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Prospecting Your Business to Success

By: John Vecchioni

Prospecting Your Business to Success

You don’t have to look up the dictionary definition for “cold calling” — or what we otherwise refer to as “prospecting” — to find out how it makes us feel: inhospitable, unsociable, unwelcome, forbidding, ungracious. The bottom line is, in business, we all find ourselves in a cold market. A comfortably warm market is going to require cold calling on prospects to grow our business and achieve our goals. Understand that all goals start with the end result in mind.

Setting the objective and defining a strategy enhances your possibility to achieve a probability. You have to draft a realistic and workable plan that you can execute and measure. Put your plan in writing and make it S.M.A.R.T. — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Wishing or wanting to put on new business isn’t enough; you have to be specific. Ask yourself, are you looking for pleasurable results or pleasurable methods? There is a distinctive difference between the two.

Be cautious not to get caught up in the trap of thinking of reasons why you shouldn’t prospect a business. I have heard statements like, “The competition is deeply entrenched in the business and they will never change” or “Our prices are higher than our competition” or ”I have been unable to reach the decision maker” or “I don’t have time to stop by there” or “I‘m to busy with existing customers.” These are examples of obstacles we can put in our way of achieving our goals.

Turn your attention and focus to include your desire to achieve, your desire to help the dealer succeed, the knowledge that your market has good potential, that your products are competitive, and that the dealer can benefit from them. Keep in mind that the value you offer is you, the real X-factor. You provide the value to prospective businesses, and that is the real advantage in their doing business with you. Dealers want to build their businesses and continue to grow and be profitable. Your goals and activities should be built around that premise. How can you help play a positive role in building their business?

When building your schedule to facilitate existing business, schedule time on your calendar for prospecting. The more you commit to doing it, the more natural it becomes. Utilize the power of numbers to your advantage. Example: calling on five dealers a week, Monday through Friday, just one contact a day, for one month, and you are now in contact with 25 opportunities. The law of numbers dictates that you will get the attention of some right away and you may have to engage others longer. However, you do begin building a relationship and familiarity. If you can close 50% of the first month’s contacts into appointments, you naturally increase your odds for closing business. If you can close a third of that 50%, you put three or four more dealers in your agency’s book of business (the important thing is to establish and understand your ratios for prospecting and how your time is managed).

Be creative and positive when introducing yourself to people. The old advice of “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is true. Avoid negative greeting terms such as “Sorry to bother you” or “Is this a bad time?” or “I just happened to be in the neighborhood” or “I was wondering if you might be interested …” or “I’d like to get your business.” These suggest to the prospect that your intentions are to benefit you and not them. It won’t make any difference how good you or your products are unless the dealer clearly sees value. Remember, they want to grow their business as well, so focus on the positive and how you can make a difference.

Be prepared for obvious objections that you have heard before, and for which you have rebuttals. It’s not enough to win the objection volley; you have to get an appointment. Having logical responses helps build you as a credible business person who can offer solutions to their problems and goals.

I heard recently of a sales trainer who went into a dealership to solicit business for sales training. The dealer professed that his sales team closed over 45% of the customers they encountered. That’s a bit above the average and the dealer should be commended for his effort in obtaining that percentage; however, my question to the dealer might have been “What do you think is holding you back from achieving 55%?” Excellence is only measured at 100%, so there is always room to improve. You have to be ready and you have to be different. Offer value outside of products. Doing a yearly assessment of sales and compliance is of great value to a dealer who wants to grow their business, and gives them a real understanding of whether or not their messages are getting across successfully. Success just doesn’t happen: preparation is 80% of the work.

Keep notes of people’s names and the subject of the conversations you had when visiting them. Refer to previous conversations when you visit them in the future, and begin to build the necessary rapport and credibility to schedule a real appointment. Utilize reciprocity in the prospect’s business. Have your vehicle serviced there. A lube, oil and filter service is cheaper than buying lunch for the store, and you benefit as well. If you are a customer, ask to see the owner and commend him or her on their service department. Owners love to talk to satisfied customers. It’s an opportunity to meet them and not have to contend with a gatekeeper.

Get involved in the community where you are likely to engage your prospects more frequently. Volunteer where your time can be useful to an organization. This puts you in a different perspective when meeting business and professional people. Involve yourself in the local chamber of commerce and meet the business community. It’s likely your prospect is a member as well. Find out what is important to your prospect in reference to charitable activity and functions. Perhaps you can volunteer or support the organization in other ways. Do your homework and be prepared and committed.

Keep your prospect pipeline filled with potential activity. It could take four to 12 times attempts at contact before you may have a real opportunity to meet the decision maker. Don’t get frustrated and don’t quit. More often than not, this signals that you are getting close, and quitting will not help you achieve your goal of growing your business. “If I could share with you an idea that will grow your sales and profits, would you be willing to listen?” I just did!

This article was written by:

- has written 13 posts on Agent Entrepreneur.

John Vecchioni has written 13 posts on Agent Entrepreneur. John is an F&I Trainer for American Financial & Automotive Services, Inc. F&I University. John provides real-world F&I training experience and solutions to dealer partners across the country. Contact the author.

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The views expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Agent Entrepreneur or any employee thereof.

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