Many people have tried to define sales over the years. After much reflection on my own experience, I’ve decided to redefine the modern day definition of sales. Simply put, sales is, “The conveying of meaningful information to encourage a buying decision.”
Sales is everything. It governs the interactions between ourselves and our customers or employees, and affects each and every positive business decision we make. In my travels across the country, you can see a direct correlation between poor sales skills and failing body shops.
Typically for the road warrior salesperson, there are two types of selling techniques: solution sales and strategic sales. Solution sales is defined as creating a problem-solving technique which benefits your potential customer by solving their business problems. This is an extremely effective method to gain customers because every business has its problems. Each business that has problems that go unattended or that cause less profits presents an extreme advantage and opportunity for the savvy salesperson.
So how does solution sales affect the body shop business? For example, if you’re pursuing an insurance relationship, you may know of a competitor that, for whatever reason, isn’t performing as well as they should be. You may have a more effective solution for that insurance provider should you decide to approach them. Identifying problems in your marketplace that your customers or potential customers may have gives you an advantage over your competition because you can then create solutions for those challenges and have the opportunity to gain that market share or account.
Let’s apply that one simple factor to your in-house operations. Let’s say you have an employee who has a problem or a challenge and you want to be able to attract that type of talent using a solution-based sales technique. What makes your business better? Why would someone want to work for you? The solutions you implement for your own organization sometimes solve problems you didn’t even know existed, such as recruiting talent. Show me a shop that can’t use better talent! Solution sales techniques seek to solve problems in order to enhance or make your business operate better for you, your employee or potential employee.
This goes for vendors and even customers, too. Sometimes you seek out new vendors to get better service, or change or modify your SOPs to better serve your customers. These are examples of solution-based techniques, and leasing technique supply in the sales environment.
The solution-based sales strategy is so effective in so many areas of business that it’s really something you need to keep in your back pocket to use at a moment’s notice.
Identifying problems in any business scenario is always the fastest and easiest way, especially as it pertains to customers and their problems. More often than not, customers don’t necessarily come to you to get their cars fixed as much as they come to you to help them with problems with their claim or with their insurance companies. That’s a perfect example of a successful solution-based sales technique that has been very effective for many years, but rarely has been discussed in depth or identified in any of the trade magazines we read.
The other sales technique is strategic sales. Strategic sales is defined as creating a plan or designing an initiative to achieve a selling objective.
Strategic sales are much more complex than solution sales. It requires methodical planning and near perfect execution to be as effective as solution sales, which is much simpler and, from my experience, has a much higher success rate. What the self-proclaimed sales gurus don’t tell you is that strategic sales is highly dependent upon relationship building. If you’re not good with people and you have a difficult time engaging them, meeting new ones and convincing them to hear your message, you’re going to have a more difficult time implementing an effective strategic sales strategy.
An example of strategic sales in the collision repair industry is a mass marketing campaign aimed at securing certain dealerships’ business, visiting various accounts and developing relationships with key decision-makers who can positively affect your business.
Strategic sales also involves methodical follow-ups and detail-oriented synopses on key personnel. Much like a professional sports draft, it’s extremely important to be able to identify key personnel for you to pursue. Even now as I write this, there are many lucrative partners in our market who I seek to engage, and they know who they are.
Sometimes strategic sales includes simple things like getting past the gatekeeper, getting someone to take your call or just sharing basic information that will grab their attention.
One of the main objectives with the strategic sales technique is to figure out creative ways to passively stay in front of your intended target. This technique is crucial to an overall sales plan for any growing company because you can’t be a problem-solver or use a solution sales technique for every objective you would like to achieve. Strategic sales techniques could be used in collision repair to attract key personnel to your company, engage in new business accounts or even retain key employees who may want to leave and go work for your competition.
One of the great things we do at Collision Care is consistently keep our employees engaged in various events and interactions at the company. We seek to stay in front of them as a brand and consistently reinforce to them that they’re working at one of the finest companies in the area. All too often, when you’re not engaging your own employees, you’re missing out on a fantastic opportunity to keep your finger on their pulse and also attract new talent. Word gets around! It’s even important for employees to sell themselves as a value to the business. As I tell my boss all the time, ”You are my No. 1 customer!” So are our employees, and we need to keep them engaged through a strategic sales process, just as much as we seek out new business opportunities and partnerships.
When you think about it, we’re always selling to our customers before and after the sale, selling employees on the benefits of working in a great company and consistently reinforcing our business relationship, and seeking to engage new business accounts. All of these variables are affected by exemplary professional sales tactics … so get out there and take some sales training classes and sharpen your skills and your business!
Adapted from Lou Berman’s article in BodyShop Business