Corporate rentals are an important source of revenue for rental companies serving the local market. Local businesses need rental cars — but how do you reach them?
A corporate account is considered a business-to-business rental. Distinct from retail sales, corporate rental accounts include corporations and small businesses, as well as partnerships with travel agencies, hotels, body shops, and dealerships.
Elizabeth Alonso, a regional manager at Los Angeles-based MCar, compared corporate accounts to clothing. As with clothing sizes, no two corporate clients are alike.
At the 2016 International Car Rental Show, a seminar focused on how to increase outside corporate sales and how to train your sales force. Moderator Angela Margolit, president of Bluebird Auto Rental Systems, along with panelists Jorge Juan de la Guardia of Panama Car Rental, a Dollar Rent A Car licensee serving the country of Panama, and Alonso shared insights on how operators can increase corporate rentals.
Here are their insights into gaining corporate accounts:
Pound the pavement.
Rental companies can’t just sit around and wait for the reservations to come in. For de la Guardia, a manager needs to get out on the street and visit potential clients.
“You have to get involved,” said de la Guardia. “The customers aren’t in your office. Get your face out there.”
Starting with fewer than 60 cars at two locations, de la Guardia’s rental company has grown to more than 2,300 cars at 14 locations. Currently, more than 70% of its revenue comes from corporate business rentals — at least 1,500 cars are reserved for corporate customers, according to de la Guardia.
By visiting customers in person, a manager can get to know a corporation’s decision-makers on a personal level. “I also give out my cell number; clients need to know they can call you if there’s a big issue,” he said.
After meeting with a potential client, de la Guardia recommends sending an email to follow up.
Once you start building the relationship, respond to a customer’s emails as soon as possible. “Customers want a quick response,” said de la Guardia. “Even if you don’t know the answer, let them know that you are looking into it.”
It’s all about meeting the customer’s needs and building trust. “They will trust that you will give them the right price and find them the right car,” he said.
Play the numbers game.
To maintain corporate accounts, visit clients as much as possible. De la Guardia refers to gaining business as a function of calling.
At Panama Car Rental, de la Guardia and his sales team establish minimum daily visits for corporate sales accounts — at least six per day. Per month, the sales team does about 120 visits. This amounts to visiting a customer about once a month.
“We need to plant many seeds now and harvest later,” he said.
Currently, each sales rep is responsible for about 100 clients. A sales team needs to be familiar with each corporate client and know its rental price, according to de la Guardia. To stay organized and up-to-date on accounts, de la Guardia and his management team hold a weekly sales meeting.
Cater and adapt to the customer.
Because rental prices tend to be fairly similar from company to company, what makes your rental company different from the others?
To de la Guardia, his company stands out because of its emphasis on relationships: getting to know its clients, building trust, and responding quickly.
After understanding its corporate customers’ needs, a rental company should also adapt to their product to fit those needs. For example, to cater to the local mining industry, Panama Car Rental offers vehicles with mining specifications.
Selling is about asking questions. “After talking to our customers, we tailored our new facility to cater to our corporate customers’ needs,” said de la Guardia. “We now have a full maintenance body shop and car wash facilities to make sure our corporate customers are happy to pick up their cars here.”
MCar caters to its corporate customers by offering inclusive rates, negotiated fuel charges, and other special services, including split billing, baggage meets, third-party billing, P.O. Box tracking, delivery and pick-ups, and unique workweeks. Alonso refers to it as “mass customization.” MCar institutionalizes its customized solution so it can be repeated among a variety of customers while remaining reliable.
With several locations in Los Angeles, MCar has institutionalized special services to its corporate clients in the entertainment industry. According to Alonso, these services include billing aligned with production schedules, deliveries and pick-ups, studio rates, blanket coverage for multiple drivers, and direct and split billing.
Currently, 80% of MCar’s revenue comes from corporate rentals and continues to grow, she said.
Cultivate the right sales team.
A company needs to spend time training and supporting its sales team. According to de la Guardia, it’s taken Panama Car Rental about five years to form its current sales team.
During the interview process, he suggests interviewing 20 to 25 candidates — each candidate should interview with a few people from your organization. Then narrow the list down to three or four candidates.
“It’s a process,” said de la Guardia. “One out of six or seven employees works in the end. If they aren’t going to work, fire them quickly.”
To retain salespeople, it’s important to offer incentives. Pay them well or they will get snatched up by other competitors, he said. Offer them constant training, especially during customer visits. At Panama Car Rental, new salespeople will go on customer visits with de la Guardia or other veteran sales members to listen and learn the system.
“We offer our sales team tools like laptops and smartphones,” said de la Guardia. “That way, they have the right tools to show a presentation to a client or can pull out price quotes right away using an electronic device.”
Once a sales team has been developed, focus on training members on how to respond to customers’ needs. It’s one thing to get the sale, but a salesperson must know how to execute the order to maintain a relationship with the client, according to de la Guardia.
“Give your people training and support,” he said. “And if there is a problem, the manager needs to be the first one to step up.”
Provide dedicated resources.
To focus on serving a corporate client’s unique needs, MCar offers dedicated resources in its main operational areas: reservations, sales, and operations.
“You need a reservations team, a sales department, and an operations team dedicated to serve corporate clients,” said Alonso. “It’s not just one person; it requires a team.”
On the operational side, MCar has a VIP reservation team exclusively for its corporate customers; this is separate from its retail reservation teams, according to Alonso. Sales teams specialize in studio rentals, hotels and concierges, travel agencies, and insurance replacement rentals.
“In February, our corporate clients working at the Grammy Awards and Academy Awards ceremonies require special attention to detail on their needs and musts. To serve these clients, our workdays are from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. during that time,” added Alonso.
MCar’s locations even specialize in serving certain customers. According to Alonso, its airport offices mainly serve retail clients while its Beverly Hills office caters to corporate and VIP clients.
Track corporate accounts.
Rental companies should have their rental systems configured to capture all the information needed for each of their corporate accounts, said Margolit.
Rental companies should be able to track incremental sales as well as information for each account such as a company’s sales representatives, accounting contact and accounts receivable number, and insurance information.
The listings can be organized in different ways, including by revenue, sales representative, or category such as insurance replacement or government account.
In terms of the rental process, it’s important to indicate whether a purchase order is required and if there is a credit limit, Margolit said, as well as define a rate code and set up multiple rates that apply to that company.
Many of today’s systems also offer Web-based portals to allow clients access to a rental company’s real-time rates and availability, said Margolit, and book reservations directly from the rental company’s website.
Offer variety in fleet.
Not all corporate clients will be looking for the same cars. Alonso refers to MCar’s diverse fleet as alphabet soup: it has everything from Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, and Ferrari to Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, and Hyundai.
For corporate accounts, middle management may be given a Ford Taurus while the executive wants to travel in a Mercedes-Benz or better, said Alonso.
In insurance replacement, many customers prefer (and insurance policies stipulate) a similar (or better) vehicle to what they regularly drive. MCar includes exotic vehicles in its insurance replacement fleet — exotic car owners get into crashes, too.
For hotel rentals, a five-star guest could request any type of vehicle while airport hotel guests tend to look for low prices.
If a client is looking for something different, Alonso recommends listening to him or her. After getting several requests for personal drivers, MCar opened its sister company Wilshire Limousine Services to provide a different mode of transportation for its clients’ needs.
“We won’t be the cheapest car rental company, but we give service to our corporate clients,” said Alonso. “It’s about understanding how to go above and beyond to be different than everyone else.”