In the face of stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, some dealerships are offering customers hands-free and digital options to shop for and buy vehicles. That means employees who are trained and accustomed to talking with customers in person are now conducting more business via phone, text and email.

This shift to strictly virtual communication may be a difficult for a number of positions in your dealership. While BDRs are accustomed to working with customers over the phone and via text, salespeople typically have less experience in this medium.

But there are still customers out there that need your help. There are still customers who are ready to upgrade their current transportation. In order to be respectful of the community’s health and safety and still take advantage of this opportunity, you need to make sure your salespeople have the right soft skills to communicate with customers digitally.

Even if your salespeople are used to using text and email to follow up with customers, this is a perfect time to offer a refresher on digital communication etiquette and skills because people may more sensitive in light of current events.

Here are some quick tips and good reminders to share with your team:

 Be Compassionate And Considerate 

It’s always important for your staff to remember that they’re talking to a real person, whether online, on the phone or in person. But in light of current events, it’s especially important that your employees are mindful of what customers may be going through.

Remind them to see customers not just as potential sales, but as people just like them, trying to navigate the current situation as best they can. It’s our first instinct to go for the sale, but now it’s especially important that we speak to the customers with empathy and let them know that you view them as more than a potential sale.

Simply asking how your customer is doing and how their family is doing is a great start.

Focus On How You Can Help

During every step of the sales process remind your customers that you are here to help. You understand that things are a little crazy right now for a lot of people. But you also understand that a lot of hardworking people still need affordable transportation solutions.

In the long run, you are there to help the customer and make the process of buying a car easier. Doing things digitally is just one way to do that. For example, if they sound busy while you’re on the phone with them let them know that you can call back later, or even offer to send a link via text that they can look at on their own time.

Look for opportunities to offer assistance and be helpful.

Format Emails Into Easy To Read Sections

Long blocks of text are hard to read and digest. Make sure your team is breaking their emails into smaller chunks so it’s easier for your customers to read and consume the information quickly.

Customers won’t spend 20 minutes trying to decipher what an email means. Now more than ever, if they have to stop to think about what you’re saying, they’ll probably just hit delete.

Keep these things in mind:

  • Use short, concise paragraphs.
  • Use lists for instructions whenever possible.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Make sure your line breaks make sense.

Whenever you draft something, re-read it and think to yourself, “If I didn’t know anything about this process, would this make sense?” 

Know When To Call Vs. When To Text Vs. When To Email

It might be easiest for your salespeople to just pick up the phone and start a conversation like they would on the lot. But this method won’t work for every customer—some customers are too busy to talk on the phone and some just don’t like it.

Encourage your salespeople to ask customers what their preferred method of communication is. You’ll often find that young people prefer to text while older generations prefer to talk on the phone. Some busy people might prefer email over texts or vice versa, depending on their unique situation.

It’s important that your salespeople pick up on what communication method will work best for their customer and use it moving forward. 

On The Phone, Listen More Than You Speak

People love to vent. And right now, a lot of people have a lot of things to vent about. Make sure you’re letting your customer finish their thoughts and you’re not cutting them off to push for the sale.

A good reminder for your team is that the greatest gift a customer can give them is information. And when you let them speak their mind, they’re giving you all the tools you need to help them find the perfect solution for their situation.

But this isn’t just for phone conversations.

While texting, this can mean asking follow-up questions about their situation until they’ve explained their whole situation.  Keep pulling the thread and keep the conversation going.

Either way, you’ll find the more you let customers speak the more comfortable they become with you—which will make the sale easier in the long run.

Don’t Focus On The Negative

Your customers will talk about the current state of the world, and it’s true that you should let them vent a little. But you should also take control of the conversation by asking questions that lead them away from these more negative topics.

You want to steer the conversation onto more focused and positive topics, like their current car, why they would like to drive a different one, how you can help and why this is a good time to buy. You’ll find that many customers will be relieved to talk about something other than current events.

Use Good Grammar And Spell Check Everything

From quick text messages to long emails, communication free of grammar and spelling mistakes will make a big difference to your customers. They won’t notice when the grammar and spelling is done correctly. But they will certainly notice when it’s wrong.

Not only will they notice it, but it might be a turn off. Customers may view these mistakes as evidence that your salespeople are uneducated. It will also diminish the expertise they offer about the car buying process. Even worse, customers may view it as an indicator that your salespeople are likely to make an even bigger mistake when it comes to helping them in the car buying process. And that association could mean the loss of a sale.

Be An Active Listener

It’s not just about letting the customer talk, you also have to be an active listener. Specifically, with phone communication, active listening skills helps the customer feel heard and understood.

A great way to demonstrate to the customer that you were actively listening to them is to repeat back to them the last thing they said in an understanding tone or even summarize whatever they just told you. Doing this is another great way to show your customers that they’re more than just a sale, they’re a person with thoughts and feelings that you actually care about.

But demonstrating that you heard and understood the customer is also important in text and email, where misunderstanding are even more likely to occur. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or provide a brief summary of what they’ve told you so far before moving on to a recommendation

Good communication with customers is always important. But right now, it could be the difference in how you come out the other side of this situation.  

Many dealerships have already proved that it’s possible to sell cars right now, even as the world seems to have turned upside down. At the end of the day, you can choose to bury your head in the sand and wait for this thing to pass, or you can choose to adapt. To find ways to continue helping customers and providing value.

The choice you make is yours and yours alone. But it will impact the future of your business, your employees and your customers.

Need more information about how to keep your dealership running, despite the weird situation we’ve found ourselves in? Get our eBook How To Keep Your Dealership Going While Facing Coronavirus.