Jan 31, 2007

From Ring to Cha-Ching

Many of us spend a fortune on yellow pages and other advertising trying to get the phone to ring, yet few dealers have clearly defined goals, techniques, and required procedures designed to make sure their investments yield a profit. The following are some techniques designed to make your advertising more profitable by turning more calls into sales and appointments.

Hire Staff to Field Calls

Most dealers have found they need trained staff members to do a good job of answering calls. Who answers the phone at your store? One great dealer we know does not allow sales staff to answer the phone. He has found that they may not record every call and tend to over qualify on the phone. He told us he gets 35% more appointments by not allowing sales staff to take incoming calls.

On the other hand, many dealers have completely untrained staff answer the phone. This may lead to loss of sales because if they are not trained, they don’t know what to say. Once we called a company, and a technician answered the phone and told us the dealer was getting a haircut and that we would have to call back later. That call-in was completely wasted.

Provide a Script

Amazingly, few dealers train their staff on what to say, and fewer provide scripts to follow. This often leads to staff saying things such as, “Yup, we have softeners. I think they are $4,000, but you’ll have to call back when a salesperson is here.” That kind of response will lead to poor results. Prices should never be given on the phone, and contact names and numbers are a must, as are instant call-backs. Isn’t that why all salespeople carry cell phones? Remember that the average customer who calls, also calls four other dealers. Do you handle calls in a way that will encourage them to choose your company?

Good results are achieved when dealers train staff to ask questions before they talk. Ask questions such as:

  • What bothers you about your water?
  • How do you deal with that?
  • How is that working for you?

Get to know what the customer needs and wants before rolling ahead with a solution before the diagnosis.

Train your staff to say appealing things. One dealer recently found a salesperson answering a call who said, “Okay, I’ll come out, but I’m gonna need two hours of your time. I’ll need you and your husband there. You own your home right? Do you have credit cards?”

To get appointments today, you need to be soft and gentle. “Thanks for calling. I believe we can show you a solution. Because you called in from our ad, I can offer you, at no charge, a $120 professional evaluation of your water. I will need only 15 minutes of your time. When would be convenient for you?”

There is a very specific way to handle price questions on the phone, but it takes training. If you would like a script outline, send a request to [email protected] with your contact information, and we would be glad to send you an outline.

Promote Your Company

A year ago, we were hired by a manufacturer to make 600 calls to their dealers to see how dealers answered the phone. One amazing finding was that few calls resulted in saying good things about the company. Make sure your staff is trained so that after finding out what the customer wants they say something like, “It’s good you called. Many customers choose us exactly for that reason …”

Staff should tell the caller good things the company can do to solve his or her problem. It could be a 24-hour service, a broad range of products, or licensed technicians. Give them a reason to be glad they called your company and to separate your company from the four they will be calling afterward.

Have a Goal

Calls to dealers in our industry have a simple goal. Every call should result in an appointment for a water analysis or a sale of service or parts. There is no other goal. Don’t “give out information.” You owe it to the customer and your company to get an appointment for a trained salesperson to do an analysis and demonstration.

View the Game Films

All professional athletes learn from the game films. Do you? We suggest you record all incoming calls and review how they are handled. You will be shocked or proud. Remember that each call costs you plenty, and if you don’t care enough to hear how they are handled, you might as well give your advertising money to charity.

Measure the Results

You will never get top results unless you measure. Our motto is, “You cannot manage what you cannot measure,” and it applies to this situation. Have a form where every call is written down, so you know how many calls actually come in and on what days. This prevents making decisions without the facts.

Use these numbers to determine which ads work, which staff members are best at getting sales and appointments, and what customers want. Find out how much it costs every time the phone rings and treat calls with the respect they deserve. For example, if you spend $4,000 per month on advertising and the phone rings 40 times in a month, every time you hear a ring, it costs you $100. We think it makes sense to record, measure and evaluate what happened to your $100 investment.

Results vary based on your market, product, etc., but there are some broad numbers to shoot for. We base these estimates on conversations with dealers in all parts of the country. Your results may vary, but we suggest you set a benchmark of one appointment for every 10 outgoing calls and at least one appointment for every three incoming calls. If your number is less than that, are you making any return on your investment?


These are some ideas and techniques that will help you get more from your call-ins. Don’t forget to evaluate results. Recently, a dealer told us at a seminar that he spends $2,000 per month on yellow pages and only gets two appointments per month. Well, if those appointments cost $1,000 each, will there be a profit from that advertising? Remember that having actual results and working to improve your numbers are the key to success. Every time the phone rings, think about how much you are spending. What will you do to get the results you deserve?

About the author

Carl Davidson and Ric Harry are directors of Sales and Management Solutions, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in sales and management video training, recruiting and live seminars exclusively for the water equipment industry. A free demonstration video and list of products and topics is available at 800.941.0068. Send comments on this article to them at [email protected]; www.carldavidson.com.