5 Steps to Presenting Your Brand
Over 79 percent of body shop operators surveyed in the 2019 FenderBender Industry Survey said they predicted their shop sales will grow in the next five years.
And, one way to do so is with outside sales visits.
Outside sales visits may be fairly common among collision repair shops, but the technique utilized in each visit typically differs for every shop.
Jason Borth, manager for Fix Auto Collision, Courtenay, B.C., says that he conducts monthly sales visits—but could stand to do even more.
In order to stand out from others in the industry and present his shop’s brand as unique, Borth created a special item, a hand-painted garbage can, to give away during visits.
Now, it’s up to the body shop to make that first contact with insurance and make sure that visit captures the company’s attention so their customers get referred to the body shop, Borth says.
Jon Parmentier, owner of CARSTAR, Wentzville, Bridgeton, and Overland in the St. Louis, Mo., area, also says he looked into a way to differentiate his shop when it came to outside sales visits. Parmentier says he aims for within 15 percent of the shops sales to come from outside sales visits. In 2017, Parmentier branched out into offering more services like continuing education classes and now instructs such courses.
Borth and Parmentier dive into how to follow five steps to promote your brand to the best of your ability during an outside sales visit.
Step 1: Narrow down frequency.
Borth says he tries to do his sales rounds every couple of months. He does his rounds but he doesn’t visit everyone at once in each round because he doesn’t want to bombard people with too many visits.
“You shouldn’t overwhelm anyone [on the rounds] that doesn’t follow you and doesn’t like you,” Borth says.
The relationships are important to foster, Borth says. He visits each individual agent and parts supplier himself, and invite insurance agents to big broker meetings and to have brief conversations.
Parmentier says he also tries not to pester anyone on his visits. In that spirit, he schedules outside sales visits carefully, conducting visits quarterly.
“I typically try to communicate through email [in between visits] and not bother the companies,” Parmentier says.
Step 2: Narrow down how long to stay.
Borth only stays for about 30 minutes or less at each vendor, supplier and insurance agent. In each sales call, he places emphasis on what the shop does to repair vehicles and why they do it.
Parmentier says he prefers to spend time with the vendors, suppliers and insurance companies when he’s at a networking event like a golf fundraiser. Typically, he doesn’t go to outside vendors’ offices unless he is invited first.
“I’ve recognized that, especially if you’re calling on an insurance agent, they don’t like people cold-calling them,” he says. “I just will pop in now and then and ask if they have any continuing education classes coming up.”
Instead, Parmentier suggests spending a little more time on the sales visits when it’s in a laid-back social setting.
Step 3: Narrow down how to go the extra mile.
The way to sales visit success for Borth comes from him bringing in treats like custom-made pastries.
He says it’s more important to offer something that has a special touch to it and not to just bring in a standard box of donuts. Instead, present an item that’s customized. His old boss presented pie plates and custom pies during the visits, for example.
Parmentier says he typically brings useful items that people can use like notepads and pens. Then, he always leaves a branded business card. Sometimes he brings in little items like candy or cookies, but he says the most well-received items are notepads or pens, which have the added benefit of leaving a fairly lasting impression.
Parmentier has also offered continuing education classes for two years.
“No shop close to me does it,” Parmentier says. “I like the feeling of having a personal touch to their process and the feeling of giving them credibility.”
Step 4: Narrow down the personal touch.
As a way to display the shop’s brand in a unique fashion, during Christmastime Borth delivers a hand-painted trash can during his sales calls.
Borth’s business partner is a painter and he paints the cans with the shop’s logo and a fun design. Not only are the cans a personal touch, but Borth says that vendors also often display them in their front offices, which effectively spreads the shop’s branding message. The idea came from his business partner, who made similar designs as a side hobby for a local charity.
“Our vendors are always kind of blown away that we thought of this idea,” Borth says.
Borth says he decided to go the way of the trash cans because most other shops’ giveaways note the fact that they’ve attained I-CAR Gold status, or that they have multiple OEM certifications, so he wanted something different.
In recent years, Parmentier has spent time making the networking events, like golf, fun for his outside sales visits. He has hosted charity golf fundraisers, and is able to meet other local business owners at such events. At the end of the events, Parmentier says he gives all the money he collected back to the charity.
The process has snowballed, and now Parmentier gets calls all the time from other people in the community who want him to help host a fundraiser. They ask him to host the event, he doesn’t have to pay for it, and he can advertise his own shop while there.
Step 5: Narrow down the message.
Borth says that if the shop operator has no ideas for something to give away that displays the shop’s brand, the shop operator should focus on the message they’re delivering.
He says to focus on presenting what makes your shop unique. For example, tell the insurance company or supplier about the shop’s equipment and training background. Emphasize how the shop stays on top of the current repair trends and maintains a clean environment.
“The sales visit is about presenting the image to them about what your shop can do before you get them through the door to wow them,” Borth says.
Parmentier encourages shop owners to get involved in community groups like the chamber of commerce because it will help get the shop’s name get noticed in the area.
“Start getting on boards and volunteering your time,” he says. “People will start to notice who you are and what you do.”