By Ken Taylor

One mistake that commercial sales consultants make repeatedly is to ask for the business before they deserve the business. I know this sounds a little contrary to popular sales training where you are always supposed to be asking for the business, but, it is a mistake that will cost you! Asking too soon is like trying to get a date with someone that you do not know very well. Sure, you can ask, but unless you have some tremendous advantage, you are likely to be turned down. I often tell salespeople, “Until you earn their trust, you can’t earn their business.” You can earn their trust faster than you think if you focus on the golden rule of sales, “No one cares what you know until they know that you care.” If you have a meeting with a business owner and start talking about all the wonderful things you can do for them, you are dead before you start unless you are giving away a truck which is unlikely! Every person has a “hot button” whether it is personal or professional and you only uncover that hot button by following a very simple formula.
STEP ONE: Do your homework! It’s likely you got this person’s name through a referral. Ask your referral source the “hot button” questions: “What is the one thing that you think is most important to this person regarding his/her business?” “What does this person value most in his/her relationship with a commercial dealership?” “In his/her personal life, what’s most important to this person?” “Tell me one thing that you find most interesting about this person?”
STEP TWO: Now you can at least build questions around the hot buttons that you learned! Suppose your referral source said they really value great service. You would certainly bring testimonials with you that provided proof about your service, but you would also ask directed questions. Example: “Bob, what are some aspects of service that are most important to you when working with a dealership?” Notice how that question is worded. You are not asking Bob to buy anything; you are in a discovery stage. Most salespeople start telling the prospect all the things he or she can do, but you are finding out what is important to Bob first which allows you to customize your answers.
STEP THREE: Ask the questions based on your strengths. One of the things we like the dealerships with whom we work is to provide a “pickup and delivery service.” This means if a business owner is too busy to bring a vehicle in for service, the dealership will provide a loaner and at the same time pick up the prospects work truck. Never tell them you provide that service. Instead present it in the form of a question: “Bob do you ever get too busy to bring a vehicle in for service?” Bob’s answer is always “yes, we are busy all the time.”
Your second question is, “So what do you have to do?” Usually the owner will say they have to send two vehicles in order to pick one of the drivers up which takes away from time the second truck should be working and making money. At that point you simply ask, “Would it be of benefit if a commercial department brought you a loaner and drove your work vehicle to the dealership as well as brought it back after it was serviced?” I think you already know the owner’s answer! At this point you have added enough value to ask additional questions. In other words, you have created enough value that you have earned the right to ask for an opportunity to work with the business owner.
One of my favorite questions to ask after I have built enough value (psychological currency) is: “Bob, I would be honored if the next time you need to service one of your vehicles, we could assist you based on how impressed you were with our pickup and return service?” It would be hard for Bob to say “no.” If you don’t have a pick-up and delivery service, there are other numerous ways to create value. The key point is you gain the right to move forward by providing extra value. I live by a simple belief, “The road to the extra mile is never crowded.”