Thursday, December 23, 2010

Increase Your Referrals and Make More Sales


“Dave, how can I get more referrals?”

“Let me ask you. What have you done to deserve more referrals?”

“Deserve? What do you mean by that?”

Referrals are the most powerful tool in any sales consultant’s arsenal. A referred prospect is much more likely to be ready to listen to you, to trust what you say and ultimately to buy from you. Referrals make your job easier, and help you sell more with less effort and in less time. What else could any sales consultant ask for? If you want to increase your referral rate, however, you have to start not by looking to your existing customers, but by finding out how you conduct business on a daily basis.

Lesson number one: How likeable are you? People buy you first, not your dealership or product line up. So to get more referrals, you have to make like Forrest Gump and give your customers something to sincerely and thoroughly like, trust, and respect in you.

What are you doing every day to be more likeable? Like everything else in sales, there is no magic likeability bullet that works with every guest. Flexibility is key. Remember, the sales process isn’t about you. It is about putting the customer first. But how do you do that?

Lesson number two: Have you made a plan to seek referrals? No? You haven’t? Please don’t make me say, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Your plan should consist of three parts.

1. Start a monthly Advocate Program: Once a year do a customer genealogy to see who or what was responsible for all the additions to your customer base. The odds are that you’ll find between 5-20 primary referral sources ranging from current clients to friends, partners, and community contacts.

Make an Advocate List of these active referral sources then schedule regular contact with them. Send something — not a brochure or promotional piece — but something they will value and use, like an article or book you think they will enjoy. Make a phone call or invite them to meet for lunch or breakfast.

Whatever you send or do must be of some value to them, not simply an advertisement for you. Your goal is to help them improve their business, not your own. Think about it this way – what could you give them that will help grow their revenue? In helping to grow their business, it won’t take long before they return the favor and help grow yours.

2. Develop a culture of referrals: Ask questions that benefit your guests first. One Evans Consulting Enterprise, LLC  sales consultant doubled her referrals simply by asking the following guest-focused question at the end of every guest engagement: “Now, how can I help you?”

By putting the needs of her guests first, she demonstrates that she truly cares about them. When people sense that you care, they tend to want to return the favor. In fact, you may find that many of your guests are genuinely surprised by a question like this because no one has ever asked them that before. That’s why your follow-up question is equally indispensable: “You’ve helped my business grow by becoming part of our family network. I’d like to help your business grow, too. So let me ask you – what type of people do you want to meet to help increase your revenue?”

3. Write letters: If you don’t feel comfortable asking for referrals face-to-face, try the approach that’s worked for sales consultants, direct marketers, and hopeless romantics for centuries: write a letter!

Regardless of the dealership you’re in, an effective letter writing campaign can bring in a steady stream of new leads that will have an immediate and dramatic impact on your bottom line. When drafting your letter, the key is to make sure it says four things:

* Thank them for their business.
* Remind them how you met – especially if it was through a referral.
* Ask them to send you some names.
* Tell them that you will reward them with lunch or a gift basket if their referral turns into business.

Sound simple? That’s because it is. The real beauty is that it works. Yes, some of these ideas require you to know detailed information about your customers, but isn’t that what sales is all about?

Lesson number three: Are you building relationships? At its most basic level, selling is relationship building. To build it, you have to know a few things about the other person who’s in the relationship with you. If you haven’t taken the time to find out and don’t know this information about your guests, who does?

There are countless ways to let them know you care and you are thinking about them. You will soon find what works for you, and then do them often. You’ll start to see results – and more referrals – in no time. I guarantee it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Are you a Quitter and Don't Know it?

     Are you a quitter but just don't know it?  We all know individuals or have been faced with this same decision during our lives.  No matter what the outcome, we made a decision to give up, cut loose or not go in that direction anymore.  Dave Evans the CEO of Evans Consulting Enterprise, LLC always says “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch”.
Nobody likes to think of themselves as a quitter but statistics would seem to indicate that many sales consultants or customer service workers tend to quit far too soon and far too easily.  Andrew Cochran Vice President of Operations said in a lunch meeting during the Annual Kick Off Breakfast for Evans Consulting Enterprise, LLC  "It's always too soon to quit," and he shared the following:
  • only 10% of people actually succeed at what they set out to accomplish
  • another 10% accept defeat and try to resolve these feelings by turning to various obsessions
  • finally, 80% of the population simply endure their frustration and blame their lack of success on circumstances
     While not referring specifically to sales consultants, Mr. Cochran's words and statistics are probably not that far off the mark.  The percentage of exceptional and truly unexceptional sales consultants/customer service workers is proportionately small, while the vast majority sit somewhere in the middle. 

     Being in the middle of the pack does not constitute failure but it does beg the question, why aren't more sales consultants or customer service workers exceptional?

     Our take on the issue is that the number one reason why people do not achieve higher levels of success is because they quit too soon.  By quitting we don't necessarily mean throwing in the towel.  We mean giving up on actions that lead to success.  We mean stopping short or folding too soon.  For instance,  instead of 75 dials a sales consultant might quit at 60; instead of reaching 10 decision makers for the day, they settle on 5;  instead of taking a half hour to gain new product knowledge on a make/model, they would rather spend the time talking about unproductive things with co-workers.

Why do Sales Consultants/Customer Service Workers Quit?

First, it's easy to quit; there's nothing complex about it.  The sales consultant/customer service employee simply stops the effort when all that was required was a little perseverance and by practicing “Mastering The Basics”.

Second, quitting is rewarding. Yes, rewarding!  When a sales consultant/customer service worker ceases an activity (such as follow-up or by not listening to guests) the frustration or rejection stops immediately. 

Third, there is no immediate consequence.  Quitting a task is very personal, silent and unseen and there is no immediate reprimand.

Fourth, taking action means change and change is uncomfortable even if it is good for the sales consultant.  Many sales consultants take the path of least resistance and quit at this stage instead of enduring the short period of discomfort for long-term gain.

Finally, what any seasoned leader/coach/trainer/educator knows is that many people quit simply because they don't know how to take decisive action to change their circumstance
Some Decisive Ways To Take Action and Not Quit
If you sit in the middle of the pack and suspect you might be "quitting" on yourself by entertaining the idea of a leaving your current position or a making a career change, here are a few decisive ways you can take action, avoid quitting and succeed in commissioned or customer-centered sales.

Ask Yourself This Question
Ask yourself, "Is this what I want to do right now in my career?"  If it isn't, if you are working in a position out of desperation and hate it, get out!  This is the legitimate time to quit.  Many individuals get into sales telling themselves that I will do this until my REAL OPPORTUNITY comes my way.  Here is what I know; if your heart's not into it you won't have the motivation required for success.  But if you think you can do it, then give it your best shot and continue reading.  “If you think you can, or think you can’t, either way you’re right”

Shut up and Take Responsibility Now
Stop being a victim.  Victims give up.  Stop the irresistible temptation to whine, lament and excuse your behavior.  Don’t blame your manager, your store, the BDC, prices, product mix and/or the economy for your less than stellar results.  Look in the mirror and say to yourself - "Self, things aren't going so well, what am I going to do about it?" This question puts the onus on YOU and no one else to take responsibility for your success. 

 Avoid the Quitters
Avoid co-workers who are nothing more than walking, breathing, toxic, cancer breeders who drag you down with negative talk; those who look to justify their mediocre results by pointing fingers at others or at circumstances. Misery loves company.  They'll infect you with their negativity and they'll persuade you to quit on hard work or smart work by offering reasons not to push harder.  What you need to realize is that they perceive you as a threat if you out perform them.  Don’t fall into the trap.

 Learn from Winners
Get to know, work and hang out with the winners in the store, the top producers; the best of the best. “Step around your ego”.   Ask them questions.  Learn.  Observe.  Absorb.  You'll see they do the extras here and there.  Copy them.  Winners don't quit - they finish the task.  If you have ever played or viewed a team sport you have heard the words that “Winning is Contagious” - get infected!

 Work a Half Hour Longer
Come in 30 minutes earlier or stay 30 minutes longer each day.  Pick up additional sales from another department that opens before the sales department or work on your CRM, product training or creative communication with guests, clients or customers or create a community prospecting plan.  What a novel idea!  An extra half hour a day amounts to only 2.5 hours per week, but that means 10 hours per month or 120 hours a year.  Imagine the dials, connects, visits, presentations and more importantly the sales you will make with an extra 15 days a year?  Too tough?  Start with 15 minutes more a day and you'll still get incremental results.

 Find a Cheerleader, a Coach and a Conscience
Whether it's your manager, a peer, a mentor, a friend, a spouse or significant other, find someone to act as a cheerleader, a coach and above all a conscience.  Share with them your daily targets and report the results to them every day. They'll give you high fives, they'll give you advice or encouragement or they'll give you a little frown. Whatever the case, you win.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Just Listen Part Two

                         So, how do we do it better?

     Here are two specific techniques to help you improve your listening effectiveness:

1. Listen constructively 
     This is very appropriate for our type of work because we are sales consultants. It is more important that we listen “constructively.” Think of “constructively – construction – building.” We need to listen for things upon which to build. Listen for opportunities, problems, opinions, etc. on which we can build our solutions. 

     One way to do this is to plant a few questions into our mind before every sales engagement. These are questions for which we want to gain the answer. You could, for example, say to yourself before a sales engagement: “What is the one thing that is this customer’s most pressing challenge today?” And, you could ask yourself, “On what basis will this customer make the decision to buy or not?” 

     By planting those questions into your mind, you sharpen your sensitivity to what the customer says, enabling you to listen more constructively to the customer’s conversation. 

2. Discipline yourself to build the habit of responding to your customer’s comments
      Here’s how we think the sales interview should go:

·         We ask a question

·         The customer answers

·         We ask another question
     When you exercise the habit of responding, you change the format. Now, it goes like this: 

·         We ask a question

·         The customer answers

·         We respond to the answer

·         We now ask another question

     Notice that we have intervened in the process with something we call a “response.” A response is a verbal or non-verbal signal that we send to the customer that we are listening, and accepting what the customer says. It flatters the customer, makes him/her feel good about answering, and encourages him/her to answer in more depth and detail. 

Here are two powerful responses: 

A. Select one or two words out of the customer’s conversation, and repeat them back to the customer, nodding your head. 

     Here’s an example. You ask the question, “Which of these challenges are most pressing for you?”
     The customer responds by talking for a few moments about his challenges. When he pauses, you say, “back orders” and nod your head. “Back orders” was one of the issues he talked about. You just repeated it, and nodded your head. 

     That’s a powerful response because it shows the customer that you have listened to the point that you have captured and repeated one of his main thoughts. That feels good to the customer and conditions him to answer the next question with even more depth and detail. Just as importantly, since you were focused on finding a key word or two to repeat, you had to listen to the customer’s conversation! This technique forced you to listen more effectively, and made the customer feel good in the process. This part of a science called Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) which we discussed in another newsletter. 

B. Summarize and rephrase what the customer has said, and repeat it back to him

     This is similar to the one or two word techniques discussed above, more intense. When the customer has finished answering your question, you say something like this: “Let me see if I understand you correctly. In other words, what you are saying is…………………………” Paraphrase and give him back your understanding of what he just said. 

     Like the prior technique, this is a powerful tool because it forces you to listen, it engages the customer, and it seeks agreement. Using this a few times in the sales interview will make the customer feel good about you, ensure that you understand him, and create an atmosphere of agreement. 

    Ultimately, your ability to listen more effectively evolves out of your discipline to apply some of these techniques regularly and methodically. If you are going to listen more effectively, you must first make the commitment to expend the effort to do so. 


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Just Listen Part One

     I just came across some research that confirmed what many of us in the profession of educating sales consultant have known for years: That purchasers would be "much more likely" to buy from a sales consultant if that sales consultant would just "listen" to the customer. The survey found that some of the worst offenders were experienced sales consultants. 

     Listening is one of the four fundamental competencies of a professional sales consultant, and yet, the profession is, in general, so poor at it that most customers remark on our inability to do it well. 

     Gee, if there is anyone I wouldn’t want thinking I was a poor listener, my customers would be towards the top of the list.

     Why is listening such a powerful sales competency? First, it is our primary way of digging beneath the surface of a customer’s needs and uncovering deeper and more powerful needs and motivations. That makes it a primary tool – of which the skillful use separates the master sales consultants from the mediocre. For example, it doesn’t take any skill whatsoever to pick up an RFQ, a set of blueprints, point to a vehicle or to write down a list of what the customer says he needs. You don’t have to be a master listener to do that. But to dig deeper and uncover deeper issues, that takes the ability to listen. 

     Here’s an example. In a routine sales call with a regular customer, the customer says, “We’re thinking of going another vendor. What’s your price?” Lots of sales consultants would look at the window sticker, or look up the price in their rate sheet, turn on the computer or call the office and provide it. There. Job done.

     The master would hear the words “Thinking of going…” and dig a little deeper. “What makes you interested in that?” he says. The customer replies: “Well, we’re looking for a solution for a problem with our production performance, and one of the managers mentioned it as a possibility.”
 “I see. What sort of problem are you having in the area of performance? ” 

An abnormally slow recovery period after achieving a certain speed.”
I may have some other solutions. Can I talk to your production manager?” 

     I don’t have to take this scenario much further to make the point. A visit with the production manager could very well result in a deeper understanding of the problem and the development of an alternative solution with a whole lot more gross margin to it. The master sales consultant, exercising excellent listening skills, hears opportunities where many sales consultants don’t. Listening is the primary tool for digging deeper and uncovering deeper and more significant issues in our customers. 

     But that’s not all. When we listen, we send a powerful message that we care about the other person. Conversely, when we don’t listen, we send the message that our agenda is far more important than the customer’s trivial ideas and issues. That makes effective listening one of the all time great relationship-building devices.
Listening requires us to take in information, ideas and opinions that are outside our comfort zones. It is, therefore, one of the primary tools we use to grow intellectually, to broaden our views, and ultimately, to become wiser and more knowledgeable. If we never listen to someone with a different perspective, we never consider the possibility that we might be wrong. 

     From a sales consultant’s perspective, the more we listen, the more different positions, motivations, opinions and nuances we are able to understand and accommodate. The wiser and more capable we become.
Listening positions us as a consultant, not a peddler, in the eyes of the customer. Ultimately, listening provides us our competitive edge. 


Friday, December 17, 2010

Rapport Building or Connecting?

      Forty-seven years ago there were hundreds of thousands of other Americans who came from all parts of the world to hear an afternoon of speeches. Some speakers were okay, some were bad; even the main speaker didn’t capture the crowd as anticipated. Almost as an afterthought, a man from Atlanta, Georgia, took the podium. A preacher with a following in the South, Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a speech that has stood the test of time.

     That speech resonated with the crowd and like a bolt of lightning, his message spread. But that afternoon, was he trying to build rapport with the large crowd or was he trying to connect with them?

     The Merriam-Webster dictionary online defines rapport as relation marked by harmony, conformity, accord, or affinity. According to Wikipedia, rapport is one of the most important features or characteristics of unconscious human interaction. It is commonality of perspective, being in sync with or on the same wavelength as the person with whom you are talking.  

     Rapport is a popular and ubiquitous concept in sales. A module on rapport is included in virtually every sales and leadership-training course and in almost every sales book. Thousands of books and seminars are dedicated exclusively to the concept of rapport. A Google search for how to build rapport yields a million or so returns and despite all of this, rapport is among the most misunderstood and misapplied concepts in business. 

     Lesson number one: Rapport is essentially being in sync with another person to the extent that you are able to influence their behavior. The rapport building process is designed to develop common ground with another person through mirroring and matching body language, voice tone and speed, word patterns, eye movement, and even breathing.
There are a number of techniques beneficial in building rapport such as:

·        matching your body language (i.e., posture, gesture, and so forth)
·        maintaining eye contact
·        matching breathing rhythm
In time, when you truly have rapport with another, you have the ability to lead them and change their behavior patterns. A process called neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), embodies these techniques and includes word-pattern matching, eye movement, facial expressions and more. NLP is espoused by many rapport experts as the real key to relationships and influence.
The problem with rapport is that it is just too hard and complex to quickly get into sync with someone enough to influence their behaviors. Few business professionals have the time or inclination to become experts in deciphering word patterns, eye movements, and facial expressions. Learning to effectively and discretely mirror and match people based on their communication style — audio, visual or kinesthetic — sounds really cool in a seminar, but without study of the method and consistent practice, it rarely succeeds consistently in real world business situations with real people. 

     Lesson number two: Finding common ground is a good thing. The more we have in common with others, the easier it is for them to like us. Make certain that when you find common ground with a prospective customer that you use it in an effort to connect. The dilemma is that the quest for common ground in the guise of rapport building is often awkward, cheesy, and manipulative. Making matters worse are the legions of sales consultants who mistake small talk at the beginning of a sales engagement as rapport building.
Taking their cue from misinformed sales trainers and coaches, they’ll make dumb comments about some random subjects with their guest, customer, client or prospect as if that is enough to initiate a relationship. Remember buyers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. We do this by asking questions and listening to their responses. The responses they give lead us to our next question(s).

     Lesson number three: Don’t try to build rapport as if you had a checklist of motions to go through. Buyers are not fooled and find these lame attempts ridiculous and insulting. Some become numb to rapport-building efforts, others think it is just plain offensive. 

     Lesson number four: The real secret is connecting. Rapport influences behavior; it can be sincere but often feels manipulative. People who feel manipulated will distrust your motivations no matter how pure and will never feel connected to you. 

     Connecting, on the other hand, is designed to win others over through a focus on their needs. The most effective strategy for winning over — convincing them you are their friend — is to start and end by helping them get what they want. The most insatiable human desires, our deepest cravings, are the desires to feel valued, appreciated, and important. 

     Lesson number five: The key to connecting and winning others over is, therefore, extremely simple — make them feel important. How do you do that? Listen. Simply listen. Listening is powerful. Truly listening requires self-discipline, selflessness, practice, and patience, yet it is not complicated or complex. 

Martin listened to people. So, what do you think? Did he connect or build rapport that day on the National Mall? Which one are you doing?

 Whatever your life's work is, do it well. A person should do their job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Understand these Four Principals and You are on Your Way!

If you’re in sales you need to be learning if you want to be earning. There’s no way around it. Unconscious Selling Competence has roots that date back to the 1940's when psychologist Abraham Maslow created a conscious competence theory, more commonly known as the “Four Stages Of Learning.” These four stages of learning describe how a person learns.
Stage One: Unconscious Incompetence. In this stage you don’t know that you don’t know. This stage can be perilous for professional sales consultants. When you don’t know what you don’t know it’s easy to become over confident in your abilities based upon a false set of criteria. There’s only one way out of this stage: realize you don’t know that you don’t know, then get information and learn it.
Don’t be fooled, ignorance is never bliss. Keep reading, listen to CDs, watch DVDs, or go online to You'll soon realize how much you don't know about the selling profession. Then you can go to —
Stage Two: Conscious Incompetence. In this stage you are aware of lack of ability or skill. You recognize where your strengths and weaknesses are in the work you do. A weakness, if not strengthened, can be carried around for a lifetime. For example, “I’ve always been lousy at handling the price objection.” Another example, “I don't like asking for the business; it makes me feel too pushy!”
Imagine your weaknesses as shortcomings all contained inside a block of granite. As a sales representative, your job is to keep chipping away at all the things that don’t add to your personal professionalism. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a professional sales consultant. Once you are aware of your shortcoming, you can go to —
Stage Three: Conscious Competence. Here you will develop skills as you think about them. This stage is for salespeople who aspire to bigger and better things. They are hungry for the skills they need but do not yet possess. They are committed to self-development. The word quitting is not in their personal dictionaries, but the word perseverance is highlighted. Once this becomes second nature, —
Stage Four is reached: Unconscious Competence. Now customers and fellow employees will think your skills come naturally. The fourth stage is where you want to be if you’re an entrepreneur or a professional sales person. After years of hard work that others may not have seen, you make everything look easy. Pick up the phone and talk to a stranger? Ask for and get an appointment? Identify and solve customer problems? Ask or answer a dozen questions? Naturally weave your way through a conversation? Tailor sales presentations on the fly? Dealing with the price/payment objection? Asking for the business?
No problem for you because why? Oh. That’s right. You have recognized you don’t know everything, have identified your weaknesses, and have practiced to get better.
The only things separating Unconscious Incompetence and Unconscious Competence are dedication, discipline, focus, and your sheer desire and determination to become the best you are capable of becoming.
As Sales Consultants, Service Advisors, Wholesale Parts, BDC, or Internet Sales professionals, we should be looking each day at “Mastering The Basics.” If we wait to engage a guest without continuing practice and role play, we lose. In other words we can’t keep practicing with the guest because we will not get to the next level we were hoping for — Value Selling.
We at Evans Consulting Enterprise, LLC strive to be the innovative automotive industry leader, totally committed to customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, integrity, and teamwork.

“Motivation is the art of getting people
to do what you want them to do
because they want to do it.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower
(WW II Five Star General and 34th President of the U.S.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Does Volume Make Up For A LOW Price?

     A phone rings in the sales tower. The phone rockets to an ear. A smile turns to a frown. Shoulders sag. Yes, it is — once again! — a sales consultant pleading with the sales manager to let him give the customer a discount. 

     “But it makes so much sense to offer the guest, client or prospect a discount,” the sales manager hears. “We’ll finally get these folks as a high-profit customer.” OR “Let’s just make them happy and don’t forget the CSI…”

     The sales manager has heard the same plea hundreds of times. He knows it isn’t the best way to do business. Yet for some reason, offering a discount now makes sense. Maybe it is the consultant’s particularly plain and sincere plea. (“It’s the only way this deal will happen!”) Maybe it is that sales have been very slow and unfulfilled month-end sales goals are looming. (“Ten more units to go. Make this sale and it is 9 more units to go.”) Who knows?

     Still, it’s as if we’re watching the unveiling of a very slow accident, one that could be completely avoided and yet we are powerless to stop the final crash. But are we powerless when it is we who are in the midst of the negotiations? No

     Lesson number one: When discounting becomes an option, a major shift happens with how the sales consultant does their job. No longer are they selling to the customer; now they’re selling to the sales manager. The problem with this is simple – a sales consultant must sell to the customer for both the top-line and the bottom-line numbers to be made.

     Lesson number to: Contrary to what you believe will happen, you will never make up in long-term profit what you’re about to give up with your immediate discount. Sure, there are always exceptions to this, but such exceptions are similar to me winning the biggest lottery. Is it possible? Sure. Is it probable? No!

     "You just don’t seem to understand. If I didn’t offer a discount, I would never have had the opportunity to move the price up, because they would never have become a customer.”

     So what? It doesn’t matter. In your quest to get the customer, not only did you cut the price, you cut the dealer’s profit dollar for dollar. Everybody has to make a certain level of profit to keep the doors open. There are bills that must be paid like electricity, phone, water, marketing. One of those bills is also your commission. Guess which ones will get paid first? That’s right. It won’t be your commission. So who suffers most when discounts are offered in the beginning? The only place left to cut is your profit.

     Here’s the deal: Your ability as a sales consultant is not in how much you sell, but in how much you earn for your company. It’s the bottom-line profit that counts, and anytime you reduce your price, your profits are slashed.

     There is not a sales manager out there of any quality who will allow any sales consultant to spend their valuable time selling internally. The focus must be on external selling. Focus first on creating value by determining the needs of the customer. Then position your product or service as the solution, and do so at full price.

     This is the only strategy that ensures you are not only protecting profit, but also ultimately in a place to increase it!

     Lesson number three: Value selling is the only professional way to reach your goals and dreams for any long term career in sales. Flashes in pans, one-hit wonders, skating guests, and other ways to survive at a dealership may work for a time, but the reality is that you will soon be at another dealership doing the same tricks. 

     Lesson number four: Practice makes profit! Tricks are for kids. Get back to the basics of the sales profession just like any other profession – do the blocking, tackling, and bunting, run the suicide drills, do the extra 100 free throws after practice. Look back at the steps to the road to the sale and start Role Playing or using Talk Tracks that work.

     Remember that in a customer’s mind, value selling starts with you. The more they like, trust, and respect you as a professional the more they will listen. Sell yourself, sell your dealership, and the vehicle will do the rest at the presentation of the numbers.