Nine Months in Hell
February 2017, Auto Dealer Today - Feature
Photo: James Holloway
Tim Denton’s first nine months on the job at Five Star Ford Lincoln in Warner Robins, Ga., were rough. And it wasn’t because he didn’t sell any vehicles. He sold hundreds. It’s because he was outside, on his feet, for 14 hours a day, rain or shine, the entire time.
“People would bring me water, tell me to come inside. I wouldn’t do it,” Denton says. “I said, ‘I’ll do this for nine months and then sit at my desk and people will call me nonstop.’”
Four years later, Denton averages about 35 units a month and, as he predicted, spends most of his working hours at his desk. He follows up with every single customer about once every 45 days, sending birthday, Christmas and sympathy cards, calling them just to check in, and even dropping by their homes or workplaces.
At Five Star Ford Lincoln, he’s an object of wonder: self-possessed and driven to personal success, yet always willing to help a teammate. He even leads a weekly training session. His general manager, Patrick Hoye, transferred from the Five Star group’s Chrysler store in 2016. He quickly learned all the stories he had heard about Denton were true.
“He lived up to the hype,” Hoye says. “He’s the first one here and the last to leave, and he does a phenomenal job serving customers. Great CSI, great product knowledge, doesn’t come up short in any aspect.”
Before he became an auto retail professional (he says his title is “sales guy”), Denton spent 18 years in the restaurant business. Starting in his hometown of Kissimmee, Fla., he worked his way up to the district manager level at a major chain before buying two restaurants of his own.
“That was 10 times harder,” he says. “The grease, the heat, the sweat … Now I’m sitting at a desk. My only tool is a pen.”
Denton says the keys to his success are his work ethic, which has prevented him from missing a single day’s work out of the last 1,000, his social media presence, and, most importantly, training. Listing Jim Ziegler, Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins among his idols, Denton says he listens to or reads at least 10 sales training manuals every month, mostly while sitting alone in the store from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.
“He wants to push his limits on what he can do, what he can sell,” Hoye says. “And he’s a beacon of light for the new guys.”
Asked whether he expects any of his colleagues to match his dedication to training and follow-up, Denton doesn’t hesitate to answer.
“No,” he says. “But that’s me.”