Prospecting for business: Leave your store!

Feb. 28, 2012

I could never make a better teaching point than to offer some real results — increased sales, profits and new customers with their new dollars — that several retail store managers shared with me recently. It happened at a training session for one of my independent tire dealer customers, a client who has 12 stores.

We had completed his first store manager’s training session in December, and this was the follow-up session. The first step of the day was having each store manager stand up and present the results of his Personal Action Plan committed to in December. At that training session, we focused on issues like leading/empowering your store team, the power and value of world-class service and prospecting for new business.

Trent W. really never had made any outside sales calls, but got fired up and made a commitment to do just that in December after our meeting. He had, however, called on a used car lot a couple of blocks away in November to talk with the owner and do some discovery on who he was using for new tires and service on his cars. First call in November, nothing — the owner wasn’t in, and Trent told me he really wasn’t planning on going back. But Trent got some fresh wind in his sails after the December training meeting. He made a SalesMinded decision and started both calling on the phone and calling on that same owner four additional times the following week — and nothing. Then he got a phone call from the lot owner. His current shop could not turn a car around on the day he needed it to deliver to a customer. But Trent and his store team could — he picked up the car and his service team turned it around and delivered it back in two hours. OK, no big deal, right? Wrong. The lot owner was so happy he immediately sent over 20 additional cars for a mix of tires and service — and a whopping grand total of 164 cars in December! Think Trent’s call persistence and the performance of his store service team made a difference? Check this out: The lot owner spent $25,000 in December, and $15,000 of that went to Trent’s store’s bottom line! And that’s not all. Not only is that pace continuing, but the lot owner also gives Trent’s business card to each customer who buys a car and tells them Trent’s store is the best when they need tires and service!

Here are a few more prospecting success stories from the session.

Skip S. also has already opened several new accounts. In one of them, he got out of the store and called on a plumbing business that the dealership had used for some work. Skip had never met the owner, so he made the sales call. Net result: $3,000 in service sales on one of the plumbing company’s trucks, and two alignments from two employees of the same company. I suggested to Skip to take a pizza lunch over for the whole company, and give out his card and maybe some coupons. He’s in the process of setting that up at this writing. Skip’s targets: The remaining 11 trucks in the fleet and the remaining 13 employees’ personal cars and trucks. Pretty powerful prospecting!

Mark S. also made some commitments to action at the December training meeting — and followed through. He sat down and made a prospect list of 10 key companies in the area — all small businesses. Then he set aside half a day each Wednesday to go out and make sales calls. Then he did  follow-ups, put together tire and service proposals, met with his store service team to discuss his new initiative, and asked each new contact he was able to make for their business.

Mark’s results at this writing since December: $2,800 in new sales from four new accounts — and the commitment to get their repeat business. Here’s the best part: Mark now has a new “accountability partner” — his store team! They eagerly ask him each Wednesday after he returns to the store: “How did it go — did you get us any new business?”

Everyone’s excited with the new work, and attitudes and teamwork are completely different. Mark told me he would now never let his team down. Translation: He’s now in the business of making prospecting calls each week that are yielding new, profitable business.

He told me, “I’m not going to sit around anymore and just wait for customers to come in — I’m going out to drive them in!” Powerful.

 Here are the key SalesMind points to take from these incredible stories, and I’m going to write a follow-up column next month to detail out each important point:

* Make a fresh commitment as a store manager (and the same if you or your team are in wholesale and commercial) to a prospecting/sales call campaign to local businesses/fleet prospects in your area.

* Get your store team empowered to handle the reins when you are out making calls and quit making excuses that “I just have to be in the store.”

* Obviously, take your business cards, a pad for notes, and maybe a coupon or special for 10% off an oil change or alignment — or a special deal sheet on new tires.

* Start in the morning first thing on your call day to get the calls in — and don’t put it off until 4 p.m. or you’ll never do it!

* Prepare the questions in writing you’ll ask those you meet inside the business — how many employees, fleet cars or trucks (if they have them), who they use for tires and service, etc.

* Ask for the owner — start at the top! He or she is the one who makes the buying decisions and gives you permission to make a sales presentation to the staff.

* Finally, deal with the emotions of prospecting on new businesses. Picture yourself going in to just “visit.” Visiting people is no big deal. That’s better than picturing in your mind that you have to make a cold call!

In one way I’m amazed at results like this — but in another, I’m not. Because I know for a fact if you make outside sales calls, somebody will buy. Take a swing at it!

The great thing is that your company can get these amazing results, too.

My pledge to you is your sales and profits will take a nice jump if you can get yourself or your store managers to just leave the store!  

Doug Trenary, president of Doug Trenary’s Fast-Track Inc., is an award-winning author, speaker and teacher who has helped companies of multiple sizes, including independent tire dealerships, increase sales and productivity since 1985. His book, The SalesMind, focuses on how to establish strong positions with yourself, your buyers — and your time. E-mail Trenary at [email protected] or call (404) 262-3339.