J.R. Toothman III

Age: 39
General manager
Toothman Ford Sales Inc.
Grafton, W.Va.

When J.R. Toothman III came to work as a salesman at his father's Ford store in 1994, dealers in out-of-the-way rural stores in places like Grafton, W. Va., didn't tend to sell cars outside their local territories.

"When I came to work, 20 units a month -- and sometimes 15 -- was acceptable," says Toothman.

"When I first got in the business, you were at a distinctive disadvantage being off the beaten path. But now, due to the Internet and some of the tools you have, you can show how competitive you are," says Toothman.

Toothman worked particularly hard to increase used-car sales, something the dealership hadn't paid much attention to previously. Toothman has used online services such as AutoTrader.com and cars.com to help him increase the store's reach.

"Your pricing has to be aggressive for you to have visibility," he says. "Even being 100 miles away doesn't slow these people (customers) down. We were confined to a 20-mile radius around the dealership. Now you can take enough pictures and describe the car. The deal is almost completed before they're in the showroom."

Dan McCollough, sales manager for Toothman Ford and a mentor to Toothman during his early days, says, "He has taken the store over with his ability to keep up with technology." McCollough was a mentor to Toothman in the latter's early days at the store. "The dealership used to sell 40 new and used cars a month. Now it's at 70 to 80. He gets instant results. He's involved in a 20 group. I couldn't be prouder of him."

Toothman's efforts also have pumped up used-car sales. Toothman Ford now sells four used cars to every new car.

-- Bradford Wernle

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