November 2015, Auto Dealer Today - Cover Story
Michael Nekava reflects on his record-setting 10-car afternoon. Photo: Michelle Kawka
Remember the last time you sold 10 cars in less than five hours? Michael Nekava does, and it was an afternoon he will never forget.
“I felt like I was in a Broadway show,” he says. “The craziest part of all is that it wasn’t like I was selling two new cars to a couple or even a family or anything. These were all completely individual deals.”
It was a chilly afternoon on the East Coast in late November when Nekava managed to sell 10 vehicles to his customers at Helms Bros., a Mercedes-Benz store in Bayside, Queens, N.Y.
Sure, Nekava has a history of selling a lot of cars. He sold more than 400 in 2014 and has been named the salesperson of the year at his dealership for the past nine years running.
In fact, he was named Auto Dealer Monthly’s Sales Pro of the Year in 2013. So it’s no surprise that any given shift is hectic and filled with countless calls, text messages, emails, walk-ins and even leads popping up from third parties.
Granted, Nekava has a personal assistant to share the workload. But selling 10 cars between the hours of noon and 5 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon is a little much for even the best of the sales pros. Let’s take a look at how he pulled it off, in real time.
Ready, Set, Go
At noon, Joyce, or Customer 1, comes in just as the store is opening. The elderly woman is a long-time client who has been browsing for a couple of months already. The lease on her white S-Class is up, so when she comes in the door, she pretty much knows exactly what she wants.
While Joyce is finishing up her paperwork with the F&I manager, in walks Chad and his wife, both friends of Nekava’s. They are in search of a new car for the lady, whose lease is nearing its end. The couple goes out for a test drive of the new E-Class with Nekava’s assistant.
That frees up Nekava, who has just received a text message from Mitchell, a customer ready to buy a GLA. His transaction is pretty easy, because he was just there to put down a $500 deposit on the car.
Meanwhile, Chad and his wife return from their test drive and the pair continue to look over their options. They are still unsure about which model they want to go with.
That’s when Jamie, a customer who had dropped in a week earlier looking for the perfect black-on-black Mercedes, appears.
Just as he reintroduces Jamie to his assistant, Nekava receives an email from Sam, an executive with a Fortune 500 company, wanting to know if now is a good time to stop by the dealership. At this point, things can’t get any busier, so Nekava invites him in.
Nekava puts away his phone just in time for his appointment with John, who had been car hunting for a while. He was in the market for an S-Class, and the night before, Nekava gave him a call. “I told him, ‘I always steer you in the right direction. I told you to wait, and I think now’s the time to pull the trigger.’”
Nekava had already quoted all of the rates and residuals to John the week before, so there wasn’t too much back and forth with negotiating when John comes in either. So he takes him over to build a configuration for his vehicle on the company’s visualizer, which helps customers get a clear picture of which Mercedes they’re signing up for.
Impressed, John decides on his dream car and is ready to fill out paperwork to get the deal done. Nekava sits him down at Desk No. 2 (Because it’s a Sunday, not all of the sales guys re in, so an extra desk is available, and Chad is still at Desk No. 1.) Nekava excuses himself and moves on to Customer 7, in case you’ve lost track.
Things appear to be slowing down, so Steven gets referred to Nekava and he’s waiting in the lounge. At just about the same time, Sam, the executive who had texted earlier, pulls up. “There’s a lot of back and forth,” Nekava said. “I’m literally working each corner and checking on everyone and going back and forth to my assistant.”
All the while, back at his computer is Jeffrey, an email customer. He is actually several states south in Florida. Jeffrey is insistent on a particular E-Class in stock at the dealership, so Nekava is slowly working on him throughout the day.
And then, of course, smart Michelle was equipped with quotes from other dealers, so when she starts texting, Nekava tells her they will match any dealer’s price. He is open to losing a little bit of profit if it means keeping her as a customer. Not all of his deals that day were profitable, but the majority left room for at least some money for the dealer. “I felt it was necessary to take this deal and be very competitive,” Nekava said. “So I just told her, ‘Come on in. We’ll make you a deal.’”
Tim has a similar approach as Michelle. He’d been “showrooming” at other dealerships and was trying to get a deal out of Nekava. “It was kind of funny. I’m the one who had educated him about the vehicles,” he said. “He was using my information with competitors, but that’s people’s nature.”
After discussing it with his general manager, Nekava agrees to cut a deal for Tim as well. “When I do that, I have to know their credentials, what benefit it will be. Can they refer influential people? Are they good people? We really look case by case. Some deals lose money, and some make a profit. In this case, it would lose money, but my general manager said to do the deal.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Shelly walks in for her scheduled appointment, which might have made an 11-sale day for Nekava, but he had to hand off the customer to another salesperson, because he was, after all, wrapping up 10 others.
“When 4:30 came around, everyone was gone. It cleared out, and everyone on my team almost fainted,” he said.
It’s not an everyday occurrence to sell 10 cars, but the camaraderie of the dealership that afternoon is what allowed for the magic to happen, Nekava said.
“I don’t know if that could ever happen again. Everyone offered a little extra twist to their job title that day,” he said. Nekava explained that the F&I manager “stepped out of his routine and was working a soft close and offering them product. I was giving out buyer’s orders, my assistant was cool with test-driving — everybody was willing to work together.”
The day will go down in history for Nekava, since the closest he’s ever come to that was selling seven cars in one day, but that was a 12- or 13-hour shift.
Mercedes-Benz USA did not respond for comment on this article, but according to Nekava, he would bet that an all-time record was set for his region, and without a question, within the dealership.
Stephanie Forshee is the former senior editor of Auto Dealer Monthly and F&I and Showroom. She has expertise in dealership operations, sales and F&I. [email protected]