2015 Understanding Car Dealership Phone Scripts
The author has been in the car business for over 25 years, selling Cadillacs, Conversion Vans, Chevrolets, Hummers, Jaguars, Lexus, Kias, Volvos and used cars. He has worked at car dealerships and lots in California, Utah, Virginia and New Jersey as a salesman and as a manager.
The author has chosen to use the reference of “he” instead of “he/she” to make for easier reading.
A well-constructed sales script can be a useful tool for both for both new and seasoned salespeople. They are designed to provide the salesperson with proven effective responses to common questions with the goal of setting an appointment; however, all of these scripts tend to blur the line between salesmanship and deceit. I am not insinuating that the sales people are encouraged in any way to misrepresent a vehicle or the dealership, just that the methods used to persuade a caller to set and keep an appointment are often ethically suspect. Remember…the salesperson’s goal when taking a sales call is not to make the sale over the phone or answer a lot of questions, but to get an appointment.
Most people consider car shopping to be a painful as a root canal. A root canal procedure though physically painful, only lasts an hour or so but the car-buying process can take hours, days, weeks, or longer. For this reason, most car-shoppers do their homework prior to contacting the dealership by surfing the internet for all of the latest information and news regarding the vehicle which interests them.
The next step is to contact a dealership. The caller wants to control the conversation because after all he’s the one that’s going to be spending the money. Dealerships understand this and look to gain control of the conversation by the use of a script.
The script begins with an over-used, obviously scripted, introduction by the salesperson. It goes something like this: “It’s a great day at Acme motors, my name is Joe Jones; how may I be of assistance today.” This is a dead giveaway. From this point on the caller is dealing with a script more so than a person. Here’s how it usually proceeds.
- The first goals are to get the caller's name and phone number (in case the call gets accidentally dropped). It’s polite for the caller to at least provide a name since the salesperson is spending his time in an attempt to help the caller.
- Somewhere in the conversation the salesperson will ask for your email address in case he needs to send you additional information. A good sales person will volunteer to send photos or a Carfax on the vehicle(s) that interest the caller. It’s always good to have as much information as possible, but by providing this information the caller is now in the company’s system. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just another method of control.
- “The manager just walked past the office - let me check with him to see if the car is still available” - This is a stall and control tool. If the salesperson has not yet asked for your phone number, this is a good time to do so. The truth is the manager did not just walk past the office, but there will be a short pause while the salesperson puts the caller on hold. This tactic is designed to build a sense of urgency. When the salesperson comes back on the phone he lets the caller know that there has been "traffic" on the vehicle but at the moment it is still available for purchase. This may or may not be true. In some cases the car is not available when the caller arrives. Perhaps another customer purchased the car while the caller was in route to the dealership. This is a very frustrating situation for the shopper but the salesperson did accomplish his goal. The caller is at his lot and perhaps there is another car that will catch his attention.
- Give a little information as possible - If the customer gets all of his questions answered he is less likely to stop by the dealership. The golden question for the customer is, “how much?” Because of all of the unknown variables it is easy for the salesperson to explain why he can’t give a sales number over the phone, and if he does……beware.
- Bait and Switch – When you call to inquire about a dealership’s advertisement on a specific car you may discover that it is no longer available. This may or may not be true, but the ad was designed to get you to call, which you did. There is a script for this as well.
- Setting the appointment – “Let me check my schedule. I have some time available at either 1:15 or 4:25 today. Which time would be best for you and your spouse (or other decision-maker) to stop in?” Again, this is a control tactic. If you want to make an appointment, just let the salesperson know when it would be convenient for you to stop in.
- Calls are monitored – Most large high profile dealerships record all incoming sales calls for training and accuracy purposes….just a little more pressure on the salesperson.
- Restricted number of calls –So that all of the salespeople have an equal chance to take incoming sales calls, a lot of dealerships restrict the number of calls that an individual person may take on any given day. This puts a lot of pressure on the salesperson because this one call may be his only chance to sell a car that day. Such pressure is not in the best interest of the customer.
- Spiffs for setting appointments – Periodically a dealership will award “spiffs” to the salespeople for setting appointments, and additional spiffs when the appointment shows. It is easy to see why this tactic is also not in the best interest of the customer.
- Hold the car for me – Don’t bet the farm on it! Often times a salesperson or manager will agree to “hold” the car until the customer arrives to see (or even purchase) it. I have seen this go bad more times than I care to remember. Sometimes the salesperson will make this promise to a customer without letting his manager know about it. Often the customer has left a credit card deposit over the phone on a vehicle only to find that it is not available when they arrive at the lot. The only safe way to hold a car is in person with a manager’s signature. The phone credit card deposit is easy to dispute for both the customer and the dealership.
In Summery, forget about the days when you could just make a call and have a no-pressure conversation with a car salesperson. The bottom line is that customers want to control their phone conversation with a car dealership, because they know what they want to accomplish. Phone scripts are designed to allow the salesperson to take control and set an appointment.