TULSA, Okla. - The job advertisement in the Tulsa World never mentioned selling cars.
Joy Bright did not know she was seeking employment at an auto dealership until after she applied to work for a company seeking energetic, self-motivated risk-takers.
Today, Bright, 59, who holds a master's degree in guidance and counseling and spent 27 years as a teacher in the Tulsa public schools, is a sales leader at the Tulsa Auto Collection.
Bright, a dedicated self-learner, has taught herself personal computing, photography and gourmet cooking and now is applying her hands-on approach to auto retailing.
She is on the front lines of Ford Motor Co.'s campaign to bring big-box retailing to automotive selling. The 960 employees working for the Tulsa Auto Collection have to convince customers that buying a car or truck a new way - without negotiating - is not just different but better.
The change has been difficult for the company and for many customers.
The venture is building a salaried sales force, hiring and training some people who are selling automobiles for the first time. Market share is down. Some Auto Collection customers still try to negotiate the price, or complain that nonnegotiable selling means vehicles cost more.
'I say that all of our figures are up-front. We will tell you what invoice is. But we don't pretend we are not making money,' Bright said.
But the view from the sales floor looks beyond the vehicle sticker.
For example, Bright has been trained to put the customer in charge of the transaction.
'People don't want to be sold. They want to purchase,' she said.
When it is time to evaluate a vehicle trade-in, the customer joins Bright and a trade-in evaluator for a drive in the vehicle being traded.
The practice helps eliminate the mistrust that customers may harbor when handed a traditional trade-in appraisal from an unknown dealership manager, said Don Thornton, CEO of the Tulsa Auto Collection.
Tulsa Auto Collection sales consultants are paid a salary and get bonuses based on sales volume.
The compensation changes have led some salespeople to quit, said Robert Rewey, group vice president of marketing, sales and service at Ford Motor Co. But the salary also has created a more diverse sales force, drawing working mothers, single parents and members of minority groups who might not have risked working on commission, he said.
The Tulsa attrition rate among salespeople is 'in the 10 percent range,' Thornton said.
'We knew we would lose salespeople,' he said. 'Someone who has been selling used cars for years knows the tricks of the trade. That salesperson will sell seven to eight cars a month and make $3,500 to $4,000 by sifting through the people on the lot and identifying those he can make a good gross on. To make that money now he will have to sell 13 to 15 vehicles a month.'
For Bright, it was not the salary plan that convinced her to go to work on the showroom floor. It was the nonnegotiable prices.
'Someone else determines what people will pay when they buy a vehicle,' she said. 'So I don't have to worry about a young person just starting out or an older person on a fixed income. I would have a difficult time making a full profit if I was selling to people having a hard time.'