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With more than three decades of experience in the automotive industry and a strong understanding of the agent and dealer relationships, PRO Consulting’s co-owner, Doug Dingman, has a plethora of strategies to share. AE had the opportunity to ask Dingman some questions about his sales process and thoughts on acquiring new business. 

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What is the general framework you use to bring in new business?

First, we make the initial contact where the goal is not necessarily to have a sales presentation on the spot, but to sell an appointment to meet in the next week or so — I only ask for 20-30 minutes. At that appointment, my goal is to find out what their need is, what their potential “why” is, and then sell a needs assessment. From our needs assessment, we have a scheduled presentation where we present what we found with intent and focus on their “why.” So, there’s a process we’ve got in place, and follow, that gives us the opportunity to sell while addressing their needs from their point of view. What I don’t like to do is come in with a folder and sell it on the spot.

What is the most important part of this process?

Finding out the dealer’s “why,” ‑ what’s his pain — is not always easy. It could be reinsurance, income development, or compliance. If we don’t find a their “why,” we won’t be as effective at selling.

How do you approach finding the “why”?

I’ve got pre-designed questions I ask the dealer in that first appointment. My objective is to sell a needs assessment. If I’m not getting anything from the dealer, I’ll find a way to go in the back door. Sometimes it’s hard to ask the dealer what his PVR is — maybe they don’t want to open up about their business. I have found it is easier to ask the dealer to rate his dealership’s PVR from 1 being completely broken to 10 being unimprovable. If they answer with a 7, I’ll ask them what kind of an increase would make it a 9. They may respond with a $300 increase, which in turn gives me a quantitative “money on the table” scenario. If they sell 200 units monthly, that is an annualized opportunity of approximately $750,000. That is the “why.” 

What is the purpose of the needs assessment?

It would be pretty arrogant of me to say that I could move a dealer’s numbers to “xyz” when I don’t know anything about their organization. The assessment helps us to see how the dealer does business. Then we can put together a game plan that is logical and believable to capture that money that’s on the table. There might be more than we originally thought! I just don’t know until we can see firsthand what’s going on in the store.

What is the most often missed step in any sales process?

We’ve all had deals where we’ve made a presentation, they’ve put us off, we’ve failed to maintain contact with the client, and then six months later we find out they’re working with a new competitor. The secret weapon of sales is follow-up. Constant follow-up leads to trust. Trust with the dealer then allows you to maintain insight into what’s happening in the dealership. After a needs assessment, you’ve developed a relationship and earned the right to maintain contact.

How can an agent be best prepared to work beyond a dealer’s objections or resistance?

The way you overcome resistance is with curiosity, but it’s also with practice. Just like training finance managers in the dealership, we know what specific objections we are going to get, and we prepare for those specific objections. Then we practice them.

How do you build resilience? 

Iron sharpens Iron. We read books and listen to podcasts, there is a lot of great content out there. One of my favorites is The Go Getter by Peter B. Kyne. I like it because it demonstrates the “overcome and adapt” mentality. Also, after every sales call, we replay the call. We call up our teammates and walk them through what happened. Through those discussions, we reflect on what we did and how the call went to identify where we can improve.

What type of prospects are the easiest to close?

Referrals have been our easiest business to close. Dealers recommend us because we’ve made them money and we’ve quantified it. Their employees recommend us for the same reason.

How do you elicit these types of referrals?

We do what we say we’re going to do. We are constantly keeping the “why” in front of our dealers, and constantly forecasting for improved numbers. We go for incremental increases on a regular basis. That creates long-term loyalty and confidence in their ability to give us a referral — not just because they’re our friend, but because we’ve delivered results.

Doug Dingman is the co-owner of PRO Consulting LLC, founded in 1998. 

READ: How to Go From Agent to Agent Principal

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