Starting in Gear

Harry Klekos puts his all into his first meeting with each customer, and he expects them to be just as upfront as he is.

July 2016, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by Stephanie Forshee - Also by this author

Courtesy Toyota of Vineland (N.J.)
Courtesy Toyota of Vineland (N.J.)

When Harry Klekos joined the sales team at Toyota of Vineland (N.J.), he spent many of his early days just watching and listening to veteran salespeople. He picked up a lot that way, he says, but his quiet, observant approach made an impression with his bosses that he wasn’t expecting.

“My GM told me he never thought I’d make it in the car business,” Klekos recalls.

Today, Klekos averages 23 sales per month and can usually be found at the top of the dealership’s leaderboard. He has been at Toyota of Vineland for seven years, and he brought a lifetime of experience to the job: Klekos entered the workforce at just 11 years old, working in his family’s restaurants, before deciding to find his own path later in life. He spent five years with a local paper company before applying for a sales job with Toyota of Vineland.

No matter which industry he works in, Klekos says, “I want to be the very best at whatever I do.” At the dealership, that means putting all of this time and energy into a customer’s first visit: If he can close that deal, he says, those customers will likely result in repeats and referrals. Focusing on the first meeting has pushed his first-time close rate up to an impressive 50%.

How does he do it? “Some people treat this like a nine-to-five job, but my cell phone never stops, even on my days off.” Klekos’ “days off” are Sunday and Thursday, because all New Jersey dealerships are closed on Sundays and Thursday is dedicated to spending time with his kids. Those other five days of the week, he says, Klekos is constantly working. “If I have an appointment at one, I go in at 10 and clean up the paperwork. The average person comes in about five minutes before their appointment.”

Klekos’ general sales manager, Oric Cortez, says he admires his consistency. In 2015, Klekos sold 232 cars — 72 more than the No. 2 sales pro on Toyota of Vineland’s 12-person team. “He had an incredible month last month and is consistently No. 1 at our store,” Cortez says.

Klekos still takes Internet leads and walk-ins, he says, but he also keeps a close eye on his leasing portfolio, which makes up a significant portion of his customer base. He starts soliciting about six to nine months before a customer’s lease is set to expire — roughly 30 to 40 customers at any given time. But no matter whether the customer is there for a new vehicle or to renew a lease, Klekos cuts straight to the chase.

“Nobody wants to be at the dealership for five to six hours,” he says. “I always ask them right away what it is they want to accomplish.” Many times, the customer already has already priced a certain vehicle at a competing dealership, so Klekos wants that information upfront. “That person doesn’t want to dance around what it is they want, and I want people to be honest.”

Asked for his advice for green peas, Klekos says they can copy his approach and shadow veterans, if that’s an option. But he has seen at least 30 sales pros come and go since he joined the team, and the dividing line is clear: Only those who put in the hours will reap the rewards.

“You’ve got to put all of your effort into it if you want to move forward with this job,” he says. “Otherwise, you’re going to be stuck in neutral.”


  1. 1. Buddy [ August 09, 2016 @ 05:32AM ]

    He is 100 percent correct.

    As a long time car buyer, I have found the best approach is for the customer to research the price, financing, and trade value before visiting the dealership. The best approach is then to tell the sales person what you, the customer, are looking for in the way of price and trade value. Let the sales person work to meet you numbers. If the sales manager does, great. If not, you learn that very soon and can walk away without spending countless hours at the dealership.

    Buying a new car should not be difficult. With the right knowledge there is simply no value to be gained in engaging in a long term negotiation game. Just tell them what you want.

    There are far too many self anointed "experts" telling people foolish things about negotiating a price. Like, never tell the dealer you have a trade. Silly, as if the dealer has never encountered that tactic. Or never tell the dealer your price. Foolish again.


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