When I first entered the car business my sales manager ask me to make a list of all the people I knew. Then he asked me to contact these people and ask if they or anyone they knew were in the market for a new vehicle.

I was worried that next he'd ask me to go door-to-door. I thought my job was to answer incoming sales calls and talk to walk in customers. Customer prospecting? Forget it, most of us hate it. Although, I think salespeople forget how much the manufacturer and dealerships market and prospect for us everyday.

Think about it; prospecting and marketing have the same meaning: looking, searching, exploring. The manufacturers call it marketing and so do the dealers. If we salespeople look at prospecting from a marketing viewpoint, then it all makes sense.

Auto manufacturers continuously prospect/market through auto shows, national television, radio, magazines, display signs, newspapers, billboards, sponsoring events, charities, and more. The manufacturers are the industry's number one prospecting group.

The dealerships are second in customer prospecting via local television, radio, internet, newspapers ads, community donations, sponsoring local sports teams and much more.

The third is the sales staff that, in my opinion, has dropped the ball. Not all salespeople are poor customer prospectors (marketers), just a large number of them.

Customer prospecting contributes to the success of a new sales person. If you are an experienced sales person and are not delivering 150 units per year, then your future success depends on it too. The success of a sales person has a direct relation to the success of the dealership.

When times are good, almost every sales person can sell some vehicles. This falls into what I like to call “just having a heart beat”: call yourself a sales person and stand in the showroom. The customers will walk in and 10% of them will buy from you just because you are there.

Sales people with a systematic strategy of prospecting will simply have a larger potential customer base to draw from than a non-prospecting sales person. This added base of customers per month is what will distinguish an average sales person from an exceptional one.

If you feel you or your sales team are underachieving in this regard, here are a few ideas to turn things around.

Make a list of 1,000 plus names and telephone numbers of people that you do not know and put some thought into your list. Example: If your last name is Smith put the Smiths on your list. From this list of 1,000 unknown new prospects, if, in a year, you can get 2%-5% of them to purchase, that's 20 to 50 more vehicles “over the curb.” This means thousands of dollars more income.

Your prospecting should be done at the start of your shift or at the end, you can even do it from home. Make five to 10 calls per day. If you work 22 days a month, it adds up fast. Your calls have to be short and to the point.

Example Call:

“Hi, My name is Darin George and I'm calling from ABC Motors and was wondering if you are in the market for a new or used vehicle?”

If the answer is yes, continue…

If the answer is no, thank them for their time and tell them if they ever need any help in getting a vehicle they could call you.

Here is a partial list of resources, methods, and groups of people to consider when making your prospecting list of 1000 people:

  • Family and friends
  • The white pages in the telephone book
  • The yellow pages, businesses etc.
  • Auto body and paint shops
  • Insurance offices
  • General contractors
  • The Internet
  • Clubs and associations
  • Coffee shops
  • Neighbors, your doctor or dentist
  • Newspapers, classified ads
  • Buy and sell newspapers
  • Auto traders, people are selling and buying from these magazines
  • Your service department, your mechanics can refer people to you
  • A group fax out to local businesses
  • You can even run an ad in your local paper

Darin's Wrap Up

Be proud of your profession. Tell everyone you meet that you are in the automotive industry. At one time or another, people will become dissatisfied with their current vehicle. The key is to know about when they're ready for a new one.

Sales people on a slow showroom day should never tell the sales management that there is nothing to do at the dealership. You can always do some marketing/prospecting.

Have fun with your prospecting… er sorry, marketing.

If you would like more information on this sales meeting topic, call the Automotive Sales College and ask for Darin B. George, the head trainer. If you want more information on the college and its programs, call 1-888-681-7355. We will be at the NADA New Orleans Convention, booth 5710.