It's not a trick question - I really want to know. Here's why I ask: In every sales training meeting, book, or video I listened to early in my career, they always said the same thing - make sure when the customer leaves the lot you give them a big stack of business cards and ask them to send their friends and family your way. Funny thing is - most of these people were my managers, who I found out became managers because they never were able to develop a book of business the right way. I was one of those people, and I know it's a tough pill to swallow - because I have choked this one down myself. Seven years of asking for referrals, yet getting almost none. People smiling with their new car, and telling me how I was the nicest salesperson they had ever met - What happened?! My hope here, is to share with you some constructive criticism that really changed the way I approach this in my career. If any of the above resonates with you, please read on:
Hear me out on this - What if I said "You've been doing it all wrong?"
Well, in a nutshell, Jeffrey Gitomer's Little Red book of selling taught me that exact principle - or better stated: truth. He wrote that Referrals are earned one at a time, and that if you never ask for them; you will force yourself to earn them; and you will get more of them. So I quit asking for them, but the story continues...
See, I really think my people liked me - but the thing was, I never was taught how to stay in touch and take care of people (long term) - I was taught to keep selling, or to move on to the next one - and neither of them is effective. Even worse, what I learned later in my career was this one truth that really changed things for me - the people you don't sell a car to, are just as likely - and in just as good of a position to refer you to others, as the person you did sell a car to. Do you want to know why? Because you are your product, and if you take care of people and stay in touch, they will refer you. They like you. They know you like them. They know how to get a hold of you - and they know they can't get you anywhere else. It works. In my mind, if you work with integrity, it is the only way to do business. People should be telling your story: "It doesn't matter if you choose to buy from him or not, you should get in touch with him - because I know you'll be taken care of."
Think about it - How many people that you have done business with stay in touch with you, in a way that let you know how much they really care?
One more question: How many people that you haven't done business with stay in touch with you, in a way that let you know how much they really care?
Catch my drift? I am going to share something I have found to be true: Reaching out to show appreciation with a greeting card - whether it's for the consideration - or a congratulations is so uncommon; that it makes it very easy to be a standout. What do you think would get more return customers: sending 100 thank you cards to the next 100 people that visited you - or telling the next hundred people to send somebody your way and you'll give them $100... Hoping just to get one extra deal, right? I think the results would shock you - they shocked me. The cards win every time (by a landslide) - and it's the same with repeat and referrals: If you could send a greeting card for $1 - do you think it would be more effective to hand them a stack of business cards, and promise the hundred dollars, but never stay in touch... Or stay in touch with them 8- 12 times a year for the next decade, letting them know you appreciate them (no need to keep selling - they'll remember you and what you do), and investing the $100 in cards? Even if they bought else where - you'd probably get all of their future business and referrals! You want to be the topic of conversation whenever unimaginably good service is brought up, and over time, as the friendships develop; the fun really begins: fun letters back, introductions to friends, invitations to wedding, birth announcements... etc. A life rich in relationships - this is the fun career you've always desired.
So what is the solution? Hand write them one by one - or use the one that I use - it allows me to send my greeting cards fast and easy for about a buck, and it only takes a few minutes. Here's the best part - I can send out a card to my entire contact list (over 700 people) in the same amount of time; so I can remain fast and effective in my long term follow-up no matter how big my contact list gets. The people on this list have become my friends - my referrals have increased, and my phone time is now with repeat and referral clients; instead of trying to "stir-up" business from those I spoke to four days ago... their 1st card should be arriving today.
Think about it - when most sales managers say "Have you completed your follow-up?" They are really saying: "Have you called the people you spoke to a few days ago?" Because that is the short-sightedness of their plan. Think about it: 90% of people you meet buy their car within the first week, yet 99% of people that buy a car will know somebody else that will be buying a car; or will be buying another car at some time in the future.
Also, most places only send one card - and then stop - and it is very rare for them to continue; instead, they will call incessantly, or spam them with emails they will never read. Even if there was a relationship formed on the lot, these tactics do very little to create raving fans: Seriously, now: Would you want to be treated this way? If people knew how this slowly erodes a relationship, they would change. You see, a greeting card is one of the only things that you can continue to give, in which the recipient will understand that it is about them - not you. Newsletters, junk mails, and impersonal mass emails do only one thing: they remind them how much you care about you and your business. Put yourself in their shoes - If you were them, would you go out of your way to refer you? Look, the sending greeting cards wasn't my idea - but I will attest that it has worked for me: the greeting card idea came from Joe Girard, the best auto salesman of all-time: How does one outselling 90% of all dealers in the nation sound? Year after year, he did it - and he told us how. How many of you managers have implemented his tactic? In my 10 year career, I'll tell you how many I saw: ZERO. Isn't that sad, but refreshing at the same time?!
This article shows Joe's results:
and here's the card system I use and share (there's a button to try it free):
(See if you can put the one truth and one technology together, and spot the opportunity that I did.)
PS: I will be sharing this technology with other dealers in a booth at the NIADA convention in June.
Feel welcome to call me if you have questions, and I hope this helps you; I deeply feel our industry needs this. The internet is great to meet people, but unless you put a plan and mechanism in place to make them repeat and referral clients in the future - you are setting yourself up for a lot of hard work and burnout in the future. You can become a referral only business - and it does take time and and a plan - so get started now.