Tag Archive | "prospecting"

The 10 Commandments of Prospecting for a Successful Agency – Part 3


This month, we’re wrapping up our look at the top 10 commandments every agent should keep in mind when it comes to prospecting. Commandments seven through ten focus on knowing where your prospects do their business, maintaining open communication with your peers, listening and talking effectively and, finally, making sure you have the right partners.

Commandment VII: Thou Shalt Discover Where They Are Doing Business
Where are you getting your vehicles maintained? Where are you shopping for your vehicles? Obviously, you want to patronize the dealerships you do business with, but don’t discount that a service as simple as an oil change can create opportunity. It can be difficult to personally get to a decision maker. The owner, at times, is involved in several aspects of running his or her business. Sometimes, we make an assumption that our finance or service products are the most important elements to the dealership. They would have some agreement with that idea; however, there are many components that drive a successful dealership. Getting service on your vehicle offers you an opportunity to meet the service manager and, ultimately, ask to speak to the owner about your satisfaction with his or her service department. Conversation leads to rapport, and that leads to opportunity. Where else can you play a role in the prospect’s business and create a favorable circumstance for yourself?

Don’t dismiss your professional network as a workable resource for you, either. You know franchise and independent dealers who are looking for used vehicles, services, parts and more. Can you facilitate an introduction that can provide a service to your dealer prospect? If you show someone how to profit – either through your patronage or your referral – you begin to present yourself as a credible individual. You have essentially earned the right to at least meet the owner and have a friendly conversation.

Get your existing dealer resources involved in your success. Ask for the referral, or for a telephone call endorsement to the targeted prospect. Your dealers can play a role assisting with making an appointment.

Commandment VIII: Thou Shalt Maintain Communication with Your Peers
Communicating your prospecting activity with others in your organization is not only essential, but it can also be very beneficial. If you intend to market with two or more individuals, then everyone should be talking to different people and different departments each visit. If you are able to put a strategic plan together, consider the advantages: you instill the impression of a large agency of resources and ideas. You establish a justification that your agency possesses expertise in a variety of areas. By visiting with different departments and individuals, you get the agency and your name exposed all over the dealership.

Your agency and your people can assist in all areas of compliance, sales, fixed operations and other areas where your expertise can create efficiency and profit. If you are prospecting without the knowledge of who or when others in your agency are prospecting the same business, you run the risk of the opposite impression occurring. Make your prospecting visits valuable stops and make sure people are excited to see you each time you go back. It is the information you deliver that makes that happen.

If you host training at a neutral site, take the time to invite your prospects to the event. Let everyone in your office know about the training, and encourage them to invite their prospects as well. A full room is always impressive, and sets a tone for special meetings. There are many opportunities to utilize everyone in the agency in pursuit of effective prospecting and, ultimately, agency growth.

Commandment IX: Thou Shalt Listen Intensely and Talk Effectively
Have you ever heard of the salesman who talked his way right out of the sale? It can happen, and it does far too often. Keep in mind when prospecting that you are there to capture “Intel” that allows you to put together information pertinent to what you have heard. If you take precious time – which is a commodity – talking, then you jeopardize your ability for a conversation. Too often sales people attempt to impress their prospects with their knowledge. This is good but it has to come after you hear from them about what is important to them. What is it about the products or education they are currently doing that they like? What would they do differently? What are some of their ideas?

You have to ask questions and listen. Remember: He who asks the questions controls where the conversation is going. Be prepared with the questions you want to ask, and know who you want to ask questions of. Not everybody will give the same response to your questions. The service department might look at a vehicle service contract differently than the finance office. Although it may be the same product, it carries a different set of opinions from each department, and each department has to utilize the product differently. That information is important when you get your opportunity to present your solutions to their already existing headaches.

Every product and every bit of training you can offer to your prospect is valuable and important. You wouldn’t be excited to talk about it if you didn’t believe that. But keep this one bit of advice in mind: everyone wants to be asked their opinion. Not everybody gets to voice his or her opinion about the business, but everybody has one, and because of that you have to listen, because they will tell you everything you want to know and things you don’t want to know.

Commandment X: Thou Shalt Choose Product Partners Who Support Their Agency Growth
When prospecting, don’t be surprised by some of the ideas or requests you begin to hear. In fact, some of those suggestions may be offered up by individuals who had good experiences with specific companies in the past. Every product company you represent in your market should be involved in your success. Committed to your success is even better. It is not always specifically the product that impresses people. You obviously want companies that are capable of providing service for your agency and performance for your customer.

When choosing partnerships keep in mind the some of the following advice that enabled successful partnerships to exist: Administrators will prosper if you prosper. What are they willing to do to help you succeed? How will they assist you in battling the competition? What kind of response time is necessary when considering alternative features to their product? These can be beneficial to your agency when they perform, but they can be devastating when they don’t.

If you find yourself negotiating more with your product providers then your prospective dealers, you might have a problem. There are many providers that assist agencies thrive in their markets by assisting in prospecting, product development, training and liberal back-end opportunities for your dealers. When provides don’t assist in your success, you run the risk of disappointing your dealers and putting stress on the business relationship.

Whatever you need to grow your business should be shared with providers when choosing products for your market. The old expression of “a high tide lifts all boats” is certainly true when you have the right provider in your portfolio.

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The 10 Commandments of Prospecting for a Successful Agency – Part 2


Last month, I gave you the first three commandments for successful prospecting. This month, I bring you commandments four, five and six, which focus on bringing the best ideas to the business, involving yourself in the community and completely understanding the products.

Commandment IV: Thou Shalt Bring Ideas to the Business
If you play a role in the success of other businesses, then you need to share successful ideas that make sense when prospecting. Everyone wants to learn a new closing line or new objection handling technique. Sales people want to succeed, so bringing ideas not only increases your ability to build rapport with them but also helps you build allies of support within the business. What kind of ideas can you really share with a prospect? Consider that you have successful stores you already manage where you help with best practices, compliance, sales training and fixed operations ideas. There are many obstacles that get in the way of sales and service having success. You have experienced them through other businesses. What did they do and how did you play a role in removing the obstacle?

What kind of new legislation can you share and what can you do to mobilize a grass root campaign with the people you are meeting? This is another way to bring ideas to the business. During the debate in Washington on Dodd-Frank, in Congress, the retail automotive industry mobilized a grass root effort and enabled the passage of the Brownback Amendment, excluding the industry from this legislation (it was determined that the amendment would be policed in our industry by other means). This is just one example of the legislative rulings nationally that we need to be aware of. What about your state legislature and its reflection of the retail automotive industry? Rallying people around a cause that affects their lives is a great way to build credibility and rapport.

Every business wants to be more effective and efficient. What can you provide to help in those areas? If your forte is sales training, then prepare to offer great training ideas. If your area of expertise is driving income with products, then bring ideas that everyone can relate to. Whether you are offering solutions in areas of dealer obligor, reinsurance or retro programs, each has merit and can fit somewhere in most businesses. Find the fit and create opportunity. Whatever your intention, be prepared every time you prospect the store.

Commandment V: Thou Shalt Have Involvement and Exposure in the Community
If you live in a metropolitan area, you have a great advantage over your rural competition. Involving yourself in your community can create the advantage of esteem. Sponsoring a little league baseball team or getting involved in charitable community activities or civic clubs enable you to be out front in the community. Calling on franchise or independent retail automotive businesses in your community enables you to engage in community conversation. Most dealers are involved in some kind of a community activity. The point is that you will meet people who do business at competitive stores (prospective targets) as well as the stores you do business with. Before too long, your name and your activities are recognized in the community. Who are you doing business with and whom are they doing business with?

If you use the services of a dry cleaner, grocery store, gas station or other business of the like in your community, then you need to ask where they are purchasing their vehicles from. If it’s not one of the stores you do business with, then find out some discovery information. Why do they purchase their vehicles there? How long have they been purchasing their cars from there? Who do they know there? Then tell your prospects that you were referred by a local business owner and customer. Reciprocity makes the world go around. You can’t be a “secret agent” in your community or where you do business. Referrals often times open many doors and you just have to be prepared to ask and take advantage of the opportunity.

Commandment VI: Thou Shalt Have a Complete Understanding of Their Products
If your intent is to introduce product to the prospect, then be sure you understand all the nuances of how the product works. Be prepared to answer the questions that are most frequently asked. What areas of the product are most understood by consumers, and what areas are sometimes misunderstood? You need to know everything that is in the contract and how to explain it. Demonstrate the most effective way to set up the product, and detail the features and benefits. Don’t ever find yourself in a position to get educated by your customer (the F&I manager) on your product.

If the product you’re introducing can really increase profit and protect their customers against loss, you should be ready to show them how easy it is to sell. What is the “pitch” in introducing the product? What is the history and background of the product company? What is the philosophy of product companies as they apply to new business? How does the company respond to existing long time relationships? How has the product company played a role in ensuring success with their dealerships? Whatever you need to provide to instill confidence in a product or more important, a product change has to be available when the questions come up. Remember: when the bell of opportunity rings you have to be ready to answer it.

Have an idea of the competitive products you are vying to replace. It is not always practical to assume you should know every product. Ask what they like about it and what they don’t like. Review the product contract and cost before you begin to do a comparison.

Next month, we’ll take a look at the last four commandments for successful prospecting: discovering where your prospects do business, maintaining communication with your peers, listening and talking effectively, and partnering with the right product providers.

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Taking on the Big Boys – Differentiation Part 2


In my last article I discussed the importance of knowing who you are and what your sweet spot is. In this article I would like to explore the concept of differentiation and the role it plays in winning business. To illustrate this point, I’d like to ask you a question, the same question we ask at the start of all our agent sales programs.

Why would a dealer be willing to hand over a multi-million dollar piece of their business to you?

Take a moment…what did you come up with?

More than likely, you came up with something like, “we provide excellent training designed to improve F&I performance”, or “we’re a well established local company with a long track record of success”, or “we’re experts in the area of wealth building for our dealer clients”. While these answers may well be true, they’re probably not going to get through to your prospect. Why? Because it’s the same thing they’ve heard before.

Look at it this way, if you were the dealer and someone pitched you something that was essentially the same as what you currently have, what would be your motivation to change? Change is hard, and in order for your prospect to be willing to take on that change, they must believe that you or your solution is a sufficiently better option to what they currently have. If not, they’re likely to stay with the status quo.

So, how do you differentiate yourself from your competition? It begins with changing the way you think. The power of the mind is an amazing thing, and if you change the way you think, you’ll change the way you act. Yes, you have to know your stuff. Yes, you need to have a compelling value proposition. Yes, you need to be able to provide high quality products and services to your customers (all of which I will address in subsequent articles). But more importantly, you have to stop thinking that your prospect is doing you the favor by buying from you.

Let me repeat that. You must change the belief that the prospect is doing you a favor when they decide to partner with you or purchase from you.

Once you know your stuff, and you have the ability to convey your strong value proposition to the prospect, you change your belief to — I’m doing the prospect the favor by offering my products and services to him / her. There are a ton of options out there, but only one of me. When you change the way you think, you change the way you act.

A word of caution, before you go running off to your next appointment and tell the dealer that he / she should feel honored by the fact that you’re even talking to them, please keep in mind that this approach is based on a significant amount of research. More specifically, it’s based on neuroscience or the study of the brain. In short, the modern brain has three levels with each level separated by a gate. The first gate will open only if you’re compelling, different or interesting. If you’re not, if you’re just like the last guy, you have little or no chance of success. But once you understand the power of being different, doors will open. Change the way you think, and you’ll change the way you act.

To illustrate this point, I’d like to put you in a familiar scenario. You’ve been trying to set up your initial meeting with a prospect, and after a few weeks you finally get the meeting. You arrive at the dealership a little early, you have your best suit on, you walk into the dealer’s office, smile and extend your hand and say… “Hi John, I’m Peter, thanks for taking the time to meet with me.” While this may sound professional and courteous, it sends the wrong message. It suggests that the prospect’s time is more valuable than yours, that the prospect is doing you the favor by meeting with you. Without even realizing it you’ve begun your acquisition attempt in a hole. Now I’m not saying you won’t be able to climb out of the hole and win the deal, but I am suggesting you’re making it more difficult than it needs to be.

When you believe it’s you that is doing the favor by meeting with the prospect, the scenario plays out differently. You still arrive at the dealership a little early, you still have your best suit on, you walk into the dealers office, smile and extend your hand and say… “Hi John, I’m Peter, I’m glad we could find the time to get together.” By starting off the conversation on a level playing field, the prospect feels, rather than knows, something is different about you, and you’re more likely to get past the first brain barrier. And, when you’re really good at this and understand the entire process, you’ll be able to actually walk into the dealer’s office and say…”Hi John, I’m Peter, I’m glad I could make the time to meet with you.” But remember, until you fully understand the concept of how a buyer’s mind works, don’t start acting like a jack wagon. I just wanted to illustrate the power of differentiation. If you’re interested in more information about this topic, feel free to contact me.

When it comes to competing with the “Big Box” F&I providers, you have to get your prospect’s attention very quickly. Differentiation is one of the keys. Mull this information over. How often do you automatically take a subordinate position relative to the dealer? Give it a try, rather than thank the prospect for his / her valuable time, tell him / her how happy you are that you could get together. And finally, give some thought to how you’ll answer the question “Why should I do business with you?” Know the answer, practice the answer and then deliver it with confidence and conviction.

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Taking on the Big Boys – Differentiation Part 1


How can independent agents compete for and win business from the “Big Box” F&I providers? Before I provide my thoughts on the subject, let me start out with a definition of “Big Box” F&I provider. For the purpose of the articles I am writing, I’m referring to the large, well established, direct employee providers in our industry. They would be the Goliath in the biblical tale of David and Goliath. Actually, the story of David and Goliath provides a good backdrop to the situation a lot of high quality independent agents’ face on a day-to-day basis. Much like David, the odds look horribly stacked against you. The competition is much bigger than you, financially stronger than you, and has been terrorizing the townspeople for years. Yet, in order to survive, you (like David) have to believe in yourself; you have to defy the odds and you have to take the giant down, but how? Over the next few issues, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned over the past 28 years in the sole hope that it will help you elevate your game.

In order to win new business, you need to be able to describe your value proposition (more about that in future articles) in a clear, concise, and compelling manner to prospect dealers. Before you can do that however, you need to determine who you’re going to be. Whether you’re a part of a full service agency or on your own, you need to determine your sweet spot. In other words, where you think you’ll have the greatest competitive advantage. An agent’s sweet spot may be as individual as his/her fingerprints, but it’s an essential element for success. When determining your sweet spot, you need to be honest with yourself and realistic with your expectations.

What are you good at? Can you work with underperforming F&I departments, raise the PVR and improve product penetrations? Do you remain current on the legal climate and how Dodd-Frank and the CFPB are likely to impact dealers today? Are you an authority on reinsurance and wealth-building strategies for dealers? Do you have the manpower to service a multi-store dealer group? Do you have the cheapest product on the street? Do you have something unique and different? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself, and remember, when answering, be honest with yourself.

Next, take a look at the providers you represent. Are your offerings better suited for franchise stores or independents? Do you have an advantage with domestics or imports? Is there a particular make that gives you an edge?

How well do you know the competition? Whenever you attempt to unseat an incumbent, you need to know what you’re up against. Why did the dealer choose them in the first place? How long have they been working together? Who has the important relationships? How good are you at introducing doubt in the mind of the decision maker?

These are just a few thought-starters for you. Once you know who you are and what your ideal prospect looks like, then you can move to the next step, which is segmenting your market. Market segmentation involves looking at the opportunities in your marketing area, and then comparing them to the list of attributes that best align with your sweet spot. This step allows you to prioritize your acquisition activities and better leverage your strengths.

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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.

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