Automotive News 40 Under 40

Raheem Wilson

AGE: 36

POSITION: Sales associate, Michael Jordan Nissan, Durham, N.C.

Raheem Wilson

Raheem Wilson wakes up every day with the same thought: "I'm going to sell a car today."

That thought must cross his mind two or three times on most days, because Wilson, 36, has spent the past nine years doing for Michael Jordan Nissan's sales volume what the store's famous namesake partner did for the Chicago Bulls 25 years ago.

In April, Wilson sold 51 new cars. In May, it was 50. Two years ago, Wilson set a store record by selling 500 new cars for the year. Last year, he topped that by selling 515.

"I can sell three a day five or six times in a month," he says. "I just really like helping people buy new cars. I've had people cry when I sold them a car. Why wouldn't you want to help make people happy like that?

"One day, I sold eight. And one of these days I'm going to do 10."

Luckily for the Durham, N.C., dealership, Wilson simply popped in one day in February 2004 to apply for a sales job -- with no previous automotive experience.

He had been to the sales school of hard knocks after dropping out of his freshman year at Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C., where he was slated to play basketball. He traveled cities in the East selling magazines and books door-to-door. He spent two years as a telemarketer, trying to get people to hear his spiel before they hung up.

"All I need to do is talk to your customers and I'll sell them cars," he assured the store manager. "And compared to what I had been doing, selling cars was easy."

Salespeople from other dealerships sometimes call for advice now.

"I'm here every day, and I get in before we open and I usually work till seven-thirty at night. I don't take long lunches," he tells them.

"Put your personality into your conversations with customers," he advises. "Listen to what the customer is telling you. Work your referral networks -- hospitals, colleges, churches.

"Learn the prices and the finance options before you talk to people," he adds. "And don't focus on how much you're going to make. Just focus on making the sale. Give people the same treatment and the same smile whether it's a $100 deal or a $1,000 deal."

-- Lindsay Chappell