Walk-ins vs. Appointments – Which is Better? You Decide

By Ted Ings, Executive Director

When you need to see a medical doctor, you don’t just arrive at their office, you make an appointment, and you arrive on time.

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This ensures that everyone can plan their day and utilize their time effectively. In the retail car sales industry, things work a little differently.

People are not in the habit of making appointments when they want to buy a new vehicle. They simply pitch-up and talk to the first available salesperson. But it’s time this changed. It’s time for the salespeople at your dealership to start doing business by appointment.

The benefits of business by appointment

Make more money with less effort

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Doing business by appointment for many dealerships may feel counterintuitive but it works. The greatest benefit of setting appointments with potential buyers is that statistically appoints close at a rate of 35% compared to 18% closing for off the street shoppers. This means that if your first point of contact is always the lot, then you are working harder than you need to close those deals.

Committed buyer vs indecisive shopper

Statistics indicate that people who are ready to purchase are most likely to make an appointment. Shoppers, who are just looking, tend to browse the internet or visit several lots to see what is on offer, but buyers will make an appointment because they are ready to commit to a purchase. And you want to attract more buyers than shoppers.

Turning inquiries into appointments

Answering the call

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Making the appointment is the first step in the sales process, and it is a vitally important one. How the customer’s call is handled by the receptionist will set the tone for the entire encounter. If the call is not transferred quickly enough to a salesperson, the deal will die right then and there. No customer is going to hold for 5 minutes and when this happens, the salesperson doesn’t even get a chance to set an appointment, let alone give their sales presentation.

To avoid losing calls, your dealership needs to have a call process, and everyone needs to know how it works. When the call is picked up by the front desk, they need to transfer it as quickly as possible to the first available salesperson. If all the salespeople are busy, the call needs to be transferred to the sales or financial manager.

Practice makes perfect

It may sound like a no-brainer and you might think that you know how to speak to someone on the phone, after all, you do it all the time, but telephone skills are like any other skills, the more you practice, the better you become.


You need to practice taking appointment calls from customers because it’s not just about booking a time, it is also about starting the fact-finding process and building a relationship based on trust. Introduce yourself upfront and take control of the conversation. Ask the customer about the vehicle they are interested in; price, color, model, and features.

Use your tools

Every successful salesperson should have an organized desk with a pen, notepad, customer log and information sheet, and incoming call script within easy reach. If you take electronic notes, make sure your tablet is fully charged and turned on. You don’t want to be scrabbling around a messy desk while your customer is giving you important information. You need to be focused on the call and that means having what you need close at hand.

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Connect with your customer

When a customer calls to make an appointment, they are initiating the contact and they usually feel comfortable because they’re not worried about making an impulse buy or getting the hard sell. You need to capitalize on this.

Ask a few fact-finding questions and immediately start building a rapport. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to connect with someone over the phone but to make it easier, use a script. The more you use your script the more natural it will sound and the easier it will be to connect with buyers over the phone. If you follow the script, by the end of the conversation you will have all the information you need to turn the call into a sale.

The customer can hear the smile in your voice

Just because the customer can’t see you, doesn’t mean they can’t hear your attitude in your voice. When you rely on your voice to convey your message, you need to double down on the enthusiasm and connect with the caller by using appropriate listening skills and matching their tone of voice and pace.

Making the appointment

Making the actual appointment is a practical step, it is literally setting a date and time to meet. Give the customer a choice: ask what time will suit them best, later today or early tomorrow morning?

Get them into the dealership as soon as possible. Before you, hang-up, review the time and date of appointment and make sure you are both on the same page.

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Just because the appointment is made, doesn’t mean your job is done. You still need to log your customer and transfer their information into the customer management system. Set your alarm to remind you of the appointment at least 30 minutes before the time, and when the customer steps into the dealership, make sure that you are ready for them, your desk is neat, and you have all your information within easy reach. This shows that you take them seriously and are interested in their business.

Prospecting is not cold calling

Prospecting is all about capitalizing on customer information you already have. It is a strategic plan designed to maximize your selling efforts by contacting repeat customers, referrals and orphaned owners, and requires good timing and database management.

Before you start calling, decide who you are targeting. For example, End of Term customers who are completing their leases, or orphaned owners who bought a vehicle from a salesperson who no longer works at your dealership. Use your database to extract the correct information and compile an appropriate list.


Remember, you are initiating the call and you need to get the customer excited about what you are selling. Offer to give an orphaned owner a free valuation of their current vehicle. The goal of the call it to make an appointment, if the customer is not interested in coming in now, ask if you can call again when a new model arrives that suits their needs.

Doing business by appointment should be part of every dealership’s sales strategy.

It is more effective than fresh ups and it gives you time to prepare your presentation. Appointments allow you to work smarter, not harder, and salespeople who consistently work appointments have the most success.