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The sale starts with the receptionist - will it start it well?

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We occasionally run training programs to bring receptionists into the sales process. We usually have a class that has 80-90% of attendees with no idea of how sales works or how the receptionist role can positively impact sales results.
It's no wonder. New receptionists get technical training on how the phone system works but not so much on how their role fits with the sales department. Then management, administration, accounting, and the service department stack more and more little clerical jobs on the receptionist - well because they're just sitting there anyway.

This "task-creep" sometimes gets so overwhelming that the incoming phone call becomes an unwanted interruption - and it sounds that way to the caller!

Think about your own receptionist staff. Do they:
• Understand that the sales process has already begun BEFORE that phone rings or the person walks into the showroom?
• Understand that the average person they talk to today has already spent more than 11 hours in online research?
• Understand that the average shopper today physically visits less than 2 dealerships?
• Understand that a shopper contacting the dealership means we have made their very short short-list?
So enough of the "why to" prepare your receptionist for a successful call. Now the "how to". We can all see the value in obtaining the caller name and passing it along to the salesperson; it's powerful for tracking but also allows the salesperson to build rapport by having and using the client's name immediately. Here's how we can dial that up for today's shopper who almost always has done research online and is calling with a specific vehicle in mind:

Find out: Is there a vehicle you have seen online that you want to ask about? I'll get Dave to pull that up on his screen. May I tell him your first name?

Pass through name: Hi Dave, I have Mary on line 2 interested in the black 2013 Camry she saw online.

Use their name: Hello Mary this is Dave. Thanks so much for calling. I'm just going to pull that vehicle up on my screen so we can look at it together and I can make sure we still have it and answer any of your questions.
So that's the 2013 Camry in black right?

Yes there it is. Very nice vehicle! I see it has the alloy wheels, the sport package, and only 46,000km. Was there anything you wanted to ask about the vehicle that you didn't see on the web listing? Mary could I ask you a few quick questions to make sure that this is the very best one we have in stock to meet your needs? OK?

So would this vehicle be replacing one you have now? What model is that? So how have your needs changed to make you want to switch to the Camry? OK that makes sense. Yes the Camry would be better for that...
Can I ask, would you consider selling your xxx to us? We have a lot of customers looking for vehicles just like yours.

Suggest the appointment: So Mary, based on what you have told me I think the Camry you selected online is a great match to your needs and I know my manager will be very interested in your current car.
The best thing for us to do would be for you to try out the Camry to make sure you like the ride and handling and we can do a professional evaluation on your car. How does that sound? OK how does your afternoon look; my appointment calendar is clear after 1pm?   

OK great. We'll see you at 1:30 this afternoon. I'll make sure the Camry is ready and fueled. Let me give you my contact info in case you get delayed; would you prefer that by text or e-mail...
When we know that the average person shopping today gets closer than ever to a buying decision before they contact us, doesn't it make sense to treat the incoming call like the gold that it is?

"You don't get a second chance to make a first impression."