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It was 1978 in Ohio and I was a new car salesman. I was selling Chrysler Imperials and New Yorkers at a time when there was an energy crises. It was tough and I would not last long. But I learned something during that short time in the car business.
There was a fella, much older than I, but younger than I am now. His name was Johnny Walker (I do not lie). He could walk away from a deal and sell a car. He was my hero, my idol. He was the number one salesman at the dealership and he took a liking to me.
I was really green at the time, greener than a green pea. I tried hard and got some big commissions from “beginner’s luck”, what is truly innocence. I felt powerful. But I noticed that 50% of our walk-ins asked for Johnny Walker. He would sell them without trying. He would walk away if they gave him a hard time. And they would chase him to make a deal.
We were on a draw at that time. Sometimes I wouldn’t make my draw and old Johnny would open his wallet and peel off a fifty, hand it to me and say, “Don’t worry about it.” He knew I had a wife and little one at home and he knew I would try hard to sell the next car. He wouldn’t let me repay him.
One day, we had the opportunity to just talk. I asked him why so many people came in asking for him, many who had never met him. He said only one word, “Reputation”.
And that is what I learned.
I was fired that December, right before Christmas, along with almost all the other sales staff, except Johnny Walker. I never saw him again. It was approximately 15 years before I would get back in the car business, but to this day, I’ve never forgotten Johnny Walker.
I’ve always understood, since that day, that reputation is everything. Today, when the Internet has made it possible for your worst nightmare to come true due to ONE unhappy customer, we also have the opportunity to become Johnny Walker on steroids.
Think about it….