From the NCM Institute Blog: Are You Leveraging Your Circle of Influence?

Over the last fifteen years I’ve conducted numerous dealership sales meetings, at which we perform an interactive exercise called “Who Do You Know?” I ask each salesperson to write down just one name of someone they know in each of about 75 categories that I read to them over a twenty minute period. After the exercise is completed, I inspect the pages and pages of names that they’ve written down and I normally say something like, “Don’t talk to me about not having enough showroom traffic!” Then I and the sales management staff train them on how to expand and leverage this list of people, their personal circle of influence (COI).

This group of non-current prospects includes relatives, friends, neighbors, and everyone else that the sales consultant has developed a personal relationship with during his or her walk of life. Those of us who were in automotive sales in the 1960s and early 1970s know that our incomes (and even our jobs) were greatly dependent on how well we cultivated and nurtured our personal COI.

I remember my first sales manager telling me that everyone I know, everyone my wife knows, and everyone my mother and father know need to become aware that I am in automotive sales and that I want the chance to earn their business. He went on to explain that not everyone is a prospect for a new Oldsmobile, but everybody’s driving something and I needed to be the transportation specialist for my circle of influence.  In fact, achieving my earnings expectation over the next few years would be dependent on my COI.

Before a new salesperson was even allowed to take an “UP” or an inbound telephone inquiry, many dealers demanded that the salesperson develop a detailed manual file system consisting of each person in his personal COI, and that he send a letter to, and make phone contact with, each person in that file.

Why is it then, that in today’s dealerships, this group of “opportunities to do business” (OTDBs) is largely ignored by most managers? Unless someone in a salesperson’s COI has bought a vehicle (or tried to buy a vehicle), we rarely find the names and data on these people in the dealership CRM system. The potential sales to this OTDB group are far too large to be overlooked.

The NCM training and consulting teams have developed and implemented processes to identify and engage the salespersons’ COI.  Remember, these OTDBs will also deliver at 50%+ when dealt with in a face-to-face environment, because we have a relationship with them.

Implementing a disciplined COI engagement process is one of the subjects taught in the Principles of General Sales Management I class at the NCM Institute Center for Automotive Retail Excellence. To get more NCM tips come to daily!

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Comment by Jim Kristoff on January 11, 2012 at 7:35am

I always use simple math to demonstrate this point.

There are 200 million licensed drivers in the United States.

In 2011 there were approximately 12 million New vehicles sold and 43 million Pre-Owned vehicles sold.

That is 55 million vehicles sold to 200 million licensed drivers equating to 27.5%.

So nearly 3 out of every 10 people you know are going to purchase a vehicle


Circle of influence is HUGE!!......Good blog Garry!!

Comment by Larry Bonorato on January 10, 2012 at 10:18pm

Hey Garry:

When I speak to a group I employ a short exercise where I ask all of the attendees who bought a vehicle or know soneone who bought a vehicle in the last 3 months to raise their hands... usually @ 20% of the group.  Then I ask for a show of hands for anyone who is planning to buy a vehicle or knows of someone who will buy a vehicle in the next 3 months...another 20%.  That's right 40% will buy or know of someone who will buy within any given 6 month period.  By having the attendees register for a drawing by putting their business card in a jar I get enough prospects to last for a long time!

With e-mail, text, Facebook, LinkedIn, Dealer Elite, Twitter, etc. all tied to one of the many available CRM tools there is no reason for a sales professional in this business to troll the lot for their next "Up."   Thanks for a terrific post!

Comment by Michal Lusk on January 10, 2012 at 9:50pm

Great reminder! I just took a job at a local Hyundai dealer, but have not updated my Facebook page or Tweeted about it yet. I do want all my friends and relatives to come see me when they are in the market, but no one know where I work yet!

Comment by Stanley Esposito on January 10, 2012 at 7:25pm
Nice job. When I was hired I had to give a list of 75 names of friends and relatives to the management team. They sent 75 letters on my behalf letting them know they knew someone in the business. Now with facebook and twitter it is even easier.
It is good to be reminded about the basics. Thank you!

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