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A checklist of outlawed phrases

We’re now in our peak months of selling. While industry sales figures are mixed and somewhat below expectation because of the lousy spring weather in the Midwest, our recovery continues to move forward with increased activity at the dealership level.

Likely, things are even hectic around the dealership right now and that can cause anyone on our team to make a mistake that, in just a matter of seconds, can lose a prospect or customer.

While the Telephone Doctor specializes in online and phone customer service training, here’s a checklist of five words or expressions that should be banned forever in every dealership:

Banned word or phrase No. 1: The word “no” at the beginning of any sentence. It doesn’t matter what the customer wants, using this word to respond will be taken by the customer in only one way — rejection. Even if “no” is the proper answer, it can be turned into a positive by saying: “We not able to do exactly that, but we can do the following for you.”

No. 2: “I don’t know.” These words should never be uttered. If you don’t know, tell the customer you’ll find out. Try this: “Gee, that’s a good question (or serious situation) and I’m going to check and find out about it for you.” Let’s face it, there usually isn’t a thing any employee can’t find out about or at least get the right person on it. So “I don’t know” should never be heard.

No. 3: “We can’t do that.” If you really want to steam a customer, this one will do it. After all, the customer comes believing you can or should do it. “We can find a way” should be the prevailing attitude of all team members. Try this: “Boy, that’s a tough one. Let me see what we can do for you.” Then, find an alternative solution that can make the customer happy.

No. 4: “You will have to.” Big mistake. The only thing a customer or caller has to do is die and pay taxes (and it seems a lot more of the latter these days). Moreover, customers don’t like being told they “have to” in order to solve a problem they’re thinking you should solve. So, instead, use these carefully chosen suggestions for openers: “Here’s how we can help you with that” or “the next time that happens, here’s what we recommend you do.”

No. 5: “Hang on a second, I’ll be right back.” If you’ve ever said that to a caller, you’ve probably lied. Besides, most customers immediately think you’re giving them the standard, meaningless “on hold” bull. Why not just tell the truth? Like this: “It might take me several minutes to get the right information for you. Are you able to hold while I check?” If it takes more than three minutes or so, check back with the customer and say: “I’m still working on it, can you stay with me a little longer?” If the customer cannot, get their phone number and promise to call back shortly. And, of course, call back shortly.

It doesn’t take much effort to memorize the best ways to respond to a customer or prospect. The truth is that the power to keep all situations under control — to please customers or at least keep them from boiling over — is on the tongue of everyone on the dealership team and there’s no better time to re-emphasize it than now, when things are good.


4 comments on “A checklist of outlawed phrases

  1. Grant WEsterson


    Great advise, we all knew about those phrases but it needed repeating and reminding, especially this time of the year. Thanks for the head’s up!

  2. David Doyle

    Add to the list: “Here is a brochure”

    It is a way of unconsciously ending the dialog with the customer and saying to them “its safe to leave now”.

    You can hand them a brochure – but instead of saying something like the above – open it and show them what is inside.
    This will actually generate more questions and involvement. In fact – if the customer is stand-offish, walking up to them with a brochure in hand and opening the brochure and explaining it to them can be an entry point into a relationship with them.

    Also – Don’t ask “can I help you?” because often you will nail the coffin by eliciting a “no thank you” and now your opening has ended and you will need to “pry” on some level to get it going again.

    Try instead some dialog like “we have sales on just about everything – what type of boat do you have?”

  3. Neil Ross

    Norm – You keep moving ahead full steam and seem to always know what to say and do. Amazing guy, service and advice. Keep it up. The industry needs you and more leaders of your experience and positive attitude.

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