September 2015, Auto Dealer Today - Feature
Photo: Caitlin Davenport
Many dealers remain opposed to the prospect of an entrepreneurial salesperson who builds their own website and clientele, and that mentality may never disappear entirely. But at Bachman Chevrolet in Louisville, Ky., Mike “Chevy Dude” Davenport’s bosses have no issue with personal branding, and their trust in his abilities has paid off in spades.
Davenport, 38, has been a member of the General Motors family since he went to work for a Saturn store in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2000. He became an owner before selling in 2008 — shortly before the brand was discontinued, as it turned out — and relocated to Louisville to work for another Chevrolet dealership as its general sales manager. Uncomfortable with that store’s customer-service culture, he left in 2010 and interviewed for a sales job at Bachman, where he has flourished.
“I didn’t know anybody, so I figured I needed to do something special. A customer saved my number in their phone as ‘Chevy Dude’ and I just ran with it,” Davenport says. “I built my own website and got my car wrapped with LousivilleChevyDude.com. My receptionist will say, ‘Got a phone call here. They asked for the Chevy Dude.’ It helps people remember me, and that’s what you want in the car business.”
“For a salesperson, a large part of your success is selling yourself,” says Ryan Bachman, Davenport’s GSM. “And he’s employed here. He’s working here. By doing all that, he is branding the dealership.”
Davenport — who sold 33 cars last month alone, six of them orders for Corvettes — also has a YouTube channel, where he posts videos in which he demonstrates techniques and tips for working on Corvettes, as well as being active in a variety of Facebook groups. His efforts have landed him countless out-of-state sales. Those leads, along with frequent referrals and a healthy supply of repeat business, make up the vast majority of his sales.
But Davenport doesn’t rely solely on branding. He considers vehicle sales to be a long-term business, and he says professionalism and persistence always pays off.
“A guy from Mississippi asked in a post who he should talk to about buying a Corvette. Five or six people gave him my name,” Davis recalls. “I talked to this guy for two months, and he wound up going to his local dealer. … Six months later, he emailed me. ‘Mike, that dealer has yet to fill my order.’ He gave me a $5,000 deposit.” Days later, Davenport says, the now-satisfied customer even posted a public apology.
Davenport notes that his strategy can be easily replicated by any other salesperson willing to put in the time and effort. He’s not doing anything out of left field, he says, just making sure people know who he is and backing up his marketing with a great experience. “I don’t know everything about selling cars, but I do my job and do it well. My customers know they’re going to get a phenomenal experience and the pricing will be right.”
Davenport is finding huge success with modern tools, but all parties agree that, despite his modesty, he wouldn’t have built the loyal following he has if he didn’t have the service and product knowledge to back it up. He loves what he does, and he wants to ensure every person who buys from him walks away happy. That dedication is what takes an average salesperson and makes them extraordinary.
His secret, Bachman says, is his passion for his vehicles, his own brand and his customers. “Anyone can do all the videos and the branding he does, but if you don’t have the passion, it won’t get you very far. His customers see that passion and it works for him.”