The 10 Commandments of Prospecting for a Successful Agency – Part 1

By: John Vecchioni

The 10 Commandments of Prospecting for a Successful Agency – Part 1

This month, we begin a three-part series looking at the top ten tips and tricks agents can use for successful prospecting. This month, we will look at the first three – defining your territory, knowing your business environment, and targeting the right prospects.

Commandment I: Thou Shalt Prospect Thy Given and Defined Territory
The very first place to start a prospecting campaign is to determine what you want and who will play a role in that process. How much time are you willing to commit to the project to see it through to success? It’s not enough to just “want” to grow the agency business, that’s obvious. Directly calling on franchise dealers and on independent operators ensures your probability of actually succeeding. But, you have to have a specific written plan. A plan that includes where the businesses are that you seek to prospect, who are the right people to talk to, and what information you need to collect to begin an information campaign.

Too often we “wing it” when it comes to prospecting. We utilize single dimensional ideas and dismiss the full approach of communicative options necessary to build rapport. There are many ways to communicate your message, particularly with the technological tools that are easily available today. But, believe it or not, technology and social media alone will not get it done. Not to the degree you desire. There will never be a substitute for the personal touch. The rapport building allows us all to assess whom we are talking to and if we like them or not.

Start by writing down where opportunity is in your market place. It very well could be wherever you are not doing business. Remember, one person’s shortcoming could be another’s opportunity. Don’t assume anything, as it most often can be wrong. Who they do business with and how long they have been doing business with them is not as relevant as you may assume.

Opportunity always presents itself when options are available. Start with a workable schedule. What days and times are you available to prospect your business? How long will you take with each dealership and what specific goal do you want to accomplish each time you stop by? Bringing new information and new ideas each time you stop by the business ensures that your welcome becomes more amicable. Don’t get caught without answers, and always be prepared for an opportunity to tell your story.

I know many agencies that offer ideas, with valuable products and training, as well. Both have value. You need to distinguish yourself differently than everyone else who does that. When prospecting, you actually get to show off what you do and how you are different. Take advantage of the opportunity. Social networking is good and works well, however, don’t get comfortable with just networking, and forget the individual work that has to be done. You are the commodity, and as such, you have to sell the value you can offer this business.

Commandment II: Thou Shalt Possess Knowledge of the Overall Business Environment
What compliant and legislative information can you bring to the business? How can you make a difference? Are you connected to resources that can assist you? Sharing industry information with prospects creates opportunity for conversation, and conversation exposes necessary details. Be prepared and have an understanding about what’s going on legislatively in the industry. Possessing and sharing information is critical when you are looking to establish credibility and value with the dealer.

Time is a commodity and you want to take advantage when you have an opportunity to build value in you. Be ready to share ideas and plans that assist in building a compliant environment. Help dealers avoid the scrutiny of federal or state agencies in their business. Help them to establish a culture that breeds integrity and increases profit.

Offer a no-fee, in- store compliance review, and tally up the potential trouble in even the most innocent environments. Exposure to liability and how to avoid it provides the dealer with information necessary to avoid any fines or, worse yet, closure. If you don’t share the information, how will you know if they’re getting it at all? Many dealers are vulnerable for many reasons, including unscrupulous employees. Simple things such as: there are still finance practitioners who do not understand the legal and sales advantages to utilizing a menu presentation with every customer. There are still sales people who offer opinion as opposed to fact in areas of interest and monthly payments. You can help. You have ideas and plans in place that make sense. Where can you start and how will you convey the importance of acting now versus later?

What new and exciting sales information are you walking in with? Sure, everyone listens differently in the dealership. Owners view your profit opportunity differently than that of their staff. Finance is looking for inexpensive ancillary products to peddle. Sales managers are looking for help to increase sales among their people. Everyone has a motive, and the common factor is profit.

Sales training should be “an all the time thing” that is part of the overall culture of the business. What can you offer in small portions that they can use now? Offer an idea for setting an appointment or an idea on closing that they can use now. You have to be versatile and have a specific plan. Remember, your ability to prospect and close can become proof enough that you’ve got ideas for the business.

What are the most current industry trends? Technology is integrating every segment of business. Do your target prospects have BDC’s (Business Development Centers) and, if so, how can you help utilize that part of the business? How about the Internet department? Are they working efficiently and effectively in procuring sales? How can you increase their capacity for profit?

Commandment III: Thou Shalt Target the Business
When you determine the businesses you are going to prospect you have to do some discovery. You have to begin to meet their people, gain knowledge of products being offered there, and find out about the upside and downside of their product experience. It doesn’t necessarily make a difference where you start, what matters is where it begins to take you.
You can find a lot of information in the service department. They understand how the service contract companies perform. They can share information with you about how long the current provider has been in the store and the relationship the business has with the existing servicing agent. The service writers and the service manager live with the daily idiosyncrasies of the contract companies. They can provide you with their opinions of how easy or difficult they might be to work with.

Other products that are offered to the dealership’s customers can also be discovered in the service department. Service is responsible for prep work on vehicles both new and used. They may also be preloading appearance packages on vehicles or involved in application after the purchase. What are the chemical companies offering? Why do they like it and what don’t they like about the product? There is much to learn from the service department. The first thing to accomplish in service is information and rapport.

Knowing who is involved in the dealer’s business is paramount when working your way around the store. Bring valuable and practical information that benefits sales and management. Don’t be the vendor who stops by to gossip, rather, bring information that begins to build your credibility and elicits more conversation with individuals who can introduce you to the next person. Remember, the information collected helps you prepare your ideas on how you can make a difference.

Next month, we’ll take a closer look at commandments four through six, which focus on how to bring ideas into the business, community involvement and an understanding of the products prospective dealers are already selling.

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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