July 2014, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
Ted Mikels began his automotive sales career in high school, helping out at his farther's used-car lot. After referring and helping close several friends, Mikels began to develop a feel for car sales. When his brother-in-law suggested he might be a good fit at Wheeler Toyota, Oregon’s oldest dealership, Mikels went for it. Seven years later, he says he loves working for his dealership — so much so, in fact, that he feels he has yet to work a day in his life.
Mikels’ first sale at Wheeler caused some trepidation. Not only was the sales process different from his father’s, but he happened to have a difficult client. Would all his customers be this hard to work with? Happily, the sale was completed and Mikels’ anxiety quickly dissipated. Today, he averages nearly 16 units per month. Last year, he had a four-month streak in which he sold at least 20 new and used vehicles at the Toyota/Scion point. Additionally, he has the highest CSI of any of the eight salesmen at Wheeler Toyota. Last year, he earned Bronze Level certification by selling at least 25 certified pre-owned Toyotas.
“We sell the experience. Being in a small dealership can make people think they aren’t going to get as good of a deal,” Mikels says. “We have to remind the customer that just because we are a small dealership doesn’t mean we aren’t going to get competitive pricing and get a great deal on their new car.”
He notes that Grants Pass’ large retiree community seems to be particulary comfortable with the Toyota brand and adds that the dealership recently changed the way customer negotiations are handled: Salespeople give an initial vehicle price and then have the customer tell them how the price points need to change in order to close the deal. He says that since it made this change, the dealership’s CSI has improved considerably.
Mikels says he tries to leverage the dealership’s good reputation and his expertise to draw new customers. “The hardest thing is setting the appointment. Once we get customers in the dealership, we do pretty well. I can assure them it’s going to be a really smooth process.” He sends out handwritten notes on cards with his picture to keep in contact with customers, and he has managed to sell a number of vehicles through his large network of Facebook friends.
When he’s not at the office, Mikels is spending time with his nine siblings, playing guitar, enjoying the river with his friends and doing home improvements. But Mikels says he really enjoys his work with Wheeler Toyota because the owners take such good care of their employees. On the dealership’s 50th anniversary in 2013, the company sent the entire staff to Hawaii for a four-day vacation. “How customers are treated is reflective of how employees are treated,” Mikels says.
Since Mikels is one of the longest standing employees at Wheeler Toyota, he offers his assistance to new sales associates to help improve their sales. The dealership rewards any salespeople who set and close appointments, so that incentive is the difference between salespeople aggressively trying to works leads and sitting and waiting for customers to walk in. He says that sometimes it can be challenging to transition from going out on the lot and finding the right car to going inside and getting a commitment to buy, especially since Wheeler Toyota’s salespeople handle all their own deals from beginning to end, without the help of a closer.
“I work with a sales team that completely focuses on making our customers have the most enjoyable experience possible buying a new car, and we are very transparent. I truly believe the key to my success as a sales professional is my love for the job I am doing and my dedication to it.”