Cole Hawkins, 27
Accessory sales manager, Jeff Belzer's
Achievement: Turned an accessories program around, roughly doubling orders and revenue
Cole Hawkins was still learning all the vehicle products seven months into his time at Jeff Belzer's — which sells Chevrolet, Kia, Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram vehicles — when a manager tasked with rebuilding the accessories department quit.
Newly graduated, Hawkins had a stack of college bills to pay and decided to step up.
"I had never really held a management position," Hawkins said. "It was a little intimidating, mainly because I didn't know much about accessories at the time. It was one of those things, though, where I had to either step up or sit in the background."
So Hawkins put a business plan together with a friend at the store, presented it to management, and they became the new accessory sales managers in February 2015.
Hawkins worked fast to turn around a department that was "falling apart," he said. Nobody in sales wanted to send customers to a failing accessories department with low customer retention and satisfaction scores and falling sales.
So Hawkins focused first on "getting every deal." He made sure the sales department started introducing every single customer to accessories employees as part of the sales process.
Then came implementing a sales solution system from Insignia in May 2015. It "was a nightmare at the time," Hawkins said, because he had to price and enter every part and service into the system. But Insignia Group President David Stringer worked closely with Hawkins' team. Once up and running, the system kept the department on track of customer contacts and work orders.
The hard work paid off. Accessories revenue from May 2015, when the dealership group began implementing the system, through that December, accounted for nearly 80 percent — $986,000 — of 2015's total accessories revenue of $1.3 million. In 2016, accessories revenue surged to about $2.4 million and customer sales more than doubled to 5,429 orders from 2,569 in 2015.
"My biggest achievement, I would say, is going from the sales people totally ignoring us and doing everything they can to keep the deal from us, to them wanting to actually bring us that deal," Hawkins said. "They know we're going to add some value into that customer's experience."
Stephanie Hernandez McGavin