The usual sale in a collision repair shop is just getting the owner of a vehicle who brings it into the shop is leave the keys and let the shop do the repairs. But generally a shop also works to sell dealerships, fleet management companies, insurance companies and more on referring business to the shop. While these sales efforts involve direct calls and visits, perhaps the most common violation of this rule is the sale to the vehicle owner who comes in for an estimate.
Back in the ‘90s, I visited a shop where the owner said he had a nearly foolproof method of capturing prospects that came in for an estimate and didn’t leave the vehicle. He had a series of postcards he sent out after the prospect left. The first simply invited the prospect to come back and emphasized the shop’s superior cycle time, paint quality, customer satisfaction and more. The next offered some freebees, like a detail or wash. And the next offered a financial consideration, like a lower rate if it was self-pay or perhaps a rebate on insurance jobs. He said he captured nearly half of those he lost when they came in. In today’s digital world where snail-mail is viewed as too slow to be of value, an immediate e-mail or Facebook or Twitter message might be more effective. But how many shops stop after the first, second or third message, if they send anything at all. And of those that follow up with a phone call, how many even go to a third call?
A lot of guys might say six calls would be ridiculous. But might there be a good reason to make those six calls? Last year I wrote about the lifetime value of a repeat customer. I figured that in 15 years a driver might have a reason to visit the shop three-to-five times and generate at least $5,000 worth of business. In a shop that depends heavily on repeat business, this should be reason enough to make the calls or send messages.
When it comes to making the calls, the old nemesis of sales people might come into play. It’s well-known the biggest obstacle to persisting in sales is fear of rejection. An estimator may feel that fifth or sixth call will just annoy the prospective customer and do more harm than good. If the follow-up calls are just repeats of the ones before and lack any new reason to call, indeed, the prospect could get annoyed and hang-up the phone. It’s true. No call at all is better than a totally unplanned call with no strategic reason in mind. To make the six-call strategy work, every one of the calls must have a specific purpose that rings true to the prospective customer.
Like the shop owner that sent follow-up postcards, the first few calls should follow the same pattern: emphasizing the shop’s superior cycle time, paint quality, and customer satisfaction. The next call could offer some freebees, like a free rental car, a detail or wash. And the next could offer a financial consideration. But at this point, if there is still no sale, the next calls have to take the push to an entirely new level.
Once again, in my previous article, I quoted marketing guru Jay Abraham who says: “Until you identify and understand exactly how much combined profit a client represents to your business for the life of that relationship, you can’t begin to know how much time, effort and ... expense you can afford to invest to acquire that client in the first place.”
At some point you have to ask yourself, how much would it be worth to get this customer for a lifetime? Some shops buy jobs from tow-truck drivers. Some shops pay dealerships a monthly fee to get their work. How much would you be willing to pay the customer to get his or her business for life?
That fourth, fifth or sixth call can’t be just another “canned presentation.” At this point there has to be enough on the table to really capture the prospect’s attention. For example, you might ask him or her if someone at work or among family and friends also needs body work on a vehicle. If so, it could be feasible to offer this prospect half price or less if one of the other vehicles also comes in for repair. Here is shot at getting several lifetime customers. Once you’ve gone beyond the basic three calls, these next three calls must be creative and build on the prospect’s ego or desire for the best possible deal.