Managing phone sales inquiries

Lucas Deal

June 20, 2013

Do you know how to handle a prospective customer if one calls out of the blue?

Can you quickly and efficiently evaluate their potential to buy, provide them vehicle information and move them to a close?

It may sound crazy, but George Papp, professional sales consultant and former director of sales development at Arrow Truck Sales, says managing a customer that reaches out to a dealer is a complicated aspect of truck sales.

“The phone is a short-selling cycle. When a customer contacts you [on the phone] you want to take him out of the marketplace quickly,” he says. “It’s not like outside sales when you’re working with a fleet.”

During a recent Used Truck Association (UTA) “Selling for Success,” training seminar, Papp offered attendees a series of tips for managing a customer phone inquiry.

He says any good phone response begins hours before the phone rings, through preparation. Salespeople have to know your inventory to be able to sell it.

He recommends salespeople walk a used lot every morning to get acclimated with the trucks available to sell. They should take notes during the walk, writing down the condition and specs of each truck. Once that’s completed, Papp says the salespeople should input their notes into your inventory system on their computers or tablets so they can easily access it during sales discussions.

Having a conversation strategy to follow a customer inquiry is another essential aspect of preparation. To sell a truck you have to control the sales discussion, Papp says.

Papp says most customer calls all start the same way, with questions about a specific truck or truck financing, and salespeople should have a call outline or script prepared to handle each call path.

“If a customer is in control of a call,” he notes, “you may never get to your objective of selling them a truck.”

Asking the right questions allows a salesperson to take control of a call, Papp says. The right questions at the right time will get a customer talking about his operation, why he needs a truck, what truck is best for his operation and which truck can he afford.

This can be done with trigger questions. Designed to help create a call path and help a salesperson control a call, trigger questions are typically close-ended questions.

Papp says some examples of trigger questions include “Are you a first-time buyer?” “How many trucks do you currently own?” “What kind of truck are you currently driving?”

How a customer responds to these questions will direct a salesperson to a specific call path. For example, a customer that says he’s a first-time buyer should be directed to a call path that will focus on his buying and finance options, while a customer looking to add to a fleet will be pushed toward more questions about the fleet’s typical haul and the best truck for the job.

“Train your brain to be responsive,” Papp says. When a customer enters a specific call path, a salesperson must know what comes next.

The only way to truly know what comes next is to listen. Papp says sometimes salespeople get caught up in their own mind thinking about what they want to say next, or where they want a conversation to go, and forget to listen to the customer talking in their ear.

He says that’s a no-no.

“Salesmen spend so much time talking, but you also have to listen,” he says. “Don’t be involved in your own thoughts. When you ask a question, stop and listen to the customer and everything they have to say.”

If you’re prepared for any answer, you should be able to quickly enter the correct call path when a customer gives you a clue, Papp says.

And he says listening starts the instant your phone rings. Papp says too often salespeople answer the phone to hear a customer ask directly about a truck, only to take down their name and contact information then ask “How can I help you today?”

“They’ve already told you that,” he says. “That was the first thing they said.”

Phone conversations should be prompt and direct, Papp says. The goal is to take the customer out of the marketplace. Listening carefully, being prepared and asking the right questions will help you do so.

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