• 2 August 2020

The need for speed – texting as prospecting

Using WhatsApp as a prospecting and sales tool is already well entrenched, especially in urban areas, but have the underlying sales practices changed?

Andrew Egan, head of SALESDRIVE
Andrew Egan, head of SALESDRIVE
Andrew Egan, head of SALESDRIVE

“You could argue that the same steps, like making contact, establishing trust, learning what the customer really wants, and closing the sale are the same. You have simply replaced the phone line or handshake with that little green icon on your phone,” says Andrew Egan, head of SALESDRIVE.

“But WhatsApp brings with it certain intricacies, and your lead runs the risk of getting cold much, much faster than when you have a personal relationship with the prospect.”

Indeed, Egan says that their market research shows that a sales prospect can grow cold within 24 hours or less if it’s not attended to on WhatsApp.

Egan explains that WhatsApp (or tools like Messenger, DM on Twitter and Telegram) are so easy to use that it helps customers to easily overcome their initial inertia. In other words, getting up from the couch and driving to the dealer is now simply picking up your cell and texting a salesperson or marketing line.

But that also means that customers are not necessarily fully engaged or fully convinced that they should buy that car.

“In this first exploratory stage, the prospect is on the front foot, and the salesperson has to quickly and firmly respond to take control of the process. Assume you are not the only salesperson to have received a text and react quickly and positively,” says Andrew.

Andrew also suggests that you have a lot of material ready on the range of cars you sell. YouTube video links, pictures and write-ups that sing the car’s praises should be shared quickly and freely (see article on knowledge as trust).

“Keep in mind that you are now on their phone, a platform where you have to compete against all the family WhatsApp groups, Twitter, Facebook and who knows what else. Keep their attention and pull them towards filling in an application,” says Egan.

Unfortunately, your task is not finished when you get the WhatsApp prospect to request an application. Now, says Egan, is the highest risk of letting the prospect grow cold.

First, applicants may see the forms and feel overwhelmed and rather leave the process altogether. Other prospects may be less comfortable with English or the legalese that is standard fare on these application forms.

“Take over the whole process,” says Egan. “Fill in the forms on their behalf. Even if this means you have to spend extra time on your phone to explain terms and help them to sign. Don’t leave this stage to a WhatsApp prospect!”

Even after this, there is still a high risk that the prospect’s name will not appear on the board.

“There is a high risk that a prospect will simply use your approval to shop around elsewhere. Now you have to dig into your sales training skills to keep the customer engaged, to keep him or her excited about the car and to close the sale,” says Egan.

“Using WhatsApp can turn out to be more effort than dealing with a customer in a face-to-face situation, but it can also widen your prospecting net beyond your immediate town or area,” says Egan.