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Joe Webb

Joe Webb Founder / Trainer

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Are There Holes in Your Phone Script?

As you can see from the picture on the right, it may be time for this dealer to update their phone script.  (Yes, that is a real, actual, antique phone script currently taped to a real sales desk.  No, this is not a pirate’s map circa 1702.)

Worst Phone Script

World’s Worst Phone Script found at a present-day car dealership by DealerKnows

Almost every dealer who records calls using a call management software knows that listening to those very calls is the quickest way to make their blood pressure skyrocket.  Phone handling is abysmal at most stores, and while some track the calls, and others preach the importance of phone skills, very few are training their teams to be skilled in today’s phone etiquette.

Much of this is the fault of the times.  With the digital smorgasbord that dealers must chew through, far too often they put phone training on the backburner. They assume that the online traffic will generate itself into sales and ignore the fact that phone handling has evolved.

If your dealership still operates off of an archaic phone script passed down from the sales managers of yesteryear, you need to update your phone script.  
(And yes, “phone script” can be a bad word on the
showroom floor. It still carries with it a negative connotation.  We, at DealerKnows, believe in phone structure over phone script.  With that said, we still provide scripts (and the corresponding structure) to our clients, solely as a foundation for quality phone etiquette.  You cannot rely on the antiquated questions…

  • 2-door or 4-door?
  • Automatic or manual?
  • Lighter colors or darker colors?

These idiotic questions are medieval when you consider how detailed the consumer’s research process is, as well as how the OEMs build their vehicles.  These questions aren’t relevant.  So here is a proverbial “Call to Action” -
Walk up to the nearest salesperson and ask them for a phone script they use to train on.  Or something they use as a guide. Then ask your sales manager.
Do they have anything that wasn’t written on 1960’s parchment?
Does it need to be updated?
Does it need to ask more intuitive questions based on today’s researched customers in an effort to covert more appointments?

My guess is there are some holes in your phone script. It is time you get them some phone training and do something about it.

David Ortiz
The picture is hilarious but also a little disturbing for the car business.
Jon Quade
Thanks for the post, Joe. I’d like to note a few areas where I disagree with you, however. 1) The script isn’t the problem, Joe. Simply stated, automotive sales consultants do not underperform on the telephone because they’re following scripts. They underperform because they’re NOT following scripts. If you don’t acknowledge that, you need to listen to more calls. 2) Likewise, script questions aren’t ‘archaic,’ ‘antiquated’ or ‘idiotic.’ Again, if you listen to calls, you would know that questions by sales consultants are largely nonexistent. And, contrary to your specific contention, in the 2014 Inventory Shopping Experience Study color is the number one filter customers use online when searching inventory; on the phone, ‘color’ is therefore a relevant interest question. Finally, what you and those like you glaringly ignore is the singular defining factor when determining any phone technique’s effectiveness: does the customer enter the dealership? Anything short of that, regardless of your undefined ‘intuitive’ questioning and borderline-divine understanding of today’s customers, misses the mark. Results matter, Joe. Misleading anecdotal observations do not.
Joe Webb
Jon - I sincerely appreciate your reply, even with its passive aggressive tone, as it allows us to debate this further. You are correct on some accounts. Far too many sales professionals don't attempt to follow any script whatsoever. This blog however wasn't meant to be an indictment against them, but rather a call to action for those implementing scripts at stores to be more forward-thinking than what was previously acceptable call tracks. To your question of my history of call reviews, not only did I do it diligently (and successfully) in retail, I also work closely with Jerry Thibeau of Phone Ninjas and review their results with our mutual clients. While I don't feel the need to validate your concerns of my expertise, maybe it helps to know that I also consult for a start-up call monitoring service. Hopefully that eases your mind as to my ("and those like me" as you so eloquently put it) ability to expound on the topic. You're indeed right that customers aren't asked enough questions by salespeople. I also agree that color is an important question to ask. However, I disagree that the "lighter shade/darker shade" question because I know longer believe it carries with it the same impact as it does with today's more researched customers. (A more, yes, intuitive "color" question is most certainly an important element in the scripts we provide our clients. Every decision we make is predicated upon the same data. How you and I use that data to enact change just seems to be different.) I'm currently working on another blog titled "Old School is Better than New School". I think we likely agree more than you'd prefer to realize, given your diatribe. I too realize that any script is better than no script. As a consultant yourself, surely you would advocate a more advanced script than a dated one, correct? With that said, I hold the DrivingSales forum in a higher esteem than most. One visit to a DSES and you realize that this site is more suited to a more advanced dealer. I would certainly like to believe that any dealer digesting information on DrivingSales regarding FB PPC analytics and conversion rates of video pre-roll already has a sales team more adept on the phone than those dealers NOT reading these forums. Otherwise, they'd be putting the cart before the horse. Those perusing these digitally-advanced sites should have the fundamentals of phone handling down. MY argument was that readers on a site of this level should take a close look at 1) How dated the script is that they've been providing their staff 2) The importance of following a script (The holes in the script in the picture defines both its longevity and, one would hope, its overuse.) 3) Whether or not their sales team has a script readily available that they can use as a guide. I apologize if you read further into the script than what I was initially attempting reveal. I agree that scripts aren't followed the way they should be. With that said, I respectfully disagree with you that all scripts are created equal. Not in today's marketplace. I certainly value all that the team at Cobalt and ADP do for the vast dealer body you consult. One of the very few benefits we, as a boutique firm, get to have is the ability to push our dealer clients past the point of acceptability and growth, and into a more progressive culture of phone handling.
Jon Quade
Joe, thanks for your quick response. If the tone of my comments was not aligned with the provocation you intended, I apologize. However, I trust you understand that when something I’ve taught for years is described in the language you chose, by failing to acknowledge it, I’m accepting it as truth. I won’t bore your readers with a point-by-point analysis of your reply, but I am compelled to offer a brief reinterpretation, if you’ll allow it. First, “dated” doesn’t automatically make scripts less advanced or less effective. If changing a script causes fewer people to enter the dealership, should you really change it – even if it sounds cooler or more up-to-date? I don’t believe so. Second, and in that same vein, you are absolutely correct in stating that all scripts aren’t created equal. I’m relatively sure we’ve both seen our share of ineffective phone scripts. With some minor alterations, I’ve used the same phone scripting for over 25 years; yet always maintained if someone produces one that works better to get people to visit the dealership, I’ll use that one instead. Third, while you believe that “lighter or darker colors” is a terrible question, perhaps because people select color online, then it would be good to explain why nearly three-quarters of customers change their minds and purchase a different vehicle than they initially selected… once they enter the dealership, of course. Lastly, I will respectfully nod to your position that DrivingSales readers are, by their very nature, more advanced in their desire to excel than the average dealer, and that very truism provides a great reason they are deserving of exposure to alternative viewpoints. Thanks for providing that opportunity.
Subi Ghosh
Okay then... let's debate this. I see your point Jon, but as someone who has been trained on those old scripts and have developed scripts over time for my teams at multiple dealerships... I disagree. I respect your 25 years doing this, but much can change in 25 years. Heck, our industry has made incredible advancements in the past 5 years. So, we cannot ignore the evolution of the customer within the processes we have set in stone (pun intended). One can argue that the consumers themselves have not changed and thus these scripts (if adhered to) will get people through the doors, but one must also recognize the variance in the statistics you are using to compare. Sure, any script if adhered to will get people through the doors better than if not being used. Sure, those lines and tactics work... but EXPERIENCE in the dealerships day after day... is telling us that customers are reacting poorly to the "old school" questioning and script styles. Evolving your script using psychology, neurolinguistics, and some testing in the field helps strengthen your appointment set and show rates. The major buying habits have not changed, but the consumers have evolved and often react poorly to those scripts that many "old schoolers" preach. The reality is EVERYONE is using those same tired lines, customers are not only expecting these lines... they grow anxious after giving the same answers to the same questions when shopping dealer after dealer. There is such thing as tried and true, however, there is something to be said for evolving (not changing) to update those scripts to focus on rapport and appointments that SHOW not just SET.

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