At the same time, the competition for jobs is heating up more and more, and consolidators are buying up many of the existing shops. The result of this is sort of a Walmart versus local merchants war. Smaller shops are finding it much harder to compete when a chain of franchise or consolidator shops is gobbling up the lion’s share of the work in an area. How can they fight back?
When I go around to smaller shops, I see a major difference in the way they see the estimator’s role. Often the estimator still has the old viewpoint that it’s only necessary to write an estimate when a customer comes in and to get that person to leave the keys for the shop to do the job. In a chain of corporate-oriented shops, the estimator usually has a different role altogether. I would be inclined to now call that job a ‘collision repair sales representative.’ Yes, the estimator still has to sell the customer on leaving his or her car, but much more is often required.
I’ve taken the liberty of writing up an estimator job description that encompasses most of what could be expected of an estimator today. It is true that in a larger shop, front desk people and customer service representatives may cover many of the elements I’ve listed. But I’ve found that even in some smaller shops that are part of a chain, the estimator may still have to perform the tasks of sales, customer follow-up, seeking customer referrals and more. For independent shops and shops like these, this could be a reliable guide:
Collision Repair Sales Representative Job Description
• Primary duty: To show a customer the estimated cost and time of repair and to close the sale with the customer signing an authorization and leaving the keys to the vehicle.
• Add-on sales: Estimator may see an opportunity to offer a specialty item, like running board or other item for a handicapped person, car seat for a child, animal restraint for a pet, or tinted glass, special lights, tires, rims, spoilers, etc. for cosmetic improvements.
• Secondary key duty: Using the customer information form to discover follow-up and referral job information, like other vehicles in the family (especially young drivers and their vehicles), company vehicles at the customer's work place, and other possible vehicle repair needed.
• Additional key duty: Using the customer information form to identify dates and times to re-contact the customer and maintain a long-term relationship. This can include birthdays, anniversaries, confirmations, graduations, and more. Inquiry should also be made about membership in a club, association or other group activity where the shop could provide promotional items.
• Delivery of completed vehicle: Whenever possible, the estimator should deliver the vehicle to the customer and use this opportunity to ask again about other family, friend and company vehicles that may need repair.
• Follow-up calls: Keeping the customer advised of progress on the vehicle while in for repairs and refinishing. Also a follow-up call within thirty days after the repair to determine customer’s degree of satisfaction. If not fully satisfied, customer can be invited to come back and have repaired area buffed and polished.
• Prospecting for customers during slow times: Calling customers on dates and times of events as noted, like birthdays, anniversaries, confirmations, graduations, and more. A general follow-up call should be made at one-year, two-year and three-year intervals. Call should always include an inquiry about the condition of all family and company vehicles.
Why Good Salespeople Are Rare
I’ve found in many companies where sales people are highly valued and highly rewarded, there is often an attitude among other personnel that sales people are pampered too much and paid too highly for what they do.
It’s been my experience that effective sales people have an unusual talent and skill that not many people possess. The best sales people are aggressive without being offensive. They are empathetic without being timid or subdued. They’re able to persist in a pleasant way until they achieve their objective. While many people are reluctant to reach out and take command, the effective sales person is never reluctant to step up and ask for the job or the order. Without someone who possesses that forceful sales element, many shops and companies would not survive.