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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.