Building Better Sales Conversations
Data can help you build better and more effective sales conversations. With that in mind, we’re going to focus on a handful of questions you should ask yourself to identify which direction to take your sales conversations. It’s all about trying to zero in on what inventory or service you have that would be most attractive and useful to the fleet you are speaking with, and then leading them to the right truck or maintenance services.
Before you even begin the conversation, you need to know whether a fleet/owner-operator is currently in market to buy, if they’re likely looking for new or used trucks, or if they’re more likely to be a better served by targeting them for parts and service. Coming in from the start with this knowledge allows you to guide them through the process and eliminate wasted time and effort.
Are they more likely to be a used or new truck buyer?
Before you can have a truly compelling sales conversation you must know what kind of inventory the prospect is after. Take a look at their current inventory. Is their fleet comprised of more used or new trucks? Are they the original purchaser/leaser? Or are they the 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th owner? To figure this out you can use the available data to track when vehicles move from one fleet to another via vehicles’ VIN numbers. In addition to finding out whether the fleet is comprised of new or used trucks, you can also find out what class truck the fleet is running and even the average vehicle age of the fleet. Knowing what kind of truck they’re after, when they acquired the truck, and how old their current trucks are is vital to figuring out whether they are in market to buy and whether they will be eyeing new or used vehicles. This information will help you steer the conversation in the proper direction right from the start.
Another way to gain some insight is to look into their purchasing habits and buying cycles. For instance, maybe they buy a handful of new trucks every 3 years, and they are approaching that 3 year window. You now have an edge going into the conversation and know that they may be looking to purchase new inventory.
The whole point of this exercise is to narrow down what sort of inventory will be most attractive to them. Determining if they are more likely to buy used or new is the first step in the process. Once you’ve done that you can move forward using their existing fleet as a guide. Do they all share the same engine specs? Do they lean toward one brand over another (we’ll touch on this more later)? Focus on this information to narrow down which trucks in your inventory the fleet will find most attractive and be most likely to buy.
Will they lease or buy?
Not every fleet is going to be able to buy outright. Knowing their financial situation ahead of time can help you present options that won’t make their head spin when it comes down to price and payments. Although it’s near impossible to know exact the financial state of a fleet, you can make an educated guess based off of factors like fleet size, locations, annual sales, and even their credit risk factor. Having this information at your fingertips and having a better idea of what they can afford (based off of not only the financial firmographics, but current operating fleet as well) the price point and payments they will likely be able to afford allows you to point the conversation to the inventory you have available that will meet their needs and not be out of their reach.
Can you better serve them with truck sales or through parts and service?
A great way to generate interest and get people to your dealership is being proactive and reaching out to them first with a simple phone call. But the plain and simple fact is not every fleet you speak with on the phone is going to buy a truck. That may sound discouraging, but the reality is, if you know that going into a conversation you’re better off for it. After all, dealerships aren’t just comprised of new and used truck sales.
Using the tactics we’ve previously touched on can help you get a better idea of how to best serve them if the fleet is looking to buy a truck. But what if they aren’t looking for trucks? Or maybe they’re not even headquartered in your area of responsibility (AOR). That doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer them. A huge part of any dealership is the parts and service department.
For those fleets not currently interested in buying trucks or those that aren’t located near you (but do have trucks actively moving through your area), you can come into the conversation knowing you need to focus on the parts and service aspect of your dealership business. This avoids wasting the fleet’s time and yours.
Focusing on factors such as violation history and vehicle age will give you a good indication of what kind of parts or maintenance a particular fleet needs. For instance, a fleet plagued by brake violations would probably be open to having a conversation about the quality and speed of your brake inspections and maintenance. There are also a variety of parts that have lifespans and need to be replaced regularly. So, with their vehicle ages in mind you can try to work out which of those parts are likely nearing the end of their lifespan and will need to be replaced soon. Having this knowledge beforehand helps you shape the sales conversation in a way that not only tailors your messaging to the potential customer you are speaking with, but also highlights just how valuable your services can be to them.
For those merely passing through your area you can become a trusted and valued partner anytime a truck in their fleet experiences issues or is due for regular maintenance. For those fleets located in your AOR that just aren’t ready to buy, establishing a relationship through parts and service for their current fleet is a great way to build up trust and allow you to discuss truck sales with them when they are ready to buy in the future.
Are they loyal to a particular brand or are they swayable?
Once you’ve established a fleet is or is likely to be in the market to buy another truck, the question to ask is, “Are they loyal to a certain brand”? If so, do you have the ability to offer that brand to them? If a fleet is highly dependant on a particular brand your dealership doesn’t carry, maybe you’d be better off approaching them about parts and services; or in some cases maybe they just aren’t the best fit for your dealership at this time.
For those fleets you think you can serve, knowing what their preferences are allows you to know exactly what kind of inventory you should be preparing to show them or discuss. Fleets that show a strong brand affinity with an overwhelming majority of their equipment made up of only one brand will likely only be open to moving forward with that brand. Knowing this you can build the narrative of the conversation to frame how you have exactly what they’re looking for. You have the brands and models they need.
There are fleets, however, that are made up of equipment from various different manufacturers. You might consider these fleets to be swayable. Even if they have a number of pieces of equipment from one brand, by owning several other brands you know they are at least open to a conversation about going a different way. First, do you have anything available brandwise that matches what they’d prefer? Do you have anything that would be comparable? Come into the conversation ready with both options and provide them with as much relevant information as possible to assist their decision making. Have comparison charts and ownership projections prepared and on hand to highlight the pros and cons of each brand/truck has to offer. No matter what truck they settle on, knowing what options they are open to helps you better serve them and allows you to bring as many acceptable trucks into the conversation as possible.
Is the prospect an away or a towards buyer?
The last thing to consider is a little more abstract, but can be just as important as anything else we’ve discussed. To know how to start an effective sales conversation with someone you need to know what motivates them as a buyer. Are they what’s considered to be an away buyer? Or a towards buyer?
Depending on what kind of buyer they are you may need to approach the conversation differently. Towards buyers actively seek out the latest and greatest. They are dazzled by what is new. By contrast, away buyers aren’t necessarily motivated by the product itself. They tend to be more motivated to buy because it helps them move away from a problem or pain point. Towards buyers would want to purchase the truck simply because it represents the newest and best equipment they can get their hands on. Away buyers will not be motivated by “bells and whistles.” You need to highlight the “pain” they are moving away from. Ex. “If you don’t get new trucks in your fleet, your inspection profile will continue going down.”
Data builds conversations
Dealerships can’t just sit back and wait for fleets to come to them. With all the competition out there it is more important than ever to be proactive in your efforts to find, reach, and nurture potential buyers. It’s important to do your homework on each prospective fleet opportunity to know exactly who they are, what they need, and identify the best way you can help them.
Focusing on any one of the areas discussed can be a huge advantage over going into a conversation blind. Of course the ultimate goal would be to hopefully have all of this information at your disposal. Doing your homework and digging in deep to really get to know what a fleet looks for helps you approach the sales conversation in an informed way.
Having an idea of what type of brands, price range, and even which way to present and talk about that inventory to a new fleet are all part of driving a successful sales conversation. Take the necessary time and really dive in to get a true understanding of who you’re dealing with. The data available (RigDig) will take the guesswork out of the sales process and give you a headstart to developing a healthy and successful relationship with fleets that could last for years.