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Telephone Skills Are Important Too

by Art Little

Transmission Digest Magazine
This article appeared in the August 2014 issue of Transmission Digest.

Last time, we visited the world of lead generation experts and learned a lot from the question and answer session in the article. How to get the phone to ring is one game but, what you do when the phone rings is another. When I am asked what one thing makes a shop successful, my answer is always telephone procedure. If the car does not get there, nobody gets paid. Pretty simple logic. However, this aspect of our business is often overlooked in smaller shops and hard to come by for the big shops. The small shops don't get enough leads to attract the top managers if they have a manager at all. With the big shops, let's face it folks, there are not enough of the good ones to go around. So in this piece, I will give you some tips that the seasoned pro's use with customers in order to be the more attractive shop for the customer to bring his car to.

I have to start with the telephone procedure. I know that might sound pretty elementary to some of you but, I have been in a lot of shops that do not have one. The smaller ones especially. They just shoot from the hip. That's why they lose the game on the telephone. If you want a telephone procedure you can get one if you try. Aamco wrote one 60 years ago and every franchise and major independent shop since has copied it in one way or another with some small differences and changes over the years. If you can't get a copy of one, you can come to my website. I am working on a new one and I will send it to you. The point to having a telephone procedure is that it gets you organized. Guys that shoot from the hip don't know it but, it is much easier to sell off a telephone procedure than to shoot from the hip.

So if the purpose of a telephone procedure is to get you organized, the first thing we need to do is get a telephone procedure pad next to every phone in the shop. There needs to be a pen available and in your hand when you answer the phone. If it's not there, then you are shooting from the hip and you are at a disadvantage in this game. If you have to tell the customer to hold on while you find a pen or you can get to your desk, you start off looking unorganized. Some of you may be able to type the lead into the computer while you are talking to the customer but, most of us can not sell and type at the same time. So, most managers will do better with the pad in front of them when they talk to a new customer. You only get one chance to make a first impression in any sale. If you answer the phone with your pen and pad ready, that's a good start.

The greeting or start off line can vary from one good manager to another. "Thank you for calling xyz transmissions, Bob speaking, who's calling please" is an old one that is still popular. Another is "XZY Transmissions, how can I help you today?" Short and to the point. Another is " This is Bob at XYZ Transmissions, how can I help you?" What ever you are comfortable with, it doesn't matter. Any of these beat, "Transmission Shop". Or, "Shop". You see, the last two do not ask a question. That is the key to getting into a meaningful dialogue. Ask a question. Don't just leave the customer there hanging.

Your personality has a lot to do with your ability to get the car in too. If the customer likes you and trusts you, he will bring the car to you. So, it is important to have a good attitude when you answer the phone. A friendly voice on the phone is well accepted by a customer that is upset because his transmission is having a problem. The good ones get the customer to like them and trust them to the point that, the customer does not want to take their car anywhere else. How do they do that?

They are consistent each time they answer the phone. Whatever greeting they choose, they stay with it. On any telephone procedure there are key questions to ask and stock answers to questions the customer asks. The good managers use them because they know they work. All the answers will not be on any telephone procedure you choose so they keep this in mind: The purpose of the telephone procedure is to get the customer to bring his car to your shop for a diagnosis. So, they shoot from the hip here and answer their questions that are not in the procedure with that in mind.

They do not rush or push the customer. I have seen managers answer the phone like it is a race. It's like a judge is standing next to them with a time clock in his hand timing how fast he can say the greeting. The pro is calm and has a rhythm when he answers the phone. He may have just had the builder quit two minutes ago, the police in the lobby, and a car fall of the lift as he is going to answer the phone. Still, he has his pen in his hand, the pad open and he greets the customer like he just stepped out of the Jacuzzi. He's cool under fire.

He asks his questions and listens to the customers answer before he responds. I can not tell you how important that is. Listen to the customer. Salesmen have always been taught to control the sale and the young or dumb ones think that means they have to talk when they really should be listening. Ask your questions and shut up. Then, don't rush the customer. It is important to let the customer vent. When the customer is finished with his answer, the great managers ease into the next question in the procedure. If you let him talk and you listen, the customer will tell you how to sell him. Be patient and show genuine concern.

If you are not truly concerned about your customers problems then you should not be answering the phone. A natural like and concern for people is a must. It is hard to fake that on a consistent basis. This trait is what the customer looking for, whether he knows it or not, when he calls you. When the customer says what his problem is the pro shows concern and offers solutions and peace of mind back to his customer.

The pros minimize the problem to the customer over the phone. They will never assume they need a transmission and will not quote a price even if it means losing the lead.They know that it might not be an internal problem and emphasize that to the customer. It might not even be a transmission problem at all and they tell the customer that. That is what the customer wants to hear and it is the truth. Until the diagnosis is performed we don't know. So, how could the customer know? I had an old sales manager tell me once, People will pay you real good to tell them what they want to hear”.. It is a point well taken here.

After gathering the information he needs, listening to the customer in a concerned manor, he will ask the customer to bring the vehicle to him so he and the customer can drive it together and find out what the problem is. The customer calls thinking he needs a transmission and they convert that to making the customer understand that what he really needs is a diagnosis. And he convinces the customer that he has found the right man for the job and he will personally be there to take care of the diagnosis for him when he gets to the shop.

Now, if you will notice, the pro wants the customer to bring the vehicle in so he can drive the vehicle with the customer. It is a personal thing now. The apprehension the customer felt on the initial phone call is overcome because the pro made friends with him and it may not be as serious a problem as he thought and he wants to go drive it with me. Now, the customer feels like he has a friend to go to when he gets to the shop that is familiar with his problem. This is very important to the customer. Now it is personal. That is what the pro does best. He gives them personalized service.

When the customer gets to the shop he calls him by his first name and welcomes him into the shop, gets his information logged into the workflow system and begins the diagnosis with the customer by taking the first road test with him. On the road test he lets the customer tell him what the problem is and he tries to duplicate it. When he does, he asks the customer to confirm if that is the problem. Now the customer knows that the manager understands the problem and that gives him peace of mind. On the road test the manager will ask the customer about the vehicle and in the process , strengthen their personal relationship. When the road test is over the customer should know that the manager understands the problem and he should be more at ease with the manager . We make friends with the customer on the road test. This is the purpose of the first road test. Most managers I see nowadays try to shortcut the take in process by asking the customer to drop off the keys and calling them on the phone. Who would you rather take your car to? Remember, people buy from people.

Another very important aspect of the art of telephone procedure is to create an urgency to bring the vehicle in for the diagnosis. The old standby of "the longer you drive it the worse it may get" is still a good one. People and shops are busy now days and think they will have to drop off the car and leave it. The pro will take the phone away from his mouth and say something like this " hey Joe are you about finished with that car?" Then, they say to the customer, " Listen john, Give me a chance to earn your business. I have a bay clearing up in about 20 minutes, if you can come in now I will perform the diagnosis for you. Do you know how to get here? ".

Creating an urgency to bring the vehicle in now is the "close" in the telephone procedure. If he can not bring it now, politely ask him why and remind him that he could damage the transmission by procrastinating. Then if he still can't bring it right now, give him an option, " would 11:30 this morning or 2:15 this afternoon be better for you?" Bottom line, you can be consistent, show concern, be friendly, listen and have the right answers but, if you can not close, you do not need to be answering the phone. "The pro's can close". You have to be able to close and set the appointment. Once you do, make sure they know how to get to your shop and tell them to ask for you when they get there.

The above procedure is a lot different than these responses to the same questions customers ask us all. How much? " It will cost somewhere between 1,000.00 to 1,500.00 dollars". Click. People that quote prices over the phone either are lazy, have not been exposed to the merits of a good telephone procedure, or are afraid of the customer in my opinion. Or another response is, "just drop it off and we will check it out". Where's the concern, personal service and urgency in that? If you are a shop owner and hear your manager say that, I assure you, you are losing leads because the pro down the street is creating the urgency and a personal relationship with his potential customers over the phone and that is where your leads are going to end up.

Marketing is important but, telephone skills are important too. It is the one two punch if you will. This is a "right now" business that is very competitive. As a shop owner, when you think of all the advertising money you spend just to get the phone to ring, you have to make the most of it and convince the customer to bring his vehicle to you. Repairs are selling for thousands of dollars now. Not hundreds. One or two extra leads coming into your shop every week could mean the difference between living well or living on the street. The initial phone call is the first impression the customer has of you and your shop. Make it a good one. Listen, show concern, minimize the problem and convince them to bring you their car so you can go drive it with them and properly diagnose their problem. Then, make friends and earn their trust during the road test and the sale is yours.

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