Chris Hayek, 39
General sales manager, Lexus of Kendall
Achievement: Coaches sales staff at Lexus store to raise volume and customer-satisfaction scores
Chris Hayek has always been a coach.
For three years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hayek played point guard on the basketball team, taking fellow players under his wing.
"Point guard is like the quarterback. It's the coach on the floor," Hayek said.
Hayek is still a coach on the floor, but he has traded the basketball court for the sales floor at Lexus of Kendall in Pinecrest, Fla., where he is the general sales manager.
Hayek's entry to automotive retail was a fluke. When the restaurant where he worked closed during the summer of 1997, he was invited to work at Mario Andretti's new dealership, Andrettis' Airport Toyota in Pittsburgh.
Dealerships offered steady summer employment until Hayek graduated in 2002 and started full time at Andrettis'. From there, Hayek held a succession of posts at different stores.
Along the way, coaching remained key to his service success. Customer-first tactics and competitive drive co-exist for Hayek's sales team, but if one of his team needs help, he's not afraid to enter the fray.
"Selling a car is 10 noes in a row, and you have to overcome that," Hayek said. "If you're in the middle of a deal, and you're not getting anywhere, let me show you how it's done. I'll get in there and sell the car with you."
In 2014, the Palmetto57 Volkswagen dealership in Miami where Hayek was general manager won the Wolfsburg Crest Club and Customer First Club awards, VW's highest awards for sales volume and customer satisfaction. It was one of just three dealerships nationally to win both awards.
Last year, Lexus of Kendall's used-vehicle sales volume rose 30 percent from the prior year, while profitability increased "significantly," the store's general manager confirmed, while declining to give numbers on new-vehicle sales growth. And the store maintained high customer-satisfaction scores, Hayek says.
Hayek said the greatest compliment he's received from a salesperson was that his selling style constituted the perfect combination of old- and new-school approaches — using the technology customers prefer for receiving information, such as email and text messages, while relying on timeless selling strategies.
"A lot of people try to put customers in cars that they don't want," Hayek said. "My philosophy is, let the customer fall in love with the vehicle first and figure the rest out later."