Alan Cox, 35
General manager, High Country Toyota
Alan Cox wanted to be a teacher, started out as a bartender, sold cellphones for a while and got pulled into dealership management in part because of a huge commission check.
But each stop along the unorthodox career path for the general manager of High Country Toyota in Scottsboro, Ala., has helped him succeed running a dealership.
The biggest lesson: “Lots of people are scared to promote their top performers up because they don’t want to lose those sales,” the married father of two said. “But in reality, someone selling that number of cars and leading your board each month — that’s the person you want in front of all your customers.”
Cox, a firm believer in networking and customer service, was persuaded to try auto retailing by a customer on the other side of a bar he was tending while in college studying to be a teacher.
“I met a guy who was running a Kia store in Huntsville. He recruited me all summer,” Cox recalled.
Cox sold 15 vehicles in his first month as a new-car salesman and never looked back. The dealership asked him to be its Internet sales manager on the side, and it wasn’t long before a rival Toyota store, Moultrie Toyota in Gadsden, Ala., came knocking. There, he had even greater success, thanks to a trick he picked up selling cellphones that he still uses today called Project 200.
“I have every associate give me a list of 200 friends or family associates. It’s the same approach I learned from the cellular industry: Get yourself in front of as many people as you can,” Cox said. “We used to use the phone book, but you have to learn to adapt and adjust. Now we use social media to get in front of people however we can to work with them.”
And getting in front of people, including potential customers, and interacting with the community remains key. Cox said he delivers pizzas to police and firefighters, to schools and military personnel in the area to introduce himself and the dealership and to stay involved in the community, just as a teacher would in a local school.
Cox said, “Everything I learned to become a teacher, I applied that to be a general manager.”
— Larry P. Vellequette