When I first started in the Automotive Industry in the 1990’s (I will not tell you how early so I don’t embarrass myself, but let’s just say it was early), I remember sitting in sales meetings and having the GM ask us over and over again “Why are they (customers) calling the dealership?” We (the sales team) would all shout out like some scene from George Orwell’s “1984” in perfect monotone, “To disqualify US!” This was the good intentioned, but ill fed, message I would venture to guess that many of us received. The message was sound, but the delivery was problematic -- at best. This just made most of the people I sold with in my early days terrified of the phone. It was obvious to me that if I was going to push out ahead of everyone, I had to become a master of the telephone.
The truth is, the customers really were trying to disqualify us as a place to buy from. Just think back to the ads dealerships used to run in those days. I mean really, even I couldn’t figure out how they were going to get the price of any car that low. I knew the costs and there simply was no way! But, this was South Florida in the early 90’s and it was basically the Automotive Industry’s version of the “Wild West,” or the “No Man’s Lands” of WWI. It was a “NO-QUARTER BATTLEFIELD” and the winner would take all. I realized that every single time I picked up the phone and took a sales call, my GM would hear the recording. I knew that I had to get it right and I failed. OVER AND OVER AGAIN!! Then I realized that there was no way to win if I tried to sell over the phone based on PRICE ALONE! (CLOUDS PART, CHOIR OF ANGLES APPEAR SINGING.) I had to get control and set the appointment. It took a while. But, with time, I got pretty good at turning phone ups into real appointments that actually showed up -- and most of the time bought.
So what’s the point, right? Why talk about the old days when what really matters is the industry today? Simple. The phone has been replaced by the internet and email. The real question you need to ask yourself as a Manager, GM, or Owner, is what are you doing to make sure that your sales team is fearless and prepared to engage each and every prospective consumer online? Do they know the different generational mannerisms? Do they know the difference between the best ways to engage a “Baby Boomer” as opposed to a “Gen-Y?” Do they feel totally comfortable in conversing in the many ways available today? If not, then it really is our own fault.
The burden of ensuring that our sales team has the knowledge that they need in order to be successful in today’s market space is entirely up to us as managers. It follows that we also have to have the ability to weigh and measure the strengths and weaknesses of each member of our team, and then manage accordingly. If there is a salesperson who just can’t seem to get texting, email or twitter, why would we force them to deal with “Gen Y” or “Gen X” prospects? Just because it is their turn in the rotation? That is nothing less than a recipe for disaster. Look at your prospect. Know your prospect. Match them accordingly to the strengths of your sales team. Don’t waste the potential sale just because of some archaic “Round Robin” system. If you are in control, you can balance out the online prospects that come to your dealership throughout your team in a way that allows everyone to have their fair opportunities.
The bottom line is this, the consumer of today will either come to you online or on the phone 90% of the time prior to walking into your showroom. Don’t blow it.