Following is a sampling of one of Ryan's past articles.  Contact us for articles on other topics.

There’s Gold in Them Thar’ Databases!


            A few years ago, I gathered all of our sales team together over breakfast, and we focused on the importance of prospecting and follow-up.  We discussed the difference between “customers” and “clients”, and how professions such as lawyers, doctors, and accountants usually referred to their “clients”, while retail stores typically talk about their “customers”.  The main distinction being that the former enjoys an ongoing, multi-transactional relationship with the person, while the latter is more associated with a one-time transaction.  Obviously, we should be interested in developing a “client” relationship with the people to whom we provide transportation.


At the end of the meeting, I handed them each a binder that I had prepared.  Inside, was a printout of the name and contact information of every sold client that was assigned to that salesperson.  As you would imagine, those that had been with us for awhile had a pretty thick binder, but everybody had several hundred names or more.  I told them we were borrowing a term from the Insurance industry, and this was their “Book of Business” for which they were responsible.  I encouraged them to go through every name in their book, and they would find tons of gold nuggets buried in there!


What I didn’t tell them was that in order to see how many of them would actually utilize this tool, I had hidden a page in each of their books that said, “Bring this page to Ryan (without telling anyone else) and you will receive $100!   I waited for about a month to give everyone plenty of opportunity to find it, and in that time a little over half cashed in.  I probably should choose to look at that from the “glass half full” perspective, but it certainly illustrates the enormous opportunity that is going untapped at many dealerships, as many salespeople literally and figuratively choose to throw their Book of Business on a shelf to just collect dust.


Keeping in mind that tremendous gold mine that may be going untapped at your dealership, here are a few tips and thoughts about effective Database Marketing:


- If you don’t have a database, START NOW!   I still get sick to think we were in business for nearly 50 years before we ever started our client database, but the good news is since we started keeping track in 1998, we  accumulated over 85,000 names, including about 15,000 Sold Clients.  Make it a goal to grow your database as large and as quickly as you can.


-Utilize technology.  It is possible to maintain your database using 3x5 cards or notebooks, but there are so many excellent tools available these days, it really is worth the investment to tap in to one of the software solutions to maximize your database contacts.  The best options will create a tickler file to remind you when it is time to contact a client, notify management if those contacts are neglected, and generate automated contacts via printed letters or e-mails.


-How often should you contact your clients?  We make approximately 8 to 10 contacts in the first year, then about 4-6 times per year after that.  By concentrating the effort during the first year, we are working to stay in close to ensure customer satisfaction, and in many cases, help prevent the repossessions that tend to occur in that 6-12 month period.  We do need to make sure that we are calling for a good reason; otherwise we just become a nuisance.  One solution is to have a monthly promotion for each month of the year, so you always have a reason to be calling them “to make sure they were aware of a special offer we have going on in case they or anyone they know might be in the market.”  From there, you can continue the relationship building.


-It also is important to differentiate these calls from collections calls.  These calls should be made by the salesperson, who is on their side, and would go to bat for them when needed.   It’s kind of similar to the bad cop/good cop routines you see on many TV shows and movies.  The point is we don’t want to create any reasons for our clients to not want to talk to our sales staff.  Sometimes, something as simple as making sure the caller ID reads XYZ Motors instead of Hookemfast Finance Company will make all the difference.


-When a salesperson leaves your employment, don’t forget to assign his Book of Business to someone else on your staff to ensure those clients still receive proper follow-up.  Sometimes, you might be wise to split that list of contacts up among your existing sales staff.  Alternatively, if you have a replacement coming in for that position, what better way to help them to hit the ground running then to give them that list of names?


In closing, here is another way to look at the value of effective database marketing. Let’s say you are a salesperson who has a book of business containing 900 sold customers, and let’s use an average term in BHPH of 3 years, that means every year about 300 customers will be ready to trade. So if you can simply retain the customers in your own personal database each year, you’ll make a fantastic living, and never have to take a floor up!  All of which reminds me of the words from the classic Seinfeld episode, “That’s gold, Jerry, GOLD!



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