Appraising vehicles sight unseen

Ed Small

We've seen a huge jump in customers wanting trade figures for vehicles we've never seen. We've tried everything from showing customers our phones with our black book and MMR numbers (I don't know why we continue to do this because customers never believe these numbers), we've given above book, we given average book, we've held back expecting some issues with the vehicle, we've used 3rd party sites (KBB, Edmunds, NADA,..), we've refused to give a number until we see the vehicle. Of coarse we tell the customer no figure is firm until we see and drive the vehicle. But you know how well that works  when a vehicle comes in to the store that we quoted average book for and it has the check engine light on, needing tires, cracked windshield.............and the salesperson looks at you and says "you aren't gonna lower the apprasial are you"? How are you handling the sight unseen appraisal that I'm sure you're seeing more and more of like me?

Ed Small

sorry for the double post

Russ Chandler

This might sound like a silly question but have been using a value range opposed to a single number? Also, if/when you use a range, is it a detailed description for what influences a final appraisal value to fall on the bottom or top of that range? 

My recommendation would be to use a trade appraisal range that can be configured to match your dealerhips local strategy (conservative or aggressive), and then work on educating the customer around that range when sending them the numbers. If you can educate to what condition, options, supply, demand and other factors can do to influence the value in detail(actual dollar amount examples) then when they arrive at the dealership you can reference those details a second time. 

I understand its likely they don't fully trust the data your providing but its also likely they didn't enter all of their own vehicle data into the appraisal either. 

Another recommendation would be to just collect the bare minimum for what you need to offer a site unseen trade appraisal. Call it a "pre-appraisal" that you only collect year, make, model, trim, milage and just overal poor/avg/good condition. If they offer more details just tell them we'll take that into account in the real, on-site appraisal at the dealership. This is probably more of a realistic approach to trying to hit the number on the head without seeing it anyway. 


Hi Ed-

I train phone handling and BDC process. Are you using a trained BDC or are the salespeople fielding these phone ups/internet leads?

Customers didn’t just start demanding this. If I was to make a wild guess I would say we aren’t creating value in coming into the dealership. Creating value can’t be “I can’t give you that over the phone…”, (in fact, after you say the words “I can’t” the customer is done listening)

When I train new hires in a BDC I usually take a poll of the reps before we go into trade objection handling. I ask what kind of car they all have. Year, make, mode, trimline, milage, condition. While some can’t remember what year their vehicle is, many have no idea what trimline they have. And as we progress, we find that condition is relative, what the customers perceive as excellent, we may see as good or even below average. This is a loosing battle, but assuming not having the right vehicle data does not matter, lets continue.

I absolutely 100% train reps to never provide a trade number over the phone. It’s suicide.

That’s right. Bold italicized and underlined. They don’t need us to look up blue book or black book, our job isn’t to provide this information. Our job is to set an appointment that shows.

By doing this. you’re doing one of 3 things, period.

#1-you're quoting an amount higher than the customer will be offered upon inspection

#2-You're quoting an amount lower than the customer will be offered post inspection. While some see this as "playing it safe", you're going to compete with dealerships that will do #1 all day.

#3 and last but not least, more often than not you're simply providing a number that a customer will use to leverage their negotiations with other dealerships who also get sucked into the same gam,e over the phone and the customer never had the opportunity to even step foot in your dealership let alone experience what makes your store unique. How many times have you quoted a specific number, or even a “range” to have the customer decline an appointment opportunity and think, I gave him/her what she asked for…what happened? Customers THINK they want something but in reality they want something very different.

Let’s look at some of the wordtracks I train on and have been proven effective in many dealerships with the proper training and support. Bold/italicized indicated words I have reps emphasize

Handling trade in amount demand A-

I certainly understand you want the very best trade amount in for your (Trade in vehicle) , but it would be irresponsible of any dealership to give you that number over the phone because only a trained appraiser can give you that number (without pause or hesitation) I do have 2 priority VIP appraisals this afternoon, I have one at 11:45 and one at 3:15, which one works better for you?


Handling trade in amount demand B-


If I gave you a trade in amount I could be off by 1, 2, or even 3 thousand dollars. Is 3 thousand dollars allot of money to you? (Regardless of answer) It is to most people I speak with. Let’s do this the right way and set up a priority appraisal. It looks like I have 2 appointments today left for chargers, I have one at 2:45 and one at 7:30, which one works better for you?

Now, a few things to keep in mind. When I have reps give appointment times I have them provide times on the :15’s and :45’s and never, ever ASK if that time is “ok” with the customer or if that time will work for you etc. Give two appointment times and without pause or hesitation “which one works better for you”?

Now, for those that are going to say this simply isn’t going to work, guess what? You’re right! Here’s the real shocker.

You don’t want it to work all the time. Yep. The customers that are demanding, kicking and screaming at you for you to give a verbal appraisal over the phone, after you’ve used an effective method for overcoming the objection…that customer was never planning to come to your dealership anyway. They were just using you to get a number to phone shop the hell out of every store in your market and maybe even country.

This absolutely WON’T work 100% of the time. There is no % that I could even assign to this strategies effectiveness but what I CAN say is if you’re using wordtracks like this and executed correctly, they are extremely effective.

When the customer is on the phone we aren’t selling our vehicle, or our trade numbers. We are simply selling the appointment. This is why so many dealerships struggle to tap into the value of their leads and phone calls. The same way we’d never have a BDC rep meet with a customer and attempt to sell them a vehicle-the people that are the best sales people in the building should not be handling your phone leads. Different skillets for a very different job.

Kevin Miner

I am always amazed at the you can't and I won't answers from some people. Why would you not clarify a trade appraisel with the right questions and try to make deal? Having worked fopr a company who gladly did this on a regular basis I saw huge results. Surprisingly, it was rare that we found people were not honest about their vehicles if asked the right question. Ask the right questions and make deals. 

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