Jamar Brinkley, 38
Dealer principal, Renaissance Nissan
Jamar Brinkley grew up loving cars — he would call automakers asking for brochures of their latest models and stack them on his bedroom bookshelves — but never aspired to work in the industry.
He wanted to become a doctor, but those dreams were quickly dashed after he failed biology his freshman year at North Carolina Central University. Brinkley, who served in the National Guard, left school for a semester anticipating deployment to Iraq but ultimately stayed home and found himself in need of a job and a new career path.
He started cold-calling local dealerships asking for an interview. Three stores turned him down before he landed an opportunity with Hendrick Automotive Group. There, he eventually became a sales manager while earning a degree in public administration.
Brinkley worked for Hendrick for seven years, later taking additional managerial roles at other dealership groups before getting the opportunity to own a store: Renaissance Nissan in Roanoke Rapids, N.C.
But it was no sure thing. The store had been unprofitable for nearly a decade, and Brinkley wired the money to close the deal the same day in mid-March 2020 that much of the nation shut down due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was scary,” he said. “But I trusted myself and everything I had been taught.”
Brinkley implemented a new team and new sales processes, including an “aggressive” finance department and a new maintenance program that encouraged customers to return for service, and saw almost immediate success. In the first six months after he took ownership, sales volume and profitability jumped significantly.
“People and process, that was the only reason why we were able to be successful,” he said. “We had the right people and we incorporated a process that was very rigorous and didn’t allow for a lot of excuses of why we can’t get things done.”
Brinkley said his attitude when it comes to sales is similar to how he broke into the industry: Be aggressive and don’t take no for an answer. There’s a fine line between sealing a deal and being too overbearing, he said, but striking the right balance can help earn customers for life.
“It’s all in the culture,” he said. “You want to make the customer feel like they’re part of your family and they earn your trust.”
— Michael Martinez