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Back to the basics: The 5 principles of successful prospecting

November 24, 2010

Salespeople who worked in the new-car business in the late 1970s or '80s remember those years for the difficult economic conditions. The downturn forced them to create their own traffic; relying solely on floor traffic doomed them to finish at the bottom of the board. Aggressive salespeople pursued new prospects knowing that their future depended on finding new business.

The same atmosphere applies today. Salespeople who actively generate traffic can maintain high sales levels in the midst of economic uncertainty.

To most salespeople, prospecting conjures the impression of calling strangers, to little success. It is true that prospecting with such a mindset never is effective. Prospecting efforts must be practiced with enthusiasm to maintain positive results.

Five principles of prospecting, when implemented properly, will lead to a constant flow of prospects.

Use your Business Cards.
A salesperson should never be without an adequate amount of business cards, the least expensive form of  advertising. Rudimentary,  perhaps, but the refrain, "I don't have a card on me," rings regularly in showrooms.

Business cards should be placed in areas where people will see them. Business cards should be placed on every company bulletin board, in every bill paid, with every tip left at a restaurant, with each letter mailed, and under each windshield wiper at a grocery store parking lot. These mines left in high traffic areas are sure to detonate eventually in the form of a sale.

Focus on your owner base.
Manufacturers created CSI surveys to monitor customer satisfaction. Many salespeople conduct their presentations, delivery and any follow-up intent to achieve a perfect CSI score. In reality, they should aim to achieve perfectly satisfied customers.

Focusing on the customer base is key to prospecting because it leads to repeat business. Salespeople should not attempt to sell a car to a prospect; they should attempt to sell to a prospect his next five cars.

Such an attempt requires contacting the customer at regular intervals, to keep the salesperson's name in the customer's memory. Customers who remain satisfied return to purchase again.

Seek and cultivate referrals.
Every salesperson asks people to send along prospective buyers. The tough part is getting referral sources to produce leads. Use many referral sources to maximize the flow of prospects.

Salespeople should solicit referrals from their owner base, social organizations, churches, schools, family and friends. Insurance agents and bank and credit union branch managers, with hundreds of potential prospects, can provide valuable referrals. Continuous contact with referral sources is the only way to get to the prospects they have.

Conduct daily prospecting
efforts. As a rule, prospecting efforts don't generate a high or rapid return. The objective is to increase chances for success in the long term. Make a prospecting plan and engage in four prospecting activities every day.

Activities may include cold calls, working the service drive, calling lease renewals, or sending congratulatory notes following birth or promotion announcements in the local newspaper. Limiting the number of prospecting efforts while maintaining a daily prospecting routine helps the salesperson retain an enthusiasm for prospecting, even in the face of rejection. Enthusiasm, dedication and patience are key to success at prospecting.

Unsold follow-up. 
After implementing the tools to generate traffic, mentioned above, develop prospects into customers. Transform potential sales into sales. The principle of "unsold follow-up" requires the salesperson to maintain contact with a prospect until the sale is consummated.

Follow up until they buy. In today's fluctuating economic market, the necessity of prospecting cannot be overstated. Salespeople must return to proven techniques of the past to develop a powerful base of customers. Such a "power base" will, in turn, create a perpetual stream of business.

For details on invigorating the sales department, refer to "A Dealer Guide to Revitalizing Your Prospecting Efforts," a management publication of the National Automobile Dealers Association. Copies can be ordered by calling NADA Management Education at 800-252-6232, ext. 2.

Rapidly growing Hispanic market less impacted by weakened Wall Street: study
Nearly seven of 10 Hispanics visit three dealerships when they shop for a new vehicle, and half shop at four or more stores, according to findings of the Spanish language weekly Chicago newspaper owned by the Chicago Tribune, ¡Exito!

To reach that fastest-growing segment of the local economy, language is key. In a study commissioned by ¡Exito! and performed by the Yankelovich Monitor, more than half the respondents said they prefer to speak Spanish in all situations. Two-thirds said they get more information about a product when it is advertised in Spanish, and they are more inclined to buy brands advertised in Spanish.

With a weakened stock market, many Americans are slowing their purchasing patterns. But Hispanic Business reported in October that Hispanics are less affected by deflated stock portfolios than the general population because Hispanics hold fewer stocks. The Tribune study, involving 822,000 Hispanic adults in the Chicago marketplace, found 53 percent plan to buy or lease a vehicle in the next 12 months. Of that audience, 72 percent said they read in Spanish, exclusively or occasionally.

And Hispanics, according to the Tribune study, are 9 percent more likely than the average buyer to obtain dealer financing for their vehicle purchases. ¡Exito! is a weekly publication distributed free on Thursday mornings.

The newspaper, with a circulation of more than 95,000, reportedly reaches 75 percent of all Chicago and suburban Hispanic households.

 

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