The rain is falling and I’m looking forward to another busy day here. Drive-time and wet streets always make for a powerful combination. But once the rush passes we’ll be waiting for regular customers to call.

The towing business is tough. We’re similar to EMT’s and Firefighters in that business is good when things go wrong. But the “problem” is most of the time things are pretty good. So you need to have a steady flow of referrals funneling business your way. You could depend on the motor clubs. But I think you know my opinion there. Or you could develop and foster relationships with local repair shops.

Keeping a good relationship with repair shops is an important part of the towing business, but it’s not easy. One reason is because they, the repair shops, compete with each other. You want to be friends with all of them and stay on their good side, like a politician who wants everyone’s vote. But it’s not that easy.

When campaigning, successful politicians listen. They hear all sides and take time to consider each argument. They might support (policy A) and that’s good because one group likes (policy A). But the next day, another group thinks (policy A) is a bad deal. Of course they can’t please everyone. So whatever measure is being debated, once the votes are tallied, a politician will, inevitably upset a certain percentage of his constituents when the decision is made—which, fortunately for him, is after he’s been elected.

Fortunately you don’t have to be a politician to be successful in the towing business. But there is something we can learn something from them. Listening.

Ok maybe they don’t do it so well—but you can.

Listening to your customers’ needs is the best way to gain their confidence. What most shop owners endure is the tower who drops in and interrupts whatever they’re in the middle of. He’ll shove a card in their hand and take 15 minutes of valuable time while ringing phones and waiting customers take a back seat. He’ll spend that time talking about his interests and his new truck or the fact that he’s gained other accounts like the repair shop around the corner. The shop owner may smile and nod while he’s there but once he’s gone he’ll go back to his business, thankful he’s gone.

On the other hand you could take a minute while dropping off a car to ask the shop owner if anything’s new. Instead of talking about yourself and your business you could engage him in a little shop-talk—about his shop. That is if he’s available. You could be mindful of his interests and gage his availability to talk by his body language, and other factors—like if there are any customers around. Whatever you do don’t talk about his competition. Think about it. Would you want a repair shop owner telling you that one of your competitors has towed 10 vehicles to their shop within the last week? No you wouldn’t that, it would eat at your stomach. So you can understand how the repair shop owner might not want to hear about you towing cars to his competitors.

Business strategist Jay Abraham says “To be interesting to people you must first be interested.” When you’re sincerely concerned about how the shop owner’s business is doing and it’s evident that you’re not there to serve yourself he’ll look forward to your visits. And over time, as he realizes you’re a conscientious respectable business owner yourself and that you do a good job he’ll start referring business your way.