written by john c ashworth
madison car salesman
I got on a roll last night and made a nice round of follow-up calls to prospective car customers and in the process I learned a number of extremely valuable lessons I thought I would share with you today. Most of these lessons were not new, are not totally earth shattering, and will likely not come as a surprise to you either. They are still worth sharing. In fact, it is directly as a result of their mundane nature that I felt compelled to write them down and put them in to this post. A post that marks the beginning of another journey I will share more about later.
- First, you can make all the excuses you want about when it might be polite to call people on the phone, but in the end, the goal is to reach people, talk to them in person, leave some kind of lasting impression, and move a car deal to the next step – whatever that might be. I’ll elaborate on that point in #4 titled, “one step at a time.”I heard a story the other day from a sales manager that relates to the idea about when it might be polite or not to call people on the phone. He told me all about one of his previous golden boys who used to purposely set aside an entire morning to call as many prospects as possible. He performed this mundane and almost worthless task at a time when he felt most sure he would NOT reach them in person, so that he could quickly leave them a message, get off the phone, and get on to the next call. This so called strategy allowed him to make more than a hundred calls at a time. I should also note, that this guy is no longer selling cars.To me, this seems like a great example of completing sales activities and tasks only for the sake of completing them, without any interesting or productive thought about an actual strategy that maximizes impact and minimizes wasted time. Tonight, I made all of my calls right around 7 PM, and I reached a live person on 80% or better of those calls. I accomplished more productive follow-up in one 30 minute stretch this evening then I was able to do all day in the land of constant interruption at the dealership. And to those that might be tempted to make the excuse that it might be too late in the evening to call people, I will offer the following alternate reality…While at least two of these prospects were on their way out the door for the evening and obviously a little reluctant to talk with me, I did reach them in person, and they did take a few minutes to talk with me. In one case, I moved a car deal exponentially further along in a matter of minutes. One guy I talked to was obviously a little annoyed with my call, and at the same time impressed with my tenacity.
“John, geese. You know the World Series is on, don’t you?” (I had forgotten 🙂 But yes, I have a few minutes. Man, you’re a hard worker.”
This guy won’t buy a car from me this time. We don’t have the right car. But that one minute call, made at just the right (or wrong depending on your perspective) time, had a major, almost unforgettable impact. If his team wins the series, he might always remember that damn salesman who called him during the game. You know…the one who obviously doesn’t watch a lot of TV, nor let the big game get in the way of his goals.
- The game for any salesman is to keep as many deals as possible moving on from one step to the next. Often, a simple phone call, made at just the right time, is the absolute best way to do this. Sure, I had a frustrating day. The headache I woke up with never left me. I didn’t sell any cars. I spent almost three hours with a prospect I would be happy never to see again, and had one other deal go backwards. Not exactly a stellar performance. It would have been very easy to come home, turn on the television, and just forget about what happened. Well, I certainly did my best to forget the day, but what I didn’t forget is the importance of the telephone, and of staying the course and working smart.
- Learn how to use the tools you have in front of you. In my case, I’ve been working to really understand the mobile application for our contact management software. It’s a brilliant little tool. Walking around in my house, playing with Allie (my 6 year old Labradoodle), sipping my sparkling water and relishing in the afterglow of the 15 minute power nap I took when I got home, I made all kinds of stuff happen. I set appointments for later this week, and very likely added at least one or two deals to the month’s total. Not bad for 30 minutes of focused smart effort. Sure made a lot more sense than wallowing in self pitty and accepting lame excuses for why it might be too late to call anyone.
- Lastly…One step at a time. The car business has taught me a lot about myself over the last three years. One truth it forces on you is that a sale happens one simple step at a time. The art is being able to recognize these steps clearly in the context of car deals that can vary widely in their scope. Forcing you to find patience you though you never had. And forcing you to get better at what you do every day. Skipping steps always leads to mistakes, and often lost deals. While tempting to leap forward, your job as a salesman is to remain grounded in the process and to come back to the basics whenever chaos attempts to rule the day.