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Derrick Woolfson

Derrick Woolfson Business Development

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Inbound Phone Success is Not Built By Managing Magical Buckets

It is easy to choose the ban-aided approach we know so well in our industry, no? If a vendor's solution can somehow "magically" fix the issue, then it must be true, right? This approach leaves us continually going back to square one, or what we call "back to the basics" - "block and tackle approach." But what if we didn't have to continually go back to square one, slapping one band-aid on at a time? And instead, we focused on the real issue - a crack in the foundation - that causes the breakpoints we deal with? 

One of the biggest breakpoints us dealers face today is handling incoming phone calls, which is a multifaceted issue and comprises the following core concerns: 

● Training processes on the dealer level to handle the incoming calls 

● CRM Integration of the incoming calls is it worth the clutter?

● Management of the incoming calls

● Inbound line tracking vendor

● Total marketing spend dictates inbound call volume, but do you NEED to spend more to get more?

More often than not, we tend to look at the above items with a siloed, tunnel vision approach. Make no mistake, all of these concerns are intertwined, and if one of the above is "broken," it negatively affects everything. Instead of slapping another band-aid to the foundation, looking for a "magical" fix using your phone vendor's "magical buckets," let's, look at each one of the core elements—the most critical being training. 

Training Processes On the Dealer Level to Handle Inbound Phone Calls 

Sure, your phone tracking software might offer "tips and training" on handling inbound calls, which sounds great, right? But for those of us who have managed the vendor side of inbound calls, their reporting, tips-tricks, and training often do not mesh well with your current sales processes. Not to mention, merely relying on a report of "call buckets" does not, by any means, paint the real picture. For example, most call vendors cannot associate duplicate calls. And for those in a BDC or BD Manager role, you often wind up spending more time reworking the reports yourself to get accurate numbers. Numbers that tell a completely different story than of what's reported in the CRM. And, well, you know why - the customer completes a test drive request, and then calls into the dealership. You already set the appointment, but you did not get the appointment according to the phone tracking vendor. So that must mean that your appointment set rate is terrible! So now you need to complete their training courses on setting appointments, right?  

Wrong. Well, partially, but the point is that by looking at it from one angle, you are not getting the full picture of where the breakpoints are hiding. And sure, there will be calls that bombed, and you did not get the appointment. But, taking the time to go through every single "missed appointment" call due to the lack of vendor capabilities is not the best way to approach this issue. And driving home "training" from telephone call analytics on a cornucopia of calls that come from hundreds of other stores doesn't really help MY STORE.

Additionally, this generic training offering is merely an attempt to be "everything to everyone," and as we saw in the late 20-teens, that doesn't work. Sure, many "say" they listen to all your calls, but let's really dig deep into that statement and then transition that into HOW that architects their training for YOUR store? The answer is, it doesn't. 

This is a breakpoint on the vendor side that can do more harm than good. Hence, it is essential to curate your own training on the dealer level to handle the calls vs. solely relying on one side of the equation to handle all of your training. Instead of focusing on "magical buckets" from a one-sided perspective, look at the entire story in the CRM. Using a dedicated training vendor that can connect the dots is not only a best practice; it's the only practice if you really want to drive sustainable results and still expect to get your job done. Additionally, I don't know too many "trainers" working at the store in that capacity with the bandwidth, the tools or the support to drive results. Having said that, do some exist, sure they do. But I'm not talking about the exceptions. I'm talking about the rule. Connecting the dots means they have the whole story, a story that gives the dealer the breakpoints that need to be addressed. 

Management of the incoming Calls 

Getting a text alert for a "bad" call sounds fantastic, right? Well, again, if your vendor cannot aggregate duplicate calls, defining customers who already had appointments, etc. then your manager will be wasting time. Time that could be spent using their CRM to manage and monitor for potential breakpoints actively. Not to mention, taking the extra time to have to go back into the vendor's platform to "fix" the call is not just painful, but pointless. If the vendor is integrated into the CRM, then manage it in the CRM. Make no mistake, it is essential to look at how many calls you are getting, but most CRM's offer a "multiple lead source" report, which can define the total leads by source, "individually." By taking this approach, you get the full story, and better yet, you can work with your teams to address the breakpoints by effective training. And what's actually in the CRM anyway? Think about it, without true and proper training, without effective training, all that you see (even with an API) would be worthless audio files matched up to Caller ID's. Having a fully trained staff actually obtaining contact information the right way means far less management intervention is necessary. How many managers look forward to reviewing those buckets? Or reviewing those alerts for matches? I know I don't. 

The other big red flag with solely using a phone vendor's reports is that I cannot tell you how many times I have seen GM's take away the phone calls from the sales consultants or BDC Agents, and (yes) Sales Managers due to the "reports." This made for a lot of arguing, which led to heated debates on the real issue, lack of training and resources on the dealer level. Simply throwing the new rep on the block into the BDC closet to get phone training in five minutes, or watching another "generic video" is not going to work. Not to mention, let's face it, most sales managers cannot handle incoming telephone calls themselves. This is not about putting anyone down, either. Look, my phone skills were *hateful* when I first started. It took a lot of training and time spent with trainers to get where I am today. If your teams are well trained, armed with solid word-tracking, and phone skills, they will sell more vehicles. 

CRM Integration of incoming Calls 

If your CRM can do this, GET IT DONE. It is a lifesaver. Taking time to manage multiple platforms, all while trying to increase your appointments, is not time well spent. If your phone tracking provider lets you track calls in the CRM (effectively), you can easily manage a seamless workflow. But if you have to take the time to listen to each call, then go back into the vendor's platform to "fix" the call – that is brutally painful. I vividly remember having to spend a good 1-2hrs every night re-scoring the calls so that my teams got paid accordingly, to then have to defend why I "fixed" the call. As if I were on a mission to "fudge" reports. Come on, every "change" made is tracked in most CRM's (check out your audit reports). I still have a headache thinking about it. 

Total Marketing Spend to Increase incoming Calls 

The more you spend – depending on the ad campaign – can mean a significant increase in the total volume of incoming calls. Those incoming calls mean there are more opportunities to sell vehicles. But simply getting more calls does not mean that you will sell more vehicles, and certainly not because they were dropped in your vendors "call buckets" either. For example, if your store is setting appointments at an average of 30%, then by default, yes - you will book more appointments. However, if you take the time to "build your foundation" not slapping band-aids on (using your tracking providers "buckets" and "tips"), you could actually increase your set rate from 30% to 60%. Taking the more laborious approach, time, money, and resources to solve the problem will mean better results. Making more out of the total advertising spend. But spending time working out of "buckets" – with a siloed approach – will not solve the problem, and you will just work yourself in circles, all while creating more breakpoints on the dealer level. 

Bottom Line: take the time to invest in your dealer teams by first training them! Work with a training company that can build a solid foundation. Once your foundation is built, use the tools "together" to enhance your team's performance. The stronger your team performs by having the right phone skills, means less time spent managing your phone vendor's buckets. And instead, you can work with your team on objections, all while increasing your set rate, which means your dealership now has more opportunities to close! As for the managers, make sure they participate in the training too! They cannot manage the breakpoints and areas of opportunities if they do not have proper phone skills. 

Do You Manage Your Training from Buckets? For Those Who Have Trained Their Teams First, What Do Your Results Look Like? 


Chris Vitale

This is well said and I couldn't agree more! With your permission, I'd like to share with my team!

Derrick Woolfson

@Chris, thanks! You're most welcome to share this with your team! 

Morgan Hardy

The reporting never lines up with what the vendor provides! All the calls have to be gone through one by one regardless. 

Morgan Hardy

(In my experience anyway) Many good points made!

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