Business Growth for Detailers - A.B.C. - The Fundamentals of Selling
What's your poison? Mobile Valeting & Detailing, Ceramic Coatings, PPF, Tints, Upholstery, Remaps, Carbon Cleaning, Kebabs?
Sales is everywhere you look like swirls on passing cars. On the side of every bus and taxi, every shop window, every menu you look at...they've all been painstakingly created to entice you in and part you with your hard earned. It doesn't matter what industry or niche you are in, if you run a business, you're in sales...whether you know how to do it or not!
So, lets start with the most important rule of sales: A.B.C - it stands for Always Be Closing. And you should, always be closing.
More than anything else that is the practice that I hope to show most here. It will be a recurring theme as we journey through a few techniques that could help you raise your conversion rate and create a bit of job security for yourself.
So briefly, what is sales? Essentially it is the act of applying value or worth to a product or service beyond its financial value to guide someone towards a solution that is best for them.
BEST FOR THEM
Your needs don't factor into this. Everything from now, until they leave with a smile on their face, is about client experience.
The term Always Be Closing is often misunderstood as a high pressure sales technique but it's actually the opposite. It's a system of figuring out what your customer really wants, so you can offer it to them. Pretty straightforward when you think about it.
Is it manipulative? It depends how you think about it, is practising a pitch or conversation so that you can give the client something they approached you about really a manipulation?
Well it depends on the outcome, if you're selling on something you can't deliver then yes, it's manipulative. It damages your reputation and that of the trade. But if you really are selling something the client wants and you can deliver and leave the client feeling like they came out the deal a winner, no, it isn't. It's just a system of finding out what they need from you so you can fulfil that need.
To do this you have to engage your client, you need to connect with them in some way and fortunately, in our trade...that is easy. You love cleaning cars, the client has a car needing cleaned...match made in heaven. It doesn't get much easier. Talk about their car, listen to them (remember the 2 ears, 1 mouth rule) and react based on that, ask if anything is particularly bad or bothering them, any lingering scents, any little scuffs you could maybe polish out. Give them a realistic expectation of results they can expect on the service you recommend. Practice doing this without ever mentioning pricing.
That, is ABC! Its not the concept of pushing towards a fast close. It's keeping the conversation as open as possible to connect with that person and learn what they really want. Then you can be doing a series of mini-closes on each issue, rather than on a final sale. Always Be Closing!
But, it can get easier.
To sell your services you need to know them inside out and upside down. You need to be able to give as much or as little information as the client needs specific to every lead you contact and every potential sale that contacts you and you need to be able to discuss them confidently. Would you go in for surgery with someone that THINKS they can remove your tonsils or get a tattoo from someone who doesn't know how much it should cost, on the spot? Of course not. If you don't believe in yourself, why should anyone else?
They're talking to you because they want to give you money, don't make it harder for them. If you believe in your services and can show their worth, then carry them out to a high standard the client will WANT to pay you. And they'll keep coming back.
Image is also a part of sales. Looking the part helps. When I go to my local supplement shops for protein, vitamins, pre workout etc and I don't know what I need most and some ripped dude in full company branding shows me a few things he think will be good for me I'm gonna believe him. I can see he knows more than I do before he opens his mouth. They make a point of talking to me, finding out my goals, joking about a bit in a positive way and as they do that I keep learning more about things I never even knew I wanted. But I do now and I'm happy to pay for it and come back for more. Wear some smart work uniform, brand your company and become the brand.
Always Be Closing
No one manipulated me, but they did a great job of selling to me because it came naturally and it was something we were mutually enthusiastic about.
All they had to really do was make sure I enjoyed the conversation and learned about the products in the process. I had already decided to spend money, almost every lead who you speak to already has. They just made sure I got what I actually needed instead of what I thought I did.
If someone walks into my shop and we get talking I'm naturally going to enquire about how I can help. Think retail staff at Christmas versus wait staff at a restaurant. Client experience is everything, a friendly welcome right away with a smile is much more likely to lead to an enjoyable conversation and exchange than a grunt.
Sales really is one of the most natural things in the world once you get these techniques down. It's not about forcing a bad deal onto someone for a good commission. Its about honest-to-god human interaction and conversation, getting to know someone and making it your personal goal to satisfy their needs.
When you fall in love with what you're selling you're not just trying to earn. You're passionate about it and your customers will pick up on that and appreciate the service. I've never TRIED to sell anything in my life. I just love talking about detailing. If I notice extra things needing done I don't talk surcharges I ask if they'd like me to go further on a few areas to get them right.
Guess what, I still haven't said a word about pricing. Until I know what they want, I'm still pitching.
These same techniques can be applied to your social media posts, your messages, emails, calls, whether they approach you or you approach them.
Always Be Closing!
The moment I let that price out the conversation is over. You can't start pitching add-on's after they agree to a price. So find out what they want and offer it to them first.
You'll find them much more receptive to your pricing when they understand the difference between you and the roadside car wash.
Whatever it is you're pitching it should increase conversion rates if you can become proficient at this.
Use it to your advantage.
A question often asked is how do I compete with everyone else selling cheaper on facebook?
Simple, you sell on quality and satisfaction, not pricing. The client assumes that the job will get done whether they pay £5 or £500, that's how trade works. A detail is a detail when you don't know the work that goes into it. It's up to you to finesse what they really want out of them and show how you can fulfill their needs to a much higher standard than the next person they talk to. Every post you make could contain a little tidbit of information they didn't know. That way, by the time they call, they already know what you do, how satisfied your previous clients were and what you charge approximately without asking.
For this blog a friend, fellow detailer and business owner has kindly offered to share some of his experiences and his story with us.
Hi, I’m Tom Humphries from TH Detailing and Stephen has kindly let me pop a few words into this blog post to demonstrate what he’s saying basically works. I’m by no means a business (or detailing) guru, but by following a similar process that I learned both the hard way, and formally via one to one coaching, I’ve systematically grown and am continuing to do so.
The one key element that really aided growth was being able to take a step back from being the operator, the engineer, the technician, the boots on ground guy grinding away detailing cars and to stand up as the business owner, the financial advisor, the customer service manager and the face of the image. I was (un)fortunate enough to be forced to close during COVID. I say (un)fortunate, as it gave me more free time to work on it, and not in it, albeit unpaid (as I wasn't getting paid) it’s now paid itself dividends by having some proper thought injected into it. Allocate a ‘CEO’ day, once every week or two, a month at most, to see what’s what with your business.
First up, the biggest thing I changed was the company's image, starting with offline. Your handsome face, the clothes you wear, the van you drive, the unit you work in and the way you speak is one of the biggest contributors to getting that custom. Ever walked into a Mercedes-Benz dealership? If yes, were you greeted by someone smoking a cigarette wearing yesterday's tracksuit? If you haven’t been into a Mercedes-Benz dealership, would you expect that to happen? No. Because they’ve got the correct image for their product, services and ideal clientele. Executive, sharp, and ‘on it’ They’re selling £100, £200 & even £300k cars, and their process is the same as selling a £300 detail to one of your clients. Always be clean, tidy, branded in your company uniform, driving your clean van to your immaculate and organised detailing studio. When a client walks through that door, or you arrive outside, you have less than 10 seconds for you and your company image to make a good impression, and this is before you’ve even said hello. A firm handshake, eye contact and a smile is a must when dealing with customers face to face, however new or old. It’s this experience which is one of the most important aspects of getting that money in. You can be the best detailer on the planet, but you don’t look like it, you won’t get the opportunity to prove it. Don’t be scared to spend a few hundred quid on branding and uniform, it unlocks the next level of image. Trust me, I know this works, I’ve spent the day working with a £335,000 AMG GT Black Series in their showroom whilst simultaneously watching how their staff operated, winner winner. They win, I now win.
Next up, online image. Everything is going online, whether you like it or not. It’s a fact. You can now order food online and have it delivered without even interacting with a human. Our services are a little more complex than ordering a pizza (sometimes at least), but we need to have ‘primed’ our client a little to get an enquiry. Our client wants something we offer (and so do your competitors), they want to know where you are, who you are, how they can get in touch, and what’s roughly included. Notice I didn’t include the price in that list? Not all customers shop based on how much their wallet will take an impact, they want to know how much they are getting for their cash to then assign some value to it. An up to date, easy to navigate website is top of the list, not all customers are on social media, in fact, majority of my high ticket clients don’t have Facebook at all (I always ask for reviews, and they’ll often let me know they don’t have social media). PUT YOUR CONTACT INFO ON EVERYTHING. On your Facebook, website, instagram, the lot. You can have an amazing portfolio, but no way for people to book in. That’s like walking past a shop, seeing what you want from the window, but there’s no way to physically walk in to buy it! Speaking of portfolio, up to date photos of your work is a must (this also helps with your SEO & Google Ranking). If you are using social media, be consistent with your posts. 1 a day is plenty, any more and people get bored of your stuff, any less and it’s like you’re not serious about it. Not at all and people think you’re closed. Also make sure your website is linked to Facebook. I for one personally won’t buy anything online unless they have a website. Now we’ve got your contact details online, what do they look like? firstname.lastname@example.org or info@ICleanCars.co.uk. Who would you prefer to email asking about a detail on your £40k car? A custom domain is about £60 a year at most. Same with your phone, although if you’re mobile it looks odd having a landline number, but if you’re unit based, get a landline that diverts to your mobile. And always answer the thing when it rings, don’t wait for it to ring out and phone back the next working day after they’ve left you a message. If you’re lucky they might remember why you phoned, if you’re not they’ll have booked in with someone else who answered the phone first time round. If you do miss it, you got a max of 15 mins to respond. Same with emails. People want answers and they want it yesterday. That’s just a fact of customer service.
Okay, so now they’ve got in touch. Now what? STOP QUOTING OVER MESSENGER. They can just blank you if they don’t like the response. Get them in front of you, or on the phone at least. You need to establish what they actually want. ‘How much for a polish?’ go on, how much? £100? £1000? We don’t know, do we? We need to know what they actually want, do they want it machine polished or just a thorough wash? Do they want a single stage cause they’re limited on time and budget or do they want a multistage concourse show prep? Do they understand the process? Do they just need a good valet and they’re not fussed about perfection? Are they only free for two days of the week and have a budget they’re working to?
‘Qualify’ them to see what they want, match your services to their needs and if it’s in (or just above) their budget it's nearly yours for the taking. It’s that simple. During these communications, you want to be professional and act like a business. Smooth and sharp, but enticing and informative. Don’t answer the phone with ‘Ello, i’m a detailer, what you want?’ - ‘Good morning, TH Detailing, Tom speaking, how can I help you?’ Same with emails and messages. Obviously we sometimes slip the word ‘mate’ or ‘buddy’ in general conversation, but remember who to call sir/madam, and who to call mate/boss when the time is right. Ever wondered why the guy in the kebab house at 4am in the morning calls you ‘boss man’ and the waitress at Miller and Carter calls you Sir? Re-read the company image paragraph above.
Or, is it that simple? It’s in budget, it’s the perfect service, you look the part, but does it make sense to them? Does it seem valuable? My advice with this is to see if they’ve had a detail before, what they already know and go from there. Explain it so well they see the value in it and they’re pretty much ready to hand over money if everything all lines up together.
Don’t sell something they don’t need to fuel your own ego, that’ll impact your reputation somewhat. Yes, we like to make things perfect, it’s our nature as detailers, but be honest, trustworthy and be a source of genuine information. If you can’t do it, don’t say you can, customers prefer you to recommend someone else than mess them about, and you’ll still be their go-to guy for their detailing. That and we don’t want to spend 4 days on a 2 day detail for our Instagram before and afters. Sell what they need, do what they’ve paid for.
Speaking of value, are you valuable? What can you bring to the table? Are you accredited by a coating supplier? I am, I offer coatings my competition cannot. I can offer a 10 year guarantee from a product no one else local can get hold of. That’s a unique selling point (USP) that makes my service more valuable. Sure, I might have just quoted £250 more than the guy down the road, but his coating is over the counter, the customer could’ve bought it themselves. That said, I’ve hit the minimum but high standard of the coating company to be able to professionally install it. As there’s no official training and qualification in this industry (compared to being an MOT Tester, for example) how does your client know you know what you’re doing? Simple, accreditations and certifications. Invest in yourself, get trained, certified and accredited by a coating company, and a governing body like the IDA or the PVD. You’ve hit a minimum standard and you wanted to prove it by paying for it. Investing in yourself is the key to personal growth too!
So they’ve agreed they want it. Now you ask for it. `So shall we get you booked in for Friday at 9am?’ If you don’t ask, you don’t get. If they say yes, get the diary out, take a deposit (always take a deposit) and get it sorted. If they say no, you didn’t do something in the above steps correctly and now you have to try and find out what and hope to put it right.
3 weeks later, they’ve had the detail, what now? Sell a maintenance plan. Get yourself guaranteed work. I won’t go into too much detail with this, but again, just ask for it. Some won’t want it and that’s fine, just make sure they’re up to date with any guarantees and info they need to know. Also, an aftercare package goes down well. An invoice, do not wash mirror hanger, info on their coating and some bird poo wipes are what’s in mine. It’s the same when you buy that car from Merc, they give you a tonne of paperwork for stuff you need to know, with some sales leaflets in there too, in case you want to spend a little more with them in the future.
Lastly, the book doesn’t stop here. You’ve had the money, but you want them as a customer for life, don’t you? You want that repeat communication, sign them up to a mailing list like mailchimp and just keep them in the loop with various stuff like offers and promotions, latest news and latest cancellation slots etc. Save their number in your phone, and address them by name when they call 12 months later ‘Mr Smith - Porsche 911 calling..’ ‘ Ah Hello Mr Smith, how are you?’ A personal touch that goes a long way. ‘Oh wow, he remembers me, he hasn’t had to sift through his booking system to find out who I am, he’s on it, I like it!’.
Handle complaints quickly too. We all get them. You probably did mess up and you will probably have to put something right at least once in your detailing career. Handle it properly to keep your reputation. Don’t argue (especially via text or social media) and definitely do not take to the Facebook groups for advice - ‘just tell em to go and.. (You know the rest)’ won’t solve it.
I know this blog is about sales, but you also need to be financially literate. What I mean by that is not what’s going on with your pricing so your services are generating you money. I won’t go into too much detail on this as this in itself is another post worthy conversation. Make sure you’re making money. Make sure there’s enough to pay the business bills, your wages, with a little left over to fund your growth (such as new equipment, your certification, and the ‘oh sh!t that broke fund).
Big thank you to Stephen for giving me the opportunity to write this. Those who know me know how much I love helping others with their businesses and their detailing. I’m sure Stephen will put some contact info for me on here somewhere, feel free to drop me a line if you need some advice with anything mentioned (or not mentioned) in this blog post!
Thanks for reading,