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Believe me, please, when I confess that I understand the psychology and emotions that drive the highs and lows of showroom sales.  Your soul hangs in a valley on slow days yet soars into heaven the moment a fresh up drives onto the lot.

I’ve been there. I’ve lived that, and after all these years I still breathe car sales.

Since those days, however, I’ve learned a few new ideas about selling cars. One of the best tips I can pass along is this: Focus on the hot 40 if you want to succeed and succeed big.

I have been teaching for some time that a dealership’s hottest prospects are those existing customers who have purchased within the last 24 to 36 months and would love to buy a new vehicle from the dealership if they could make the money factor work in their favor.

I’m not sure my message is being taken seriously in our industry, except for those dealers who have taken me up on this sales strategy.

These dealers are indeed selling an additional dozen or more vehicles a month they otherwise likely would not except for their pursuit of their dealership’s own hot 40. Now, a new study by Maritz Research adds third-party credibility to this assertion. This is from that research:

  • “One year after purchasing a new vehicle, 40 percent of customers are already thinking about their next purchase, even if it is a few years away.”

Maritz points out that one of the reasons these opportunities exist is dealers aren’t going after them.

“Dealers aren’t thinking beyond the sale,” Maritz notes. “After dealerships closed the deal on a new vehicle, one in five people say they were not contacted right after the purchase.”

If you’re still with me, here is what I hope you also see in this information:

  1. Revisit your customer follow up practices. Hold sales associates accountable for instigating and pursuing ongoing customer communications from the time of sale until the customer buys again. If not already in practice, consider integrating a CRM system into your sales follow up processes. This automation will take some of the work out of customer follow up and help ensure that is done correctly, properly and consistently.
  2. Target your hot 40. Use data analysis to identify the 40 percent of customers in your database who are in market today – and use this data to create offers that trip their buy-now buttons to add from five to 10 or more sales a month to customers you never imaged were ready to buy from you again so soon!

Did you catch that? After just one year of purchasing from you, your customers are already thinking about their next new car!

We often falsely conclude that even though these customers may be thinking about their next vehicle they couldn’t possibly really be interesting in buying again now; didn’t they just buy from us 12 to 18 months ago?

It’s time to break this traditional, and limiting, thinking about car sales. Your hot 40 are waiting for your phone calls that will gently lift them out of their current vehicle and if possible place them in the ride they’d rather drive now or need now. You’ll sell them because you can do them this great favor for about the same payment they’re now paying for an older model!

The right data-analysis software and the right problem solving (and non-car-sales language) phone scripts can make even a green pea successful selling to your hot 40. Recognize that these customers would like to be in the market for a new vehicle today – if the economics would work in their favor. That is, if they could move up into a newer vehicle or get a different model, color or options, for a similar payment to what they are making currently.

These customers frequently share these characteristics:

  • They paid too much for the model they just bought, either due to an aggressive presentation they accepted, the time of the month they bought, and the lease or finance rates at the time.
  • They bought the wrong car, either color, body style or other feature that is no longer desired or acceptable after a few motoring miles. Uncomfortable seats or poor visibility for one of the drivers of the vehicle is an example.
  • They are the kind of buyer who would love to drive the latest model if feasible financially.
  • There has been a lifestyle change, like job loss, new family member or other situation that makes it desirable for the customer to want a different vehicle or payment schedule.

Remember, most people like instant gratification. So, if you can put them into a new vehicle without causing any significant financial burden they likely will entertain any reasonable offer.

About the author: Jeff Cotton is Vice President and Co-Founder of AutoAlert, Inc., a leading customer database analysis and sales strategies company. He is a former sales professional with Fletcher Jones Motor Cars. Contact him at and visit


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Tags: auto, autoalert, cotton, data, drive, in, jeff, mining, sales, service


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