The Four 'Cs' of Phone Prospecting

Whenever the topic of phone skills and sales professionals comes up, the conversation seems to end with the same conclusion: Showroom sales professionals simply aren’t good at working the phones. In their defense, I will say that it’s not their fault. The real problem is simply a deficiency of knowledge.

If you know better and choose not to do better, shame on you. Just because you understand the “road to the sale” doesn’t automatically mean you can handle a phone “up.” First off, most salespeople are trained to sell face to face. The difference between doing that and selling over the phone is the level of control a customer feels when he or she is not talking to you face to face.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “peel them off of the ceiling.” If you haven’t, it basically describes a technique where the salesperson kicks off a sale by presenting really high numbers. This gives the salesperson a psychological advantage that will keep the customer in the showroom. 

The problem with using this technique with a phone “up” is you don’t have those factors available to keep the customer on the phone. What ends up happening is the salesperson gives his or her best rendition of that old sales line, “Come on down and don’t forget to ask for me.”

To help with your phone skills, let’s take a look at four core fundamentals — each of which just happens to start with the letter “C” — that will make you more successful with phone prospects.

1. Confidence

This is obviously a no-brainer. However, you would be surprised at how many unsure salespeople pick up the phones every day and fumble through calls about inventory, rebates and incentives, then hammer their message home with a “Would you like to come on down?” Lack of confidence leaves the door open for a customer to assert control, which, of course, is a big no-no. The easiest way to head that off is to actually fill in the missing information that caused you to lose confidence in the first place. If you are stumbling through information about lease options, then it would only make good sense to spend a few minutes a day going over the latest lease programs.

2. Credibility

We already face an uphill battle based on the simple fact that we are in the car business. It’s not who we are but what we do that people hold against us. An innocent mistake can spell doom when working with a prospect on the phone or in the showroom. Just like confidence, the easiest way to be credible is to invest the time to actually know what you are talking about.

3. Competence

By now, you probably realize that all of these factors connect. Being confident feeds the appearance of being credible, and credibility will make you more competent. Competence itself boils down to the ability to handle the situation presented to you in a professional manner and to the satisfaction of the customer.

4. Congruence

The bottom line is, what you say needs to make sense to the prospect. The conversation should weave itself together and flow. Easier said than done, right? The worst thing you can do — and I know it’s hard not to — is to get caught up in the script. This becomes problematic when the customer says or asks something that’s not on the script, but you continue down that path anyway. When that happens, the customer will typically come back with, “What you’re saying doesn’t make sense.” That statement usually means game over.

The name of the game when it comes to phone sales is leading. Lead the customer down the path that satisfies his or her initial reason for calling, and position them for that important next step: a visit. Remember, you’re not a customer hotline. Treat each call as an opportunity to generate sales. Breaking away from the question-and-answer mentality may indeed be the biggest challenge you will face, but shifting away from playing phone tennis with your customer to actually closing something will lead to more appointments.