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Boosting Dealership Sales – Talking Trade-In Increases Appointment Success by 72%

Image of Susan Gaytan
Susan Gaytan

This post is brought to you by a guest contributor Susan Gaytan, Director of Dealer Engagement and Training  with Alan Ram's Proactive Training Solutions. Susan brings over twenty years of automotive experience and dealership management expertise.  She is responsible for integrating training solutions and helping dealerships maximize the effectiveness of training.  You can learn more about Alan Ram's Proactive Training Solutions here.

Let’s face it: as an industry, we have a glaring weakness when it comes to sales calls. Dealers lose a significant percentage of their traffic at this stage; most of the time, it’s through no fault of the sales reps. It’s the result of years, and even decades, of bad habits and old salesy tactics being carried over and just, well…focusing on the wrong things that don’t necessarily drive traffic into the dealership anymore. Or, not training your staff on phone-first sales at all. Dealers spend tens of thousands of dollars, even hundreds of thousands, each month to drive traffic to their websites and to their phones. Yet as an industry, we treat that first conversation like we’re taking a simple food order, and often not nearly as well as they do at Chick-fil-A. 

There’s so much profit lost merely because of lack of training. And I’m not talking about teaching a salesperson how to set an appointment – my 16-year-old can do that. I’m talking about training your sales reps to master the phones. Teaching them to “wow” each and every prospect and how to be in control with a step-by-step process for each call that drives them to come in and see you. I’m talking about treating the call just as if the shopper were actually in front of you, in person. The goal line has officially moved and today’s shopper has plenty of choices. If you don’t win them over on that first shot, they’re onto the next dealership’s website.

Time and time again as I listen to live sales calls from dealerships, I hear sales reps merely trying to get through the call. The shopper begins asking questions and soon it’s ask, answer, ask, answer, ask, answer. The shopper is in complete control and the rep has no real agenda or plan. If the car happens to be in stock, and all other stars align, then bingo! The rep sets an appointment and we sell them a car. But we know that hardly ever happens today. At least, not that easily.

Today, most sales opportunities exist outside of the dealership, on the phone, and online. Your frontline has to bring those opportunities into the dealership and be as effective as possible while doing it.

One of the biggest pieces to that sales call conversation is the trade-in. And it has a big effect on the in-person appointment setting and purchase, doesn’t it?

We know that people have a personal connection with their vehicles, yet we treat their trade-ins as an afterthought. The industry has evolved and today, it is just as advantageous to acquire a shopper’s trade as it is to sell them a car. Oftentimes it may be our only ticket to a high-grossing deal.

We recently partnered with our good friends at Calldrip. They’ve integrated all-new AI features into their call monitoring program and wanted to ensure that this new AI was listening for the right conversation elements when measuring sales call performance for their dealerships. They wanted to use our scoring formula, including the steps that we know help to convert shoppers into the dealership. After just three weeks of training the AI on what to listen for, we noticed a direct correlation between the trade-in conversation and appointment success. The more often a rep would use the trade-in word tracks, the more appointments that rep would set. Proactively inquiring about the shopper’s trade resulted in a 70% increase in appointment sets.

Calldrip conducted an independent study of 15 random dealerships in their database and scored over 1,200 sales calls. The KPIs included basic performance indices like a proper introduction, identifying the shopper’s needs, inquiring about their trade-in, and setting an appointment.

The study was eye-opening as far as the importance of discussing the trade-in with the customer. It found that out of 1,215 conversations, the trade was brought up in only 164 of those calls, or approximately 14%. All conversations yielded a total of 297 appointments set or 24%. However, when we isolated just those 164 calls in which the trade was discussed and looked at the total appointments set in just that group, it yielded a total of 69 appointments or 42%. In other words, when the trade was discussed, the likelihood of setting an appointment jumped from just over 24% to 42%. An increase of over 72%!

If you’re a manager and your paycheck depends on the traffic that enters your dealership every day, then a 72% jump in appointments is a massive increase. Say for example your dealership receives around 1000 sales calls per month, and your team is booking them at the average rate of 24%. You’re likely seeing approximately 60 appointments set per week or 240 appointments set per month. Based on our study, if your reps were mentioning the trade on every call you would see a 72% increase in those appointments made, or 180 additional appointments, nearly doubling your team’s appointments each month. That’s a lot of profit you could capture just by training your team to be better on the phones – and training them to ask about the trade.


XYZ Dealership – 24% appointments set rate
(Average dealer, no training. Asking about the trade sporadically)
1000 inbound calls  ➡️  240 appts set

XYZ Dealership – 42% appointments set rate
(Dealership that incorporates the trade question into every call)
1000 inbound calls  ➡️ 420 appointments set

Including the shopper’s trade early in the conversation can also prevent price objections down the line. When you include the trade proactively, you prevent it from coming into the deal at a later stage, which we know can hurt the deal. When you create a demand for seeing that car, you are planting a seed of hope in that shopper’s head that will be hard to ignore when they are shopping around. If the shopper believes there is any hope of getting more money for his trade at your dealership, you better believe they will come to see you before making a final decision.

Lastly, while most dealers focus their time and energy on acquiring their inventory from the auction, customer trade-ins can be more profitable. With an auction, you are fighting against other bidders, and increased auction and shipping fees. However, a trade-in is an auction of one. You have a better chance to acquire the vehicle below market and so gain better margins.

In summary, the impact of having a customer-trade in strategy as part of your phone process can be profound. Asking about the shopper’s trade-in can unlock a treasure trove of potential sales. By training your sales force to add this small piece to their conversations, dealerships can elevate their sales call performance, attract more customers through their doors, and secure more (and oftentimes) better-grossing deals. Asking about the shopper’s trade-in shouldn’t just be an option; it’s the key to unlocking more profit and should be as standard in the sales call conversation as the purchase vehicle itself.

See the entire study here!

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