Webster’s Dictionary defines leverage as “a mechanical advantage gained by the use of a lever.” Applying that definition to dealerships, leverage is a sales advantage gained by creating and exerting influence over an intended target. I think the key to successful sales, therefore, is knowing how to develop and apply leverage over current and new customers. And the most effective way you can create and exert that influence is by building positive and productive relationships!
Customers do business with you because you provide them with solid products and services. You strive to exceed expectations. And customers should know they can always come to you with questions or concerns to receive timely and helpful responses. Building such open and helpful connections helps you create relational leverage. This influence is valuable and gives dealers the ability to ask for important favors from customers. Consider the follow situation that illustrates this point:
You: “Jim, I appreciate so much the opportunity to work with you and your company. Providing exceptional service is very important to our commercial department. Is it okay if I ask you a few service-related questions?”
Customer: “Sure, Ken.”
You: “How has your overall experience been working with our dealership?”
Customer: “Your team does a great job. We’re serviced quickly, always get the inventory we need, and the team keeps the paperwork simple, straightforward, and organized.”
You: “That’s great; thank you! You know we think it’s important that we go the extra mile for your company. What about me personally? Is there anything I can do to better service you?”
Customer: “No, you always get back with me quickly, stay in touch, and work hard to take care of any problems.”
You: “Thanks again, I am always striving to do more to meet your needs.”
That was a very simple conversation, but let’s stop and look at what was just accomplished. You now know that the customer, Jim, recognizes the value of your company and is impressed with your hard-work. And you solidified the relationship by reiterating that you’re there to help. Through that positive and productive connection, you just created relational leverage. By making the value of your business most evident — through an open and helpful interaction — you can feel more free to make a request of the customer:
You: “Jim, I know you guys have been in business for over 20 years. You must have a lot of vendors that service you, where you are the customer. Roughly how many vendors supply you with other goods and services?”
Customer: “We have about 25, Ken.”
You: “Do you think they would appreciate the same level of service that we just talked about?”
Customer: “I’m sure they would.”
You: “Well, you know I am not about the hard sell, but about building solid relationships and earning trust. Is there a way I could get in touch with them, in a way that is comfortable for you?”
Customer: “I can probably get you a list from our accounting department.”
You: “Thank you so much, Jim! I promise I will follow up with each vendor and give them the same level of service I’ve given you. It would also be helpful to know the person in charge with each company; is it possible for you to pass that information along to me?”
Customer: “Sure Ken, I know most of them on a personal basis.”
You: “I cannot thank you enough. Should I mention your name when I make these calls?”
Customer: “Not a problem.”
Let’s review: After creating leverage with a genuine relationship, you exerted that leverage with a simple, personal request. Now that he shares a positive and productive connection with you, Jim likes you and wants to help you. In fact, he probably would have found it difficult to turn you down.
Does this work? I have made this sales call with dealers over 200 times in the last 12 years and no one has ever turned me down. The most vendor referrals I have received were over 3,000 from a very large company (we had to narrow it down, knowing we could not follow up on 3,000 names!!). The least I have ever received were 10 vendor referrals.
And by the way, you now have leverage with each vendor you call, because their customer facilitated the contact!! The prospect will not want to upset their customer and, in most cases, the gatekeeper who answers the call will put you through to a decision-maker.
This example is one of many ways to create and exert relational leverage over your target customers, erasing the need to ever make a true cold call. Without leverage, a cold call has no value and seldom leads to contact with an actual decision-maker. Creating and exerting leverage helps you work smarter, not harder. This influence will save time, decrease stress, develop harder leads, and close more sales. So start leveraging today!!
About Ken Taylor: