How to Be Successful in Car Sales: Using Tech to Manage Leads

car sales

As a salesperson, continuously capture the right data in your CRM.

I’ve sold everything from houses to software to pianos. I’ve sold to the Department of Defense, city government, academia, and large corporations. Whatever you’re trying to sell, you should have a game plan. That game plan is called the sales cycle.  

 In this article I won’t cover the intricacies of how to ask for the sale, how to qualify leads, or other tactical matters relating to the sale; I’m going to share with you how you organize and work with all that information. Whichever tactics you employ to move your products, you’ll need technology supporting all the data you’re capturing. That data is used to support future sales, current sales, and yes, even past sales. The technology that I am referring to is often called a Customer Relationship Management system, CRM for short. In my former positions I’ve used SalesForce, HubSpot, WiseAgent, systems provided by Berkshire Hathaway and even home-grown systems such as our own creation. What I found that they all had in common was a sense that I was always “feeding the beast.” They required so much effort to enter, maintain and manage all the data that I spent as much time managing the management system as I did time cultivating relationships and selling. Here’s the good news – it doesn’t have to be so complex, costly, or time-consuming! 

 Any good sales cycle starts with a prospect. A prospect is a person who, in some way, could potentially use your product or service. They have become aware of you, and you of them. Everyone who is a prospect has a place in your CRM. Traditional CRMs, even the old-school rolodex, does an average job of capturing the basics. Open your phone’s contact app and you’ll see the basics: name, phone, address, notes and even a photo. These are great details for getting in “contact” with someone but not for nurturing a relationship with that individual. It isn’t any surprise that Apple and Google chose to call their app “Contacts” and not “Relationships.” If it were called the “Relationships” app you would expect it to do more; not just log sterile details about people.  

 The prospect should be thought of as a new relationship. And, what do we do with any relationship we want to grow? We cultivate it. We learn what that new person likes, does, says, wants, etc. In a good relationship both parties know family member names (including pets), birthdays, special dates, things and topics they like and dislike, and even what they hope to achieve in life: their personal goals. These are the items you capture about the people that enter your life, either through a sales cycle or otherwise. If you had a perfect memory, all this information would be easy to recall at a later date; but can anyone remember hundreds, even thousands of people’s information? This is the purpose of the CRM; enhancing your memory and nurturing a relationship through regular, meaningful contact. 

 We’ll use an example of a car salesperson selling a BMW to a customer to walk you through the process of capturing, remembering, and acting on information to help you nurture a relationship and get to the sale. 

 Imagine you are a salesperson selling at a local BMW dealership. Before you even begin selling you are taught about the product, it’s history, and why it’s great. You’re also taught about the competition and why BMW has a competitive advantage. A person walks through the door. They’re your “up.” As in, it’s your turn to get “up” and “make the sale.” The sales process starts here as does your use of the CRM. You say hello and get the requisite response: “I’m just looking.” You employ your sales tactics (insert here) and learn some basic information. At some point, they want to take a drive and so you are able to capture some very important information about this budding relationship – because they have to provide you their driver’s license, I hope! You now know their birthday, address, have a photo of them (nice reminder) and their full name. 

 You are on the test drive–trying not to grab the armrest or make frightened noises–and learn some more important details about that person: where they work, what they do, familial status, how bad they drive, etc. Everything normal people learn about each other when they’re exchanging pleasantries. If you’re lucky enough to have them mention family names, you make it a special point to remember them, even covertly jot them down. After all, family is usually the most important thing to a person. Don’t forget a spouse or child’s name. 

 After the drive you try to close the deal and like most initial test drives, they say “Thank you, I will get back to you” and leave the dealership. At this point, you have a lead, hopefully even a qualified lead, meaning they can afford to and are ready to purchase the car. You have an abundance of information that you immediately enter into your relationship management system. Naturally you enter the contact details but pay special attention to the “relationship” data; all the data that was NOT on the driver’s license. Your conversation has all the most important data there is, and it needs to be recorded – dog’s name and all! 

 As a dutiful salesperson you review your notes and the CRM data, even study it. You genuinely want to know this person and begin to cultivate a relationship. Hopefully you even have that data available to you on your mobile device (we use Circles and you can download it here) should you run into them at a later date. At this point you might think you “lost the sale” and are just hoping they come back into the dealership for another test drive. Instead, you’re going to use the CRM to do the actual sales process: follow-up. The first thing you do is set a reminder for their birthday. Who doesn’t like receiving a card on their birthday? Set the reminder a week or two prior so you can sign the card and have it delivered days BEFORE their birthday. A significant number of people like to buy themselves a car on their birthday. Wouldn’t you want your card to arrive a few days prior? Hopefully it’s a slight nudge to get that birthday car bought from you and not somewhere else. 

 Depending on your dealership’s sales cycle, you will setup additional “drips” to send them either emails or mail at pre-determined intervals. These are helpful and serve the purpose of keeping your dealership, and you, in their memory. The first thing you would do though is send them a hand-written note to their home address thanking them for coming in and that you care about them as a customer. Naturally you include your contact details and encourage them to call or write with questions or to take another test drive.  

 If you did not send a card or in some way express your appreciation for their time and test driving a car with you, chances are they won’t have any feeling of responsibility to use you or your dealership in the future. If they decide at a later date that they are ready to buy that car, there is no sense of connection that would make them want to give you their business. Likewise, never turn down a connection, even if it seems there is no way they could afford or use your products or services. Treat everyone as if they are or could be a customer. Allow me to take a brief detour from our car sales example and talk about a personal experience I had with a jeweler to illustrate my point.  

 I was in my 20’s, attending college and working as a waiter at a nice restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona. One night I waited on a well-dressed man with some obviously nice jewelry. Trying to be a good salesperson, I tried to be personable and provide great service. Throughout his meal we had little conversations as we got to know each other, and he learned that I had a girlfriend I hoped to marry. At the end of his meal he handed me his business card and said that when I’m ready, come in and he’ll be happy to be my jeweler. The card was from Molina Fine Jewelers and his title was CEO. I thought, wow, this guy knows I’m waiting tables and can’t afford “fine” jewelry, let alone really any jewelry, but yet he didn’t look down at me or judge me. I thanked him and he left a great tip. I held onto that card for years. Years turned into decades. Then, one day my wife and I, now in a very different financial situation, decided we needed some upgraded rings, so we went to his store and bought from him. They treated us as well that day as he did that night at the restaurant. Everyone is a prospect. Always look for opportunities to make connections! 

 Whether you sell jewelry, pianos, houses, cars, software, insurance or widgets, everyone is a prospect. They may not buy that day, that year or ever, but they will remember how they were treated and could potentially pass along other prospects who do indeed buy. Everyone you meet should have a place in your CRM and receive communications from you at some appropriate interview given their interest. 

 Moving back to the sales process–You’ve nurtured your prospect, perhaps even turned them into a qualified lead, and now are ready to close the deal. If the stars align and you’ve done your sales job properly, the transaction occurs, and your lead becomes a client. At this point you’ve nurtured and served this individual through the phases of prospect and lead. You have entered enough information into your CRM that you could easily recognize them in public and out of the sales context. It is at this phase, the client phase, that the most important relationship building occurs. It is so troubling that many salespeople fail to recognize the significance of having a client in their CRM. The client (customer) needs to be cultivated just as rigorously as they were when they were in the prospect and lead phases. Again, you must send a handwritten card thanking them for entrusting you with their important purchase. It is at this point that you ask for referrals. 

 In the first 3-6 months of owning a car, invariably the client will have to have some contact with the dealership either by getting their plates, a part that finally arrived, or a visit to service. Ensure that your dealership alerts you well in advance of this visit! When they arrive, make it a point to visit with them and ensure their happiness with the purchase. Many new car buyers can experience buyer’s remorse so be particularly aware of this. Always be “re-selling” their vehicle to them. Send any research or articles relevant to their vehicle that shows it in a positive light; beating the competition, new safety ratings, etc. The car is typically the second most expensive item they own, sometimes it’s even their biggest investment if they rent! The buyer wants to continuously be assured they’ve made a sound financial investment. They want to know they bought a great car and they want to let others know that their car is great. Help them make that argument through continued selling. 

 Note one thing about them, outside the car purchase, that you can celebrate with them. If their daughter dances, send an email about an upcoming event; if you noted that a son was out of the country, when is that person returning so you can send a card to celebrate? If they had a sport or hobby they seemed to be really into, can you send them something related that they’ll love? Try to find some way in your ongoing client communications that you celebrate something about the person and his/her family other than the purchase of the car.  One sure-fire way to automatically reach 10% of all your customers is to send all your left-handed clients an email celebrating national left-handed day. Yes, an actual holiday that those 10% (like me) celebrate because we feel special. Acknowledge their uniqueness and you will forever be endeared to them. If they are a small business owner, send an email or call on national small business day. There are so many ways to celebrate someone’s uniqueness that you learned of and captured in your CRM that will further cement your salesperson/client relationship. 

 The sales process is not linear. There is no beginning and no end. Once you enter the circular sales cycle, you’ll find you should never exit the circle. Prospects turn into leads. Leads turn into clients and clients either become prospects again or bring you new prospects. The cycle continues, forever. Fortunately, it grows and expands if you’re doing your job by nurturing relationships through each phase. 

 Think of sales like farming a crop. The crop begins by planting seeds. Those seeds need nurturing through regular watering and feeding. You have to frequently tend to the seeds so they grow. Once grown, you continue to tend to them; the watering and feeding never stops – it just takes on different forms. You can eventually harvest the crop and in doing so are able to obtain new seeds and plant even more crops. The crop is continuous. If you don’t follow the cycle and regularly tend to the crop, some plants get disease and affect other plants, the crop may even die, and you might have to begin again. One seed, if properly nurtured, can yield an entire crop. Become the consummate farmer and cultivate your seeds. Grow the crop, reap its rewards, repeat. As a salesperson, continuously capture the right data in your CRM. Use the CRM to regularly tend to the relationship. Reap the rewards.