Volume 9, Issue 2 - March/April/May 2007

How to find NEW customers
By Bob Theriot Jr.

As an auto glass replacement and repair business owner or manager, you know how difficult it is to find new customers. 

There are countless things that you may be doing right now to find new customers. Maybe you advertise on the radio or you spend most of your marketing budget on your local yellow page ad. None of these things are wrong. In fact, my company places very large yellow page ads in most of the six markets where we conduct business. I believe that radio advertising is a great avenue for auto glass businesses. My company has had a great deal of success with these two media and I encourage you to keep doing what works best for your business.

If youíre a start-up auto glass company or have limited resources allocated to your marketing budget to find new customers, then I recommend one thing above all else. Lace up your sales shoes and start pounding the pavement. In my opinion, there is nothing better than face-to-face sales in order to gain new clients. I know that most people have a fear of cold calling or walking into a business and asking to speak to the decision-maker. But the truth is that dollar-for-dollar there is no better form of direct advertising. 

You know your trade better than anyone, and if you canít afford to have a salesperson on your staff, then the next best person to get the job done right is you. Hire yourself to be your own salesperson. 

The First Steps
What steps should you take? First, you must plan accordingly. Second, you must prepare. Why? Because you only have 60 seconds to make a good first impression. 

Iím sure youíve heard the old saying about the first impression being the most important one. Well itís true. When a prospect decides to do business with you, itís usually within the first minute of meeting you. That prospect may or may not immediately buy from you, but internally he or she has already made a snap judgment about you and your company. If your first impression was good, it will go a long way in making that sale. 

Answer this: What are you really selling every time you go on a sales call? Your response is probably auto glass replacement and repair service. While that is true, first and foremost, before anything else, you are really selling you. What do I mean?

In the sales process, be conscious of the fact that when youíre pitching your product or service, you must first get the prospect to Ďbuyí you. Nine times out of ten, the prospect with whom you meet will not have heard of you or your company. Do not be offended by this, because it is why youíre out selling in the first placeóto bring awareness to what it is your business offers, and does well. 

Always put your best foot forward and show the ethical and moral side of your personality to every prospect you meet. When people are purchasing auto glass services, they want to feel comfortable with the person they do business with. If, for some reason, the client suspects you are dishonest or untrustworthy, you will not get far in the sales process and probably not make the sale. 

Take Advantage
How do you take full advantage of every opportunity you have when meeting a new prospect? By making a good first impression. Iíve come up with seven strategies you can do to make a good and lasting first impression. 

In the end, what you want is to find new customers. Implement and practice these concepts over a period of the next 30 days and watch what happens.

Remember, in the end you want to sell yourself first and the rest of the sales process will follow. Get your prospects to trust you and then your business. Then, and only then, will they become loyal clients. If you prepare yourself with the information Iíve given you, I know you will gain more clients. Keep in mind that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Once you start practicing these concepts, they will become much easier over time. 

7 Strategies to a Good First Impression
Here are seven things you can do to make a good first impression.

1. Be on time. There is no excuse for being late to a meeting. In fact, be 15 minutes early. There is nothing more unprofessional than being late to the first meeting of a possible new client. Remember, this will be the one thing that you can do right out of the gate that will definitely leave a positive imprint in the prospectís mind. The last thing you want him or her to remember about you is waiting 20 minutes for you to show up.
2. Dress appropriately. If youíre meeting the president of a company, wear a suit and tie. If youíre meeting a prospect on the golf course, wear golf apparel. Dress like the person youíll be meeting. Some say that when in doubt, overdress, but Iíd rather you do a little homework first and dress accordingly.
3. Research your prospect and do your homework. For example, enter the personís name into the Google search engine and see what comes up about the person. This can tell you a lot about an individual you probably know very little about. If he or she has been written about in a local newspaper, this information may be made available to you. Try to find out what the prospectís hobbies are and what he does in his spare time. This information can springboard the conversation to business. People like to conduct business with people they have things in common with. So, find some common ground.
4. Pronounce the prospectís name correctly and remember it. This will win you points, especially if the personís name is not easy to pronounce. If you are unsure of how to pronounce the name of the person you will be meeting with, one thing you can do is call the prospectís office and ask to speak to the person. Go out of your way to say the personís name incorrectly when you ask for him or her. The receptionist will usually correct you. If that doesnít happen, ask her to clarify the name for you. 
5. Donít control the conversation. Ask a lot of open-ended questions that require an explanation. For example: Whatís the one thing you have always wanted to do in your business that you havenít done yet? Try not to ask ďyesĒ or ďnoĒ questions.
6. Let the prospect talk about him or herself and donít interrupt. Far too many times Iíve seen people get over zealous and start asking another question before the prospect has finished answering the first one. 
7. Donít name drop, especially if you donít know the person. It is not professional for you to mention the name of an individual during the process of a sales call unless the prospect mentions that person first. If you do, you may give the impression that you know everyone and everyone knows you. This may not be your intention, but the bottom line is that it appears youíre boasting about your business associates or the company you keep. People donít like braggers.

Bob Theriot Jr. is marketing and sales manager for Southwest Auto Glass, an El Paso, Texas-based company that sells auto glass repair and replacement services in west Texas and southern New Mexico. He is the author of a book entitled Pounding the PavementĖTools, Techniques, and Inspiration for Succeeding in Sales.


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