Volume 9, Issue 3 - June/July 2007

Side Lites
guest opinion

Sealing the Deal
by Bob Theriot Jr

So now you have the big account or customer you’ve always wanted. You know the one I’m talking about— the highly coveted body shop or car rental agency that every glass shop owner or manager would like to have. These large-volume clients can keep your technicians busy, even during the slow months. 

You personally visited this prospect countless times. You sent out postcards or letters to them stating that you offered the best products and service. You made it very clear that you could accommodate their needs better than any other glass company on the face of the earth. Now, with some hard work, dedication and patience, you finally have a commitment from them that you are now their go-to glass shop. 

But, how long is this client going to remain loyal to your shop? One month? One year? Forever?

Loyalty Issues
If you’ve been in the auto glass business for more than two minutes, you know that good loyal clients are hard to come by. This is the harsh reality in many industries. Although it may not seem like it, in almost any service industry, your competition will steal some of your customer base. Did you lose that customer you worked so hard to get because of pricing? Did another glass company cut your prices by 20 percent and take them away? If this has happened to you, then you are doing something wrong.

Why are you losing customers to the competition? The answer is simple: you let your guard down and stopped maintaining the customer like you once did. This is called “the maintenance aspect.” Think back to the beginning of your business relationship. You did everything you could to make a good first impression with the client. You called on the customer regularly to make sure all of their needs were being met. You would respond quickly and would shuffle your schedule around to make sure your technicians arrived on a timely manner. Over time, with the onset of more business and the belief that you had built a strong relationship, you started to take the client for granted. You stopped being attentive as you once were. It can happen to the best of us.

Then, because of the lack of your actions and priority, when a sales representative shows up on your customer’s doorstep and offers all the things you once offered, your client is willing to hear what they have to say. All things being equal, pricing is a good reason to stop using your services. Customers are always going to be bombarded with promises of better prices but the plain truth is, customers also want great service. The customers who are just price-sensitive will always be easy to land. But, they will also be easy to lose. You want long-term customers, not just a one-or-two-windshields-a-month account that wants to pay little or close to nothing and will stop using you on the drop of a dime.

Strategies You Can Use to Keep Your Customers

  •  Don’t take your customers for granted. Call on your customers at least once a week to make sure all of their needs are being met. Even if you’re hard-pressed to get out of the office or shop, a simple phone call can do the trick. This also gives you the opportunity to rejuvenate an account that has been stagnant or hasn’t called you in while. Create a list and set an hour aside each week to make your phone calls. You’ll be amazed by the results. Also use this time to inform your customers of new products, services or any events you may be having in the future.
  • Give value first. Be a source of value to your clients. Try to help your customers succeed in their businesses first. If you do work for a body shop, try to keep up with the latest advancements in the auto body industry. Read trade magazines and visit websites about the industry and pass on vital information to the manager or shop manager. Become known for helping others first without expecting anything in return. And guess what? Karma will reward you.• Be a consultant. Solve problems for your customers. Be willing to offer business advice or constructive criticism, if and only when asked. For example, if you were successful with a certain marketing campaign, be willing to pass this information on to your client. Also refer people you do business with on to your clients. Most of the time people reciprocate the gesture and you create a team atmosphere. Good teams stay together for long periods of time because they start winning together.
  • Build a bridge. Make friends with your customers. Over the years I’ve learned that people would rather do business with their friends than with strangers. Think about it for a minute. Wouldn’t you rather send your buddy business before an unknown entity or business? People will conduct business with you if they feel comfortable. Ask your customers questions about their businesses and what you can do to help them succeed.
  • Be honest. The old saying, “Honesty is the best policy,” really does hold up very well in today’s marketplace. Become known as the honest auto glass shop in your market and the respect you earn will go a long way in obtaining new business, too. When you tell your client you’re going to do something, do it and do it quickly. Over time the client comes to trust you and in the end that’s one less thing a busy client has to worry about. For example, if you have done a good job of building trust and the issue of price comes up, you can explain in detail the reason. Whether it’s because the competition quoted aftermarket glass versus OEM, or whatever the case may be, the customer will more likely believe you and then make an informed intelligent decision. Being honest is a great way to combat pricing issues.

Bob Theriot Jr. is the author of “Pounding The Pavement – Tools, Techniques and Inspiration for Succeeding in Sales.” He also serves as sales and marketing manager for Southwest Auto Glass in El Paso, Texas. He can be reached via e-mail at bob@southwestautoglass.com. Mr. Theriot’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.