Best Practices

Handling the “Best Price” Question Over the Phone

Man on Phone for Beat Price

Can You Handle the BEST Price Question?

As I travel the country training automotive sales professionals on the proper techniques for handling phone shoppers, I am often asked the price question. “Jerry, how do you handle the customer who just wants the best price over the phone?”

Well, that’s a great question and I address it in this article.

I’ll start off by saying that the price question is one of the most feared question in the business and is often fresh on the minds of sales people. It is not the customer they fear, they fear having to go ask the manager for a price. Most managers don’t like to give pricing over the phone and will inform sales people to just try and make the appointment.

My coaching staff and I listen to approximately 1,000 recorded sales calls per month and find that less than 10% of the customers are looking for a true purchase price. Often it’s the sales person who leads the customer into asking the, “what can I buy it for” question. Or the customer starts asking questions such as, “do you have any lease specials” and the sales person thinks an exact price from a manager is needed.

To help you better understand this issue, I decided to play the part of a tough customer who wanted an exact price over the phone. I selected five Honda dealers around the country and shopped the Honda Odyssey since it’s always been an in demand vehicle. I chose a Honda EXL with Honda DVD rear entertainment with a sticker price of $36,830, including a destination charge of $780.

Four out of the five dealers offered a discounted price over the phone. Three out of the five dealerships asked me for an appointment, but in a weak manner. Only one of the five dealers asked for my last name. The New York City dealer was the only dealership not able to obtain my phone number, but they did ask in a weak manner. The amazing part of this exercise, not one dealership called me back later in the day to follow up with me. This should be a must do for every sales manager when no appointment is made. Here is a list of the pricing I was able to obtain:

Location Price
New York City $33,651
Charlotte $33,151
Florida $34,830
Chicago $36,830
LA $34,757

Using the audio files below, you will hear how they each addressed the price question. I’ve also embedded comments about how they handled themselves on the phone.






How should you handle the price question?

1. Ask about the trade!
Not one person asked me if I was going to trade in a vehicle. When the customer tells you they have a trade, I would then encourage you to ask questions to indicate your interest in their trade. Never tell a customer “oh that’s a wholesale piece.” What you should say is, “I am confident we can get you top dollar for your trade. When is the last time you had your vehicle professionally appraised? Not only will we get you the lowest price for the new Odyssey, but we’ll also get you as much money as possible for your trade. When are you available, now or later today?”

2. Sell the value of your dealership.
What makes your dealership better than the others in your area and be prepared to share that information on the phone. It might sound like this: “I know getting a good deal is important to you and I can appreciate where you are coming from, but there are a lot different ways to save you money on a new Honda Odyssey. If you’re flexible on colors, I may be able to get you a better deal depending on our inventory. You can also be guaranteed that with our huge selection, I’ll not only help you find the right vehicle, but I’ll make sure you get the lowest price around. We’ll even back that with a price match guarantee. We’re the largest Honda dealer in the area and we did not get that way without being aggressive on our pricing. Not only that, but we’re also very proud of the fact that our customer satisfaction levels are among the highest in the industry. Not only will you get an excellent deal, but you’ll also get outstanding service. When are you available to come down and pick out your Odyssey, today or tomorrow?”

“With an in demand vehicle like the Odyssey, pricing fluctuates on a daily basis depending on what we have available. My manager is more aggressive with discounts when you’re here in the dealership.. I’ll be glad to get you a price, but I can assure you you’ll get a better price in person. When is a good time for you to come in and get your best price, now or later today?”

3. If the customer continues to ask for a price, give them a price.
By not giving a price YOU ARE the high price. You could say something like: “The price on the Odyssey you’re considering is (Give Discounted Price). I can promise you that I will honor this price I quoted you. I’ve been working here for five years now and I take great pride in treating my customers with honesty and with integrity, and my dealership also operates in the same manner. The price I’ve given you is a fair price, and I really would like to earn your business.

4. You are your own little business within a business, invest in this process and watch it work. Would you spend $20 bucks to make a few hundred?  Then keep a few gas cards on your possession and offer them as a way to bring customers in.  “I promise you that when you come to our dealership you’re going to be happy with the deal we give you.  If I can’t earn your business, I’ll give you a $20 gas card for your time.  That sounds reasonable, right?  Are you available today or tomorrow?”

On a final note, I would like to address all the managers reading this article. We need to lead by example. It’s easy to tell an employee what to say, but a good leader will pick up the phone and teach their employees how it’s done. Often managers won’t do this for fear of failure themselves. I often get managers on the phone when shopping dealerships and they struggle right along with the sales people.

For those of you who would like to record your outbound calls for training purposes, we can provide outbound numbers that will record your conversations. Just make sure you are aware of your state’s recording laws first. If this is something you would like to consider, please call or e-mail us.

Next month I’ll repeat this process with pre-owned vehicles.

How do YOU handle price questions?

  • M
    Manny luna
  • March 7, 2011
Great Job Jerry! See you at boot camp!
Spot on Thibeaux!! Today's "Managers" collectively do not train. I have learned more from observing the wrong way versus the right way. Great observation on the lack of trade-in questions. Hope to see you in Orlando
  • T
    Tony Sangialosi
  • March 7, 2011
Jerry's Advice is right on. I actually attended one of his Phone Up Ninja Classes and my Dealership uses it daily. Glad to see you still got it Jerry lol!
I agree 200% with everything that you wrote in this article. Asking the right questions and giving the customer the experience they are looking for. You will always win.
Great "Tip of the Iceberg" post Jerry! This subject needs to be brought up weekly (not weakly) in meetings (daily too in some stores). The opportunity a price shopping call presents is a good one. Handling it takes practice, practice and good oversight by a manager. Too many times I have heard (I review the calls in my stores) the change in a customer when someone attempts to skirt the price question. Immediately you have disqualified yourself when you cannot talk about pricing. Would you agree that new car pricing is handled differently than used car? New car calls are more about options, incentives or color. Used car calls are more about availability or verifying it is still on the lot. (were you looking specifically for "that Camry" or one like it?) If you are in a store that does not price POV's on the internet you are going to get a ton of calls (and emails) that are simply about one thing and thats the price. Those are the most difficult too me. By not listing price on the web you have set yourself up for a one question call. (thats a different subject all together)
Good Stuff Jerry, many thanks.
  • Anonymous
  • March 8, 2011
Awesome, as usual!
Great article Jerry - thanks for putting this into "print."
  • R
  • March 17, 2011
Jerry great article the one thing I had issue on was with your call to the Chicago dealer. Telling the customer the car is "available" when you don't have it on the lot can come across as "shady." What if the customer likes you and your price and wants to come in or drops by to see the car then what? The rapport you have built with the customer over the phone is shot.
What do you suggest is the appropriate conversation to have when the customer does come in asking to look at the car?
  • R
  • March 17, 2011
Jerry how would you handle the same question when it comes via email?
Jerry, thank you for posting these. I'm a new car sales consultant, and though I've been in sales for over 25 years this industry stands alone. From North Pole, Alaska "Hi"
  • V
  • September 22, 2012
I appreciate the compliment (question) Mr. Customer, but I don't believe price alone will be enough to earn your business on this car. You'll be glad to know however we've got a $1,000 trade-in bonus on that specific unit to off-set the premium we have on it because of the rare low miles it has, clean Carfax, one owner, excellent maintenance records, flawless interior, and showroom like condition! It's one of a kind, like you sir, so can you come here now to see it, and take it for a test drive, or would later today work best for you?