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Selling a Body Repair Estimate

Adapted from Patrick Yurek’s article in BodyShop Business

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Sure, you may be in school now, but there will come a time – sooner than you realize – when you are working face-to-face with a customer regarding the repair of their vehicle.

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And though you may feel you already know how to speak with a customer about an estimate, there’s probably a few things you don’t know. Of course, some of these tips will come to you through experience. But when you are just starting out, you’ll need to make a good impression on the shop owner who hired you – especially if it is not a family member.

So take some time and review these steps to improve the way you SELL THE ESTIMATE.

Showing the customer what you’re going to do and educating him about the repair process can be extremely helpful in getting him to choose your shop to repair his vehicle. Remember, many of your potential customers are shopping around for the “best” estimate. So what are some things that you should do and say to educate him?

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Customer Connections:

  • Point to the parts and touch them when you’re out in the lot taking notes.

  • Speak English. Don’t use terms like “R&I.” Explain that you’ll remove the mirror and then re-install it – and explain why this is important. Say that you’ll replace the bumper covering, or use the terminology “put a new one on.” Words like “broken” and “dented” are easy enough for anyone to comprehend. “The fender is only dented a little, so we’ll straighten it, but the bumper covering is torn and a piece is missing, so we’ll have to put a new one on” makes a lot more sense to a consumer than the Xs, RPLs or RPRs on an estimate sheet. The time to explain what you intend to do is while you’re out at the vehicle with the vehicle’s owner.

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  • Don’t talk down to potential customers – male or female. Many women don’t understand cars and are often intimidated by men who shrug them off as if they’re unimportant and speak to them in shop jargon. Likewise, many male customers don’t know the difference between a fender and a quarter panel either. In either case, make them feel comfortable. Ask them if they have any questions, and explain what you need to do in layman’s terms.

  • Explain that if they get 10 estimates, they’ll get 10 different prices. While you’re writing your estimate (a perfect time for your sales pitch), tell them that your estimate may be higher, but that it’s not a result of higher prices – that it’s a matter of more thorough repairs and that you often do more to restore their vehicle to pre-accident condition than your competitors do. Make them understand that if they’re going to compare estimates, it shouldn’t be on a price basis. Rather, they should compare the quality and extent of the repair.

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  • Don’t bore everyone with the details. Some customers don’t want to be bothered. That glassy eyed, deer-in-the-headlights look is a clue that the customer either doesn’t understand or could care less. Don’t waste his time – or yours.

  • Tell customers to bring in competitors’ estimates. Let them know that if they’d like, they can come back in with any other estimates they get and you two can go through everything line by line to see what the differences are.

    If a customer does come back with an estimate from another shop, go over it with him and check all the items on your estimate that aren’t on your competitor’s. Then go out to the car and show him the things the other shop is doing differently. It’s funny how often low-balling occurs. When you explain to him that the only reason they wrote the bid low was to get him to their shop and that they’ll end up supplementing their estimate to include the additional items – or worse, skipping them entirely – the customer usually ends up choosing your shop.

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    This is a great sales pitch to use if your estimate is higher: “Mrs. Smith, we pride ourselves on writing a thorough and comprehensive estimate – as much as is humanly possible. By including all the parts we can see that are needed to repair your car, we have fewer parts delays and can get your car back to you sooner.” This works because, generally the customer’s No. 1 pre-repair concern is how long it will take to get his vehicle fixed.

    Continuous Education
    Recently, I went over a competitor’s estimate with a potential customer line by line. I showed her why we needed to replace things like the headlamp and mounting panel (which also served as the upper bumper cover mount), radiator side panel and a few other things. She nodded in apparent understanding and agreement to everything I said. When I was done, I asked her when she wanted to bring the car in. She didn’t want to bring it in at all. She chose the other shop anyway!

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    Didn’t I just explain things to her? Didn’t she, just moments before, agree with everything I’d told her?

    I gave the parts list to our parts manager and asked him to let me know when the order came in. Sure enough, a few days later, there it was – complete with all the parts I had on my sheet that the other shop was originally lacking.

    After a week or so, I called her “to see if she had changed her mind” about where she was going to have the repairs done. She told me the other shop did the repairs. She also said she had the impression that we were higher because we were the dealership and that the other shop could do the same repair we were going to do for much less. When she got the final bill, she was shocked that their bottom line was higher than ours. We didn’t get that job, but we did gain a customer from that point on.

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    It just goes to show that you can’t win ’em all, no matter how well you sell your shop. But you can win more – if you educate each and every consumer who walks through your door.

    Writer Patrick Yurek is the vice president of Collision Consulting LLC (www.CollisionConsulting.com). He has more than 22 years of industry experience and has held every conceivable position in a collision repair facility, from sweeper to management. Among his credits are several PPG certifications and General Motors technical certificates.

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