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Are You Asking The Wrong Questions When Customers Call Your Dealership?

In previous blogs I've written for DealerKnows about phone handling, I discuss how communication via telephone is not the most natural form of communication.  That being the case, I have heard hundreds of salespeople ask questions that have nothing to do with the task at hand (setting an appointment). Before you ask a customer a question over the phone, first ask yourself this: “Does the answer to this question get me any closer to an appointment?” Here are the top 5 questions NOT to ask an inbound sales call.

Your top sales people have spent their careers fine tuning their selling skills. Since communicating over the phone is so unnatural for some, they simply default to the sales skills in which they have experienced success with.  I hear them say a lot of things that would be best said on the showroom floor.  They tend to steer the conversation into a place that is comfortable for them.  I have noticed the skill set employed by these sales people seems to be the presentation of the vehicle.  With a customer on the floor, giving a detailed vehicle presentation and demonstration would only make sense, after all it is one of the components that pave the way to a sale; That said, it’s pretty pointless over the phone.  Reading a mundane list of features, or even worse, a build sheet, to someone over the is boring for them. Obviously, those details are far more impressive to see than to hear. I realize the vehicle description is not a question, but its still not something that is going to get you any closer to an appointment.

Generally, after a salesperson has read off a list of details, I hear them ask the customer: “Does this sound like something you would be interested in?” This leads me to the second pointless question:  “Does this sound like something you are interested in?  Considering the fact that 86% of people end up buying a vehicle other than the one they initially inquired about, the answer to this question isn’t going to make a difference as far as an appointment is concerned.  On the showroom floor, the answer would lead to paperwork, and ultimately a sale.  On the phone, it only leads to awkward silence. 

Number three on the list of worst questions to ask a customer: “Is this going to be for you?” These days, it’s pretty common for a somsone to employ a friend or family member to call a dealership and inquire about a vehicle for them for any number of reasons. Mostly, because the potential buyer is afraid of; or is intimidated by, “car sales people”. Either way, the buyer, who has asked their Dad to call your Dealership has decided you need to sell Dad before you can sell them. So, untrained salespeople ask the caller this pointless question hoping for what?  How do you plan to proceed with the conversation with a yes or no answer? Asking the caller if the vehicle is for them is not going to get the buyer on the showroom floor any faster or easier. When I hear a sales person ask this question, all I can think of is that they are afraid they may have to do more work.  Guess what, it’s your job, so get to work! Assume the person on the phone is the buyer and sell the appointment.  Sure, you may have to sell an entire extended family on an appointment before you get a chance to sell the buyer, but the one willing to go the extra mile will get the sale.

Number four on the list of Worst Questions is also a sign you have a lazy salesperson: asking about credit scores, or financial situations. It’s too soon!    Let me set a scene for you. During a call, something is said that gives the salesperson the impression that the caller has poor or no credit. Something like: “I need a payment under $150 a month” or “Do I need a cosigner for that $129 a month lease I saw on TV?” Once the salesperson has used their magical mind reading skills and decides within 20 seconds that there is no way this caller could EVER buy a car, they set themselves to the task of talking the customer out of visiting the Dealership.  There is no way on earth you can determine whether or not a person can buy a vehicle without that person in front of you on the showroom floor.  Nor can you convince them to do anything such as borrow money for a down payment, or ask a friend or family member to cosign for them if there is no value built in the vehicle.  If you have this potential customer in front of you, you can develop deeper rapport with them and advise the customer to go to any of these measures.  The customer will also have more emotion for a particular vehicle once they have been given a full vehicle demonstration along with a demo ride.  You need to have the attitude that you are going to sell a vehicle to every single caller, regardless of the potential obstacles you may have to overcome along the way. Most importantly, you can't sell them anything unless you're able to sell an appointment first.

Finally, topping off the list of the 5 worst questions to ask a phone up is: “When are you looking to buy this thing?” Asking this question is a great way to get a customer to put their guard up.  It puts pressure on them and causes them to distrust you. Assume and proceed as if the caller is planning on buying today.   If they are asking for a price on a new vehicle, quote them with the price of the car today, even if it is the last day of the month and you know incentives or finance rates are due to change tomorrow. 

You should always have a reason as to why today is the best day to buy. The reason doesn’t necessarily have to pertain to price either.  Perhaps you are having a big sale today, or your manager is in a FANTASTIC mood today, or you are giving away free oil changes today.  There is an average of 30 days in a month, so try to come up with 30 reasons as to why today is the best day. This way, you also have a reason to follow up with a customer until they make a purchase. Keep yourself focused on an appointment on the phone, and save those great sales skills for the showroom floor.


Written by Melissa Roberts

DealerKnows Consulting

Office: 508-579-8583

Views: 1135

Tags: best practices, consulting, dealerknows, do's and don'ts, handling, melissa, melissa roberts, phone, phone scripts, phone training, More…roberts, training, up


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Comment by John Retter on December 3, 2011 at 11:52am

goog knowledge

Comment by Chuck Barker on November 30, 2011 at 8:04am

Well done.  Here today, gone tomorrow phone strategies run rampant in this business.  The moment rock solid phone processes start showing improving results, dealerships apply total defenestration to those same processes that got them to current improvement levels. Leadership consistency disciple has to be a part of the store's agenda else it's the wild wild West all over again.

default to ready, shoot, aim techniques all over again. 

Comment by Martin Logsdon on November 24, 2011 at 12:51pm
Any GM can listen phone ups and simply go nuts, it is bad. A great B D C is the remedy.

Comment by John Weltz on November 24, 2011 at 12:12pm

excellent article

Comment by Craig Polito on November 23, 2011 at 12:57pm

Right on the money!

Comment by Steve Davern on November 23, 2011 at 12:45pm
Great article. My company mostly provides phone call leads so I love this subject. My boss came up with a great question to ask the prospects and my dealers tell me it works.
"Mr. Prospect, there are a lot of cars in the magazine and on all of the websites, what made you call about that particular vehicle?"
If the dealer waits for the prospect to speak next without interruption, all kinds of information is volunteered.
Again, thanks for the article! I haven't figured out how to walk people into dealerships everyday so phone calls are the next best thing so they must be treated professionally.
Comment by Walt Kustra on November 23, 2011 at 12:45pm

Melissa has the highest standards of excellence, and will make you work for your cookies!  :)  All joking aside, great article.  Accountability is key with phone calls and having a good phone up process will really help you set more appointments and sell more cars.  PLUS, by monitoring it, you will prevent your stores phone up hog from blowing through calls.

Comment by Mike Warwick on November 23, 2011 at 12:23pm

It's amazing to me how many dealerships actually train their salespeople to ask these stupid questions. The phone is the best piece of profit generating equipment in every dealership and it's also the most missused. Any dealership that has not invested in top flight phone training is missing a huge amount of business. It is literally the best investment any dealer can make.  Please, have a great phone trainer come in and train your staff.  Then, have the commitment to train every day on the phone.  The results will amaze you.

Comment by william robb on November 23, 2011 at 12:07pm

Great Article

Comment by Beth Hoover on November 23, 2011 at 11:54am

very clearly laid out.  Great advice!

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