August 2014, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
Shawn Wallace of Gary Force Honda in Bowling Green, Ky., thought he would work in vehicle sales temporarily while he looked for a way to continue his first career in the medical field. However, shortly after he began, he found that he was hooked. Sixteen years later, he says the greatest thing about his second career is the newness each car sale brings. “Everything in the medical field was the same, every day. Here, it’s never boring. It’s a constant challenge and no deal is ever the same.”
Wallace started at a different Gary Force dealership, earning Salesman of the Year honors 10 years in a row and Salesman of the Month 88 out of 120 months. Three years ago, he transferred to Gary Force Honda, where he now says he could not be happier. He says the group values its employees, and that translates to how the customers are treated. The dealership is never open on Sundays or holidays, and they don’t demand long hours, Wallace says. In turn, he tries to approach his job as if he is running his own business, always being proactive and valuing the work and the people.
Wallace says there is none better than the group of people he works with and for. With an average of 150–180 vehicle sales per month tallied by a group of 12 salespeople, six of them achieved Honda’s Silver Sales Society level by selling at least 105 vehicles in 2013.
With an average of 15 sales a month, consisting almost exclusively of repeat business, Wallace says he approaches each sale with honesty and a veteran sales pro’s ability to listen to what his clients need. He says one must to be a better listener than talker in his trade because, eventually, if you listen closely enough, the customer will almost always explain what they need. Customers are always first, above anything, Wallace explains. “I just treat them how I’d want to be treated if I were buying a car,” he says. “No need to use sales jargon or focus on the payments. Just talk to me like a regular human being.”
Additionally, he explains, as a car professional, the salesman has to know his product and inventory. “Being professional, listening to the customer, hitting the high notes on what they’re looking for separates you from a lot of other people. Especially if they have been to four or five different lots already — you become the person they are looking for. Sometimes you can convert people who were just looking into buying if you just pay attention to their needs.”
But the hard part isn’t the sale, he emphasizes. The real work lies in maintaining customer relationships after the fact. “That’s a big trust when people are spending $40,000 or $50,000 with you. You want to make sure you take care of them through the life of the purchase.” Wallace does so with the aid of Car Sales Assistant, a software solution he uses to send out birthday, anniversary and yearly follow-up cards. He also asks customers to call him when they need to have their car serviced so that he can set up the appointment for them and have a loaner car ready.
Wallace’s sense of loyalty extends to the F&I office as well. Once the deal is closed, he says he begins to cull customers for F&I. He says it’s really helpful, especially if the customer bought a pre-owned car, to listen to what the F&I managers have to say — they are only trying to protect the customer, Wallace says. “I will wholeheartedly try to help the F&I guys because they help us all the time. They work long hours to make sure our deals are handled. Their hard work allows us to provide for our families, so I always do what I can to make sure they can get their job done.”
When he’s not working — or teaching and practicing Kung Fu — Wallace can usually be found spending time with his family. He says his passion for family carries over to his work, where he has sold cars to several generations of four or five different families. “I’ve been fortunate to serve these families [and] watch these kids grow up and have kids of their own. It’s great when people trust you enough to let you represent them for all those years.”