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Case study - Proving IOWEU approaches deliver results

From IoweU Facilitator To Automobile Salesman by W. G. Vlcek, February, 2010.

PDF file: IOWEU_Automotive_Case_Study.pdf

Industry: Retail Automotive

Background:

  • During the past few years I have been recommending the Smarter Selling product without ever having direct sales experience.  At times this lack of direct sales experience would cause potential customers to question why I would be qualified to recommend Smarter Selling.  I decided to resolve this question by taking on a 5 month research project, a sales assignment of selling automobiles.  I also felt, during this difficult economic time, I could supplement my income by cashing in on the glamorous compensation of an automobile salesman. 
     
  • I found a sales assignment, and re-read my copy of Smarter Selling; I was ready to hit the showroom floor running.  I learned a few tough lessons during my very first month including:
     
    •  Most every customer enters the dealership with the belief that they will be lied to by the sales staff.
     
    •  Sales people with a long sales history (10 or more years) can simply phone call prior customers and sell cars.
     
    •  Automobile sales people do not receive glamorous compensation.
     
  • There were 8 sales staff at the dealership where I worked.  One salesperson had 14 years of service (we’ll identify him as ‘A’ in the tables), while the remainder had between no service and 2 years of service.  I am identified as ‘B’ in the tables.  There was a log board kept of every car sold in a month and by which sales person.  It was not difficult to determine how one was doing compared to their peers.


 

Outcome:

Month 1
Our first month results on the log board looked like this:

 A

18 

 4

I had talked to 46 potential customers and sold 2 cars – a conversion ratio of 4.3%. 
I was told that a ratio of 25% or better was the target for our business. 

Why was I failing so miserably? 

I went back to Smarter Selling and decided that since most potential customers expect to be lied to, I needed to focus on chapter 3, ‘Understanding and changing your relationships’, and especially chapter 5 ‘Building rapport and trust – the I Owe U approach’

I looked to build a quick relationship with potential customers as soon as they walked in the door.  I looked for something we had in common.  I employed many of the book’s techniques during my second month and the results are shown below.

Month 2

 A

15

6

4

4

6

2

Yes, I was tied for second on the ‘leader board’.  Smarter Selling was helping. 
I spoke with 36 potential customers and sold 6, a conversion ratio of 16.7%.  My ratio was coming up, but I still was not selling at the target level. 
 
Back again to Smarter Selling and an additional focus on chapters 2 and 6, ‘How other people really see you’ and ‘Uncovering real needs’.  I found the SHAPE questions in chapter 6 to really assist with finding what a potential customer wanted. 
 
Through these questioning techniques I was able to focus potential customers toward a product that would both interest them and be within their budget.  What happened in months 3, 4, and 5?

 
Months 3-5

 

 A

Month 3

10

8

3

2

3

2

3

0

Month 4

18

7

4

3

5

3

4

1

Month 5

14

8

2

2

6

2

5

2

Firmly in second slot each of the next 3 months only behind the salesman with 14 years of tenure. 

Sales are on the way up, how about the conversion ratio? 

In fact, the number of potential customers went down during these winter months. 
Month 3, I spoke with 34 potential customers for a conversion ratio of 23.5%.  I almost made it to target. 
Month 4, I spoke with 27 for a ratio of 25.9%.  I made it just over target. 
And finally month 5, I spoke with 25 for a ratio of 32.0%.  Over target by a reasonable margin! 

With this, I considered my research complete and have chosen to get back to facilitating workshops, my real calling.

Key learnings:
Here’s what I feel I learned through this experiment:

  • Following the Smarter Selling techniques gives even a rookie sales person an edge when compared to most lower tenured staff.
     
  • Using the Smarter Selling techniques gave me a process, or road map for discussions with potential customers, keeping conversations ‘on-track’.
     
  • Longer tenured sales staff can be successful using their tried and true techniques, but could they be even more successful using the Smarter Selling techniques?  A question that can only be answered with an experiment using a longer tenured sales person.
     
  • This research gave me ‘real’ sales experience that I can talk to when recommending the Smarter Selling product.

I’m glad I invested the last 5 months selling automobiles for the real life experience it gave me.  And as I said earlier, it is time to get back to facilitating!

If you like Bill's story and want to know more, you can contact him at bill.vlcek@ioweu.com. 

 

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