For years, vendors encouraged me to get outside of the four walls of my dealership and I was very hesitant. In 2003, I was promoted to outside sales and was floored at the experience and how much I learned. New selling opportunities presented themselves daily and learning opportunities for future sales were discovered.
Most clients really appreciated the fact that I would take the time to come to them. Let me state that hiring an outside salesman may or may not be a good investment for your business or market. That said, I would highly recommend getting out and visiting with some clients and potential customers. Whether you begin by allowing an inside sales person go out for a half day or if you as an owner or manager get outside yourself; regularly scheduled outside time is highly recommended. But before you jump in the truck and take off, you may want to take into consideration the following suggestions and tips.
You may target a specific customer or a specific geographical area of town. Either way, you’ll want to do some planning before venturing off. I recommend the following in preparation:
Search the internet for other potential clients in the same area that you are headed. An appointment with a business owner and especially a landscaper can change in the blink of an eye, so it’s good to have a contingency plan that includes additional clients who are located in that same area. When someone postpones or cancels at the last minute, you’ve got a plan b to fall back on.
Take time to research and familiarize yourself with the business or person that you will be calling on. That way, you have a little bit of information about them which may give you some additional talking points.
What do you want to get out of your time? While outside of the office, it’s easy to get distracted. Plan ahead and know what type of information and outcome you desire ahead of time. As I’ve heard it said, “Failure to plan is a plan to fail.”
While out and about, you will certainly want to have a quick and simple way for capturing information. While I used a voice recorder early on, I found that a simple notebook worked best. Here are three tips for taking quality notes and acting on them:
1. Date each page, so that you know at a glance when you gathered the data.
2. Do something with this new information. Data is only as good as implementation and follow through. Once you have the information, what are you going to do with it? I usually placed the information into my Outlook’s calendar and contacts for follow up at a later date.
3. Log specific details. In my notes section of my contacts list, I would type in details such as what equipment a landscaper had on their trailer and where or when I saw them. This way when I follow up, I can lead with “I saw you over on 10th street and noticed that you were running brand XYZ mowers.” Then, I would share my value statement and offer to either meet with them or invite them to my location. Based on the conversation, I would add a new follow up date with detailed information to follow up and then repeat.
Visit one current customer while out
While the focus of outside selling is on developing new clients, it is important to see at least one existing customer. You may discover a new opportunity with an existing client for your sales, service and/or parts departments while on location. It is also a good opportunity to show thanks. On your travels to visit an existing customer, keep an eye out for other opportunities with new customers on your route.
Have talking points and handouts
This can be a parts special or an upcoming service offering. You could also share information regarding finance opportunities, sales promotions or even used equipment that you have for sale. It would be even more powerful to offer information that is specifically beneficial to that client and their business. For example, you could host a preventative maintenance or safety seminar with their staff. Don’t get into the habit of simply peddling brochures, fliers and other materials, but rather have these items ready should the opportunity present itself.
There is much value in getting outside of your four walls for sales opportunities. Having a plan when doing so further ensures your success.