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Sell now and sell yourself

October 11, 2010
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Selling detail services means more than selling the service, it means selling yourself and your business.

Sales requirements exist all around us each day, so owners should take note.

Webster’s says...
Selling is defined as: the exchange of goods or services for an amount of money or an equivalent, an opportunity for selling or being sold or the selling of property to the highest bidder.

To these, I would add the ability to “define value to others,” “the free exchange of money for ideas or experience,” and even “overcoming objections and removing barriers to sustain a plan.”

Selling success
One of the smartest business people I know once said, “Without access to money and good people, you’ll never succeed in business.”

As many of you know, these words are true. But what does this have to do with sales?

Banks and finance companies have something we need in business and that’s money.

Have you ever thought of your banker as the object of a sales call? Have you ever thought to add your banker to the list of people who need to be kept abreast of what’s going on in your detail business?

Without a strong and personal relationship with your banker and an ongoing plan to stay ‘on the radar’ of your lender, some day you could be rudely awoken to the fact that the lifeblood of your company – money – has dried up.

For anyone who has been forced to replace their source of money, you know that this can be one of the most stressful things you will go through in running a business.

Bottom line, your banker needs to fully understand who you are, what you do, your value to your customers, the ups and downs of the detail business and a number of other factors that only you can explain.

Without this interaction, it’s amazing the misconceptions that lenders can develop. Tell them the good news, tell them the bad news, but no matter what you tell them, you better tell them your story and sell them on your detail business.

Is the sell insured?
Ever received a non-renewal letter from your insurance company? To me, other than losing your source of money, it’s the worst thing that can happen to a business.

Like banks, insurance companies can get caught up in events, such as market changes or claims that could get them thinking about cutting you off. That’s why you should also develop a positive relationship with your insurance provider.

How do you see your association with your insurance carrier? Is it more of a project than a process?

If so, straighten out your thinking. The best relationships with insurance carriers are just like a relationship with your spouse, your children or your good friends.

That is: a lot of contact, plenty of information and excellent two-way communication. Insurance, of course, is predicated on loss runs, actuarial science, and the like, but personal relationships are also very important aspects in this business.

Keeping your insurance company, your broker or anyone else who deals with your company “in the know” is just smart business. Let them know:

  • You have a Hazardous Communi-cation Program;
  • You’ve invited the OSHA into your shop to inspect for safety;
  • You conduct safety classes;
  • You have your air compressor regularly certified; and
  • You have employees wear safety glasses, clothing and hearing devices.
This is a proactive approach to loss prevention and you further the benefit by sharing these things with your insurance provider.

Just ask someone who has gotten a cancellation letter how important having such a relationship is.

Employees: sell them
The most important and most often ignored group is your staff.

How often do you tell your employees what is going on in your detail business and the industry?

Keep this in mind, people work for four reasons:

  1. To gain useful knowledge, so they can progress in their careers;
  2. For respect and recognition;
  3. For money; and
  4. For security.

As a consultant, I often find employees asking what’s happening in their own company. If I ask them if they can get this information from their boss, they answer, "We're always the last to know!"

Is there a process in your business to keep employees up to date on what you are doing and how your plans affect them? Do you hold meetings to keep them a part of the business or do you rule on high, keeping people guessing about what your priorities or directions are?

Motivation of employees is equal parts education and inspiration, but without a process in place to “sell” your employees on whatever it is that needs to be accomplished, you're ignoring an opportunity, and you're ignoring it at your peril.

Other points of sale
What about your landlords? Do you “sell” them on the fact that you are a good company to have in their building?

If they buy or build another building, a better building, will you be the first tenant they call?

What about your credit card processor?

There are constant additions and new programs coming online that can shave percentage points from your credit card fees. When’s the last time you “sold" this service provider on your business?

Your dealers are another selling point. Do you talk to them all the time about your service and what they need or do you just pick up the cars every day?

Remember, dealers may have worries of their own; the car business is up and down. Their goal is to sell cars. If you show them how you can help them sell more cars, they will be more apt to give you business.

If you have health insurance, do you talk with your provider? Insurance rates are dropping, and the creation of programs such as Health Savings Accounts have given employers flexibility to reduce costs.

But if you don't have a relationship with your company or your broker, how will you know about the new programs that are available?

And your accountant — does he just do your books and taxes or do you ask him for help in operating your business? A good accountant should be able to expose you to good strategies for things like reducing taxes and estate planning — use him.

Closing the sale
There are sales opportunities all around you that you need to pursue, but you need to first be aware that they're there and be receptive to them.

Selling is more than making a buck. Understand that you need to sell all day and to everyone imaginable to make good things happen.

R.L. “Bud” Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, Portland, OR, and a 37-year member of the car-care industry. He can be contacted at