Running a Shop Sales+Marketing Selling+Closing More Jobs

The Keys to Closing More Jobs

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Sales is the one thing that has come most naturally to me and the one I still enjoy the most to this day. As our staff grew and added estimators, my role in direct sales diminished for many years, but that is starting to change. 

When I first started my shop I was the sales force. And the bookkeeper. And the office manager. And occasionally even the detailer. But as the years went on, I would strategically create a process for those roles, hire someone to do it and then (most of the time) hold them accountable to do the job. 

Sales was actually something I gave up pretty early on by hiring an estimator and managers. But I missed the sales side, the people side. I missed talking to people who often had a great story about how the accident happened. Hundreds and hundreds of interesting stories. And hundreds and hundreds of cars and trucks that needed our services. Getting them on the calendar was always such a thrill for me. 

Fast forward to last week. I have a great team in place and the shop can basically run without me—often better when I’m not there. Now, for the first time in the history of my business, I have a sales team. It’s small. It’s just an estimator and a receptionist who has demonstrated a lot more capacity than just answering phones. And then there’s me. 

As of last week, I’m stepping back into sales, but this time more as a sales manager. With this transition, and as I prepare to train the fledgling team, I’ve been asking myself: What have I learned about selling through the last 11 years? Here’s my top advice for owners and estimators who want to grow their business through more sales. This is in no particular order and some of it is repetitive and overlaps on itself. That is by design.

Create conversations and experiences, not just transactions. Nobody wants to feel like a number or a task. Make each person who comes through the door feel important, and the sale will take care of itself. There are environmental ways to make your selling more experiential, like offering a beverage of some kind. 

Begin with empathy. Ask great questions and really listen to what they say. Look people in the eye when they are talking. Ask follow-up questions. Demonstrate genuine concern.

Be memorable. What can you do to stand out from a crowded marketplace? It’s likely the person sitting in front of you may already have other estimates and is trying to decide where to take their car. What can you do to stand out? How about a well-designed cover sheet with information about your shop? Make sure to add color and photos to it if possible. At least use a different color paper than white. 

Offer more than an estimate. Do they have a lot of paint transfer that could easily be buffed off? After getting photos, offer a free buff and wash while you’re writing the estimate. Is the bent fender making it hard to get the driver’s door open? Spoon it for free so they don’t have to keep crawling over the seat to get in. Those extra few minutes spent helping will make you stand out dramatically.

Make a friend. Don’t just talk about the car. If you notice their shirt has a sports-related logo on it, mention it. If you see that the license plate is from another state, ask about what brought them to town. 

Follow up. I always ask at the end, “Would you like us to hold a spot on our calendar next week for the repair?” If they say no for any reason, I don’t assume it’s final. A follow-up email or phone call about 24 hours later will again show them that you really want the job. That simple follow-up has landed us hundreds of jobs I’m convinced we would have missed. 

Ask for what you want. It’s amazing how many times estimators will just assume the customer knows what is next and will just reach out when they are ready. People like to be asked. Not coerced, but simply asked. 

Listen at least twice as much as you talk. Ask great questions. Then listen. Then ask another question about what they just said. This is how you deepen the conversation. It is not difficult. Just get curious about them. People love to talk about what matters to them. Follow your curiosity.  

Have a higher purpose than revenue. Money is not a higher purpose. If you’re only target is revenue growth and that is not tied to a higher value, you won’t stay motivated for the long haul. 

I’m well aware that most of this is simply common sense, but common sense does not mean common practice. When we develop habits in all these fundamental areas and have the discipline to follow them on a consistent basis, well, that is where the magic happens. 

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