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“You missed the heyday of the car salesman kid”. That’s what I was told by a well-worn veteran, who was still wearing a white belt that matched his shoes. When I started selling, we still had a couple of salespeople that been selling in the 1970’s. With what I saw in them, I don’t think I missed it. For the first few months in the car business I worked on the same floor with some old-style holdovers like Linda Kaye. She was a consistent performer. Consistently selling six cars a month.
Linda’s entire sales process involved a beer bar. Talk about one trick pony. It was back in the days when men shopped for a new car alone. Maybe that’s why they don’t shop alone much anymore. We sure never saw any salespeople taking couples to a bar for a few drinks.
Alcohol consumption is strictly voluntary these days. Some people still drink before shopping for a new car. They probably drink before everything they do. Working with people as much as I do, you see a lot of people who spend a large portion of their life somewhat inebriated.
In the film Glengarry, Glen Ross, Al Pacino’s character is working a customer over while sitting in a bar. He gets the guy plastered. Then takes his check and signs him up. That is the same plan Linda had without the finesse. That movie also had the greatest sales meeting of all time, given by Alec Baldwin.
Linda watched the floor for her ideal customer: A single guy, not looking for a station wagon. She quickly went on a demonstration drive. Her test drive route went down Division Street. She knew a dive bar, just far enough off the road, as to not be seen. If the male customer didn’t buy the first round Linda would start a tab. I am not one to speculate about whether Linda was in this for the male companionship, the free alcohol or actually was trying to make a sale. All I know is that she only occasionally sold more than one car in a week.
Linda would commonly call the sales manager and tell the fish story about the one that got away. The three most common calls for help were: she needed to borrow money to pay the tab, she and the customer were too drunk to drive back to the lot or she wasn’t even coming back to work that day at all. She was finally let go for a combination of missed days and low performance.
I sure don’t miss people like Linda. They are the ones who helped create some of the negative stereotypes we still have to deal with. They are also part of the reason for the success that we are having at Sierra Motors. We have removed the old tactics and replaced them with customer friendly procedures and complete disclosure. What you see is what you get. And you get to see it up front.
The biggest buzz word and benchmark for success of a dealership is C.S.I. or customer satisfaction index. It is a score on how satisfied your customers are with the dealership, the personnel and the procedures. For the entire year, we at Sierra Motors are number one in the entire region. Our three-month score is a perfect 100. That means that 100% of the surveys returned are marked completely satisfied. We are not a perfect dealership, but we are committed to our customers.
It has been quite a journey from the old days to where we are now. One of the things that I learned along the way is simply that tough times don’t last, but tough people do. I was wise enough to read the back of the book and know how it all ends up. I also see the current economic situation as an opportunity to capitalize on the inability of others in business to adapt. As always I am your friend in the car business. Call or come by anytime. Experience complete customer satisfaction. Sorry, no beer on the test drive.
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YOU GOT ME AGAIN
Over the loud speaker I hear the floor manager page me: wonderful, I have a customer asking for me. It is a young lady named Nancy. It is her second visit to the lot, but this time there is a guy with her. As I’m greeting Nancy the guy interjects “I’m her brother”. Nancy gives an odd reaction. Nancy came back to see a used Camaro. While we’re going over it, her “brother’ is offering a lot of objections.
The plan seems clear divide and conquer, besides who is this guy? Nancy is ready for a test drive, perfect. I got in the Camaro and locked the doors. I pulled it up to Nancy and put her in her driver’s seat. Her “brother” was trying to get in the other side but it was locked. I went around to the passenger door and used the key to open it and squeezed in front of the brother and quickly closed the door. I told Nancy “let’s go” and she went.
As we left the first thing she said is “that’s not my brother, he’s a salesman from another dealership”. She went on to explain that when she told him that she was coming to see me to look at a car that he insisted on going, so that he could make sure she got a good deal. She told me that she couldn’t get rid of him. “No problem” I assured Nancy.
We finished the test drive and went in a separate entrance. Nancy and I went directly into a finance office and finalized the deal. The Finance Manager came in and signed all of the documents with her. All the while her “brother” was running around the dealership looking for a way to disrupt the sale, but to no avail.
As she was taking delivery and leaving the dealership, I told her not to worry about the other salesman (her brother) and that I would take care of him. She smiled, thanked me and left. Her “Brother” watched as she pulled away. I walked up to him and was going to ask if he needed a ride. “You got me again” was all I heard.
I wondered what he meant, until he said “I was the guy across the street that you came and took your customer from last year”. I thought hard for a second, “What in the…Oh yeah… That guy.” I remember having a customer asking for me. It was Julio and I was about 20 minutes from arriving at work. “Tell Julio I’ll be there in 15!” off I ran to work. When I arrived I saw Julio’s car that I had sold him last time parked out front, but no Julio.
A New Nissan pulls up behind Julio’s car. It’s Julio on a test drive with a salesperson from Nissan. I watch as they pull into the dealership across the street. Only one thing strikes me as a course of action. I walk into the dealership across the street and directly up to Julio. “Hi Julio, just want to let you know I am ready when you are”. “I’ll be there in a minute”, Julio replies with a smile.
The salesman instantly turned bright red, sort of stomped his feet and blurted out, “thanks a lot! “ So I walked back to my dealership and waited. Julio came back over and we had another completely satisfied customer in no time.
A year later and I had never thought about the other salesman again. Who’d of known? Even after both encounters, I couldn’t bring myself to apologize. He called somebody to pick him up.
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PILLOW BACK SEATS
As with a lot of people, some of the activities that I participated in during my youth were less than respectful endeavors. It was during my first year in car sales and after one of “those” nights in 1984, that I showed up to work more than a little hung over.
July in the Mojave Desert is hot, dry, dusty and windy. I had been out almost all night and came to work in less than stellar condition. This was not all that unusual for me at the time. It was in the middle of the day and about 107 degrees in the shade. I was dehydrated from last night’s alcohol consumption. I don’t think I slept at all, as a matter of fact it was, “AN ALL NIGHTER”. But here I am in a dress shirt, slacks and a tie …”Ready to dance’.
In comes a nice older Gentleman. He is driving an older Caprice. He wants to look at a new Caprice Classic Brougham. You remember the really cool one that had the quarter vinyl roofs… Hood ornaments and white wall tires of course they were standard. This one had these really nice pillow back seats and the ride was so smooth. Don’t forget the wire wheel covers. It reminded me of the one they drove to do the circumcision, on Saturday Night Live.
The Gentleman says that he would like to take it on the freeway. That sounded great to me. We had had the A/C on for a little while and it was so nice and cool inside. Those pillow-back seats must have been really comfortable. We got on the freeway and headed north, I fell asleep.
It’s hard to judge how much time passes when you’re asleep. But when I opened my eyes I soon realized that we were almost to Mojave. I suggested that we turn around now. We did and went back to the dealership. He liked the Brougham, so he traded his Caprice in and bought it.