Craig Lockerd

What was yours like?

I started selling cars in the summer of 1974 at a single point Plymouth Dealership in Canton Ohio, Canton Plymouth. We advertised as the “World’s Largest Exclusive Plymouth Dealership”,which probably was true due to the fact there were at that time only about 40 other dealerships in the country that just sold Plymouths without the Chrysler line up as well.

My “training” pretty much consisted of trying to listen in to guys that were about 90 years old talking to customers,watching an 8 millimeter film by Vince Lombardi called “Make That Second Effort” and reading a book by Frank Bettger called “How I raised myself from a failure to a success in selling”.I was shown where the cars were,the keys and jumper cables.I also was told to “Close early,Close often,Can I help ya, would ya take,are you buying today and low ball them if they weren’t.

My first actual sale took place after making about 500 very cold phone calls out of the local phone book with a “pitch” that went like this ” Hello is this Mrs. Abbot? She says yes, I say “Your new Fury is ready for delivery is tomorrow morning or afternoon better for you to stop in and pick it up?” she would say,”I didn’t buy a Fury”…My reply “Oh,I’m sorry,well as long as I have you on the phone……..etc. Guess my manager wanted me to get over the fear of making phone calls,I was the youngest salesman on the floor by about 25 years it seemed.

I totally messed up the next 10-12 customers by saying or doing something stupid until…..Reverend Right[Not real name] walked in one morning.

The good Reverend Right was holding two things a Bible and some information on the 1974 Plymouth Valiant.At this point in both my selling life and personal life I was pretty much useless with anyone over the age of 40 and that mixed in with a man of God really had me trembling.

Reverend Right picked up on the fact that I was new to selling cars,mostly due to that also being part of my training,tell every customer you’re new for a couple of years,so he tried his very best to make this easy and clam me down.This transaction started at about maybe 10 in the morning as I recall,and just 7 short hours later the Reverend was driving home in his brand new 1974 Valiant.

I was pretty pumped up,I went into the sales office looking at the sales board,located my name at the very bottom and took the chalk into my hand and put up my first 1 next to my name.I didn’t really even care that the deal was a “mini” and my commission was $20 bucks,I was now officially a Professional Car Salesmen!

I know this blog is titled My First Sale and the First time in anything is pretty cool and memorable,probably shouldn’t go any further with that line of thinking ,but there is one other deal of the nearly 2000 cars I sold in my 5 years on the floor that I want to share with you all.

January 1979,my wife was pregnant with our second child [Erica] and by this time I had become a pretty good salesperson,sold a lot of cars and trucks and made a few dollars.As I recall is was early in the morning and I was always either on the phone,in service,on the lot or at the door.This morning I was walking the lot when a car pulled in and …… Nurse Hatchet[not real name] got out of her car,now I know if you have sold cars for any amount of time at all you come across a “difficult” client from time to time,I will put Nurse Hatchet up against any that you ever had,again a 7-8 hour ordeal,that got to the point of her and I just seeing who could be more nasty to one another.I would be “winning” for 30-45 minutes amazing her with my brilliant salesmanship[ total lies and baloney] but then she would make a comeback and take the lead for the next hour or so with what crooks sleazy car salesmen are and how could I sleep at night etc.

This literally went on for hours,she wouldn’t leave and even though my manager told me to kindly ask her to take her business elsewhere I was for sure going to SELL Nurse Hatchet a car.Car picked out,price settled on[another mini] she pulls out a check,pays for the car,I get it cleaned and as I hand her the keys she says’ You know young man you didn’t SELL me this car I bought it” I felt my face get red and said back to her “Well it was my pleasure and happy depreciation” and she left……..end of story?….ummmm no!

Let’s go back to my wife being full term with our second child,she goes into labor,I leave work,take her to the hospital we are in the delivery room and guess who walks in……yep! Nurse Hatchet,I nearly fell to my knees and babbled something like please this is my wife and my baby,I’m just a regular guy I sell cars to provide for my family and if I offended you ,I’m sorry and on and on….she was very cool,very calm,told me not to worry she was a PROFESSIONAL.

The delivery went fine mom and baby all good and the good Nurse upon leaving reminded me that now not only did she buy the car from me,I didn’t sell it to her I also didn’t delivery my child,she did!

Those are mine,if it was your first sale or a very unique one….keep it clean….please share it I’d love to hear them…memories are pretty cool in our business,let’s share some.

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Comment by Craig Lockerd on December 18, 2012 at 7:06pm

Great stories,Greg and Sean...thanks

In almost every comment a "feeling" is mentioned......man this business always has been and always will be about feeling and emotions

Comment by Sean Stahlhut on December 18, 2012 at 8:58am

First sale was a Hyundai Santa Fe, I started off selling Hyundais when they were horrible. It was a full list deal and I was on training pay... I lost out on a 700 commision! My face turned purple I was so nervous, I'll never forget it!

Comment by Gregory Gershman on December 18, 2012 at 7:21am

1991, My first car deal was a new Roadmaster Sedan to Theodore Berg.  He was about 85, it was my first day on the floor and he spot delivered in the car.
I went home that night all happy, had a great meal, and went to bed.  About 1 am my phone rings, startled me out of my sleep.
Roadmasters had a cover over the lock cylinder for the trunk.  Mr Berg had gone grocery shopping that afternoon, and since about 2 pm had been unable to figure out how to get the trunk open again.

Comment by Craig Lockerd on December 17, 2012 at 7:06pm

Great comment Jim,yes it wouldn't make much sense to spend double the money on an ad budget to go from 500 visitors a month to 1000 if you're closing at 10% all that would do is upset 900 people rather than 450.....

Comment by Jim Boldebook on December 17, 2012 at 6:03pm

This is a good conversation.  Even though I am in the advertising business, I'm the first to say dealerships need to devote the time and money necessary to adequate training.  In fact, I've been invited to work with dealerships in the past where I have declined, instead urging the dealer to put his focus on training prior to starting an aggressive advertising campaign.  Great ads and all the money in the world are a total waste if the team isn't ready to handle the action properly.  I dare say there are a large number of dealerships out there who could take 10% of their advertising budget, put it into training and take a lot more money to the bank.  More importantly, training and motivation have to be an ongoing investment.  Just like Zig Ziglar said, motivation, just like bathing, doesnt last.  You have to do it every day.

Comment by Craig Lockerd on December 17, 2012 at 5:43pm

No doubt training makes a huge difference in both profits,and of course retention of top talent.It seems most stores and managers understand,agree accept that,sometimes it just comes down to money and or time to do it.

Comment by Ernie Kasprowicz on December 17, 2012 at 3:53pm

Craig, In contrast to your beginnings in the business I must say I was more fortunate. Upon hire, the newly hired underwent a two week intense road to the sale training. Every aspect was presented, reviewed and rehearsed. Then onto the sales floor where the first few customer encounters were shadowed by a mentor salesperson. Management insisted upon every step in the sales process was adhered to, no exceptions. My first car sale was by the book, and as I remember, relatively easy. I enjoyed much success by never straying from the process. Not all who started in my group remained in the business, but those that did, enjoyed it. I disagree with the thought that training does not make a difference or add value to the bottom line.

Comment by Craig Lockerd on December 17, 2012 at 11:41am

Yes Rod....they were....but the thing I find interesting in everyone's answers on all the social platforms I sent this blog is how specific everyone remembers their first time.I also think that's how we should treat each client because it could be their first car,let's keep the enthusiasm and focus we had on that first deal and pay that forward to every client that walks in our store.

Comment by Rod Thurley on December 17, 2012 at 11:27am

Pretty uneventful actually.... 1986.5 Nissan Hardbody Truck. They were actually title 86.5 due to the mid-year change over at Nissan. The truck was red that faded and peeled like a banana after about 5 years in the Tennessee sun. It was a 5 speed, no radio, manual windows and locks, 270 air conditioning, (2 windows down, 70 miles per hour) and NOTHING ELSE. We were selling them for $6999 and could not keep them in stock. Selling them was a generous term, it was more like taking an order rather than a benefit and feature presentation. And they were all mini's.... $75 a pop. BUT.... You could sell 20+ a month and sell 8-10 regular sales and make so pretty good jack for a 21 year old kid.... Ah, "Those were the days."

Comment by Craig Lockerd on December 17, 2012 at 9:27am

Ralph,that all sounds about right to me....lol

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