What’s the difference between an average salesperson and a superstar salesperson? One of them works their personal book of business, customers and prospects they cultivate every day through prospecting and referrals.

In fact, a salesperson who sells an average of 10 vehicles a month, should be working 100% on referral business after 10 years. Unfortunately, this is becoming a lost art.

Sometimes it is simple things like making a phone call on the anniversary of a vehicle’s purchase or sending a birthday card, connecting through social media platforms (not just one, but several) or emailing the client to ask about their kid’s football season.

Set up a private Facebook group exclusively for customers. Post tips, send messages and provide important information about their vehicles. Make owning their vehicles easy and special. Guide them through challenges like recall notices. Invite them to post photos of their vehicles in action. Engage with them and encourage them to engage with each other. These seemingly little actions build and foster personal relationships and trust.

One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is not following up on an ongoing basis with clients. Everyone thinks it is someone else’s responsibility.

Or they are afraid to make the call. They worry that customers will ask questions they are not prepared to answer or give negative feedback they don’t know how to address.

But if salespeople don’t follow up, then they lose the relationship, and the client becomes a shopper. Customers have no reason to buy from them again, let alone give them a referral. So, who will get their business?

Research reported by Hubspot this year found that 84% of buyers start their buying process with a referral. Ninety percent of buying decisions are made with peer recommendations, and 92% of buyers trust referrals from people they know. Most important, 83% of customers would be happy to provide a referral. But salespeople aren’t asking; just 29% of customers end up giving a referral.

It’s critical to develop your own market. Part of a salesperson’s job is selling the customer on themselves when they sell the vehicle. This starts a connection that builds with every contact over time.

In five years, a salesperson who averaged 10 sales a month has a potential market base of 600 clients. If they follow up consistently, and get one referral from even half of them, that’s 300 new prospects to work on.  

Getting the Appointment

Before making the initial call, do your homework. Learn as much as you can about the person you are calling. Try to find something in common among the person who referred you, the prospect and yourself so you can build a relatable opener. This increases your chances of getting the appointment. If you only have a name and phone number, go online. Look for the individual on social media. Find out who else you know in common on LinkedIn and reach out to them for an introduction. Learn about the prospect’s job and interests on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.

Prepare for the call. Know what you are going to say and how to say it. Once the prospect answers the phone you only have about 20 seconds to engage them. When most people realize you are selling something, they automatically go into rejection mode. But if you can create an opener that surprises them you may get enough interest so they’ll hear you out.

According to Hubspot, top performers salespeople are up to 10 times likelier to use collaborative words and phrases than low-performers. Consequently, default to “we,” “us,” “our” and “together” rather than “you,” “me” and “I.”

Successful salespeople use terms that inspire confidence like “certainly,” “definitely,” and “absolutely,” five times more often than low performers.

Focus on what the referrals may need, want or desire and how your ability to sell them the right vehicle will benefit them. This is where homework pays off. The more you know about the prospect before you call them, the more successful you will be.

For example, if the prospect has just become an empty nester, focus on the right vehicle for their new lifestyle. Likewise, if they have kids. Walk them through your website. Then invite them to come in for a first-hand experience or bring the vehicle to them.

Don’t sell. Instead, focus on what they need, want and desire at this point so you can get the appointment.

Finally, don’t give up. You may hear many “no thanks” before a “yes.”

If a prospect says no, move them to a new list and follow up again in a few weeks or months. In the meantime, build the relationship. Send a thank-you card for giving you time on the phone.

Connect with them on social media and follow up– not so much you become a nuisance, but enough to keep your name in front of them with information or touch points that are not pushing a sale. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll have ideas on what to do.

The Manager’s Role

Consistent onsite training and education are essential to converting average salespeople into superstars. Hubspot’s research found:

  • High-performing sales organizations are twice as likely to provide ongoing training as low-performing ones.
  • The longer sales professionals works, the more time they spend on training. In fact, they train more than twice as much as newer salespeople.

Managers should never require their salespeople to book at least one appointment a day. If you do, it won’t be legitimate, it will just be a name used to fill a quota.  They should encourage the booking of quality appointments with the potential to become sales.

Superstar salespeople know their best source of business is their customer base. They work hard to cultivate and maintain relationships, ask for referrals and get the appointment.

Richard F. Libin is the author of the book, “Who Stopped the Sale?” (www.whostoppedthesale.com) and president of Automotive Profit Builders, a firm that works with sales and service departments on customer satisfaction and maximizing gross profits through personnel development and technology. He can be reached at rlibin@apb.cc or 508-626-9200 or www.apb.cc.