This Month’s Selling Principle:
Long Term Marketing, part 3 – Managing Our Database
If you’re just coming to the party this month, please refer to the last two e-newsletters which are posted in our E-Newsletter Archive section. So far, we’ve bought into the philosophy that we don’t get wealthy in the car business by simply selling each client a car. We believe that we get wealthy in the car business by creating a mutually beneficial relationship with each client that allows us, through repeat purchases and referrals, to make a reasonable profit multiple times over the next twenty years.
Okay, so now we’ve transformed the delivery from a function of the sales process into the foundation of a long-term marketing program. We’ve committed ourselves to using the phone only for our 24 hour, 72 hour, 7 day, and 30 day contacts relying on thank you cards, newsletters, post cards, anniversary letters, service walks, texts, posts, e-mails, and occasional videos for our long term marketing efforts. We even send out birthday and holiday greetings for good measure.
But how do we keep it all straight? How do we keep every one of our customers in the loop? And how do we keep our sanity? By choosing to get organized and staying that way!
Let’s look at one of the oldest methods of managing our customer base first, which is the use of an index card and file box system. Most good systems have two cards per customer; one for an alphabetized index (for quick access to individual customer information) and one for a chronological index (to organize and schedule our marketing or follow up efforts). It should include alphabet tabs and month tabs for sorting. Each card should have the following information: name, home & work addresses, home/work/cell/fax phone numbers, e-mail address, vehicle information, purchase or lease terms, date of purchase, family members’ names, hobbies or interests, number & type of vehicles in household, source or name of person who referred them to us, names of prospects they have referred to us, and plenty of room for contact notes.
After each contact, we need to update the chronological card and file it in the month of the next scheduled contact. Some sales people keep a card in front of the box for each unsold customer until they are ready to file as sold customers or are no longer in the market. This method of using index cards and a file box is expandable but over time can become very cumbersome, some growing to three and four boxes. Also, it is virtually impossible (certainly impractical) to duplicate. So, fire, theft, or loss can prove devastating.
Another method of managing our customer information is to use a prefabricated binder system designed specifically for the automobile business. There are still several variations of these on the market today. Some are better than others, of course, and only a few allow for both alphabetical and chronological sorting of our clientele base. Fewer still include room for all the customer information I’ve listed above. This method is certainly more portable and less physically cumbersome than using index cards, but virtually none are expandable. They rely on us purchasing a new binder every year or so and don’t take into account long term (10 or 20 years) customer retention. This method too is virtually impossible to duplicate. So, fire, theft, or loss are still issues. Still, some sales people swear by them.
My preferred method, of course, and the method used by the vast majority of the “top guns” I’ve interviewed, is a digital database. Having our customer database on computer allows us the most flexibility, and the most functionality of all three methods we’ve discussed here. It’s also easily duplicated (just save the database to a thumb drive or cloud and store the backup thumb drive somewhere safe), so fear of loss is eliminated.
There are several good database programs out on the market today; Outlook, ACT, and Goldmine are currently the three most popular. There are many others, of course, some even designed specifically for the car biz, but most tend to be either too inflexible or ridiculously expensive. ACT and Goldmine both allow us the flexibility to customize it to our specific needs, so all the customer information we can include on index cards can be included here too. Also, virtually all programs will allow us to sort by any field, thus enabling us to send out any note, article, or story to a specific customer or group of customers that may have an interest in it. Most good programs will also allow us to set a follow up schedule for each client and then it will remind us of each marketing step currently due. Some will even print up a daily work schedule for us each morning! Most dealerships have invested in their own CRM software, probably yours has too, and our own database management system should be used in conjunction with the store’s.
The bottom line is to make a decision. Choose a customer information management system, get it current with our existing clientele base, and then be disciplined enough to use it and update it every day. It is initially a bit more work than just waiting for the next walk-in prospect but, in the long run, it’s a heck of a lot easier, and much more effective and profitable than relying on fresh ups to make a living. Beside, getting organized and staying that way is simply a sound way to run a business.
We did know we are running our own businesses now, didn’t we? Next month, we’ll look at the kinds of referral programs that get the best results, and whether or not rewarding our advocates for each referral is right for you.
Until next time, be well, and do good work!
Michael D. Hargrove
Objection of the Month: “I don’t have much time.”
These are just a few of the most common strategies shared at the workshops we’ve conducted all across North America and attended by thousands of the top sales people in our field. Please keep in mind that nothing works all the time, and no one thing will work for everybody. Each of these strategies, of course, need to be tailored to the individual user, to the specific customer, and the particular situation. Also, this is by no means the definitive work on overcoming this particular objection and it’s not intended to be.
a. “Fine, then to make the best use of your time, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” (Then we go ahead and ask our needs determination questions.)
b. “Okay then, what were you hoping to accomplish today?”
c. “How much time do we have?” (then reply,) “Oh that’s plenty of time to get you all the info you’ll need to make an intelligent decision. Did you want a coupe or sedan?”
d. “Wow, only twenty minutes? That’s not a lot of time. Let me give you as much information as I can, as quickly as I can. How will you be using your new car?…” (Then we just go into our needs determination process. After about twenty minutes goes by, we look at our watch and say,) “Well, looks like it’s gonna take a little more time but you said you were in a hurry. Are we okay or do you have anyone you need to call to be a few minutes late?”
e. “I think you’ll be impressed with how efficient I am with your time.”
f. “You say you only have ten minutes? Then what makes this so critical? (Our customer may not understand the question and we may need to clarify by asking further,) “You have to be somewhere in ten minutes but you stopped here first. So, what’s going on? Did your car break down, or are you at the end of your lease, or did you just get car jacked?! What’s up?”
g. “How much time do we have?” (then reply,) “I’ll tell you what, you tell me when our time is up, fair enough? And to make the best use of your time, let me ask you a few quick questions.” (Then we just go ahead and ask our needs determination questions.)
h. “Two minutes? May I have just two minutes more of your time?” (This will almost always get us five to ten minutes more.)
i.(This one is for situations where our customer tells us they need to get back to work.) “If you don’t mind me asking, how much do you make an hour?” (Wait for their response, then ask,) “What if I could do this, what if I could get my manager to pay you ten times your hourly wage to simply call in and get us an extra hour to put this shopping chore behind you?” (Then all we have to do is show a discount of ten times whatever they told us their hourly wage was.)
Next month’s objection will be: “The price or payment is too high” We need YOUR input! Please forward your ideas on this one, or your suggestions on which objection to cover next, to [email protected].
“People of mediocre ability sometimes achieve outstanding success because they don’t know when to quit. Most men succeed because they are determined to.”
The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget
by Kent Nerburn
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. One time I arrived in the middle of the night for a pick up at a building that was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.
Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked.
“Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice.
I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.
The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
“It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”
“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”
“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”
I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.
“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”
We drove in silence to the address she had given me.
It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You have to make a living,” she answered.
“There are other passengers.”
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”
I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware—beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
Note: For more inspiring writing by Kent Nerburn, see his beautiful website: http://kentnerburn.com. The cab ride story is taken from his book Make Me an Instrument of your Peace: Living in the Spirit of the Prayer of St. Francis.
“We are intended to be someone’s miracle. Live up to it!”
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“It was extremely informational. I enjoyed it and would encourage anyone in any type of sales to attend this workshop.”
Richard Novak, Sales – Broadway Toyota
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