When there are numerous professionals available in any field, the one factor that makes the difference whether one has work or not is often the willingness to go out and hustle for business. Is this also true of body shops? I believe it is.
The only thing stopping many shop owners and managers is reluctance to get out and sell. This isn’t surprising. Most people aren’t comfortable approaching strangers to solicit favors or business. They know many business people will virtually slam a door in the face of any salesperson. Shop estimators are comfortable “selling” a job when a prospect drives in for an estimate, but it’s a different matter to go out and directly solicit business.
One trick to avoiding the salesperson rejection reaction is to arrive in a different role. Arriving at the door bearing a gift usually works well. Naturally you could stop in to see local business people bringing a small holiday gift during the season (and then take a minute to inquire about the condition of their company’s cars or trucks). Other times of the year, you could stop in with a coupon or gift certificate for a free car wash or detail. This works fine as “the neighborly approach” in your own neighborhood, but it’s a bit of a stretch when you’re canvassing the outlying areas.
Another non-salesperson approach is the survey call. You announce that you’re planning to offer a new service in the area and you’re asking local business people for their opinion before investing in the new service. Your “new” service could be the installation of theft prevention devices like a welded barrier to prevent catalytic converter theft. Or it could be clear bra installation to prevent front-end sand and rock pitting. Or it could simply be rapid small dent repair with paintless dent removal. All you need for this approach is something new to talk about.
A more complex approach that I have used for years is the “reporter” approach. I write newsletters and articles for various businesses, so I can always say that I’d like to interview the business owner to publish the interview in my newsletter. If you write about someone, what can you say?
Psychologist Joyce Brothers says people respond to flattery, reward, guilt and fear, in that order. An article praising a customer or prospective customer is always welcome. And in fact these days, with e-newsletters, it’s not even necessary to go to print, but I still prefer the printed version of a newsletter. Many people like to take something to read while they have lunch or even go to the washroom. Real printed materials always beat out online publications in these instances. You may not have a newsletter in which to publish a newsletter, but if you have some clout with any local publication where you already advertise, you should be able to place an occasional article or interview.
One way to avoid on-the-spot rejection is to set appointments in advance. Unfortunately this can only be accomplished with extensive phone canvassing and can result in even more rejections. Often more can be accomplished with a cold call. When you’re standing right there in the shop or office, it’s harder to throw you out than it is to say, “Don’t come” over the phone. Nevertheless, just because they don’t throw you out, that doesn’t mean you’ll get to talk to anyone except the receptionist. You’ll want to have effective literature and a coupon or special offer to leave for the decision-maker you didn’t get to see.
Since you may actually get to talk to the decision-maker, you’ll want to have a well-practiced sales pitch. No salesperson calls on a prospective customer without a scripted presentation. What you say (or your representative says) should never be left to chance or spur of the moment, off-the-cuff statements. An easy approach to preparing a presentation is to turn on a tape recorder and do a practice presentation to a business associate, friend or professional consultant who could offer helpful suggestions. Ideally you should have a one-minute, five-minute and ten-minute presentation to be ready for unpredictable situations. When you play the tape back, you should hear points that need changing. Change them and record the presentation again. Listen again and change it again and again if necessary. In a real conversation, it’s unlikely you’ll use your presentation exactly as practiced, but having the prior preparation almost guarantees that you’ll present most of your key points effectively.
The reason most people resist making sales calls is lack of preparation. With a well-practiced sales presentation and well-designed literature to leave if necessary, you’ll have sufficient confidence that you’re ready to promote your business to any prospect. That confidence, along with your certainty that your shop provides excellent quality, will communicate to most prospects and you may be surprised at how many take you up on your offer to provide them with your superior collision repair services.
Tom Franklin has been a sales and marketing representative and consultant for forty years and is the author of the books, “Business Battlefield Marketing for Body Shops,” “Tom Franklin’s Top 40 Marketing Tactics for Body Shops,” and “Strategies for Greater Body Shop Growth.” His marketing company now provides marketing solutions and services for body shops and other businesses. He can be reached for questions or comments at (323) 871-6862, by fax at (323) 465-2228, or by E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.