One of the most important roles for a small-business owner is the role of salesperson. No one has the passion, the knowledge of the products and services, and the enthusiasm of the owner. Every limousine operator, from a one-car start-up to a Top 50 industry leader, should develop a simple but polished 10-15 minute sales presentation. That presentation should be refined until it becomes ingrained in your memory.
The following are the basics on developing that presentation, along with some advice from experienced entrepreneurs.
Doing Your Homework Learn as much information as possible about the company you will be visiting. If the company has a Web site, visit and learn. It is extremely impressive when a salesperson can make an appropriate, on-point remark about the company he or she is visiting. Find out the frequency with which they use limousine services and the major destinations they visit. If they have groups of employees traveling to the airport, investigate the feasibility of shared rides or other cost-saving measures. In the current economic climate, it is important that the client understand that you are focusing on cost savings. Make sure you know the names and titles of the people you are meeting with as well as the company hierarchy.
Listening to Your Potential Client An age-old, but still effective, sales technique is listening to your prospect. Ask the person some simple questions before your meeting. Find out what is important to each potential client. For example, a company executive may decide to switch limousine companies because he found himself in the back of a vehicle that was speeding. In this instance, your presentation needs to focus on your continuous training program, your safety record and the attention you give to monitoring your chauffeurs. A company may require bilingual chauffeurs to handle their visitors. In this case, you may bring one of your bilingual chauffeurs to the presentation. You may have met the CEO of the company and you realize that he is a very tall man. Your fleet of Executive series L Lincolns would be an item to mention in the beginning of your presentation.
Developing the “Compelling Reasons” to Use Your Company Limousine service is not a rare or unusual item to purchase from a vendor. Even in the smallest metropolitan areas in the country, there are usually multiple providers who will deliver good service. Every entrepreneur making a sales call needs to be able to quickly and decisively answer a simple question: “Why should we do business with you?” The answer may be, “Our office is staffed 24 hours a day. We have an almost perfect 11-year safety record, our vehicles are garaged and all are less than two model years old.”
Tom Mulligan, president of Metropolitan Limousine, has been selling limousine service for the last 30 years. He started as a one-car, home-based operator and his business has grown to a 50-plus vehicle fleet with an emphasis on high-end business travelers. “I always disagreed with limousine companies that sell their service by showing you rows of shiny vehicles,” Mulligan says. “We don’t want to ever be in a position to have a row of shiny cars. Our vehicles are on the street in service to our clients. And the vehicles in your picture could be from your Cadillac dealer.”
Mulligan uses his company’s obvious strengths as his compelling reasons to buy. “We have a 30-year track record of success in the business,” he says. “We have the flexibility to handle changes and last-minute reservations and we have a money-back service guarantee. What we are selling to potential clients is an entire team dedicated to service, not a shiny car.”
Marc Shpilner, president of Limousine 18 in suburban Boston, is a mid-sized operator (18 vehicles) who uses his size to differentiate his company from large competitors such as BostonCoach or Carey International. “I always emphasize to a potential client that they will get to know our faces quickly,” Shpilner says. “We have a stable group of chauffeurs and internal staff. They will develop relationships, and everyone in my company will have a direct connection with them.”
Shpilner believes his fleet, plus a strong group of independent operators affiliated with Limousine 18, gives his company the power of a larger operator. “It is the best of both worlds for our corporate clients. They get the fleet capacity of a large operator coupled with the personal service of a small company.”
Shpilner believes the “compelling reasons” have changed during the 14 years he has been in the industry. “It used to be, everything was geared to your fleets. It was all about the year of each of your vehicles. The year and condition of your vehicles are still very important, but the most important item now is your company itself. Your ability to respond quickly, the quality and experience of your chauffeurs, your ability to quickly and correctly invoice. These items are very important.”
Handling the Objections The No. 1 objection that will probably come up is cost of services. “Why are you so expensive?” Mulligan says you must be prepared to answer this line of questioning. “In our case, we are a high-end service provider which, we hope, mirrors a fine hotel,” he says. “We lay out the reasons we may be more expensive. We have excellent equipment and the best chauffeurs in the business. We are a true 24-hour company. We have a thorough training program and a number of other items that require a huge financial commitment.”
Shpilner says the price objection must be handled quickly and with an attitude devoid of emotion. “There are Ritz-Carlton Hotels and $49 motor lodges. We attempt to deliver luxury service, and luxury service is more costly to deliver. Price objections are always a part of my day. There is nothing to do but smile, state your case and move on.”
One of the objections Mulligan anticipates is about the relatively large size of his operation. Potential clients may fear a lack of personal attention. “I tell a potential corporate client up-front that we will assign them a personal account manager,” he says. “They will have one person to call who will be fully accountable to them.”
Selling Non-Traditional Parts of Your Service What is important to the back- seat passenger may not be important to the person you are meeting with, i.e., the “decision-maker.” Obtaining timely, accurate, easy-to-read bills may be a huge factor in selecting a new limousine service.
Mulligan says, “Your sales call may be with a senior administrative assistant who is responsible for keeping track of executive travel charges. He or she may not care if The Wall Street Journal is in the vehicle, but they most certainly care that you have a billing department that can handle their account.”
Shpilner says, “Safety, training, drug testing, criminal background checks, all of these are non-traditional items that have become more important to corporate clients. The fact that in our company, we have a huge percentage of experienced chauffeurs is a big selling tool. We don’t have drivers with a map book on the seat next to them. We have experienced chauffeurs who know the area.”
Providing References This is a very tricky part of any sales presentation. A quality limousine service will have an abundance of customers who would be happy to provide a glowing reference. But one of the cornerstones of professional chauffeured transportation is discretion. Some clients do not want to advertise the fact that they use your services for a variety of reasons. Some companies unnecessarily upset good clients by continually using them as references.
Mulligan believes it is unprofessional to discuss his clients or to identify client companies even as references. He recently refused a request from a local television station to comment on the death of one of his long-time clients. “They wanted me to tell stories about this gentlemen, but I just felt a responsibility to maintain his privacy.” When asked directly for references Mulligan often encourages potential clients to visit his offices. “I want them to see us in action and meet the great staff we have developed.”
Shpilner will give out references when asked, but he is cautious. “It only happens a few times a year and I call the client directly to inform them we will use them as a reference. We would never use the same client over and over. It would be invasive.” Asking for the Sale The biggest mistake that salesmen make is not asking for the sale. The great sales trainer Zig Ziglar says: “Half the salesmen in the world are presenters. They make a presentation, then they leave. Ask them for the business.” Shpilner always asks for the sale before he leaves the sales call. “If I feel I have handled the objections and the meeting has gone well, I ask if there are any trips I can book on the spot. I believe strongly in Limousine 18 and our ability to deliver great service. It would be ridiculous not to ask directly for the sale.”
Following Up After the Sales Call The second biggest mistake salesmen make is ... for more on this topic, check out the January issue of LCT magazine.