of sales professionals using today's technology driven sales tools can develop sales by providing added value services to customers at every step of the sales process. After all, what are friends and sales consultants for!

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