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The benefits of a ‘volunteer sales force’

Selling boats sure ain’t as easy as it once was. Every salesperson who is successful these days has worked harder than ever to close each deal.

So when those wonderful times come along when a happy customer has actually recommended you to a friend, the process is made easier and the odds of success vastly improved.

That’s why author Rob Fuggetta focuses on the importance of turning your best customers into your “volunteer sales force” in his book “Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers Into a Powerful Marketing Force.” Here are a few tips:

1. It starts with knowing which customers are your best customers. They are the ones who respond with a 9 or 10 when asked: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our company or product?” You want to recruit customers who clearly demonstrate enthusiasm for your dealership and the product(s) they’ve purchased from you.

2. Ask these customers to consider writing testimonials, not necessarily about the product per se, but personal stories about the good times they’re having. Ask them to share how the kids are enjoying tubing or fishing. How about noting a particular time when the service department came through above and beyond. Testimonials like these are much more powerful as sales tools than product reviews because they tend to stick in people’s minds, explains Fuggetta. That doesn’t mean product reviews shouldn’t be pursued.

3. Invite these customers to post reviews on social media, if applicable, and especially on your website in a special section dedicated to that. Such reviews have a positive impact on prospective buyers who are more influenced by the opinions of other users than any advertising. According to Fuggetta, around 20 percent of the customers who rate you 9 or 10 will actually write a review if asked.

4. Have your top customers answer questions asked by prospects. At first blush, this one made me a bit nervous. Fear not. After reflection, I realized we’re talking about only the very top customer(s) who are willing to do this, customer(s) who are passionate about helping prospects experience the same fun they’re enjoying. Fuggetta suggests putting a banner on your website reading: "Got a question? Ask a customer!" When a prospect clicks on the banner, the website sends the question to you and your brand advocate(s), with the latter being the one(s) to answer whenever possible.

I believe every dealership has some customers who are genuinely enthusiastic about you and the products you represent. Seek them out. When it comes to having influence on others, a “volunteer sales force” like this can be a powerful force.

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