Wednesday, 31 December 2008 13:25

Memo to the 'Regional Manager for Sales Prevention'

In today’s critical market, shop owners need all the help they can get from innovative products and services. There must be at least a thousand people out there in their Dockers and their Company cars calling on American body shops. If you’re one of them, here are a few ideas your prospect is either too busy or too polite to tell you:

1. Unless you're a customer, a blood relative, an insurer, or Angelina Jolie, don't some to my shop unannounced, expecting me to stop what I’m doing to see you. There’s not a moment in my day when you’re more important that what I was going to do next. If you like making cold calls, sell Girl Scout cookies. If you want to talk to me, make an appointment.
2. Leave your four-color literature in your car. It’s based on your marketing department’s idea of the average shop owner. They’re almost always wrong. Even if they were right, I’m not average. Show me you're not either.
3. The title on your business card, the interplanetary locations of your employer and, above all, the cool name your people made up for your latest program, however much they all thrill you, have no value or interest for me.  
4. While you’re at it, leave the laptop in the car too. My job is little more complicated than yours, so I actually may have one or two other things on my mind today. You talking through an obviously memorized script while you point at a screen is slightly more effective communication than if you were barking like a dog, but not by much.
5. Just bring a pencil and a blank notepad, ask questions, and make lots of notes. It’s respectful, serious and businesslike. I like that. A lot.
6. By the way, if I don’t hyperventilate when you murmur meaningfully about “technology”, or “profit” or “productivity”, don’t pout. You’re roughly the hundredth person through my door armed with those terms.
7. I find my own business fascinating, but I don’t expect or require you to find it as fascinating as I do. If you are genuinely interested in what we do here and how we do it and why, so much the better. But God help you if you try to fake it. It can’t be done.
8. You are not going to get an order today. Before you presume to tell me what I should do or buy, take what you’ve learned here and go away and think about it and work on it. Come back when you can show me some specific thought that matches up my business with what you can do for me. I’ll gladly give you the second appointment. If you must close a sale on one call, get a catering truck.
9. When you do come back, in the name of everything holy, get to the point. What exactly is the benefit you think I will enjoy from your product, and what exactly does it cost?  Deciding whether something has greater value to me than the money it costs is not difficult for me. I’m probably better at buying than you are at selling, so don’t sell me. Just tell me. I don’t get sold by salespeople. I am a businessman; I make business agreements with businesspeople. Act like one.
10. Yes, I know you went to college. Here’s a postgraduate lesson: I can detect social or educational condescension a mile upwind. So no matter how appealing your product is, if you talk down to me I will buy it from the next one of your competitors that walks through my door, before he opens his mouth.
11. If you disclose confidential information to me about my competitors, you are self-proven untrustworthy, and you (and you Company) cease to exist for me.
12. We don’t have to be soul mates to do business, so try to keep in mind that we are different.  We’re both trying to make a buck and we’re both mammals.  Beyond that there are differences that count: You are securely employed in a large corporation, with layer upon layer of accountability-absorbing management.  Every day I hold in my hands all my employees’ jobs and their families’ security, and it’s all bet on me.  Don’t try to make us the same.  

Cheer up. The ironic good news in all of this is that we collision repairers need a lot of help, now more than ever. Assuming that your product has some genuine value, if you can break out of some of the Sales Prevention routines, you’re going to come as breath of fresh air to me and other owners in my business, and make some sales. Where do I sign?

Dale Delmege owns Chelsea Group, Inc. a provider of confidential services to the American and Canadian auto claims industries.  
Dale has been Collision Industry Conference Chairman 1999–2000; and is a Lifetime Member (2001) Society Of Collision Repair Specialists. He is National Auto Body Council Founding Member and Director; a C.I.E.C.A. Founding Member, Director, And Chairman, and was elected to the Collision Industry Hall Of Eagles (2001).


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