Q: I am a local market operator and we recently made a significant investment in an advertising campaign. Now that the phones are ringing, what are some tips on handling those calls that will help us capture more bookings?

Owner/Operator — Portland, Ore.

A: In a local market environment, what will make the biggest impression on callers is the emotional impact you have on them.

Be Professional and Courteous

Callers will form an impression of the company’s professionalism through you. Being an expert is the true definition of a professional. 

  • Promote Unity: Many of your callers have been referred by a service provider (e.g., insurance agency, body shop or dealership). It is critically important that your company be positioned as an extension of the referral source. Be in the habit of using “We/Us” versus “They/Them.”
  • Omit Slang: This is perceived as a lack of professionalism, even if you are mirroring the caller. 
  • Never Interrupt: Interject and paraphrase in order to take control and “get into the conversation.”• Always be on Stage: Every time the phone rings, think lights, camera, action! That means you will be consistent in how you treat people all day long.

Often in a local market, many of your callers are first-time potential renters looking to you for expert advice and recommendations. When they feel the person lacks confidence, they are less likely to believe in your products and services.

Control Your Voice

Callers form a mental picture of the person they are speaking with on the phone. Controlling your voice will help them form a positive image.

  • Tone: Upbeat, positive tones are most attractive to a customer’s ears. Avoid being too breathy or nasally.
  • Volume: You want the caller to hear you clearly, but when a voice is too loud, it is uncomfortable to the listener’s ears. Your volume should be no louder than a face-to-face conversation.


Qualifying is the cornerstone to service-based selling. If you know the caller’s needs, it is much easier to match products and personalize the sale.

  • Prompt the Vehicle: Based on our experience, callers will self-qualify more than 75% of the time. However, when they do not immediately self-qualify, prompt them by saying, “Let’s see what vehicle best suits your needs.” Typically, this will cue callers to tell you more quickly what they want/need.
  • Actively Listen: Some of the best sales people do the least amount of talking. Active listening will have a dramatic impact on your revenue by reducing your handle time.
  • Get Specific: One of the best ways to solicit information is by asking questions. Be in the habit of asking questions specific to the type of business (i.e., leisure, corporate/government, IR, shop, dealership, hotel, etc.).

Be Clear, Concise and Ask For The Booking

Effective communicators keep their message simple and use their time wisely. When initiating a booking, use clear, succinct and impactful offer phrases, which include asking for the booking.

As a general rule, this should be communicated within 20-30 seconds. For example: “Based on your travel needs, I recommend a comfortable (category), similar to a __. For __ days, your base rate is __ with taxes and surcharges, your estimated total is __. With a (daytime phone number/last name) I can secure this excellent rate for you, (name).”

Asking for their business is a critical step often overlooked. Remember, they called you!

Close Positively

Whatever they hear last is what callers are likely to remember most. Whether they’ve made a reservation or not, leaving a caller with a positive lasting impression will always serve you well in the long run.

Be in the habit of using their name, your name and thank them for booking or checking with your company. Whenever possible, use a statement of C.A.R.E (Comment About a Relevant Experience) in relation to their upcoming rental. For example: “Good luck with the wedding preparations. We look forward to seeing you on the 17th.”

What's Your Question?

• Email your car rental operation-related questions to Auto Rental News care of chris.brown@bobit.com.

• Consultants from the Frontline Performance Group will come up with concise, insightful answers to help you better run your car rental operation. Feel free to contact them directly at questions@frontlinepg.com.

You can also see additional articles from the September/October magazine issue here.