Sales+Marketing Selling+Closing Team Training Collision

Leveraging Sales Knowledge in Fixed Ops

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John McClellan
One estimator put years of sales experience to use when he joined the body shop.

When John McClellan arrived at Zimbrick Body Shop to work as an estimator three years ago, he had 20 years of both sales experience and intimate knowledge of the Zimbrick company to fall back on. McClellan spent the first two decades of his career working as a sales consultant at another Zimbrick dealership before he made the switch to the body shop world. After going through two years of training, McClellan now boasts some of the highest closing ratios at a high-volume body shop—that did $8 million per year and has 120–130 cars on its lot at any given time—that sets the benchmark at 75 percent closing ratio. And, as he outlines here, he has his sales background to thank for that.


1) Reshuffle your priorities.

McClellan says that although you can predict a steady stream of business in collision—unlike the peaks and valleys of sales—fires are inevitable and it can be like “death by a thousand cuts,” he says. You need to know how to properly reshuffle priorities, and ultimately, the car you need to deal with first should be the car that was first and needs to be delivered soonest.


2) Prioritize parts ordering.

If you need a part that you know is going to take two days to arrive, that part needs to be ordered ahead of a part that can get here tomorrow, McClellan says. Consider the urgency and if the vehicle is a tow-in, move that order down the priority list as you know it’s going to be in the shop for a while.


3) Ask for the sale.

To achieve high closing ratios, McClellan says the biggest key is simply asking for the sale. This is where his sales background comes into play and he’ll use the assumptive close technique to bring them in. During these conversations, McClellan says to avoid jargon, use laymen’s terms and properly explain every facet of the repair.

"The one thing they tell you in sales is they will buy if they feel understood. People will buy if they feel understood,” he says. “The first person that tells them the expectations and setting the expectations is going to get the job.”


4) Explain the customer’s insurance policy.

Many customers expect that because they come to a dealership, their repair will use all OEM parts. That’s not always the case, though, McClellan says, as many people don’t fully understand their insurance policy. It’s hard news to break, but it’s crucial you deliver this news in a positive way so that the customer is still satisfied. Explain where those parts come from, their condition, and act as an advocate for the customer by promising that if the part isn’t in perfect condition, it will not be used.

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