Professional Carwashing & Detailing

The professional confessional

September 29, 2010

Editor's note: This article is from the October 2010 issue of Professional Carwashing & Detailing, now available online and in a digital format. If you have a suggestion for a technical tip topic or an article submission, please contact Kate Carr.

You hear the term “professional” used in the detail business a great deal. But does anyone really know what differentiates a professional detailer from one who is not? Do you consider yourself a professional? If yes, then let us consider what other occupations come to mind when you think of a “professional.”

Would an attorney, a doctor or a certified public accountant be considered a professional? Why? What do these occupations have in common? If you said, “They all require continuing education to maintain an active license,” you’d be correct.

While detail chemical companies and equipment suppliers offer some training programs for detailers, there really is no governing body that tests and certifies detailers as to their knowledge and skills. The burden falls on to the individual to educate himself, and, sorry to say, few do.

In examining this further, you will find several factors become evident. In order to become the best at your profession of detailing you will need to focus on three things: Attitude, knowledge, and skills.

Of the critical success factors, attitude is the most obvious and, unfortunately, the most underrated. How many times have you had a new detailer come to work and be a ball of fire doing quality work and putting out two to four complete details a day? They are not doing this based on exceptional knowledge or highly developed detailing skills. Instead, their success is based almost exclusively on their enthusiasm for the job.

Ever arrive early for a professional sporting event? What do you see? At NFL games, quarterbacks are taking snaps and throwing passes to their receivers. Kickers and punters are working on their timing, etc. What the professional athlete is doing is all about getting their mind right. Yes, the physical aspects are necessary, but the mental preparation is key to victory on the field. Take time to mentally prepare yourself each morning and to commit to getting the most out of the day’s opportunities.

While most suppliers to the detail industry provide some information to educate detailers, it is usually only on their product line. This is not really specific enough to offer a conclusive value. Moreover, it is the same information available to competitors.

You need to read all the detail publications that report on new technologies and ideas for detail business owners. You need to access the detailing forums; attend educational seminars; and join industry associations. All these things are necessary for you to grow.

The third factor represents the basics to the detailing profession: Detailing skills. You cut down the tree better if the axe blade is sharp. So sharpen your detail skills (as well as the skills of your employees) and you will get more production per employee, per day and better quality work.

Focus areas
There are 10 key areas to focus on in order to be a professional detailer.

1. Prospecting: No matter how effective you become as a detailer, you must have business. As the owner you must have a plan for getting business for the year; by month, by week and by day. If you wait for them to come in, you will fail.

2. Meet and greet: You need to make a favorable impression to all walk-ins and phone calls. Dress yourself in a professional manner and make them notice you, not the uniform. Let them know you are a professional and that you respect them by being well groomed and dressed as a professional.

3. Build rapport: To be successful you will need to get them to like and trust you. Be open, be yourself, and always smile. On the phone let them “hear” your smile.

4. Conduct an interview: Never interrogate a customer. You can be thorough about their car by asking thought provoking questions. Take good notes and paraphrase. It shows the customer you are listening to them.

5. Sales presentation and walk around: Always try to evaluate the customer’s vehicle before quoting prices to show the need for the detail services. If they do not know the need, how can they make a decision to purchase? You create the need; you are the expert. If they thought they needed only a wax, but the paint needs a buff, polish and wax, show them and explain why.

6. Closing: Too many detail business owners take themselves out of the sale. When you have established the needs of the vehicle, ask for the sale.

7. Handling objections: If you have properly established the needs of the vehicle, the objections are more easily overcome. You need to have some ready explanations to overcome possible objections, most often price.

8. Negotiation: You need to be ready to negotiate with some customers. “Never discount, but offer more value” – added services. However, if price is an obstacle then reduce the service. Eliminate the engine or trunk clean. Or, do a one — step process instead of a three — step etc.

9. Follow-up: Always follow up with a customer a day or two after the service to ensure they are satisfied. Then, follow up with them every three months without fail. You lose customers because you do not keep in contact and your competitor does.

10. Time management: Use your time wisely. Establish a system to keep organized by filling your week and the time of your employees.

Remember: A professional climbs to the top of the game by developing their skills. The best remain there by continually improving all areas, every day.