Eighty-six percent of car shoppers conduct online research before deciding to visit a local dealership, according to research from digital marketing agency Adtaxi.

With all this research being conducted online, most consumers’ first vehicle inquiry is either by phone or email, wanting to know about a specific vehicle. That’s why for salespeople, first impressions are everything. After all, it’s easy for a customer to hang up the phone or ignore an email.

Too often salespeople blame the process when they reach out multiple times and their attempts don’t result in an appointment. But you have to trust the process.

If the process isn’t giving you the results you want, chances are it’s your approach. More specifically, it could be your choice of words.

I recently spoke with a salesperson who said that frequently when he calls a customer and identifies himself and the dealership, the customer hangs up. Most likely because he or she is expecting a hard sales approach and wants none of it.

Does this mean that calling the customer doesn’t work? Of course not. With literally five seconds to engage the customer, this salesperson should try changing his approach to keep the customer on the line.

When you make a call and the customer picks up, immediately make that call all about the customer. Tell them you’re calling about their recent inquiry into [insert vehicle of interest] and let them know you’d like to provide them with information. These words shift the focus to the customer and their needs, making it more likely they’ll stay on the line.

How do you know which words to choose? Training.

Phone training should be ongoing, managed, and monitored. Salespeople need to work on voicemail messages and appointment closing techniques every day to achieve incremental sales success.

I recommend listening to a couple calls every day with your team. Examine what went right, what went wrong, and what words could result in a better outcome next time.

If consistent training is difficult to schedule or if you have high sales turnover rates, another option is to outsource to a BDC with agents who are specially trained in effective phone follow-up techniques.

Words also matter in email communications. Craft emails that are all about the customer. Answer their questions in the first line or two. Include vehicle videos, testimonial videos and other value propositions videos, if you have them. Be relevant and helpful, not pushy.

If at first you don’t get desired results, don’t blame the process. Keep changing your words and approach until you get the results you want.

Your first communication with a customer could make the difference between a dial tone and a sale. If you change your words, you’ll change your results.