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When a customer leaves the lot without purchasing a vehicle, there's a good chance he or she will never be back. A few may return, but most won't. Does that mean you should never follow up with customers? Obviously not!

 

The follow-up call is critical and can absolutely save a deal. Even if only one out of ten customers comes back to the store and buys from you, it's worth your time.

 

Unfortunately, many salespeople aren't trained how to make effective follow up calls. I understand that when you call or text a customer, and they completely ignore you, it can be disheartening. But ask yourself honestly, are you giving them a reason to return your voice mail or text?

 

Here are three types of follow up calls that DON'T work:

 

The "check-in" call. There are several variations of this: Have you made your decision yet? Are you close to making a decision? Have you checked with your husband/wife yet? (Hint: that was never the real reason they left in the first place).

 

The "bigger discount" call. If you call a customer to talk about price, the only way that price is going is down. Besides, you should have given them the best price in the showroom. If you let them leave without offering the best price, it makes you look bad.

 

The "do you need more information?" call. You should already know what information they need.

 

The reason these follow up calls aren't effective is because they don't address the customers' real objections. Here are the most common reasons why customers leave without buying:

 

  • They thought they would get more money for their trade-in
  • The vehicle they looked at/test drove did not meet their expectations
  • They couldn’t arrive at a monthly payment to fit their budget
  • They didn’t like you (the salesperson)—hey, don't take it personally

 

Granted, there's not much you can do about the last reason. But let's tackle the first three. In order to address the objection, you have to know what it is. That's why it's so important to qualify a customer when they arrive on the lot.

 

Ask all the qualifying questions and be sure to note answers in your CRM so you can reference what the customer said in a future conversation. Qualifying questions include:

 

  • When are you planning to purchase?
  • Why do you need a new vehicle? (life event such as baby, marriage, etc.)
  • Do you know your current vehicles' trade-in value?
  • Why do you like this vehicle?
  • Which features are most important to you in a new vehicle?
  • Will you use this primarily for commuting to work, outdoor adventures, etc?
  • What's your color preference?
  • How many miles do you drive per year?
  • What's your budget or monthly payment?

 

Of course, you don't want to barrage your customers with a list of pre-rehearsed questions. Qualifying should be conducted in the style of an easy conversation between friends.

 

You might not get the answers to all these questions, and that's okay. The goal is to get enough information so that if the customer leaves without purchasing, you'll be able to deduce what their real objection is. Then DO something about it.

 

The follow-up call should convey new information. This could be a change of inventory, a new incentive or end of incentive, or a pre-owned vehicle that just came in that would work for their budget. Try sending them data that supports your trade-in offer, or tell them about a vehicle in a different color—any information that's valid and different.

 

Get your manager involved if necessary. Sometimes it's useful to have a manager call to ensure that the customer's experience was a good one.

 

If your manager doesn't have time, enlist your BDC to help, if you have one. If you don't have a BDC, consider outsourcing to a call center.

 

When a call center follows up with a customer, the approach is to ask for a survey about the customer's experience with the dealership. Very often, the customer will open up to a third party in a way they simply won't when dealing directly with dealership personnel.

 

Because of this, a BDC agent is often able to identify the real reason for not purchasing. If the customer's experience was less than optimal, that information is handed to the manager who can immediately follow up to try and save the deal.

 

Even if the deal can't be saved, the ability to compile a list of customer objections is helpful for future coaching and training purposes. As a manager, this type of feedback allows you to identify a salesperson that needs help or a process that needs fixing.

 

I know that follow up calls seem like a chore, but there's a reason that every top salesperson and sales expert recommends them. They work. Not every time, but a percentage of them do result in a sale that otherwise would never have happened.

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