We will now continue our series on retail sales basics. In future articles we will go into more detail on each of these points offering more detailed advice on this important subject.
#16 Always ask the customer where they found you.This is one of the most important things you can do from a marketing / sales perspective. You don’t want to bombard the customer with too many questions when they initially call you though. Just finding out if the dent can be repaired by PDR usually takes a few questions by itself. If the job sounds fixable, and they schedule an appointment, don’t ask them this question until you meet the customer. Try to work it into the conversation instead of asking right at the beginning. If the job doesn’t sound fixable you should still ask the person where they heard about you. You need to keep track of ALL contacts both sales and no sales. If for example you get mostly train wreck calls from your add in the Yellow Pages, you may want to re-think continuing to advertise with them. Always write down the customers response on a tracking sheet. At the end of the month, add up the responses and note where you got the best and worst responses. By the end of the first year, you should have a complete picture of how to adjust your advertising efforts and budget.
#17 Warranty Cards. In my opinion, warranty cards are the best way to keep your business name and contact information in front of your customers when they need your services again, or want to refer you work. It is a proven fact that most people loose business cards within 1 week of the service being performed. It is also a proven fact that most people hang on to warranty cards and put them in a place where they can find them later. I suggest the glove box of the vehicle, and try and get the customer to put it there or let them see you put it there. Make sure the customer reads and signs it. This will help to imprint the card on the customers memory.
These days, people expect warranties, and it's a great way of putting your business above the competition. Most dent companies put disclaimers on their invoices about not being responsible for damaged or cracked paint. If your doing retail you should be at the level where cracking paint problems are a thing of the past. So if a customer tells you that another PDR company will do it cheaper than you, ask them if that company will guarantee your paint in the damaged area, and will give them a lifetime, transferable warranty on their work covering paint problems in writing? They won't. The odds for any paint problems are almost non existent if you’re a decent tech, but most customers don't know that. I have never had any claims yet from the warranty card I use, but I have lost count of the jobs it has brought me.
#18 Business Cards and Brochures. Use desk top publishing for business cards and brochures for the first 6-12 months you are in business so you can change your info and layout as you need to. These cards and brochures look just like the heavy weight gloss stock materials you get from a printer. Very seldom does a tech feel comfortable with their original printed design on advertising material for very long, and doing them yourself on your computer allows you to make as many changes as often as you want. Once you have your layout nailed down and have seen many positive responses to them from customers, you are ready to have them printed and save some money.
Business cards should be designed to attract the market you are going for. For instance if you want to target professionals, keep the design and info on the card basic. A card with too much info and too gaudy a design is a definite turn off to this market. Brochures should be short and sweet. If they can’t be read in 30 seconds or less they are likely to get thrown out.
For the general public you can use a more flashy card if you wish, but again keep it towards the simple side and avoid cramming it full of slogans etc. Numerous marketing studies have shown that flashy business cards appeal to a younger market but don’t appeal to most others groups.
# 19 What to do when you get customers that find another PDR company that will work cheap, The first thing you do is to NEVER knock the competition! This is always a sign of instability and weakness. Trying to explain the differences between a good and poor quality PDR repair will only get you so far. The best way to sell these customers is with a visual aid, because most people can’t visualize a poor quality repair. Here’s something I’ve been doing for years that works most of the time to give a customer something to see instead of a description of a bad repair. Put two dents in a scrap hood and take one out 100% and the other one to the typical quality that most techs do, which is leave the dent a bit low and wavy. Cut these two sections out of the hood about 6 “ square around the dent. Put door edge moulding around both pieces to prevent cuts. Now when a customer starts talking about low prices, take both panels and put them straight in front of the customer. Explain that each of these panels had a dent that was repaired and ask if they see a difference. They will say no. Now walk a few feet away from the customer and tilt both panels so they are at an angle like they would see walking up to their car. Ask if they can see the difference now. They should be able to clearly see the ghost of the dent still there in the poorly repair panel. Now explain that the dent they can still see is by many techs standards a good repair because no paint was cracked it was just left low and a bit wavy. But notice that the properly repaired dent is gone even from an angle. Ask the customer if they want to still see the dent every time they walk up to their car? Tell them to make sure the other company will make it look good from the side. This works about 3 out of 4 times because the customer now sees what the difference between a good and poor quality PDR repair is. If they do go back to the competition and ask this question they get the “well this process can’t really take them out perfectly” line. It is surprising how many of them will then come back to you after now knowing what a good repair looks like.
#20 Drilling in retail This should of course only be done when needed. Selling a customer on drilling a job when necessary is easy if you do it right. Never just tell a customer you need to drill his vehicle. They have no idea what you mean and it will make them uncomfortable. Most people assume you want to put a hole in the dent to remove it. As is so often the case, you must give them something visual to look at. Take a plug and put it next to the spot you want to drill and say something like "I will need to put a small access hole here for my tools and this is how it will look when it is done." The customer sees the plug next to the area and has a visual idea of how it will look when done and will usually go for it. If the customer still feels uncomfortable about drilling when drilling is needed, tell him the only other option is to possibly take panels apart and / or work a lot harder to get the dent out which of course will cost a lot more. This will usually convince them to let you drill. The only real exceptions are car club people, or high end vehicle owners. Sometimes they have no problem having things taken apart if it means not drilling their "baby".
One note of caution here. If the customer is having you remove the dents because he is selling or trading it and it is a vehicle that would qualify as a certified used vehicle be careful. If the hole is seen by the appraiser, that hole may disqualify the vehicle from being able to be sold as certified used because in many cases it will technically void the vehicles corrosion warranty. If the customer gets penalized thousands of dollars for a hole you drilled, he is probably coming after you legally even if you get his consent to drill in writing. He may claim you did not explain that it would void his corrosion warranty.
Next time we should be finished with the basics of sales and marketing and start going into specifics of different PDR markets.