Is there such a thing as a typical day for a commercial sales consultant? Maybe not, but there absolutely are certain priorities and actions that can make a day ideal for a dealership.
A commercial salesperson’s ideal day has its beginnings in the days and weeks beforehand, through a process known as “strategic planning”. A typical day that lacks previous planning means that we arrive to work unprepared to avoid distractions or to seize opportunities. An ideal day, however, is intentionally structured by focused and prepared dealers who consistently lay the groundwork for future success and create their own opportunities.
For example, let’s say that two weeks ago a dealer attended an event, such as a Home Builders meeting or a local networking function, where the dealer is able to meet new prospects. Simply complimenting their business and asking to stop in to see their operation sometime will usually lead to a “yes.” From there, the date and time can be easily nailed down. Fast-forward to that date and now, with an anchor appointment to build the rest of the day around, the dealer already has a starting point for transforming that day from typical to ideal.
As the dealer plans their schedule, the anchor appointment can direct which opportunities are pursued throughout the day. If the new prospect is on the northside of town, the dealer can look up which current customers are also in that area. Today is a perfect day to stop by and ask if they wouldn’t mind providing referrals for their vendors!! Let’s put the number at 2 customers, with whom the dealer can schedule a couple quick appointments. Wow; just like that the dealer is already up to 3 appointments in the day, with the opportunity to gain even more referrals!!
Plus, the dealer can ask the current customers if they know the prospect that will be visited later in the day, since they are in the same part of town. If they do, the dealer simply asks if he can mention the current customer — there’s usually little reason for them to say “no” — and now the dealer can go into the prospect meeting with a trusted recommendation from a known local business. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a great start to an ideal day!!
Now, let’s create an agenda for the day with these plans mixed in with some things a dealer should do every day. Ready? Let’s have some fun!
6:00am – Darn! Is it morning already? Wait a minute, that’s okay; we’re going to make this an ideal day!
7:00am – There are two businesses on your way to work that you’ve been meaning to visit. Let’s stop in! The business owners get in early and, out of the two, you get an appointment with one of them on the spot! Congrats, 1 impromptu meeting added to 3 pre-planned appointments puts you up to 4 appointments in the day!
7:45am – You stop for gas. Wait a minute. Is that a work-van at the next pump? You walk over and start a conversation. Before you know it, you have a business card and a decision-makers name. Of course, you asked the driver if you could mention that the two of you talked, giving you a powerful internal referral. Nice job!!
8:00am – You arrive at the dealership and head straight for the service department. You did some planning the day before and you happen to know that a driver is bringing in a work truck. They use your service department but bought the vehicle from a competitor! We can’t let that happen again, so you start a conversation with the driver. Your final reply is “Thanks so much for the information. I’d like to call your boss and thank him for using our service department. Would you mind if I mentioned that we had talked today?” The reply — “Sure, go ahead” — has given you another internal referral!!
8:15am – Finally in your office, you get online and do some research on the customers and prospects with whom you have booked appointments, so you can truly understand more about their business. You pull up their website, check the business Facebook page, and see if the prospect has a Linkedin account, pulling any information that could be helpful. You are feeling confident, but get a little caught up doing your research. Oops! You must hurry and get to your first appointment with your current customer Bob from XYZ Manufacturing!
9:00am – You have a great meeting with Bob and, through a carefully planned word track, which we’ve previously discussed HERE (I’ve used this over 200 time and never been turned down), you walk out with 24 referrals of his vendors! Plus, you ask Bob if he has ever met Joe, the new prospect you’re meeting with later today. They have met and Bob doesn’t mind serving as a reference! So now you can enter your prospect meeting with a recommendation from Bob, a source that is familiar to Joe. But first, you’ve got your second current customer meeting with Frank from LMN Services!!
10:00am – Your appointment with Frank leads to 15 more vendor referrals! Unfortunately, Frank doesn’t know your new prospect, Joe, and can’t serve as a familiar reference. But that’s okay, Frank provided more vendor referrals and you’ve still got the recommendation from Bob that you can mention to Joe. And now that time has come!!
11:00am – You conduct your meeting with new prospect, Joe, using a well-planned questioning format to obtain the right information and introduce added value in order to gain a second appointment. Joe also seemed very interested that Bob recommended you. The meeting goes so well that you decide to ask a couple more questions. “Joe, thanks so much for meeting with me. You mentioned you had been at this location for a while, so you must know some of the businesses around you. Would you mind if I mentioned to those companies that you and I met today? It doesn’t have to be a referral; I’ll just mention our meeting. Would that be okay?”
Joe is very likely to provide permission, and may even tell you to go ahead and use him as a reference!! Joe gives you five names and you walk into each local company with the personal introduction, “Hi! I was just meeting with Joe, the owner of ABC Plumbing, and he said he knew you guys!” You have some solid, connection-generating conversations that you can continue to build upon during future ideal days. But now it’s time for lunch!!
12:30pm – You forgot to schedule a lunch appointment, but that’s okay; on your way back to the dealership you’ve stopped by the local diner where there are six different work vehicles parked outside. Being the prepared commercial sales consultant you are, you have keychains, cup koozies, and some manufacturer-branded hats. You spot a table with four drivers and it’s time to hand out giveaways and have some fun conversation. The workers are friendly, and you walk away from the table with the company owner’s name and the fact he is a big football fan. You plan on calling him to talk business, and a little football, later today.
1:30pm – You are back in the dealership, but before you go to your office, you stop by the service department and deliver pastries you bought at the lunch diner for all the service writers. Yes, team unity matters!!
1:45pm – You are back at your desk with lots of phone calls to make. You call the owner of the company whose information was provided by the workers at the diner. Charming conversation with the gatekeeper who answered the call — and who sets the owner’s schedule — lands you an appointment with the owner, setting up a future ideal day. You place a follow-up call to one of the businesses located near your prospect Joe (they were too busy to really talk when you first walked in). You also place a call to the contact provided by the worker you met this morning at the gas station. It was a manager who agrees to talk to the primary owner about setting up a meeting.
Next you face a big challenge: Between your two current customers, Bob and Frank, you were able to get 39 referrals! You can’t call all of them today, but you manage to reach ten and you get three appointments. Not bad! If you were in major league baseball you would be batting .300 (which is great!).
3:00pm – The rest of the day you are getting out quotes, writing thank-you cards for everyone with whom you met throughout the day, and, of course, planning tomorrow and the rest of the week. And don’t forget, a big part of your planning should be continuing to develop your “service or parts but not sold” list — the list of companies who use your business for service or to buy parts but who did not purchase their vehicle from your dealership — and your list of vendors that your business personally uses. The first list can provide a lot of connections, while the vendor list can be instrumental is starting up your own networking program for gaining more and more referrals.
Time to Clock Out! – You made it!! It was a long day, but also an incredibly productive one, all stemming from your ability to strategically plan your day, using an anchor appointment as a starting point and building out your referral and networking efforts from there. This isn’t a complicated process; it simply takes dedication to organization and preparation. Unfortunately it’s all too easy to fall into the bad-habits of a typical day. Think about how differently the Ideal Day Schedule above looks to a Typical Day Schedule below:
- 8:00am – Arrive at the dealership and talk with co-workers.
- 8:30am – Morning sales meeting.
- 9:30am – Get a couple quotes out, return calls, finishing never-ending paperwork.
- 11:30am – Make cold calls and drop off flyers, brochures, and business cards at the local industrial park.
- 12:30pm – Meet a friend for lunch.
- 1:30pm – Make more cold calls and and drop off more flyers, brochures, and business cards.
- 3:00pm – Back in the dealership, you make follow-up calls and wonder why you rarely meet decision-makers.
- 4:00pm – Finishing up paperwork, unsure of what you’ve accomplished or what your next step should be.
Here’s the point: Your job is to get in front of decision-makers and carry on productive conversations that lead to commitments for business. The very best way you can do this is through referral-based and networking-based selling, which requires intentional preparation, organization, and implementation. In other words, an ideal day is achieved by forward-thinking dealers who pursue strategic planning with diligence and enthusiasm. Start strategically planning today, and you’ll make it to the top. In fact, I’ll see you there!!
About the Author
As the Founder and President of Commercial Truck Training, Ken has consulted, coached, and trained commercial dealers on individual, regional, and national business levels. Known as an industry leader, Ken has worked with companies like General Electric, General Motors, FCA, Ford, Commercial Truck Trader, and Equipment Trader.