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Lauren Cummins

Lauren Cummins Automotive Product Marketing Manager

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Romancing the Customer: Gaining a Buyer's Trust on the Phone

The words sleazy and salesman are often used in the same sentence-- unfortunately, for good reason. With commission on the front of their mind, and the customer in the back of it, this creates some not so great situations for car buyers. That first phone conversation with a customer could make or break a sale at your dealership.

Think of relationships. You take time and effort to make sure the relationship is developed and romanced (well, most of us) before jumping in and getting married. You wouldn’t ask him or her to marry you after the first date! Think of the car buying process the same way.

As the manager, your salesman may take you saying, “Make more appointments” or “Make 50 appointments this week” the wrong way. You need to stress the importance of the appointment, but also help lead your sales team down a real “road” to a sale.

Here’s an example of what the average car salesman does on the first call:

Caller: I’m interested in finding out more about your certified pre-owned Lincoln MKZs.
Salesman: Great! Can you come in this afternoon and take a look at the 2012 and 2014 models we have on the lot? If not, when works best for your schedule?

What’s wrong with this tactic?

You’re probably thinking, “The salesman tried to accommodate their schedule, so that couldn’t have been too pushy!” Wrong. He asked the customer for the appointment in the FIRST sentence. Instead, how about, “how are you doing today?” “What features attracted you to this vehicle?” “What have you liked or disliked about your previous vehicle?”

Jumping down the customer’s throat with an appointment request will leave your salesman with an unhappy customer, who won’t mind telling every future car buyer about their unpleasant experience.


What’s the right way to ask for an appointment?

Think about what you just learned about Joe Schmoe car salesman who fumbled that call. Your guys need to:

–Make it about the customer
–Put him or her in their comfort zone
–Exude confidence

Here’s an example of a properly executed call:

Caller: "Hi, I’m interested in finding out more about your certified pre-owned Lincoln MKZs."
Salesman: "Great! I’m here to help. We have over 500 new and used vehicles in stock, so i’m sure we can find you the car you need. But first, let’s talk about some of the features you like about the MKZ."

That’s a great way to start on the right foot, but the way you tie up the call is equally as important.

Caller: "Thanks so much for all of this great information. You’ve really given me more perspective about other cars that may interest me."
Salesman: "Great! We can get down to more pricing and I can show you vehicles personally if you come into the dealership. Are you available for a quick dealership visit Friday?"

Last but not least, make sure your sales guys give the customer their name, job title, number and directions to the dealership. By doing this the salesman will be able to tie this conversation in a bow, and leave the customer feeling pleased with their recommendations and the dealership as a whole.


Lance MacMillan
Good points...only thing I could add, in my humble opinion, is the greeting. Great greetings build great rapport. People are scared and defensive when they call, they need to have those tensions alleviated by talking to a friendly, jovial person who loves his or her job so much they're smiling and laughing when they answer the phone. Nail that, everything else is exponentially easier : )
Mel Bayo
Great share Lauren. Going after an appointment before discovering the customer's needs and building a bond with them is an easy way to be perceived as pushy. Once rapport is built, needs are assessed and contact information has been gathered, we find greater success in setting specific appointments at our dealerships when we offer choices at each layer of appointment setting. When we ask for the appointment with a "yes/no" question the answer is often "no'. Your example might be modified in the following manner, "Great! We can get down to more pricing and I can show you vehicles personally when you come into the dealership. Are you available for a quick dealership visit Friday or would Saturday be more convenient?" Once that is answered the next layer would be, "Friday sounds great! Would you prefer morning, afternoon or evening?" And once the customer chooses a time range within the day, the final layer would be, "Friday afternoon, excellent! I have an opening at 1:15 and another at 2:45, which works best for you?" We do a better job of setting appointments our callers show for when we use choices at each layer of appointment setting but only AFTER we make the call about the customer, put them in their comfort zone and exude casual confidence as you have generously shared. Thanks and keep the great information coming!
Michael Crain
Lauren ….if you have such a high opinion of sales reps and your fellow employee's why are working in the automotive business? Clearly you have never sold a car. The term Sleazy and car salesmen do not belong in the same sentence. Don't judge every car sales person by your limited experience in the car business.
Lauren Moses
Lauren, Great read. I agree with Lance, a great opening greeting always helps to put the conversation on the right track. Also, having the tone of voice can help break down some of those barriers too. If someone picks up the phone talking like their favorite ex great aunts uncle just passed away it's NOT going to help anything. Speak with a smile on your face and they will hear it in your voice. Mel also makes great points about the layering. Thanks for another great read Lauren. Keep up the good work.
Shannon Hammons
I liked it Lauren. I agree we have to find a way for the customer to have that "wow" or "feel" good moment in order to gain their trust and create the experience that they are wanting.

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