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Telephone Procedure Dos and Don'ts

by Art Little

Transmission Digest Magazine
This article appeared in the March 2015 issue of Transmission Digest.

I began investigating how to maximize leads in today's shops last year by interviewing some online lead experts , since that is where all the leads are nowadays. The common opinion in their line of work was that they would be a lot more successful if the managers in our industry knew how to answer the phone properly and convert their leads into jobs. I know there is a lot of truth in that because I have listened to recordings of my managers and when I saw them next, it was all I could do to keep my hands off their throat. However, there are a lot of managers out there in our industry that are trained on proper telephone procedure and know how to set a lead. The lead guys like them. Good salesmen make them look good. But, on the other hand , a good lead guy can make a salesman look good too.

Logically, the trick would be to get the good lead guy and the good salesman together I guess. That being said, this month my investigation into maximizing leads takes me back to the manager answering the phone again. I thought I had just about beat all the hair off of that dog in my other articles on telephone policies & procedure but, It doesn't look like we have solved the problem at least , according to the lead experts. So, to all the managers out there , in an effort to make you look like rock stars to your customers and in return, make the lead experts look like rock stars to the shop owners, I will offer up my list of the 10 top do's and don'ts when it comes to answering the phone at a transmission shop.


1. Get organized and be ready to sell.

Before you start, you might make a list of reasons why customers would want to come to your shop instead of your competitors. What makes your shop special ? Don't brag on yourself. Brag on your techs and the shop. Find a place to sell. Choose areas away from customers to do your selling. Go in your office to sell and shut the door when possible to avoid distractions . Use a telephone procedure pad to read the track and rebuttals and write the customer information down. Set up telephone procedure pads next to every phone and make those areas your secondary sales areas. Have a pen at every station and one in your pocket. Immediately , after you hang up the phone, take the information you have written on the telephone procedure pad and record the lead into your lead flow system at the shop under the follow up category.

2. Let the customer vent. Ask them questions like , Exactly what is the vehicle doing? How long has it been doing that? Does this happen once in awhile or all the time ? Any noise? And, let them tell their story. They need to tell someone and get it out. It helps to slow the customer down and it gives you a chance to find out how you can best serve them.

3. Minimise the problem & create an urgency. The fact is, you don't know if they have a transmission problem and neither do they . And if they do have a problem, it could be inside or outside the transmission. Tell them not to worry about it too much until you get the results of the diagnosis. It could be something simple to fix. Be positive, minimize their problem, stress the importance of a proper diagnosis and point out the the fact that you are saving them $200.00 off what the dealer charges for the diagnosis. Create an urgency to bring the vehicle in before it gets worse..

4. Close the appointment There comes a time when you have asked the right questions and he has answered those questions. Now, it is time to set an appointment. Ask if now or 2pm would be better ? Why? Because , you are assuming he is going to make an appointment, it now is just a matter of when. Make it personal . Make the customer feel like you care about him and his problem. Tell him that you are going to take a drive together when he gets there and he can show you what his problem is and you will have a solution for him when you finish the diagnosis. Treat them like family. Erase their fear and make them want to come to you for their solution.

5.Avoid distractions When you are selling on the phone everyone in the shop should keep distractions away from you. You should have a second employee of your choice designated to answer the phone and take messages after the third ring, anytime you are selling. Stay on the lead until you set the lead and do not get distracted.


1.Don't let the customer control you. You dont have a chance if you do not take control of the customer when he calls. Use the telephone procedure to guide and control the sale. We are not parts salesmen at their disposal. The fact is "how much" is the only question they know to ask when they call. That is why we have our questions to ask. Be patient and answer the customer politely without giving a price if you can and learn to rely on your telephone procedure to get your leads in . It is your best % bet.

2. Don't let the phone ring off the wall. The manager should always answer the phone before the third ring is over. If the manager does not answer the phone, there should be a designated back up for the third to the fourth ring, then, after the fourth ring, everybody answers the phone as fast as they can. If the manager is away from the shop, the designated second answers the phone and only takes messages for the manager. The second does not talk to customers about their repairs. Tell them you have to get back to work and you will give the manager the message

3. Don't Shoot from the hip. If you haven't been trained on proper telephone procedure , you and your shop are at a distinct disadvantage . Fact: It is easier to sell with a telephone procedure than it is to shoot from the hip. Find and use a telephone procedure that you like or write your own just, say the same thing every time. It is a no brainer. Quit working so hard.

4. Don't Waste time on the phone. Figure out your priorities. If you are talking on the phone with anyone other than a customer and the phone rings, put them on hold. It may be a new lead. You are not making any money when you are talking to the parts salesman. Leave conversations with your friends and relatives at home. You need to be focused when the phone rings and be able to make them want to bring their problem to you. If you and your wife are having a problem , the customers problem doesn't seem so important. Stay focused and be ready when the money line rings.

5. Don't price over the phone - Unless... The idea is to make the customer understand that he doesn't need a price right now. He needs a proper diagnosis and yours is free. It is the same diagnosis the dealership charges 200 dollars for and you are able to work him in right away. Get the customer to like you and trust you and want to bring his problem to you. Work on that in your own way on the phone and dont give a price without a complete diagnosis in your hands unless....

Unless...Did you ever meet a salesman that didn't have one more thing for you to consider before you say no? Well, here it is.You can tell the price shopper that , as a manager ," I can not give you a price. I can only schedule a free diagnosis. Would you like to speak to the owner ? " This sales procedure establishes a front line with the manager and a safety net with the shop owner and transfers control of the sale to the owner before the lead is lost. The shop owner tries to set the appointment again but, if he can't , he gives a price or makes a "special deal" for them

Understand that it is not to anyones advantage to quote prices over the phone without even knowing what color the vehicle is. That can create a list of problems for us and the customer. We only do it to satisfy customer pressure to know some kind of a price before they will schedule an appointment with us. So the plan is to try to explain why they need a diagnosis instead of a price first and stick with that unless think you are going to lose the lead. Then , let the owner quote a price ,only if we have to, in order to save the lead. Also, another advantage is that the customer is more likely to come in if he gets a "special" quote from the owner. This telephone sales procedure lets us enjoy the best of both worlds and maximize every lead.

6. Don't Be lazy Get a different attitude about Internet shoppers. A lead is a lead to a real salesman. It is just an opportunity to make a sale. Some are better than others.Have a good attitude. Call back your internet form submissions asap. Record every lead. Categorize the leads. Record the results of every conversation. Follow up with form submissions, no shows and FTA's. It is the lead experts responsibility to make the phone ring . It is our responsibility to turn it into a sale.

OK, maybe that is 11 Do's and Dont's. I had to get the don't be lazy in there somewhere. Here is my advice to you. DO your best to get better every day and DON'T give up. Be patient with yourself, each other and the customers. Make that your goal and you will do fine. It takes time and effort to become great. However, that is just a list of the do's and don'ts of answering the telephone. That should help but, It is not going to be enough in today's shops. It is only the beginning. There has to be an affordable plan of action that will quickly increase lead count , maximise lead conversion and track the new leads and new profits.

Plan of Action

Fast , Easy and Low Cost Leads

The first part of my plan is to make it easy to get low cost internet leads. After several months of research and development , Drivetrain Technology and TransTeam have just developed two super easy and cost effective ways for shop owners to receive and track internet leads and profits. The wholesale internet lead program is a modern approach to fill production gaps with wholesale leads, and the retail internet lead program is a proven system to increase retail lead count. All shop owners have to do is sign up at the TransTeam website . We set you up and the leads start coming into your shop a few minutes later. You do not need to do anything else. The good news is that there are plenty of low cost leads ! You just have to be set up to pay for them and receive them.


The next part of the plan is training. I would like to thank those of you who signed up for the production management training in February at the transteam website. It has been a dream of mine for a long time. The online class was a great success. All students finished the training and passed their certification test. There were no quitters. They were all climbers and, they each received a Production Management Certificate to hang on their wall at the shop. Congratulations to the first class of 2015 . No more Hotel Hell !

I have been inspired by your response to the first round of online classes so, I am putting together a training and certification class for telephone procedure now . I am collaborating with the number one lead expert in the industry , Corey Turner at DriveTrain Technology now to create a great online learning experience . We should be finished by the time you read this. Come to the Transteam website and sign up for the training. It is free again this month to Transmission Digest readers. Just go to and enter the code # TDtrain4free when you register for online training

Formula to Maximize Leads

Easy to get cost effective internet leads + free online telephone training = More $$$.

As industry salesmen, let's all work together as a team to maximise the leads at our shops by taking the time to get some formal online training and learn the proper telephone procedure because , Together Everyone Achieves More as a team. Online lead programs will make the phone ring and online training will give us an easy way to improve our telephone skills and techniques. The training should give us the tools and techniques we need to show the lead experts what we are made of and, while we are at it, put a little extra cash in our own pockets. Now that we have the right formula. Do take action. Don't put it off. Who's with me?

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