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This post is brought to you by a guest contributor, Maggie Pugesek. Maggie is a Partner at C&M Coaching, she specializes in coaching for automotive dealerships. You can learn more about her company here.
Maggie uses the car sales process as an example throughout the article. However, these insights are applicable to all types of sales.
Before we even get into discussing the best method of communication, we must first discuss response time. If you want any chance of successfully reaching your customer, regardless of your preferred communication method, you need to respond promptly. A typical customer has limited availability, so the longer you take to reach out to them, the less likely they are to be available and your chances of connecting decrease with every 15 minutes that go by. The best way to get in touch with the customer is to contact them within 5 minutes of receiving their request. Anything after an hour and they may have already forgotten about you or chosen another dealership.
When a consumer reaches out to a company for more information, and they voluntarily provide a phone number, they expect you to call them. Unless your customer specifically requests we only communicate via text, you should always pick up the phone and call them.
One of my favorite things to tell trainees is that people do not buy cars from places, they buy cars from people, and they only buy cars from people they like. It is so incredibly hard to build rapport with a customer via text. When you are on the phone with the customer you can use your voice inflection and personality to win them over. You also do not have a character limit to watch out for, you can ask whatever you need to determine how to best meet the customers needs. Sure, maybe they only have a few minutes to talk, but even the best sales calls can be completed in under 5 minutes. Sometimes it takes a customer 5 minutes to respond to your first text, compared to an actual phone call where you can have rapport built and an appointment set in that same amount of time.
The bottom line is that nothing can replace an actual phone call to the customer, not even a text. People like interaction and they want to know you care about earning their business. A personal phone call tells your potential customer that you have time for them and that they matter. Now, if they ask you to only text, then of course you will honor that request. Yet to assume every person only wants to text is simply inaccurate and can build a poor first impression. Remember that first impressions are built within the first 5-10 seconds of communicating, so make it count by placing a personal call to the customer.
Text is viewed as easier and quicker, but keep in mind not everyone texts. Some customers list a landline instead of a cell phone. The other concern with texting is the SPAM folder, similar to your email most cell phones filter the same. This means your text could end up in someone’s SPAM folder and a lot of customers do not even know this folder exists, as it is a newer feature. This means they will think you never tried to contact them at all.
If you are going to send a text, I suggest sending it after you have tried to call the customer. If they do not answer, leave a message, and shoot over a quick text. This is your best bet at getting a response from them, especially if they are at work and cannot talk now. Additionally, don’t use a personal cell phone to text customers, instead use texting software. This provides the ability to track, monitor and review all customer engagements.
I handle texts the same way I do calls, except we don’t have the added benefit of voice inflection. When texting, attempt to build as much value in the dealership and rapport as you can, engaging with the customer to keep them replying to your messages. Ask questions but stay in control. Go for the appointment. Make sure you properly identify yourself and I do not suggest cutting corners or using slag when texting with a customer. Keep it professional, just like you would if it was a phone call. Be sure you text over directions, appointment details and your contact info so the customer feels prepared. Even if you set the appointment via phone, I suggest texting over those details so its easily accessible to them.
Keep in mind we want to be able to reach as many customers as possible, so you really don’t have to choose between texting and calling, you can do both! In fact, doing both is the best way to figure out which method your customer prefers. Plus, by attempting both you are letting them know earning their business is important to you. Most dealerships have customers that span a wide demographic, so there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each customer’s preference is different, it’s like putting together a puzzle. What matters is that you contact them, contact them quickly and use a variety of methods until you find the perfect match!
Learn more insights on lead response in this free White Paper: The Importance of Rapid Lead Response in 2021
Maggie Pugesek is Partner at C&M Coaching, published author and has trained thousands of people on how to execute the right processes and handle calls effectively by developing word tracks and processes that help dealerships and their teams succeed.