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Maggie Pugesek

Maggie Pugesek Call Training Director

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Building Rapport Over the Phone

Training Matters

Do you struggle to build rapport over the phone? It really can be challenging, especially if you have not received phone training. I have always found that phone training is essential for any business, in any industry. The phone is often our first contact with the customer and is what builds their impression of the business. This is why it makes perfect sense that folks taking phone calls, receive adequate training.

If you do not understand the goal of your call, whatever it may be, how will you know what you are expected to accomplish when you pick up the phone? Having a process for handling phone calls ensures you not only have a clear understanding of your goals, but also a path to reach them. 

Many things can happen during a call and training can prepare you to handle a variety of situations. Knowing what to say and when to say it, paves the way for a smooth, successful call.

Rapport Building Process

It is possible to build rapport over the phone. Start by listening to their needs. Why has the customer called? Perhaps they are interested in something they saw when they drove by, or maybe they are just looking for a vehicle in general. Regardless, there is a specific way to handle these calls, based on why the customer has called. 

Specific Vehicle

If your customer has called in on a specific vehicle, I would suggest you start by obtaining a stock number if available. This guarantees you are both talking about the same vehicle and it helps to build trust within your customer. If they do not know the stock number, ask them for the year, make, model and color of the vehicle.

Once you are on the same page as your customer, I would compliment their vehicle choice. How you choose to compliment them is up to you. Perhaps you say "awesome vehicle" or "excellent choice", either way you are building confidence in your customer. This may seem like such a small step, but it actually establishes the foundation of a successful call.

Next I would think about the attention this particular vehicle has received. Have you obtained a lot of leads or phone calls on it? Create urgency by explaining to the customer that the vehicle has been popular. This is important because if they truly love the vehicle, they will want to know it's possible it could be sold rather quickly. 

In a specific call we should also ask about alternate vehicles. We may have something else on the lot that would be perfect for the customer, in addition to the vehicle they called in on. If they are open to something similar, ask them a few choice-based questions to help you narrow down the search. For example: car, truck or SUV.

Generic Vehicle

We also take calls where the customer is looking for something in general and has not chosen specs. In this case, I would handle the call differently than a specific call.

Start by asking the customer a few questions to help you determine what you have in stock that will work for them. I suggest keeping your questions relevant and choice-based. Asking open questions can lead to trouble.

Choices allow you to establish how to meet the customers needs, while controlling the conversation. This is much different than a customer asking "do you have any F150's?" and us replying "sure, want to come see them?". Most often their next question is "tell me what you have". The customer is asking that because they feel as though you have no idea what they are looking for. When we ask questions, we give the customer a sense that we understand and that we are here to help find the perfect vehicle. Now when we say we have something in stock that will work for them, they know it's true, because we took the time to understand how to meet their needs. Try it, it makes a difference.

It may not seem like much, but these small steps really do help you control the call and provide great customer service. If those are your goals, then these tips can get you headed in the right direction.


Carl Maeda

Some of my favorite dealership sales staff also end the call with everything they are going to do for the prospect.  Something like "I'll be sure to have the car detailed, cleaned, vacuumed and parked out in front, reserved for you.  I'll personally go over the car prior to your arrival and be waiting with keys in hand at 2 o clock."  I loved that ending thinking if I were the prospect, I'd now feel obligated to this person to show up right at 2.

Maggie Pugesek

I absolutely agree! When I train, I actually explain this in detail. If you pull the car up, tell them! Many stores also have welcoming things they do, for example a chalkboard welcoming the customer. Anything you can do to build value is always important in my book! Thanks for your comment Carl!

Tracy Gell

We have our 1st goal as get the name and a contact number and not in an I need to check a few things and call you back way, as that many times will lead them to call another dealer. We train the staff to ask either or vehicle questions like do you prefer a 2wd or 4wd or a light color or dark color to engage them. We also always have a manager call back within 5 minutes to confirm any appt set by sales staff and to confirm all the questions have been answered.  It builds trust and shows them the staff including the managers care about their business.

Maggie Pugesek

Hi Tracy! I am a huge fan of having management confirm the appointment, it is a key piece of commitment creation. Choice-based questions are proven to be the most successful way to determine how to meet the customer's needs. 

I have never been a fan of "let me put my hands on it and call you back". That is very ineffective and just allows the customer a chance to look elsewhere.

Excellent points, and thanks for commenting Tracy!

Dal Rich

Thanks for sharing Maggie!  Excellent information.  Couldn't agree more that phone training is essentail.  Connecting with the caller is as important as answering their questions.  Be more than an 'answering service' and engage the prospect with thoughtful questions about why they called.  Establish some trust before asking for an appointment.  Avoid stereotypical word tracks; listen and engage.

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