The Art of Prospecting

My first sales manager asked me to list all the people I knew, then contact them and ask if they or anyone they knew were in the market for a new vehicle. I was worried that the next thing he was going to get me to do was go door to door. I thought my job description was to answer incoming sales calls and talk to walk-in customers. Customer prospecting? Forget it. Most of us hate it. But manufacturers

My first sales manager asked me to list all the people I knew, then contact them and ask if they or anyone they knew were in the market for a new vehicle.

I was worried that the next thing he was going to get me to do was go door to door. I thought my job description was to answer incoming sales calls and talk to walk-in customers. Customer prospecting? Forget it. Most of us hate it. But manufacturers and dealerships market and prospect for us everyday.

Think about it:

Prospecting and marketing have the same meaning: looking, searching, exploring. The manufacturers call it marketing, and so do the dealers. So, If we “salespeople” look at it from a marketing view point, then it all makes sense.

Auto manufacturers prospect and market every day via auto shows, national television, radio, magazines, display signs, newspapers, billboards, sponsoring events, charities and more. The manufacturers are the industry's number one prospecting group.

Dealerships are second in customer prospecting via local television, radio, internet, newspapers ads, community donations, sponsoring local sports teams and much more.

The third is the salesperson, many of whom, in my opinion, have dropped the ball.

Customer prospecting is important to the success of a new salesperson. If you are an experienced salesperson and not delivering 150 units per year, then your future success depends on prospecting, too.

The success of a salesperson has a direct relation to the success of the dealership. When times are good, almost every salesperson can sell some vehicles. The customers will walk in and 10% of them will buy from you just because you are there.

Sales people with a systematic strategy of prospecting will simply have a larger potential customer base to draw from than a non-prospecting sales person. This added base of customers per month is what will distinguish an average sales person from an exceptional one.

If you feel you or your sales team is underachieving in this regard, here are a few ideas you can start with to turn things around.

Make a list of 1,000 plus names and telephone numbers of people that you don't know. Put some thought into your list. Example: If your last name is Smith put the Smiths on your list.

From this list of 1,000 unknown new prospects, if you can get 2%-5% to purchase, that's 20 to 50 more vehicles “over the curb” per year. This means approximately an extra $ 10,000 per year to every salesperson who does it. It's worth doing.

Make 5 to 10 calls a day, even from home. Your calls should be short and to the point. Example:

“Hi, my name is Darin George and I'm calling from ABC Motors and was wounding if you are in the market for a new or used vehicle?”

If the answer is “yes” continue. If the answer is “no,” thank them for their time and tell them if they ever need any help in getting a vehicle they could call you.

Here is a partial list of resources, methods, and groups of people to consider when doing your marketing:

  • family and friends
  • the telephone book's white and yellow pages
  • auto body and paint shops, insurance offices, general contractors
  • the Internet
  • clubs and associations
  • coffee shops
  • your neighbors, your doctor or dentist
  • newspapers, classified ads, auto traders (people are selling and buying from these magazines) and even run an ad in your local paper.
  • your service department (your mechanics can refer people to you)

Tell everyone you're in the auto industry. Eventually, everyone becomes dissatisfied with their current vehicle.

The key is for you to know about when, and for them to know you.

Darin B. George (1-888-681-7355/[email protected]) runs the Automotive Sales College. He conducts dealership training programs, including a series airing on ASTN.

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