Do you remember when your biggest challenge was to service a growing area of auto dealers without working more than 80 hours a week? When the only worry you had was finding, selecting, servicing, and retaining all of the new and used auto dealers that had a need and a demand for your company's services and/or products and programs? Do you remember when you would get a lead from the corporate office, visit the prospective dealer/client, make your presentation and cover your marketing material and then have the dealer/client sign up on the first visit? Do you remember when just showing up monthly and taking care of the dealer’s/client’s problems, issues and customers was sufficient to earn his business?
How things have changed! The technology bust, terrorist attacks, new industry compliance issues and a seemingly endless parade of large and small competitive companies (all of whom are after your customers!) have converged to create a perfect storm. Those who can earn their living by selling professional dealer/client services are now facing the most challenging business environment in more than a generation. Incomes have been slashed and many agents are leaving to travel a different career path.
As the executive vice president for sales and marketing, I hear from the 123 agents who are currently enrolled in Peritus programs nationally on a daily basis. I hear a rumbling of despair from the sales reps in the field competing for their share of a much smaller and hyper-competitive auto dealer/client business pie. Common sayings are:
"I can't get past the gatekeeper.”
"I can't get a meeting with the decision-maker."
"Everything is price, price, and price."
"There is no way I can make my numbers for the month."
"Thanks for stopping, but I have been with ABC Company for over five years now."
However bad the situation may seem, I know there is still plenty of business out there for you on a daily basis. In fact, some dealer/client services companies are not only surviving in this turbulent market, they are actually increasing and prospering. What are these professionals doing to win more of the existing business? What are they doing to create new business?
Here are some of my thoughts on facing the street issues at hand.Consumerism - Usually taking the form of an often misinformed and sometimes hostile dealer/client. Unreasonable Competition - In the shape of the profit destroying, low-end, no-coverage dealer/client services provider. The sheer dilemma of just trying to fulfill one's promises to a dealer/client - Usually made impossible through this seeming inefficiency of a corporate support to the guys in the field and a non-understanding owner or manager. This is compounded by life’s everyday problems.
Whether real or imagined, it is these negative forces that afford the greatest opportunity for the honest, serious "services" agent. The successful services agent realizes they are in a highly competitive business. They also know that these highly corrosive conditions are chipping away at their competition at the same time, and in the same manner. The intelligent salesperson is aware that these circumstances chew at and significantly destroy his strongest ally –A POSITIVE ATTITUDE !
But, simply recognizing the problem is not enough. What to do about it is quite another matter. Self-confidence, empathy with the dealer/client, the ability to get the sign up and usage, handling their customer issues promptly - these are all just broad terms. Unless they can specifically be brought into a workable method, clearly spelling out to the individual service agent an everyday, practical path that results in signing more dealers/clients and earning more commissions, then they are just meaningless.
To be a top earner in the agent arena, an agent must strive continuously not only to know the tools of his trade, but must know how to apply them effectively in a professional manner. The real professionals train constantly to improve their techniques while never forgetting the necessity of maintaining the agent’s relationship with the dealer/client. They must make the most of their industry knowledge, style and personality traits, maintain a sense of humor and most importantly, rely on their ability to establish and maintain “relationships” in order to convince the dealer/client to buy from them. The services agent knows full well that the difference between a "pro" and an amateur is the ability to hear the word "no" without surrendering. He or she recognizes that it is their task to make YES’S out of NO’S. The intelligent services agent quickly learns that deception, false promises, over-exaggeration or anything else casting a doubt on their integrity will work to their own great disadvantage.
The notable services agent takes the positive approach and is always careful to protect that feeling of trust and confidence they have projected to the prospective dealer/client. They utilize selling methods that make them aware of where they are during any part of the presentation, but they do it in an easy, non-threatening manner that is the mark of a pro. The services agent is intent on knowing their product and never falls into the trap of assuming the dealer is aware of all the benefits of their products or services. Each step along the way to a successful sign up, by their very language, manner and approach, is projected to the dealer/client sitting across the desk from them. Everything they do and say is for the benefit and well-being of their business and their customers.
As does every professional athlete, surgeon, lawyer or pilot, they continually train for perfection. They know that the selling climate in today's auto industry is always in a state of change. The method we used yesterday to close a deal might be obsolete and possibly even destructive to their own territory sales growth. The services agent is not afraid to challenge their own beliefs and techniques and accepts these adjustments as they occur, while intelligently adapting them to their own style and personality. They must be ever cognizant of what is going on in our industry and on the street. It is the dealer/client who ultimately decides who the best agent is for the company and what their territory sales and yearly earnings will actually be!
Fully aware of all these influencing factors, the true professional services agent measures his or her success not only by income but also by the satisfaction of doing the job to the utmost of their ability. He or she recognizes their own weaknesses and attacks them with all their tenacity and drive. They use all the tools available to them to ultimately reap high financial rewards for efforts that are truly attainable for the professional services agent – both now and in the foreseeable future.
YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE LOOKING FOR RELATIONSHIPS … NOT TRANSACTIONS!