I started some advice for Nancy Simmons in another section and it grew into a story I think some of you might find interesting.

Nancy is developing tailored CRM software for a client. I had the opportunity to do the same thing for my own dealership twenty years ago. Here's my advice and story to her:

At the point at which a prospect is willing to identify themselves to a dealership as a prospect they become HOT prospects, all of them. They may be saying I'm not currently in the market, but they really are, or are poised to be. All these prospects need to receive daily scrutiny.

Much more important is the CRM process that the dealership creates to followup its own owners and service customers. Too often service customers are not treated as sales prospects by a dealership's CRM software. Too often "Orphan Owners" are not adopted and followed by other salespeople. Dealers need to adopt a rigorous quarterly (or even more frequently) contact system using email, mail and telephone for all of these. They are the successful dealership's PLATFORM.

There must be a system which allows service writers and salesmen to update contact information, make notes, prioritize and schedule recontacts.

This can reside in a duplicate database (so the primary dealership database cannot be corrupted or damaged bhy mischief) that is updated at least daily posting from the primary dealership database.

As long as there are fields which allow the dealership to distinguish between prospects who have never become customers (service or sales), it is also appropriate for salesmen to be able to add records (prospects - UPs - lost to competitors etc) and establish and prioritize future contact schedules with these, just as should be done with previous sales and service customers.

Very early in my car career I had the opportunity to meet a young salesman who, month after month, sold more than twice as many vehicles as his more experienced counterparts. He had only two years in the business when I met him. I asked him how he did it, and he shared his whole process with me. It was eye opening.

Very quickly, and very early in his career he was able to move from taking UPs to doing business entirely by appointment. He accomplished this by creating a computer database (mind you this was 1978!) of all his friends and family, and every single UP he ever greeted, service customer he spoke to, and orphan owner he could adopt.

His philosophy was that he might occasionally lose a sale to another product, but he would never lose one to another salesman. He followed and made friends of every UP, even after they bought from others. In six months, many could not remember the name of the salesman who sold them their car, but they sure knew his.

After a year, he has amassed about 1200 names, addresses and telephone numbers he followed religiously, by phone and letter. At that point, he began to allow himself the luxury of culling a few he really didn't like. 

When I met him he typically had three appointments a day and would close, on average, more than one sale per day. By then he had gotten his wife involved, helping to set appointments and update his database (every entry had to be done by hand back then ...) He made 40-50 telephone contacts daily.

Everyone knows appointments close at double (or more) the ratio walk-in UPs do. His closing ration wasn't really any better than most salesmen's closing ratios for appointments. He simply moved into a world where everything he did was by appointment. This is what I call "the Holy Grail" of selling. Getting as many salespeople to this point  should be every dealership's goal.




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Comment by Marco Antonio R. Botelho on September 15, 2011 at 10:39am
Excellent case!  I could appoint a few of  success stories from salesmen,  all of ther quite similar in nature.
Comment by Pete Grimm on September 13, 2011 at 1:17pm

Thanks, guys. I really didn't intend for this to be a blog post. The "story" helped it grow into one. Clearly that salesman's experience had an impact on me. He worked at Santa Rosa L-M in northern, CA.

Early in my career I was a L-M factory rep. I was fascinated by how the very few "superstar" salesmen achieved this status. The common theme was moving from taking UPs into a business model that worked almost exclusively from appointments. John Piomb,o at Hal Lynch's North Florida L-M, was the first one I encountered. In the 100 or so dealerships with which I became intimately familiar I could count these "superstars" on my fingers and toes. A well-established owner body and a high percentage of sales from appointments characterized them all.



Comment by Jim Kristoff on September 13, 2011 at 12:54pm
Great blog Pete!!
Comment by Mr. Natural on September 12, 2011 at 6:58pm

@Marsh Buice

I always liked the "dead deal" box. Lots of good stuff in there...


Comment by Mr. Natural on September 12, 2011 at 6:53pm

Thanks for this one Pete...I can relate to much of this stuff, having started administrating automotive f/u programs back in the early 90's. Back then, the salespersons all they got was a printout, annotated their contacts and turned the sheets back in at the end of the day for a gal in the office to data entry.

Today, as the internet director for three stores, things are a bit different, though the phone calling is much the same. My whole life is making appointments, and I am paid well for it.

When I started doing this, I was scared to death when I was told that I could turn nobody to the sales dept until they were here in the showroom. Today, making the appointment is the easiest thing in the world. I have a protocol of my own, and use almost zero product knowledge when setting the appointments. For me, it's all about the relationship...I operate under the theory that the more product information you give a customer on the phone or email, the more easily they can form objections that exclude you and your products.

I could rattle on about my Holy Grail, and my guess is that we share many ideas. I love CRMs, and have many developed ideas about what I wish they would and would not do. Right now the one we use is overly robust, click intensive, redundant, and generally a pain in the ass. I wish I had the skills to put one together that understood my methods and ideas.

I hope to hear from you...We need to bring our CRMs into the 21st century.



Comment by Marsh Buice on September 12, 2011 at 6:26pm
Gr8 info Pete! More #s more sales, orphan owners are the unfound treasures of a dlrship

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