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     “There are two reasons people fail in the car business; they’re either lazy or they’re stupid.”  Those were the words of wisdom and inspiration I was given in a letter by my mom's second husband, Phil  when I first got into the business.  He was in his fifth decade in the industry, a dealer principal/owner on the East Coast.  I was a green-pea in the Pacific Northwest.  No pressure, if I fail, I’m either lazy or stupid.  I guess of the two, stupid would be best, because you can’t fix stupid.  Stupid just is.  And if I were stupid, I probably wouldn’t know anyway so, no big deal.  I honestly didn’t believe myself to be stupid.  So, that only left one reason for failure:  laziness.  That motivated me, because if that’s what failure meant, then failure was not an option.  The rest of the letter focused on what to do when you are not with a customer.  “The dealership will give you one specific tool to use for those times when you are not in front of a customer:  the telephone.  Use it.”  I did, and now 16+ years later, it is a passion of mine.  

     About five months into my career I got my wake up call namely, a paycheck with only one half deal on it.  Oh, and it was a mini of course.  $37 after taxes was my reward for two weeks work.  Well, you can’t really call it two weeks of work now can you?  I even came in on my day off to pick that check up.  The disappointment was written all over my face as I walked out to the car.  My wife could see it in my eyes.  She didn’t say a word.  I was livid!  Mad at myself mostly and mad at the slack jawed mutant who handed me my check.  Because of course he looked at my check, he was my closer.  He handed it to me with this smug look of, “You’re not gonna make it, kid.”  He was my direct supervisor and he seemed to be taking pleasure in the fact that I was struggling!  I determined right then that this would not ever happen again.  It hasn’t.  My pity-party didn’t last long.  I got back to work and focused and applied myself.  Especially during the “down-times”.  Making sure I pounded the phones and had appointments.  Things got better and better through the winter and then in April of ’95 I was Salesperson of the Month and my career began to blossom.  I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the role of my faith through that time and throughout my career.  There have been times when that’s all that held me together.    I know from Whom my abilities come and I’m grateful.  Often times I am blessed in spite of myself.  I am also aware of the words of the apostle James, “Faith without works is dead.”  So I have tried to apply myself and use the training I’ve received and my experiences to maximize my employment.

     Now I find myself as a Sales Manager sharing my experiences to try to motivate others.  It’s not just the phones; it’s all the tools that dealerships and manufacturers provide to assist us in our careers.  Be it word-tracks, closing techniques, visual aids or what-have-you.  I present the tools and show how they are used.  From the road-to-the-sale to overcoming objections, from phone skills to customer service and follow up I try to cover it all and then some.  The tools are there for all of us, whether your dealership has a Corporate Training program or not.  

     Think of it this way:  There was a Contractor and he hired a crew of carpenters and bought them all new tool belts with everything they needed for the job and showed them how to use the equipment.  Depending on the timeliness and quality of the work, each carpenter could earn up to $100 an hour for the day.  He dropped them off at the job site and went about his business.  Two hours later he pulled back up to the site to see one guy pounding nails with a rock, another one squinting real hard trying to eye-ball a measurement and a third guy securing windows with duct-tape.  The contractor grabbed the tape measure, hammer, saw and caulk gun and screamed, “Why aren’t you using the tools I bought you?!”  “I tried using that hammer boss, it just wasn’t comfortable.  This rock feels better to me.”  The one carpenter replied amidst a pile of bent nails and damaged lumber.  “I’ve always trusted my eyes boss, then I just split the wood with my axe.”  Said the second carpenter standing near a stack of, now, unusable wood planks.  “Hey man, I use duct-tape to keep the window in my van and it works great.  I don’t need anything else.”  Declared the third employee.  The exasperated Contractor told his crew, “Guys, while it is possible but not probable that you may complete this project the way you are working, we will have no profit left and it will take you about twenty times as long to get the job done.  Now listen, I have to get back to the other site.  You guys have the right tools and knowledge to finish this project.  I’ll be back at the end of the day to see how you did.”  Each of the crew members nodded their heads knowingly and grabbed their tool-belts.  The boss left again.  He didn’t get back till the cool of the evening as the sun was setting.  Approaching the site he saw the three carpenters sitting under a tree with their hats tipped down covering their sleeping eyes.  As the project came into full view he could not believe his eyes.  It was a complete monstrosity!  Not a flush edge, not a straight angle to be found anywhere.  The fact that this structure was even standing seemed to break the laws of physics.  “What did you do!?”  The boss screamed.  The crew got up from under the tree, “Oh, hey man, we’re all done.  Can we get paid so we can get going?”  “Get paid?  Get going?  Guys, you didn’t use the tools I gave you.  This thing is a disaster!  I’m going to have to stay here and re-do this whole thing!”  The Contractor shouted.  “Well, we did our part.  We just don’t like those tools.  We put it together and it is time for us to knock-off.  So, what’d we make on the job?”  Inquired the crew.  The boss shook his head in disbelief, reached in his pocket and handed each crew member minimum wage for the day.  “What’s this man”?  One shouted.  “Dude, this is for the whole day!” Cried another.  “What happened to the $100 an hour?”  Insisted the third.  “You guys should be glad you’re getting paid anything.  Any profit from this job will be long gone by the time I tear it down and rebuild it.”

     OK, you get the point right?  I guess the true insanity of that story would be, to make it completely accurate, the boss put that same crew to work on another project the next day.  So, what do you think, was the crew lazy or stupid?  They had the tools and knew how to use them but opted for what made them feel comfortable.  Are you using the tools and knowledge provided to you?  Or, are you banging nails with rocks?

    Perhaps it is too harsh and narrow minded to say that it can only be stupidity or laziness that causes failure in the car business.  We’ve all worked with good people who were hard working that it just wasn’t a fit.  I will say again, that I am thankful for the blessing this career has been to me.  I am thankful to the employers and managers, who have supported me, invested in me and given me opportunities.  I’m thankful to God for it all.  And I’m even thankful for a demeaning, slack jawed Closer who infuriated me to try harder.  Honestly, I don’t think I would hire that guy to work for or with me, but I’d probably buy him dinner.  


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