Opinion: Four Key Phone Handling Tips to Drive Leads and Convert Prospects

A picture of Call Box representative Alyssa Whitmore

How many times have you found yourself at Chick-fil-A in need of a quick meal after a long day at work or during your lunch break? Well, if you are anything like me, the number is pretty high. But why? The menu is not extensive and the long line at the drive-thru is intimidating. We go because the service is superior in the fast-food industry. We know they will get our order perfectly and quickly. And the food tastes good!

Now, this isn’t a Chick-fil-A ad, but think about how the chain’s quality of service continues to keep its lines stretching to the street every hour of the day. No one can say “my pleasure” without thinking of Chick-fil-A. Although you aren’t selling lunch, you can replicate the restaurant’s exemplary level of service in the RV industry.

First impressions matter in every aspect of your life, from where you decide to go for lunch to whether customers will purchase more than once from your RV dealership—first impressions matter. The first impression most dealers have with a potential buyer is often over the phone. Consumers see an ad for a new, luxury RV that came in yesterday. They call you and ask to look at the RV. Using the same mindset as the famous fast-food chain when leveraging the phone, you will give your customers a great, memorable experience.

The phone should be an asset to creating satisfied customers, not a liability negatively impacting your dealership’s bottom line. With summer months quickly approaching and being your busiest time of year, get ahead with these four steps to learn the power of the phone and how it will impact your dealership.

1 Connect Every Call and Build Rapport

If you waited three minutes at a Chick-fil-A drive-thru just for the employee to say “Yeah, what do you want?” you probably would be unimpressed. Same with the phone. When customers call your dealership, they will likely be annoyed when they must wait on hold for three minutes to have a salesperson answer who, instead of helping, refers them to the website. Instead, you should connect callers quickly, route them properly and create a good first impression.

If you fail to connect calls the first-time clients dial your number, they will already be calling the dealership next door before you get the chance to return their call.

Let’s go back to the term first impression. Just as Chick-fil-A makes you feel like their most valued customer, you should build  a personable relationship with your customer. Build rapport throughout the call by giving a friendly introduction and truly learning the consumer’s RV wants and needs. Jot down what you learn and mention it throughout the call. For example, “I have two kids as well. They love the spacious bunk beds with TVs, and having a washer and dryer makes it so easy to clean all their dirty clothes during longer trips!” Not only will you gain customers’ appreciation for taking their needs into account, but you will also continue to build a more personable relationship.

2 Request and Invite Customers into the Dealership Every Time

This may seem obvious. A customer calls and loves one of the RVs on your lot. The potential buyer gives you the exact model, and you check that vehicle’s availability. Then, you invite the consumer to come in and check the RV out. Extending an invitation is one step dealers missed more often than you would think. Not every caller makes this step obvious. The RV they asked about may already be sold. They may live a couple of hours away, or they are calling to compare the price of an RV with your competitor down the road. Don’t lose these leads by forgetting one simple question.

As with many other types of manufacturers around the world, the RV industry has seen shortages over the past few years. Inventory shortages and supply chain issues have contrasted rising demand. Often, customers are calling about a particular model. The agent could easily say, “Nope, don’t have it.” Instead, attempt to invite the customer in to look at a similar model or one from a previous year. Due to these shortages, If potential buyers seeking a specific RV live hundreds of miles away, try requesting a virtual appointment, sending videos and pictures of the RV, and inviting consumers to the lot when they will be in town.

The goal on the phone is to sell the appointment, not the RV. Instead of answering consumers’ questions on every detail of a particular RV they are interested in, invite the customer in to see it firsthand. When requesting an appointment with your customer, you will get some form of a “yes” 90% of the time and will likely prevent buyers from immediately visiting your competition. Make consumer invitations a habit and build phone accountability so customers continue to show up.

3 Set Firm Appointments

Once you have requested the customer visit your dealership, there’s still another critical step: verify the date and time that works best for their schedule. When setting an appointment, many salespeople fall into a trap of setting “soft” versus “firm” appointments. A soft appointment happens when customers say they will come later in the week; these appointments have only a 25% show rate. Make sure to set a firm time and date (for example, Saturday at 10 a.m.) to see upward of a 75-80% show rate. Agents need to highlight the importance of firm appointments to every customer. With a firm time, you can guarantee the RV the consumer is interested in will be cleaned, parked out front and ready for a walk-through. The customer will have your undivided attention during the appointment and will avoid any unnecessary wait times.

Some customers may beat around the bush and avoid giving you a specific arrival date and time. To overcome this, try implementing the Whittle and Shepard technique. Start by asking the caller whether the beginning or end of the week works better. This will narrow which days to suggest. If the customer indicates the end of the week, then ask how their Thursday looks, for example. If they agree to Thursday, then follow up by asking whether they prefer morning or afternoon. Finally, end by confirming the customer’s appointment for Thursday at 4 p.m. By providing either/or options, you assist in narrowing an open-ended range of appoint-ments to one that works best for the customer. This commitment creates accountability and improves your show rates.

4 Pursue Any Missed Opportunities

If you remember, the first step to providing a top-notch first impression is to connect every caller to someone who can help. Although our goal is to connect 100% of those callers, that target is unrealistic. You may be on the line with another customer at the time of their call, out on the lot showing an RV, or a potential buyer calls after the store has closed. You may also experience customers who fail to show up when you booked a soft appointment. Promptly following up with consumers can help salvage the opportunity. Try calling any customers who set soft appointments the morning of their appointment to help increase show rates. Pursuing these missed opportunities and no-shows is important. Set aside time each day to make outbound calls and shift your proactive mindset to reactive.

Show initiative to potential leads and continue to build upon your positive first impression once you reconnect with customers on the phone. Reach out to your most important and valuable leads first, attempt to salvage any missed opportunities or no-shows and hold your staff accountable to true outbound performance.

Alyssa Whitmore is a Marketing Specialist at Call Box, a comprehensive call tracking and phone handling solution. Call Box allows RV dealerships to gain visibility on phone calls, capture more leads, and improve the caller experience. Dominate every call, every day with Call Box.

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