One of the most difficult lessons of the detailing business is that you’re better of turning some jobs away. It’s a skill you learn in the transition from busy to profitable. Here’s 3 memorable examples.
1. Wholesale car auction:
I received a call from the manager of a local auction requesting that we begin reconditioning wholesale cars for them ASAP as they had heard good things about us from a mutual business contact. I met with the manager and from the get go it was obvious we were on a completely different page about pricing and turnaround time. He claimed he had 100 cars a month for us but these cars were in poor condition. He requested our best effort but understood the cars wouldn’t get the treatment that our retail customers received. His budget and expectations did not intersect. Add to that a 30-60 day wait for payment, and this was a big fish I tossed back into the sea.
2. “Here’s my budget. Do the best you can.”
I had a very sweet older woman stop in the shop and inquire about our services for her badly neglected Ford Focus. After having a look together at her car and suggesting either a full interior shampoo or full detail due to the amount of time it would require to properly detail the car she asserted that she didn’t want to spend any money and this was merely a “treat” for her car as she hadn’t cleaned it in 5 years. Looking at our services list she picked our cheapest service and exclaimed “I’ll take that one”. The service she was requesting included nowhere near the amount of time it would require to even give her interior a proper vacuum and wipe down let alone leaving time for the car wash + windows included. This scenario is a no win situation. You either do a great job and “eat” the significant extra time and effort free of charge or try and whip through the job within the time constraint of what she is willing to pay and try and make it presentable. I know from experience that never works because despite a customer’s assurance of “do the best you can for X dollars and I’ll be happy” they rarely are and were the #1 source of complaints for me early on at my business when we would try and do what the customer wanted. I will usually either offer the correct service and if they don’t want it or can afford it refer them to the local drive through car wash that will tackle jobs like that cheap and avoid the headaches for myself. Bottom line: two adults rarely agree on the concept of “best effort.”
3. “No experience necessary”:
I have at times been asked to do jobs that I really didn’t have the experience or training to properly handle. In these cases you “might” be able to turn out an acceptable result but most likely will spend an unacceptable amount of time for what you are being paid. Worse yet, you can damage your reputation by failing on an overly ambitious project. Customers will respect that you won’t tackle something you aren’t equipped or trained to handle and if the opportunity continues to present itself you can take the time to get training and proper equipment to ensure a satisfactory result. To illustrate this, we recently had to completely wet sand and polish a Maserati that had been improperly sanded by a body shop. The customer was furious and the body shop is now having their reputation tarnished all over the city every time that customer speaks of his experience with them. Lesson to be learned is don’t tackle jobs you shouldn’t be doing.
Declining a job opportunity is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it’s a continuation of an opportunity for an ongoing relationship. Use your refusal as a chance to describe what kind of work is a better fit, and be willing to make a reference to someone in your network who can fulfill their needs and return the referral in the future. Such a discussion might sound something like this, delivered via a phone call, e-mail or in a face-to-face meeting:
“I’m sorry, but it looks like this job won’t be a good fit for us at this time. Let me refer you to another vendor (or two) that is in a better position to handle this (or has more expertise) and would be able to help you out with it.”
There is a subtle art to delivering these words, especially in the midst of any critical negotiation with a new or long-term client. Be sincere, and remember that this will not be the last opportunity you will receive if your conversation goes well.
Author: Scott Perkin
Owner: Scotty’s Shine Shop in London, Ontario.