Like many people who share this sentiment, I needed a job and saw an ad offering a monthly guarantee to sell cars. I had always been a good salesperson, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

After I was hired, I was promptly given a crash course in how to work a foursquare and … to stand. Once I got the hang of standing outside with five other guys, I had to master the art of calling “ups” (referring to the prospective buyer) and learning other automobile sales terminology and slang. The next challenge was taking the other salespeople off the market. Finding crafty ways to give myself an advantage in calling “ups” was a must. After many frustrations in having deals desked and one too many staplers thrown at me (true story), I made the decision to apply at a brand-new Infiniti store.

This Infiniti store was so new, it was literally nothing more than a building and an empty lot. For the first week, I was bombarded with every sort of training you could think of – product training, walkarounds, CRM, etc. Once the cars arrived after opening, walk-in traffic was light for a while. We worked on an “up” system – essentially a piece of paper – which made it important to get there early so you would get the first customer. In the beginning, that could mean the difference between getting a customer that day or not at all. And because the store was new, there was no database from which you could call. It was being built as people walked in.

I realized quickly that I needed a way to create business for myself, so I jumped online, found Infiniti-enthusiast message boards and started joining conversations. The board’s rules included no selling, so I simply tried to be a resource by answering questions that people had posted. Slowly, other participants on the message boards started sending me messages or referring people to me, some of which turned into leads and sales!

Then the dealership’s Internet Manager quit, and I took over that position. Back then, we used an ILM system that was separate from the CRM system. As I dove in, I was confronted with over 300 leads that had never received a response, and none was older than 90 days. I hit the jackpot. I stopped taking “ups” altogether and was laser-focused on working those leads. It paid off immensely. It wasn’t long before I was selling upwards of 40 cars per month, by myself, while continuing to work the message boards. I eventually approached the GM and asked if the dealership would sponsor the message board, and in turn, he could deduct the cost from my paycheck. He agreed. That was the beginning of me selling and shipping cars all over the country. 

Fifteen years ago, before current technology was commonly available, I understood that the key to being successful in the automotive industry didn’t lie in standing outside waiting for a customer, but rather in taking advantage of the tools available to create my own opportunities. None of the customer-outreach activities I used back then have become irrelevant or unsuccessful today. But when we look at what’s going on today, there are even more avenues with which to interact with customers and sell cars. Social media platforms, personal branding, video marketing and more sophisticated CRMs provide today’s salespeople with more options to engage customers than ever before.

The opportunities available to today’s salespeople via technology are unfathomable. Short of a few outliers, many salespeople still don’t use these technologies to their full extent. They don’t make investments in their own successes through training or personal branding. They don’t think of alternative ways to reach, engage and differentiate themselves to customers.

When I started out, I didn’t have all the technology that’s available today. The salespeople of tomorrow will have even more. But, the fate of salespeople in finding success in the automotive industry will always depend on the following fact: Salespeople fail not because the opportunities to be successful are lacking, but because they don’t find and act upon those opportunities. What opportunities are you missing out on, and what are you waiting for?