The 20-person sales staff at Doug Smith Autoplex in American Fork, Utah, doesn't have to look far for inspiration.
Brad Smith, the man who trained them, knows what he's talking about when he promotes the lucrative potential of car selling. When he isn't helping colleagues hone their sales skills, he is one of the dealership's highest achievers, selling 30 vehicles a month. He also is the former general manager; he stepped down after 15 successful years to become a salesperson again.
'I gave up the salary and the perks because I could see more potential in selling,' says Smith, who, with brothers Doug and Frank, handles Chrysler, Plymouth, Jeep and Dodge at the eight-acre Autoplex.
'I live on repeat and referral business at this point. I take no new phone-ups or walk-ins, and I work my own hours.'
Smith is quick to point out to his trainees that his own good fortune didn't happen overnight, but he adds that there is no catch. It's simply hard work and dedication that brings success, he says.
And one other thing: 'Staying put,' says Smith. He says you need to make friends and contacts at church, in the community and at your children's schools, and then follow up on those contacts.
Smith prefers to hire people without any sales experience. He looks for those who have good people skills, are friendly and well-groomed, are willing to work and have staying power. Initial training is extensive, and the Smith brothers believe in at least two to three hours of training for the sales staff every week.
One of the biggest reasons salespeople leave is they aren't properly trained, says Smith. When they aren't well trained, they won't make good money.
Smith helps the sales staff set goals once a month. They work together on selling techniques and skills, and nurturing a positive attitude, a comprehensive training approach that is the combination of tips from the National Automobile Dealers Association's trainers, whom Smith has brought in on occasion, and the Smith brothers' years of experience in sales.
The bonus systems at the Autoplex change monthly to keep salespeople interested, and Smith encourages the staff to strive for manufacturers' incentives. Recognition for good work is in the form of continuous support and congratulations rather than plaques to hang on the wall. Employee benefits include health care and life insurance and a 401(k) program.
If a salesperson is frustrated or is in a slump, Smith works one-on-one with that person to move him or her to a new level.
'We try to lessen the stress by helping them put their deals together,' he says. 'If that fails, we break down the process step by step to see exactly where it failed.'
The dealership provides attentive managers and reliable service and parts departments. Smith also encourages members of the sales staff to use technology to their advantage.
Tracking contacts and keeping a finger on customer birthdays and other special information leads to satisfied, repeat customers, and that's where salespeople want to be, Smith says.
Business becomes so much easier and more enjoyable when you've been in a job long enough to establish a client base, he says. Customers will come back again and again and will send their friends and neighbors to you.
Salespeople who reach that level at the Autoplex are provided with a sales assistant at the dealership's expense. The assistant does some of the legwork and paperwork that go with car selling. In addition, high achievers can set their own hours.
'If they're selling 20 vehicles a month, we just let them go,' Smith says. 'We know they're out there selling all the time in the community.'
Smith is writing the dealership's new sales manual, called 'Five-Star Selling.' The manual will be the essential package on the cutting edge techniques of selling, says Smith, who, nevertheless, adheres to a simple philosophy overall.
'You have to provide outstanding customer service by treating people as you would like to be treated,' he says. 'Then you create a culture of success as well as an enjoyable place to work.'