It is one thing to deal with a retail customer who stops in your shop or calls on the telephone for a detail job. However, it is another to get dealer work, which requires a completely different approach — not only in soliciting the work, but also in being prepared to process the work.

So what do you do? First, you have to identify the potential dealer accounts. How will getting dealer work impact your present equipment, space, and staff? Then, how do you balance doing dealer work with serving your retail customers?

Today’s new-car dealers are acutely aware of how much profit used cars bring, and business people, not “car salespeople,” operate these dealerships. They need to be approached in a business-like manner and presented a dollars-and-cents reasoning for doing business with you over the competition. Even the bigger used-car dealers are much more “business” driven than “moving cars” driven. They, too, have to be given a professional presentation.

So what should you, as a detailer, look at when considering the addition of dealer work?


Several things need to be considered when determining the addition of dealer accounts:
• Do you have enough equipment to meet the daily volume of business, both dealer and retail? One extractor will not do it if you are doing six to 10 or more cars a day, for example.
• Can your existing personnel deal with the demands of the dealer work, or do you need more people?
• Do you have appropriate procedures and policies in place to handle a high volume of work?
• How will you pick up and/or deliver vehicles? Do you have the correct insurance?
• Do you have sufficient wash bay and detail bay space to handle the work?

You must also consider the present dealer customer base within your area and determine how much of it you want to acquire and how this affects your present facilities, equipment, and personnel.

If you do not have enough equipment to handle the volume of work, can you afford to purchase what you need? Also, consider the added wear and tear on your equipment with the added dealer volume of work. Can you complete the work for the dealer and your retail customers during your normal hours, or do you have to increase your operating hours? Be sure to assess whether you can handle the work. Maybe you are simply too busy with retail business to process the dealer work. As mentioned, do you have enough extractors, and are they large enough to prevent having to dump and fill them all of the time, stopping work?


You do not want to try to take on dealer work without identifying answers to these important questions. So how do you go about identifying prospective dealer customers and acquiring their business?

Once you make the decision to take on dealer work, identifying prospective dealers and acquiring their business is an action that requires a thoughtful process to achieve the best return for the investment, monetarily as well as labor-wise.

Find out which dealers do not have in-house detail departments and whom they might be using to do their work. Can you do the work faster, better, at the same price or lower? For dealers that have in-house departments you can offer to take their overload.

When you have generally identified the best dealers, develop a presentation and approach them.

Acquiring new business is a broad spectrum. It will require a certain amount of salesmanship. What sets you apart from the competition?

You can start by approaching a dealer, introducing yourself and, if they are already using an outside shop, point out the advantages of what you have to offer over them. Price is always a factor, but there could a better chance to get the business by adding value to your service — something that their existing detail business is not including, such as paint touch-up, rock-chip repair, etc.

Start by making a list of potential dealers. Then reach out to them by telephone or in person to explain how your detailing of their used cars will get the cars done faster. This is key to a dealer, to get a used car on the lot quickly.


You should prepare a complete overview of your business and its capabilities to service the dealer. If they have an in-house department, point out the advantages of outsourcing versus an in-house department, and it must be convincing. Talk service, not just price.

Today’s detail business owner must realize that acquiring and doing dealer work today is much different than it was in the past.

If you are dealing with new-car dealerships or high-volume, used-car operations, you must approach them in a business-like manner. Find out as much as you can about the dealership and how they are getting their work done and by whom. Then develop a presentation that puts your detail operation in a position to provide them faster service, better service, more service, and not necessarily at a lower price.

Further, if you can offer other needed car-care services such as:
• Minor or major paint touch-up
• Windshield chip repair
• Pin stripping and/or body side molding
• Carpet restoration or dying
• Headlight restoration
• Vinyl dying or recoloring
• Trim recoloring

You have a chance to make per-car revenue of over $300. And, best of all, the systems needed to provide the above listed “extra services” are not expensive to purchase.
Doing dealer work can mean steady business for today’s detail business owner and much more profit. However, it will take careful evaluation of your ability to deliver.

Bud Abraham is a 40-plus-year veteran in the car wash and detailing industries as a manufacturer, distributor, operator, and consultant. He was a founding member of both the Professional Detailing Association and the current International Detailing Association and their first executive director. He conducts seminars on detailing at industry events and consults worldwide.