Jenny Beckstrom, 29
Finance manager, Inver Grove Toyota
Achievement: Beat Inver Grove Toyota's monthly F&I gross profit record by $20,000 in May
In Jenny Beckstrom's five years in the auto industry, she has succeeded in a variety of leadership roles inside and outside the dealership. But in each role at least one thing was consistent: a connection to people.
Beckstrom started on the sales team at Walser Toyota in Bloomington, Minn., in 2012. She had worked desk jobs for a few years, and the new position enabled her to "work with people really closely. I was up and moving around. It was just something completely different — out of the realm I've ever been in," Beckstrom said. "After a few months of selling, I fell in love with the industry."
She took the initiative to train many new employees at Walser. "I wanted them to avoid making the same mistakes that I made when I first started," she said. "I really like training. I like teaching people things. I like seeing them be successful."
After about a year and a half with Walser, Beckstrom began managing the accessories department at Feldmann Nissan, also in Bloomington. After just six months, she doubled the department's monthly sales to $50,000-$60,000. "I went in and I talked with every single customer possible," she said. "I think a big part of selling is finding people's hot buttons and developing rapport quite quickly."
She asked questions about customers' lives to build a story about how each accessory would fit into their lifestyles, and framed the sale as a small addition to their monthly payment, rather than a substantial increase to their total loan amount.
When Feldmann sold the store, Beckstrom became a vehicle personalization expert for the Midwest market of Insignia Group, which provides software and training to help dealerships meet customized accessory goals. She quickly added the OEM Manager title and worked with Subaru at the corporate level to develop a pilot — "which was kind of my baby" — that covered 40 dealerships in the central U.S. Beckstrom trained dealerships on Insignia and launched the software. In six months, she had launched the program at about 20 dealerships.
After about two years with Insignia, Beckstrom became an F&I manager at a Volkswagen store before moving to Inver Grove Toyota.
"I thought the only way I was going to go back into working at a dealership was in finance," she said. "It was always a goal of mine to get it eventually. It was just that my whole career path had taken me a different route."
Just as she did in accessories, Beckstrom focuses on connecting with the person sitting across from her, framing F&I products in a way that's easy for the customer to understand and showing how the product will fit into the customer's lifestyle.
In May, Beckstrom and her team beat the store's monthly F&I gross profit record by $20,000.
"It's a number the department has never done before," she said, "and we sold less cars than last year" during the month.