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On the Point

Harry's in a Slump

Da Man shares how a simple technique he picked up as a newbie car salesman 40 years ago can still reel them in.

November 4, 2016

Even the best of us can fall into a slump. But when my friend Harry, a top salesman at his General Motors store in small-town America, messaged me through Facebook a few months ago, I could feel his pain through his words.

“Hey buddy, I am in the worst slump of my sales life. I need some Alpha Dawg help, as I am not sure what to do at this point,” he wrote. “I’m thinking of going to Walmart to try to ‘up’ some people in the parking lot. Jim, I cannot quite put my finger on it, and I would appreciate your tips and help.”

Well, nobody — and I mean nobody — knows prospecting better than I do. I am the master of generating my own business. “Harry, you’re a rock star. It’s time to get on the phone and start calling past customers and asking for sales and referrals,” I replied. “I also want you to start calling people who are selling their trucks on Autotrader and on Craigslist. Tell them you’ll pay cash for their truck. They just need to make an appointment to bring their truck in for a cash offer.”

Harry replied, “Will do, Jim. I never thought of using Autotrader or Craigslist to prospect.”

Well, it wasn’t long before Harry messaged me that he successfully nailed down two appointments doing exactly what I suggested. He was re-energized. Hey, that’s what I do.

Well, Harry sold six cars in three days, and his grosses were higher than deals the dealership captured the conventional way. And, well, I caught up with Harry recently, and he’s still rolling.

I knew Harry would come out of his slump, because I used that prospecting technique when I was new to the business 40 years ago. I’d sit down every Saturday with my used-car manager, Ken Vargas, and map out my game plan. He’d show me which customers to call and I’d circle their classified ads in the newspaper. Here’s what I’d say when I’d call:

“Good Morning, my name is Jim Ziegler and I’m a sales professional at Superior Nissan. My manager, Mr. Ken Vargas, saw your car advertised in the classifieds and asked me to call you. We’d like to buy your car for cash. If you’d consider selling it to us, I’d like to make an appointment for you to come in and we’ll make an offer on your car. We won’t waste your time; you’ll be here less than 10 minutes.”

Of course, times have changed and we no longer rely on classified ads, but Autotrader, Craigslist, and other sites that allow consumers to sell their vehicles directly are great lead sources.

What you have to remember is a majority of consumers who are trying to sell their cars or trucks on these sites will never do it directly. In fact, a majority of them will end up trading in their vehicle to a dealer. So if you build a relationship and stay in touch, you’ll be the only one they know and trust.

Your initial goal is to set that appointment. And it’s critical that you don’t waste their time once they agree to come in. I recommend giving them a written 10-day cash offer to buy their car in less than 10 minutes of their arrival. There is no misdirection or deception in this process, just a legitimate cash offer.

Now if the customer objects to your offer, here’s what you say: “Sir, that’s the cash offer. It might be higher if you were trading for a new vehicle. Would you like to see some of our latest models?”

Sometimes the customer will accept your fair and equitable offer. But as often as not, they will say the offer is not high enough. But remember this, the reason people try to sell their cars privately is because they either owe too much on it or they are asking too much. And depending on how long they’ve been trying to sell their vehicle privately, they’ve probably already gotten a strong dose of reality.

Vehicle owners rarely sell their cars and trucks on these classified sites. You just need to wait them out by planting that seed and checking in with them periodically to see how it’s going. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sold these people weeks after the first contract, and they always like me and my dealership because we were emphatic and they felt like we cared. Keep those emails and calls coming.

Jim Ziegler is the president of Ziegler SuperSystems Inc. Contact him at [email protected]

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Author Bio

Jim Ziegler

President & CEO of Ziegler SuperSystems

Jim 'Da Man' Ziegler joined the magazine in 2011 to deliver his On-the-Point message about the car business to dealer principals and store managers. He'll offer strategy advice on everything from sales and F&I to marketing in the digital age. Catch him every month at www.fi-magazine.com.

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