Professional Community for Automotive Marketers, Car Dealers, OEM and Suppliers
(originally published 6/3/2011 on Dealer magazine)
The other day, I started thinking about all the friends I’ve made that I met because they bought a car from me. I’m not talking about acquaintance-type friends, I’m talking about people that are involved in my life, and have been for a long time.
I’ve been out of retail for about 2 years now. When I was in retail, I made a lot of money. As a commissioned salesperson, to make a lot of money you have to make profit on cars. Many people think that “making a profit” and “giving a good deal” can’t co-exist. There were times that I even felt guilty getting a hefty commission voucher. I was averaging 30 cars per month while maintaining a CSI score of 98% (and I had a high return rate on surveys).
So what was I doing right?
I always treated everyone like they had 800 credit scores. I made sure that all of my customers were happy and, if they weren’t, did everything within my power to make them so. I helped solve problems for any customer at my dealership, whether they were mine or not. I made sure that I respected all the parties involved and thanked them for their business sincerely. I followed up with them religiously to insure that they were satisfied and to recognize important occasions in their lives. I made sure my customers got not only the car they needed, but one they wanted, not necessarily the one I wanted to sell them. I truly cared about my customers and treated them all like they were my personal friends… and, guess what, many of them became just that.
While I enjoy money as much as the next person, I was never really “money-motivated.” A “good job” and recognition went farther for me. It wasn’t until I went to work for a particular manager that many of these ideals were instilled in me. He truly cares about his employees and took me under his wing. His leadership and personal attention truly made me want to work harder, sell more, and make the dealership successful. By doing that, not only did I care more about my job, the dealership and its customers, but I made more money. He inspired me to want to do a good job for him, not just for the money. Don’t get me wrong, he held you accountable. He just didn’t do it through fear as I see many retail managers do. He empowered his employees and trusted them to do their jobs. His favorite saying is “I’ll give you all the rope you need and you can either hang yourself with it or make a basket to carry all of your money.” I attribute my success in this industry to him. Without the culture and leadership he provided, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have.
Leaders can motivate in many ways. Sadly, many think the only way to motivate is through either fear, money or a combination of the two. By choosing the leadership style that he did and helping mentor me into the sales style and ideals that I adopted as a salesperson, I became successful, not only professionally, but personally. Too many salespeople (and managers) are looking for the next big voucher and not paying attention to their customers’ needs. Take care of your customers and do business right and the money will come.
So, thinking back on my retail career, as I recognized how many people I have in my life that are my friends simply because fate brought them into my dealership and I happened to assist them with their vehicle purchase, I realized that this provided me far more of an indication that I did things right than any “good job” could have and it was all possible because I had a great leader.