Tuesday, 09 June 2015 00:00

How to Hire the Best Body Shop Marketing People

Written by Tom Franklin

Collision repair shop owners are mainly in the people business. The days of one-man shops are long gone. Every shop has employees, and most have technicians specialized in body, paint, structural and more. The typical shop owner came up through these ranks and is sufficiently knowledgeable about the details to hire competent workers. But marketing is different. Few shop owners come from a background in sales or marketing, and only fairly affluent shops can afford to hire personnel solely for marketing and sales. But that doesn't mean the need isn't there. To survive today every shop needs to bring in new customers and that means reaching out with sales and marketing.  And it may mean that some employees have to do double duty. Generally that means estimators and front desk people, but it could include the parts guy and even some unusually communicative technicians.

It could also mean hiring from a different point of view. For example, a shop may generally hire an attractive lady for the front desk who is friendly and can handle the paperwork. A recent article entitled "Build a Killer Team" in the June issue of Inc Magazine quoted a co-founder of a company that requires every employee to "work reception once a month." Many businesses have found that rotating employees through public contact jobs on a regular basis keep them in touch with prospective customers' real priorities. Ideally a shop owner or manager might want to simply rotate the estimators through the front desk position regularly, but if there aren't enough estimators to do that, the front desk person should be treated as a key new business developer for the shop and paid accordingly.

While hiring practices vary greatly by industry, methods of interviewing and evaluating prospective employees are relatively consistent. Some frequent suggestions include giving all your candidates the same interview with a standard set of questions that you ask all candidates. They say using the same questions in each interview gives you greater control of the situation by preventing a clever interviewee from hiding pertinent information.

Questions should also test an applicant's ability to think quickly. For example a good salesperson should be able to handle the unanticipated and to meet challenges with confidence. Although an applicant knows you will check references, you should ask, "When I call your references, what will he or she tell me about your past performance?" This emphasis on reference checks might help avoid prospect exaggeration. If you have a trusted employee already performing similar tasks, you might consider having him or her sit in on the interview to help you determine if the candidate truly has what it takes to mesh with the existing team.

Dealerships hire new people much more frequently than body shops, and sales people are their most frequent new hires. DealerRefresh.com specifies how most dealerships look for new prospects and evaluate prospective hires. They say  50% of the most successful companies have given up on job boards. Social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are cheaper and more effective. They also say people hired by referral are 47% more likely to stick around after three years, compared to 14% for job-board applicants. They say cash bonuses are the best way to get current employees to refer others.  Start by notifying current employees.  If the job pays well, employees will often brag about how much they love their work and attract others to your business.  You could also offer a bonus to customers who refer others.  Everybody knows somebody looking for a job.

Suppliers are another possible source of prospects. There could be someone good they know of who's burned out at their present job and needs a change. This is an especially wise method for finding good help because your suppliers won't recommend a dud. Their reputation with you would be ruined and they might lose your business.

So what are the qualities and skills a collision shop applicant should possess? The Inc Magazine article again reported several bosses that watched for a job applicant's tendency to mainly talk and self-promote, as opposed to asking questions and carefully listening with follow-up questions.   Another tactic suggested is to have prospective employees do some "homework." For a collision repair shop this could be having them write a list of the questions they think would most effectively get a prospective customer to reveal what they value most in a body shop. And would most likely get them to come back and refer the shop to a friend. Any position dealing with the public requires the ability to ask questions and get key answers. This can take time, but the cost of hiring another person to ask and listen may be far less than losing prospective customers.

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