Car Dealer Phone Skills 101: The 5 Sales Call Types and Why a BDC is Best

The 5 Car Dealer Sales Call Situations (and why a BDC is best)

With today’s connected customer, there really are only a few types of phone calls your team will find themselves involved with. Gone are the days of a customer phoning and saying, “I need something good on gas for under $8,000; what do you have on the lot?”

Today’s customer, whether a millennial or a baby boomer, has already done their research. They’ve looked at more than twenty sources of information during their nineteen hours of research before they ever picked up the phone and called your team.

They’ve completed their needs analysis.

They’ve completed their product selection.

They’ve completed their feature presentation.

Now, they just need someone to sell them a car! But, what they don’t need is a “salesman.”

Salesman on the PhoneI’m still a little surprised when I encounter a dealer who allows his or her floor team to answer calls. Whether it’s because they listened to some misguided, old-school phone trainer or because they just want to make sure their floor team “has something to do” (yes, I’ve heard that excuse), there are dealers out there today who put floor salespeople on the phones with prospects; despite the fact that most of these callers only want to schedule a test drive.

Of course, because most floor salespeople go into full-on salesman overdrive on the phones, the closing percentage for their prospects is about one-fifth of what a disciplined BDC can achieve.

Put that phone down. Phones are for appointment setters only.

Because the customer on the phone already knows everything about your inventory, they’re really just trying to find an easy way to buy. They don’t want to be sold and they don’t want to answer a lot of irrelevant questions. (They just want to get through this hassle called “car buying” with as few bruises as possible.)

Your only goal when you have a prospect on the phone is an appointment that shows.

Given the fact that your callers are looking for an easy way to buy, and your goal is an appointment that shows, there are only a few types of calls your team will handle and ALL OF THEM are better off handled by a BDC:


When you find yourself on the phone with a guy who wants to negotiate the entire deal before coming in, you need to understand that HE’S NEVER COMING IN! He’s using you as leverage against his local dealer. (Heck, he might be calling you from that’s dealer’s showroom!) The only way to get this customer in the door is to (A) be willing to lose more money than your competitor; or (B) call his bluff.

Understand this: if you’re priced to market, this guy isn’t going to buy from you anyway – he just wants to see if there’s another $300 he can squeeze from your competition. If you’re showing MSRP online and you try to give him all the info now, you’re going to close him less than 7% of the time. (Our studies show that sending the completed deal to someone not in the dealership will result in a sale about 6.2% of the time. Pitiful.)

Bury the dead.

This guy isn’t going to buy from you unless you are so low that you lose more money than you really can afford to lose. Then, he’s going to crush you on CSI and he’s NEVER going to service with you! So, stop negotiating over the phone!

Give your best price; that’s fine. But when he wants trade, interest rate and the rest of the out-the-door data, it’s time to call his bluff. It’s time to say:

“Mr. Jones, I can guarantee you the very best deal on that new Taurus and here’s how. At Steve’s Ford we will never be beat on price. What I need you to do is get your best written offer locally. Then, I need you to call me and schedule an appointment. If you’ll bring us a valid written offer that we cannot meet or beat on an in-stock unit, we’ll fill your tank with gas and we’ll give you a $100 gift card to the Olive Garden. How’s that sound?”

The proof that he never intended to buy from you comes when still tries for a written offer from you after you’ve called his bluff. Move on.

Buy Assumptive Selling Now


This is just the result of shooting ourselves in the foot.

No customer in 2016 is hoping your team will sell them over the phone. In fact, the whole reason they called you is that they want to avoid sales pressure. Selling over the phone is a losing proposition in 2016. You cannot sell the car over the phone and no one wants you to.

The customer was just looking for some more information (inquiring, see below) and you went into full-on salesman overdrive on them by asking them something completely inane like “Are there any colors you wouldn’t consider?” You lost this one as soon as you started speaking, Champ. (BDCs who only set appointments never try to sell the car; so they win way more often than your seasoned rep.)


Does it have third row seats? Is it an automatic? Is that a tear I see in the picture of the back seat? They are ready to buy; all we need to do is answer their question AND ask for the appointment in the same breath. Not rocket science here. (Oh, and they NEVER ask about torque ratios; so no gear-heads needed on your phones.)


You get this call when you are priced to market – they just want be sure that’s the real price. No need for a salesman here. Answer their question like this:

“If you’ve been shopping online, then you know we price all of our vehicles competitively right from the beginning. We would never dream of insulting our customers by showing you our second best price and then making you negotiate to find some hidden best price. That 2014 Camry is priced to sell at $15,399 and it will likely not be on our lot much longer. Now, I do have two test drives open on that Camry this morning, I have a 10:15 and a 10:45, which one of those works better for you?”

Note: NO ONE CALLS YOU WHEN YOU’RE OVERPRICED. They want this vehicle at the price you have it listed for; you just need to be strong enough to hold gross and set the appointment.


This one is the proverbial “lay down” and the last thing you need here is a floor salesman screwing it up. They have all the information, now they just want a test drive that’s convenient for them, not something that’s only convenient for the salesperson.

This is why we created BDCs in the first place.

They will either ask directly about a test drive (rare) or mask their desire to buy with a smokescreen question like “Is it in stock?” Your job is to answer with something like this:

“I saw that vehicle this morning and at the price we have it listed at it will not make it through to the weekend. Now, I do have two test drives open on that vehicle this morning, I have a 10:45 and an 11:15, which one works better for you?”

Then just shup up and wait for them to set their appointment.

It’s not science or selling or anything complicated. It’s just appointment setting.

Good selling!

About TheManager:

Steve Stauning, creator of The Appointment Culture and an expert in The Customer Experience. He is also an extremely popular keynote speaker, writer, and industry consultant. Learn more about Steve at