Let's take a look at three ways you might reduce sales force turnover and increase sales.

One idea isn't new, one is and another shows promise. Let's look at each, starting with our old idea, prospecting.

1 Prospecting

Does anyone actually prospect anymore?

“In the traditional 10- or 11-step selling process, prospecting used to be the first step; it isn't even in the sales process anymore,” says Mike Thompson, a sales trainer with Net Profit, Inc., a consulting practice in Pelham, AL.

He believes sales people have quit prospecting in favor of grabbing “ups” from lot traffic and Internet leads, in that order. He believes dealers must get back to old-fashioned prospecting if sales staff turnover is to slow down.

Prospecting is simple, but it scares the heck out of many folks.

“Fear of rejection still is the No. 1 reason people don't prospect,” Thompson says.

Trainers like him work with sales people to help them understand how to prospect and to surmount the rejection factor.

“Prospecting in the car business is the art of finding customers for your products or services. It's sharing your name everywhere you go, and saying who you work for and what you do,” Thompson says.

Many of the car-selling programs he's observed lately skim over or neglect completely this important sales step — the first step, he says.

Because new salespeople aren't taught to prospect, they don't.

Second, with the turnover in today's dealership few sales people are staying around to reap the rewards that a consistently executed prospecting process can create on a long-term basis.

Talk to enough sales people who believe in prospecting and who do it regularly and they say it telegraphs to their buying audience that they're in business, ready to help.

As a result, prospects seem to filter in from the oddest places, places you often can't link directly to your prospecting activities.

Prospecting requires work and effort, but it is cost effective and works, says Thompson.

2 The CD demo ride

On to our second idea. Imagine how your sales people might differentiate their product knowledge and value to the customer if they were able to give a more thorough benefits presentation.

And then be able to answer with confidence the specific questions the customer will ask about a particular vehicle and trim level that is of most importance to the customer?

A New Jersey company called S.N. Automotive markets a CD-based product called Motormouth that does that. A brand-specific CD highlighting vehicle features, is played in the vehicle during the test drive.

Customers won't remember every highlighted feature, but will remember the ones important to them, “and 60% of the time those will be the hot buttons the salesperson is asked after the demo ride,” says Steve Levin, president of S.N. Automotive.

Motormouth produces eight-minute CD-based presentations to help sales people showcase a vehicle's feature and benefits.

Motormouth has a CD track various models and trim lines. Levin advises the CDs be used on the demo ride, where the car's features and benefits are shared with the customer, and if the salesperson is riding along, educates the salesperson, too.

By default, Motormouth helps you educate the sales force on the vehicles you sell.

Levin says, “This approach to presenting the vehicle features and benefits exceeds the customer's expectations, showcases the vehicle's value, slows down the sales process, puts the customer at ease and helps the customer ask more intelligent questions, and the salesperson to answer with more knowledgeable responses.”

Levin said the CDs can be customized with a script that talks about the dealership, its mission statement and the like.

“When a salesperson hears that first 30-second message about where he works over and over again, it soon becomes part of his or her own script during the initial sales process.”

3 Longer Demo Drives

Now our third idea that's all-new. My experience as a car buyer and new-car salesman is that dealers prefer prospects take cars on brief demo drives. Who needs to rack up the car's miles, right?

That might be fine for someone buying a sub-compact for short commutes, but probably unsatisfying for the off-road vehicle purchaser or the highway cruiser.

A Eugene, OR company is conducting tests to show that longer test drives equal more sales.

The company is using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to track movement of vehicles in and out of the dealership lot, to measure service and staff productivity — and test for a correlation between test drive length and closing ratios.

“In the broad sense, longer test drives have a positive affect on closing ratios,” says Lawrence Grella of the firm, EPiC RFID, LLC.

“In more creative situations, dealerships are modifying test drive routes and drive duration to better match the type of vehicle being test driven and the type of driving the customer typically does or will do with the car.

“We're studying these factors for proof of performance — how to get more out of your time and your sales force and operational efficiencies across the board,” Grella says. “How do I squeeze another percentage point of profit out of the system? RFID can help dealers measure this.”

20 Ways to Cast for Prospects

Prospecting is more than using the telephone or e-mail to contact people you might have never spoken to before, notes sales trainer Mike Thompson of Net Profit.

Use your own creativity about where to find people to whom you can introduce yourself and tell them what business you are in. Here is Thompson's Top 20:

• Family

• Friends

• Hobby connections

• Church members

• Previous customers

• Neighbors

• Sales people that you buy from

• Your children's organizations

• Service clubs

• Yellow Pages

• Your e-mail file

• Your service department

• Service advisors

• Your company's vendor list

• Independent body shops

• Membership lists

• Volunteer work

• Driving the service shuttle

• Sales reps at other dealerships

• People that did not buy from you