As a salesperson, do you wait for leads and ups, or do you go out and actively prospecting for new customers?  No matter how great a salesperson you are, sales is a numbers game. If you want to sell more, you need to talk to more people. If you aren’t talking to enough people, you need to prospect. I believe that for the most part, prospecting for new customers is a lost art.

In today’s world, many salespeople believe that posting on social media constitutes prospecting. Although it could be considered a form of prospecting, it’s not nearly enough. Nothing beats genuine, in-person connections. Prospecting is the art of cultivating mutually beneficial relationships, which means you should not be prospecting just so you can make sales. That will happen as a byproduct, but it’s not your goal.

Prospecting is really about making friends—lots and lots of friends, and treating them well. Here are a few tips.

Talk to Strangers

The admonition “Don’t talk to strangers” is appropriate for kids. It’s not appropriate for adults with sales careers. You want to talk to as many people as possible, wherever you go.

Think about all the business establishments you frequent on a regular basis; restaurants, bars, dry cleaners, gas stations and banks, for example. Do you strike up friendly conversations with the people who work at these establishments? Do they know what you do for a living?

It boils down to engaging with your neighbors:

  • Find the time to attend community and social events.
  • Talk to people and take an interest in what they do. Don’t try to sell them anything.
  • Offer to exchange contact information in case you can help each other out in the future, then mean what you say. If you can help them out in any way, do so.

Be proud of what you do. You provide a much-needed service. Almost everyone drives a car.

Be Social

Social media can be used as a tool to help you prospect, but you have to be careful what you post. Are you posting a lot of selfies standing in front of vehicles you want to sell? Are you posting messages advertising your dealership’s sales or promoting yourself as a salesperson?

Social media is for sharing, not selling. As a salesperson, use these platforms to share useful information that a car shopper might want to know. For example, what does MSRP mean? Tips for maintaining your car. Tips on how to find a great deal. If you provide genuine value to your network of family and friends, they will pay attention to you.

Become a Subject Matter Expert (SME)

If you sell cars for a living, you should be an expert on cars. Share your knowledge without looking for a sale in return. When you are helpful and provide useful information, people will like you. If people like you, they will remember you when it’s time to buy a car, or when they hear that a friend wants to buy a car.

I have done this all my life. I try to help people get what they want. If someone needs something, I will point them in the direction of someone else who can help them, even if it does not benefit me at the time. Why? Because paying it forward brings good things back to you.

Ask for Referrals

Keep in touch with every customer you ever sold a car to. At some point, you’ll ask them for a referral. Just don’t be a pain about it. Don’t always ask for a referral. Check in with your customers on a regular basis, and only ask for referrals every third or fourth time.  The worst they can say is no.

Know Your Numbers

How much income do you want to make? How many cars do you have to sell per month to make that income? Use the metrics in your CRM to help you set some prospecting goals.

Your lead-to-appointment ratio and appointment closing ratio are probably pretty consistent. So, how many conversations with new prospects do you need on a monthly basis in order to set a certain number of appointments? One hundred? Two hundred?

Divide that number by working days in a month and make those conversations a priority. Know your number, whether it’s six or twelve conversations a day. Do whatever it takes to meet your number on a daily basis.

If you want to be successful in sales, learning how to prospect is a must. Yes, it’s work, but it doesn’t have to be arduous. Talking to people, taking a genuine interest in what they do and helping them achieve their goals should be fun and rewarding, on a personal level as well as a professional level.