Earlier in October, Apple held an event that finally saw the announcement of both a new Apple Watch as well as the iPhone 11.

And Apple fans everywhere rejoiced.

Hidden among many new products and features was one feature that, if you blinked, you would have missed out on. This seemingly insignificant addition to their phones was the new ability to send any unknown number directly to voicemail. Gone are the days where robo-callers with a masked area code can call you and waste your time. If they aren’t on your contact list, then they will be sent STRAIGHT to voicemail.

This isn’t something that we are going to have to worry about in a year. This is a feature that is live right now. There is already speculation that Android will follow suit with this feature, and companies like AT&T and T-Mobile already have a similar feature that they refer to as “scam-blocking.”

The consumer in me is more than pleased at this. The automotive marketer in me does not hold the same sentiment.

For those who rely heavily on their BDC/Internet sales department (most stores nowadays), you can see where this may prove to be an issue. And what about your dealerships service department? How will they get into contact with your customers?

Honestly, it isn’t just the automotive industry that will be affected. For anyone who sells and/or markets directly to consumers, prospecting is going to be greatly affected and there will more than likely be more leads falling through the cracks during follow up as well.

Is this the death of phone sales?

Not yet, but it can definitely prove to be an issue. Combatting this potentially massive obstacle isn’t going to be easy, and is going to require multiple changes in the process. Here are a few ideas that I’ve compiled to combat these new setbacks:

Leaving voicemails. It sounds simple and should be done every time, but does your dealership sales team leave a voicemail every single time? Are their voicemails effective? Do they get called back? A great voicemail is short, simple, and to the point. You must explain who you are, why you are calling, and how the client can get ahold of you. If you want to raise the number of callbacks that you receive, then you are going to have to find a way to get the attention of the client through voicemail, because you may not ever get them on the phone. It’s only a waste of time if you feel that it is.

Train your dealership sales team on the phone. A lower amount of people reached means that your closing ratio on the phone must increase. Ensure that your sales team is trained properly to know what to do in the event that they have a prospect on the phone. Your sales team is going to have to find a way to get the client to the dealership. Every call counts, and you cannot afford to let them go to waste. This may very well be the only time you speak with this person, so make sure that you try your utmost to make something out of the conversation.

Sending emails. Emails will at least pop up as a notification on a person’s phone. With unknown numbers being sent to voicemail, consumers may never know that you called them in the first place. I don’t know about you, but I go multiple days and even weeks without checking my voicemail. Half of the time, I don’t even notice that I have one. Emails can be a last-ditch effort to get ahold of lost leads.

Texting. It is estimated that text-based automotive marketing will most likely increase to combat this feature. Texting is now implemented in many different dealerships, and many dealers feel that texting is a much better avenue to go down than emailing customers. Are your dealerships BDC/Internet Sales Department equipped to handle customers via text? Is this something that has already been implemented within your store?

Social selling. Social media has become a frontrunner for automotive marketers within the last few years, and the new feature will only exacerbate this fact. If you can’t get them on the phone, then you’re going to have to focus heavier on digital, if you aren’t already. If you find that your calls are becoming less effective, then Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter may be the better route. Contrary to what many old school dealers may think, people are making a living directly from social media. It isn’t a fad. It’s just the reality of marketing in 2019.

These solutions are going to vary from market to market, dealer to dealer of course. Some dealerships will find this transition to be much more fluid than others. Others may find that they see little change in their dealerships. It all depends on the automotive market and demographic, but one thing is for certain: we must ensure that we are prepared to handle what can easily become a major obstacle.

These new features are already being implemented for users. The question is:

Are you prepared to handle them?