April 2014, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
Before he joined the sales team at Timbrook Auto Outlet in 2000, Brian Read worked as a pontoon boat driver for a Maryland state park. Read says that job, which required him to interact with park visitors, helped sharpen his social skills. When a family friend at Timbrook Auto Outlet, offered Read the opportunity to sell cars, he felt it was a natural fit. The opportunity to demonstrate vehicles and educate customers on the finance process sealed the deal, and his confidence grew.
Fourteen years later, Read is the Cumberland, Md., store’s longest-serving salesperson. He averages 13 units per month with a personal best of 20 units. The Auto Outlet is one of four branches, and its five-member team combines to sell about 130 used vehicles per month. Read has received the GM Mark of Excellence award and special recognition from Joe Verde Sales and Training. He is also responsible for the single cell phone customers can call to reach a salesperson after hours — especially those who are perusing the store’s inventory at Cars.com or AutoTrader.com.
Read enjoys spending his time off with his family or riding his Harley, but he looks for leads wherever he can find them. He volunteers as a college basketball referee in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and the offseason brings showroom visits from coaches and fellow officials he has befriended. He also prospects new customers by following up on Internet leads and dropping by Timbrook’s service department to ask customers for referrals.
Read says low-pressure sales tactics are the key to connecting with customers. As much as he wants each sale, he does his best to stay on the customer’s side and be sure he understands their needs — typically, the best, cleanest and most reliable car they can afford. Naturally, he prefers face-to-face interactions to working over the phone or via email.
“When I have a car here that is so nice, it’s hard to describe that over the phone,” Read says. “I’d really like for them to see what I’m seeing.” He adds that he is just as passionate about F&I. “When you first meet a client, it’s kind of a puzzle, and we all work to put it together. F&I plays a big factor in that.”
Rather than competing with his F&I manager, Dina Wilson, for his customers’ affections, Read says he introduces them at the beginning of the process. The goal is to narrow their choices and ease the TO to F&I. Wilson says Read recognizes that a successful sales/finance process depends on mutual respect between departments. “He understands the importance of the customer protecting their vehicle, their loan and themselves,” she says.
Cumberland is a small market, and the departure of large employers such as Kelly Springfield Tire and Westvaco Corp. has left the city with more than its fair share of retired or nearly retired residents. But that hasn’t stopped Timbrook from realizing steady success — even during the down months. Winter weather can deter customers, Read says, but the Timbrook team keeps the snow cleared for those who are willing to brave the cold. “You can’t even see the highway because there is so much snow. And yet a nurse will come in who has to be at work at the hospital, and she’ll buy a car. They’re the kind of days where you can’t even take a demonstration because the weather is so bad.”
Read credits the company’s owner, Fred Timbrook, with setting aside time for his employees and their families. Timbrook Auto Outlet closes by 7 p.m. every night and all day for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That makes the staff happier and healthier, according to Read. “Timbrook really recognizes that that after-dinner time is family time.”