Business by Appointment

Lesson 1 – Benefits of Setting Appointments

Higher rates of close

If your current process begins with a greeting on the lot (an “up”) statistics suggest you’re working harder than you should be. That’s because appointments close at a rate of 35% compared to 18% for traditional shoppers. That means you’ll make more money with less effort.

Ready Shoppers

How many times have you answered the phone and had a customer say, “I’m just looking”! Customers who call a dealership are usually closer to making a purchase decision. And statistics indicate that most people who purchase a car call the dealership before visiting.

Customers are less defensive

The telephone creates a natural barrier of protection for the customer. They feel that if they are not at the dealership, they won’t be persuaded to make an impulsive decision. This allows you to enter into Fact Finding easier, and it helps you build trust quicker.

You can prepare

When you know a guest is coming to your house, you clean it up first in order to make a good impression. Preparing yourself, your consulting are, the vehicle and your schedule for an appointment allows you to make the best possible impression when the customer arrives.

So what are the important things to know about setting appointments?

  • Appointments close at a higher rate
  • Shoppers who call first are prepared to buy
  • Phone customers are less defensive
  • You can be prepared

Lesson 2 – Appointment Best Practices

Be ready for the call

The first thing you need to do is establish a process for connecting with the customer. This may sound simple but try calling a dealership and asking for a salesperson. The common response you’ll get is, “hold please”, and if you’re lucky you’ll get someone to pick up the phone in about 5 minutes. Customers won’t wait that long so be prepared. Here are a few ideas:

  • Work in teams so one person is always available to take calls
  • If everyone is with a customer, calls should be transferred to the Sales Manager or Finance Manager
  • Receptionists should transfer the call to a specific salesperson if possible and use their name when transferring: “Let me transfer you to John Smith”.

Practice taking calls

The number one thing you need to have is solid telephone skills and a commitment to consistency. Being good on the phone requires practice. Practice with a team member for both new and used vehicle calls. If you can, use an empty office to separate yourselves. If that’s not possible, turn your chairs back to back so you can’t see each other.  

Prepare your tools

Every successful salesperson uses tools to capture information and control the calls. You’ll need to have:

  • A pad of paper
  • A pen or pencil for taking notes
  • Customer log and information sheets
  • Inbound call scripts. 

Lesson 3 – Using Scripts

Isn’t this acting?

Actors are just highly compensated salespeople. If they’re good, they sell you on a character and you buy it! All actors use words that someone else wrote. Like the pro’s, practice enough to make the script become you. It must be natural. The bottom line is that most people don’t like scripts because they’re not willing to practice.

Check your attitude and enthusiasm

No script in the world will help you get an appointment if your attitude is negative and your energy is low. Enthusiasm must be doubled over the phone or it will be lost to the customer. When the phone rings, take a deep breath, smile and refer to your script.

Be inviting

Introduce yourself and offer assistance right up front by saying, “This is (YOUR NAME) and I can help you!” Unlike a face to face greeting, you don’t want to ask the customer’s name until latter in the conversation.

Take control

Ask questions about the vehicle they are interested in immediately. Ask about equipment, model and color on new vehicles. If they call on a used vehicle, ask them, “Are you calling specifically about this vehicle, or would a similar vehicle be okay if this one happens to be sold?”

Get their information

Tell the customer you’d like to check your inventory and check for what may be coming in within a week. Diffuse any customer tension using the statement, “You don’t have to buy today do you?” Next tell them it will take a few minutes and ask:

  • “Are you calling from home or work?”
  • “And the number there is?”
  • “And your last name?” “First name?”

Check for availability

Ask the customer if they would like to hold or prefer to have you call them back. If they hold, don’t make them wait for more than 20 seconds while you examine your list. Come back and set an appointment.

Lesson 4 – Setting the Appointment

Provide a reason for coming in

When you return from checking the inventory, say with excitement, “I’ve got good news! We do have the vehicle you’re looking for and a few others like it in stock.” If it’s a unique vehicle you may want to add, “We really should move quickly.”

Provide options

Ask the customer, “Would this evening or tomorrow morning be better?” Then continue:

  • Early or later?
  • 4:10 or 6:45?

Notice the odd times! Never suggest meeting at the top or bottom of the hour. It suggests you’re not busy.

Provide your information

Ask the customer, “Do you know exactly where we are located?” If they don’t, offer to fax or e-mail directions. Then say, “Do you have a pen handy? I’ll wait.” Once they get something to write with say, “Please write down my name. It’s spelled…”


Say, “I look forward to seeing you at 6:45 tonight! If your plans change and you need to arrive early or a little later, please provide me the courtesy of a call and I’ll be glad to do the same for you.”

In addition to using the script, be sure to connect with your caller by using appropriate listening skills, and by matching their tone of voice and pace,

Customers can hear a smile in your voice, and your energy drops if you slouch or don’t practice good posture.

If you follow the script, you’ll gather vehicle information, the customer’s name and contact information, and you’ll be able to set appointments!

Lesson 5 – Confirming Appointments

Log your customer

Start by transferring the information from the call log into your customer management system, or whatever system you currently use to track customer contacts and appointments. Do it right away.

Manager follow-up

The Sales Manager should personally confirm all appointments one day before the event. This increases appointments kept by 45%. Here’s what to do:

When the customer answers say:

“This is (YOUR NAME), I’m the sales manager at (YOUR STORE) and I wanted to thank you for calling and scheduling a time to come in and see us. Were you still planning on meeting with (SALES CONSULTANT?) at 4:00 tomorrow?

Set your alarms

If you have an electronic customer management system, be sure to set the alarm for your appointment at least 30 minutes in advance. This will help insure you are ready. If you don’t use an electronic system, make sure you regularly check your appointment schedule and your watch.

  • Log every call
  • Sales Managers should follow up
  • Be ready for the appointment

Get Strategic

Prospecting is a strategic plan designed to maximize your time and selling efforts. Prospecting includes strategies for repeat customers, referrals and orphaned owners.

Effective prospecting requires both good timing AND database management. It means you need to capitalize on customer information you already have. The beauty of prospecting is that it’s not cold calling because the customers on your prospect list have willingly provided you with contact information.

Getting Started

To get started, determine the type of prospecting you want to do so you can get the necessary call lists ready. Your strategy might be to contact End of Term customers who are within 90 days of completing their lease. Or you might want to call Orphan owners. These customers purchased from a salesperson who no longer works at your dealership.  

Making Time

Set aside at least one hour for prospect calling. This should be done on weekday shifts or on extremely slow weekends. Then pick up the phone and, using a script, start making calls!

Providing a benefit

Unlike inbound calls, you have to create the need when you’re prospecting so the script includes a benefit to the customer. For example, you can call orphan owners and provide them with your name and number in case they need information. Then offer a free evaluation of their present vehicle by telling them, “We’re always in need of quality used vehicles like yours and we’re willing to pay top dollar!”

Set the appointment

Remember, the goal of every call is to set an appointment. When the customer declines your first attempt, obtain a phone appointment by getting the customer to agree to another call once the new models arrive. And make made sure to provide the customer with your name and phone number.

Ask for Referrals

On every call you should ask for referrals. Simply say, “Much of my business comes from repeat and referral customers. Who do you know among your friends or family that might be interested in a new or used vehicle?”

  • Prospecting is proactive and strategic
  • Get your call lists ready
  • Set aside time
  • Provide a benefit to the customer
  • Set the Appointment
  • Ask for referrals

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “work smarter not harder!” And frankly, a sales career that’s based solely on fresh ups is a hard road to travel. You’ll burn out quicker because some months will be good, and others will be tough.

Salespeople who consistently work appointments and prospecting have found the greatest success. Now you have the tools and knowledge to make it happen!