Have you ever wondered why the word ‘prospecting’ causes car sales executives’ hearts to sink? In this age of digital marketing and social media, the traditional mediums of press and radio seem to have become something of an anachronism for car dealers, despite the modern alternatives being just as expensive and just as difficult to evaluate in terms of enquiries generated.
Dealers are under continual pressure to manage costs, optimise revenues, and establish the “best bang for your buck”.
How do you generate more footfall with less marketing spend?
The answer lies with your database. Research shows that we all work our data very hard in terms of creating awareness of forthcoming sales events as we look to offer something different each month. But what about beyond that?
In every dealership there is a resource which is positively utilised whilst there is enough footfall but struggles to find useful productivity when the job goes quiet. That resource is, of course, your car sales executives. These are the people who are happy to deal with any number of walk-in or phone-in customers but shudder at the prospect of the unsolicited approach. Whilst every one of them will acknowledge that prospecting is part of their job description it is rare to find one who will claim to enjoy it or derive any useful benefit from it.
Why do your sales team avoid prospecting?
The reasons for this can be many and varied, but my belief is that they have a fundamental and human fear of rejection. Furthermore, they anticipate the rejection and futility of the activity before they even begin and so often don’t even embark on the task, despite knowing it to be a fundamental of their job.
How to change hearts and minds
As managers we carry the responsibility of optimising our resources to the best benefit of the business. Our sales teams are a valuable resource and despite their protestations, have the time to work the database. We therefore need to provide the requisite training, motivation and encouragement.
1. Not every contact with customers needs to be a sales call.
Maintaining contact with our customers is fundamental to managing a strong and long-term relationship. We want to show we care about them and to endorse their decision to do business with us. Not every contact with them needs to be a sales call.
Remember the least we hope to get from the call is updated customer data and an enhanced sales exec/client relationship. I have myself employed specialist CRM call centre operatives to carry out this function with some success (16% of calls made converted to appointments). However, I don’t believe there is a substitute for contact from the person who sold you the car and would expect a car sales executive to achieve better appointment numbers than a third-party call centre.
2. Provide encouragement and support from management
Engage with your teams in a discussion about prospecting. Be open, accept that there is a resistance to the activity and discuss the reasons why. Explain that customer service doesn’t stop after the sale. The service you offer post-sale, and the way in which they are nurtured towards their next sale, directly affects how likely a customer is to return to the business when they need a new car.
3. Set prospecting objectives for your sales team
– Challenge each team member to a given number of calls per day/week.
– Agree on a specific objective to the call e.g. to establish a change date, gain an appointment or confirm data information.
– Target only warm customers i.e. people who have an affinity with your business either on sales or aftersales.
– Measure and review with your team
4. Provide training where required
Provide relevant training. If your car sales executives resist prospecting activity through a lack of confidence, training will offer them the opportunity to increase both their competency and confidence in the task and reinforce the importance you place on it.
5. Start as you mean to go on with each new recruit
New starters often have a reluctance to pick up the data from their predecessor as there is clearly no affinity with the customer. In this instance, I encourage the Exec to call the customer and explain that their predecessor has left the company and ask if the customer has any objection to the new Exec becoming their point of contact? Most customers are receptive to this innocent and considerate approach and will be reasonably receptive to a quick discussion on change cycle when the above questions can again be put to them.
In times when margins are under more and more pressure, we all need to sweat the asset as hard as we can. I know from experience that most customers appreciate a dialogue approach rather than the impersonality of an e-mail. We just need to convince our teams of the efficacy of good verbal communication as opposed to the digital alternative.
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