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Start With the A’s – Ask Them All to Buy a Car

Phone BookIn 1986 I was a new salesman working at a Hyundai dealership in Calgary.

Although there were a lot of people buying the new Pony in 86, (the msrp was around $6,000), there were also a lot of salesmen at the store. The competition for ups and sales calls was extreme.

My first day on the job I watch a few Joe Girard videos, was issued a d-plate, and got a desk in a dark windowless office at the back of the showroom, (which I shared with another new guy).

When I finished watching the training videos I asked my manager where I should start.

He pointed to the phone book and said,

“Start with the A’s.  Call everybody. Ask them all to buy a car”

Note: For the benefit of those readers under the age of 25;  a phone book was where phone numbers were stored before Al Gore invented the Internet. In 1986 the fax machine was cutting edge technology. (We were still manually calling in credit applications to the banks when I started in the business).

Over the next two days I learned how to handle rejection.

On my third day as a car guy a nice lady walked into my office, pointed to a Hyundai Pony in the showroom and said,

“Excuse me, I would like to buy that car”.

The was my first car deal. I was hooked. To be honest, selling those little cars was a pretty easy gig in 86. If you could get an up, the chances were good you had a deal.

The challenge was getting to the customers before one of the other salesmen did.

I slowly increased my numbers over several months by observing what the “experienced guys” were doing and following their lead. (BTW; Saleswomen working in the car business were rare 1986).

There were two distinct groups of salesmen at our dealership:

1) The guys who took most of the sales calls. (Phone Guys)

2) The guys who took most of the ups. (Up Guys)

Noticeably absent from this list were those who worked their prospects and previous buyers. I don’t recall that happening much back then. Hyundai’s were new to Canada and it seemed like everyone who walked in the building wanted to buy a Pony.

If you’re in the oil exploration business, you shut down the drill when you hit a geyser.

The “up guys” waited for fresh customers on the lot. In winter they would start a used car and sit in it to keep warm. When a prospect drove on the lot they would jump out and help “direct” them to a parking spot.

The “phone guys” stayed close to the showroom so when the page was made for a sales call “sales 101” they could grab it. (It was hilarious to watch them all diving for a phone at the same time).

I noticed the phone guys won the board most months. They also seemed to spend less time at the dealership than those who preferred working the lot.

Less effort. More sales. More income.

I decided I wanted to be a phone guy.

I was young and could run faster than the older phone guys, many of whom were heavy smokers. When a sales call was paged, I would sprint to the nearest phone. (This worked well for a time until a few of my peers cut back on their smoke breaks after noticing I was moving up the board).

As luck would have it, our receptionist was also a smoker. One day she asked me to watch the switchboard for 10 minutes so she could have a break. I was happy to oblige.

Within a minute of her stepping away from the reception are, the phone rang.


“Thank you for calling ABC Hyundai. How may I help you?”


“Yes I would like to speak to a salesman about the Pony.”


A few days later I put up a sticker for that one.

Unfortunately for me, the receptionist was not a heavy smoker and didn’t take many breaks.  The best I could do was answer the phone twice a day for ten minutes at a time, and only when I was not busy with a customer.

This would not be enough time to fill my appointment calendar. I had to find another way.

My “light bulb” moment came a couple weeks later on a Sunday morning while I was in the showroom making follow up calls. Most people were home on Sunday mornings and the dealership was closed so I had no interruptions. My manager had given me a key to the building as I often worked late.

In those days, when the sales department shut down each night, the switchboard was set to forward incoming calls to the service department. (It opened an hour earlier than did sales).

That Sunday morning I was expecting a call back from one of my prospects so I sat at the switchboard and turned off call forwarding.
Almost immediately, the phone rang.


“Good Morning. Thank you for calling ABC Hyundai. How may I help you?”


“Yes I’m interested in buying a New Pony. I want a red one. Do you have any in stock?”


There’ve been a handful of moments in my career when I realized I’d just found another gear. This was one of those times.

I started spending my Sunday mornings at the dealership taking all sales calls and booking appointments for the following week. I was able to work less and make more.


What’s the take away from this story and my trip down memory lane?


When an Internet lead comes to your dealership after hours, it doesn’t actually “go to the store”. It goes to a member of the sales team, wherever they happen to be.

(Assuming of course the Internet Sales Manager has a process in place for distributing leads when the store is closed).

When a prospect calls your dealership one minute past closing time, who answers the phone?

Who helps the customer?

There are a couple obvious ways to increase business at any store.

1) Get more traffic.

2) Get more from the traffic you already have.

We help our dealer clients do both.

If you would like to know more about how we do this, let us know.

David Tingley



{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Darryl Varadi March 15, 2012, 8:37 pm

    Whoever figured out that we have to ask for the business 5 times to get it was right. Might be you again Dave, but I agree, get that 1st ask out of the way early and you are 20 percent of the way to a delivery.

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