Wednesday, 02 May 2007 11:23

Louisiana parts department believes friendship is the key to gaining new sales relationships

Written by Michelle DeCrescenzo

    On any given day, Mandy Henderling can cover a 120-mile radius surrounding the city of Shreveport, Louisiana. As the outside sales rep for Chevyland, she is focused on securing new business for the parts department, but she also serves a larger purpose. 

   Parts manager Jeral Lawler brought her onboard six months ago to work as both a liaison for the customers in the field and as a way to keep tabs on the competition.
    “By having an outside sales rep you can get feedback on the market and you can get feedback on how good a job you’re doing in the marketplace,” Lawler said. “It’s not just about sales. It’s about keeping a barometer out there in the marketplace. We talk daily about what’s going on out there, who the competition is and what the competition is doing. You have to know your competitor as well as your customers.”
    For Henderling, the role came naturally. With a background in customer service and a father and brother that were always interested in cars, she has confidence in her abilities.
    “I just try to build friendships first, it seems to work better that way,” she said. As a 27-year-old female, Henderling may be an anomaly in the world of collision repair but her professional demeanor and friendly personality score her points with the customers.

    “Mandy is the professional type. She’s professional and she just goes at it the old fashioned way, she just works for her business,” Lawler said. “It’s a people business, she’s out there building relationships.”
    When visiting new shops, Hender-ling aims for consistency with plans to follow up at the same time and day a few weeks later. Customers that hear she is new to the industry are very cordial, she said.
    “They’re really understanding, some of them will sit down with you for 30 minutes and school you on things,” she said.
    Adapting to new situations is a way of life for the Louisiana transplant. Henderling moved there three years ago from Alaska, where she earned her degree.
    “It’s like a different world down here,” she said. “I went from one extreme, really cold to really hot and sticky. The first summer I thought I would suffocate.”
    On the job, situations also arise that call for adaptation. On onel occasion, Henderling personally delivered an engine that didn’t get on a truck, and parts are frequently ordered after deadline, and she has delivered those as well.
    The sales forecast for Chevyland is to reach $5 million in wholesale parts this year. Henderling is focused on getting new business to help achieve that goal. She also informs potential customers of the range of products Chevyland can provide, such as aftermarket sheet metal or the Courtesy Connection co-op which offers parts from a range of makes and models including Ford, Dodge and Honda. The dealership is also an ADI distributor of General Motors Cool Customs, which offers GM accessory parts.
    The biggest goal of Chevyland is to develop the market within the current 120-mile radius, and the work to expand beyond that.
    “Our sales people call five customers a day in front of Mandy so she’s not coming in cold turkey,” Lawler said. “If a customer shows an interest, they will write a note to send Mandy by. So when she goes in they’ve already heard of her. She can handle herself well.”

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