Several SEMA Show attendees gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Nov. 3 for the Sales Training for Estimators information session, presented by Jim Saeli of Management Success, Kareem Abouzeid of Knockout Collision Repair and Dino Di Giulio of Body Best Collision Center.
The presentation was part of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists Repairer Driven Education Sessions at the 2017 SEMA Show.
The session opened with a discussion of a shop estimator’s job. It was stressed that estimators are responsible for bringing in a high volume of profitable, approved estimates into the shop, which requires the achievement of several key tasks.
These tasks include bringing customers into the shop, maintaining customer satisfaction so that repair work is authorized and new customers come in via satisfied customers’ word-of-mouth promotion of the shop, writing complete repair estimates and working with insurance companies in a way that balances getting work approved while pleasing them enough to encourage customers back to the shop.
Part of ensuring customer satisfaction is understanding that customers want the quickest solutions to their collision repair issues, even when those solutions are not truly in their best interest. Saeli said it is the estimator’s job to resist those requests to perform the fastest solution, and ensure that the time is taken to perform the necessary steps to perform a safe, proper repair.
“The first step [to make this happen] is building trust,” Saeli said. “They do this by both listening and asking questions.”
Saeli elaborated on the value of listening to the customer, explaining that customers like people who seem genuinely friendly and interested in them. This builds the trust and confidence shop owners want them to have in both the shop owner/estimator and the work the shop performs.
Listening to customers’ questions will also help the estimator lead the conversation toward getting them to bring their car to the estimator’s shop.
“If [the customer] has shopped around a little bit, they already know what questions to ask, or they will give out some information that can be really valuable [toward] figuring out what’s going to help them, and help you get the job,” Abouzeid said. “They may say, ‘What’s really important is that I get OEM parts on the vehicle.’ That’s the kind of information that you can fish around for and ask for. If you’re not paying attention and you just assume you know what they want and need and what’s important to them, you can spend a lot of time…versus really listening to what they have to say. They give you the key to what it takes to provide them with what they need to make a good decision.”
The presenters then discussed the importance of setting appointments with customers, saying that the majority of good customers will view appointments as commitments that they need to fulfill. Scheduling an appointment with the customer indicates that you likely did a good job talking to them on the phone, as most people will not agree to appointments with people with whom they do not feel comfortable.
They also advised against using technical terms with customers, emphasizing the importance of not confusing or misleading them. If customers do not understand what you’re talking about, they will probably start to dislike you.
“The reality is, all [the customers] care about is a couple things: How long is it going to take, and how much of my deductible can you save me?” Di Giulio said. “So you want to get those questions handled and out of the way first…We’re going to make [the car] new, and it’s going to come with a lifetime transferable warranty… those are the basics. So keep it simple.”
The presenters emphasized the importance of offering options when asking customers questions, as opposed to close-ended questions that could easily result in a response of “No.”
An example they provided was asking customers whether they preferred to drop off their vehicle in the morning or after lunch, rather than simply asking whether they could bring in their vehicle that day.
Another selling tactic they recommended was “the assumed close,” in which the estimator talks to customers as though they have already agreed to getting the work done. As an example, they said that if a customer asked how long a repair would take to complete, an appropriate response would be “We can get it done in two days. Do you have a vehicle you can use or would you rather I set you up with a rental?”
If the customer responded that they did not have another vehicle, the estimator would then respond, “That’s not a problem. I’ll have a rental car here in 10 minutes,” and proceed to immediately get on the phone to arrange for a rental car.
Next, the presenters went over the steps necessary to convince the potential customer to come into the shop. Those steps included caring for the customer, building communication (gathering information), educating the customer and setting an appointment, all while on the phone with the customer.