November 2013, Auto Dealer Today - Feature
Greg Grimaldi picked up the phone at Carman Ford Lincoln in New Castle, Del., to find a customer in distress. She had run out of gas and couldn’t find the number to her roadside assistance provider. He could have looked up the number, wished the customer good luck and gone back to work. Instead, he asked where she was, hung up the phone, grabbed a gas can and hit the road.
“He really is all about the customer,” says Todd Brabender, the dealership’s sales manager. “He goes above and beyond.”
Customer service has been Grimaldi’s trademark since he joined the staff in 2007. He was working as a supervisor for the U.S. Postal Service when he saw a “help wanted” ad and took a chance. He called and reached Larry Giacchino, president of Carman Auto Group and son of Carmen “The Carman” Giacchino, the group’s still-active founder. Larry liked what he heard and asked Grimaldi to come in for an interview. More than six years later, Grimaldi is No. 1 among Carman’s 16-member Ford and Lincoln sales team. His DealerRater.com page displays a perfect rating of 5.0 and is filled with glowing reviews.
“He presents a positive image of the store equivalent to 50 percent of the sales staff,” Giacchino says. “I have confidence that nobody can close better than him. That’s a good feeling for a dealer.”
Grimaldi consistently sells 15 new or used units per month and usually averages closer to 20. Brabender says he closes deals at a “historically high” rate of more than 50 percent. His secret?
“I want them to know I’m here for them no matter what,” Grimaldi says. “They want someone who really does care and is not just trying to make a sale.”
He makes his intentions clear throughout the process. The Northern Delaware market includes buyers from every credit tier. Grimaldi says he doesn’t shy away from asking customers about their financial situation, noting that the dealership has two talented finance managers who work with more than a dozen subprime finance companies.
Grimaldi had only been in the business for two years when the Great Recession struck. He says the Giacchinos did everything they could to keep their store and staff afloat through the lean years; meanwhile, Grimaldi did his best to adapt to the new economy. “I don’t pre-judge anybody,” he says. “I tell customers, ‘The way the economy is now, it’s not a demographic,’” noting a distressed housing market resulted in foreclosures and bankruptcies for countless good-credit customers. “Everybody’s treated the same. If there’s a credit issue, we’ll handle that.”
Grimaldi stays in touch with customers with the help of Sales Assistant, a secondary CRM he found on his own and added to his personal toolkit. He asks sold and unsold customers for their birthdays, their kids’ birthdays and their wedding anniversaries, and the system creates an interactive calendar. “He pays for that out of his own pocket,” Brabender says. “It keeps him in front of his customers.”
“It tells my customers I want them to think of me as the face of the business, at least for them,” Grimaldi says. He believes most car buyers have a negative image of car dealers, and he can sympathize. “I’ve been on their side of the desk. I’ve had situations where I didn’t get what I was promised. I told my wife going in, ‘They won’t catch me promising anything I can’t deliver.’”
Grimaldi says he plans to stay with Carman for many years to come. He appreciates the fact that the group is a family business, and his own family seems to like it as well: His son, a college student, works as a lot attendant in the mornings, and his daughter works nights as a receptionist.
Giacchino says that Grimaldi handles all the dealership’s courtesy deliveries. When the job demands a personal touch, he says, Grimaldi is his man. “If I have friends or relatives who need assistance in choosing a car and having somebody that can do the job properly and with courtesy, I lean toward Greg. He handles the customers so well.”