Maybe you’ve heard that the car business is in trouble. You might say that optimism has fled the industry, making car sales a very tough job.
Well, don’t tell Hunter Chevrolet’s Gala Rice. A relative newcomer to the business of selling automobiles (she started at the Hendersonville dealership in August of 2000), Ms. Rice – a former Mary Kay Cosmetics salesperson – is selling an average of 18 to 20 cars per month and one month turned in a 34-car total.
Sure, there have been months when that total dropped to 15 cars or so, but Gala doesn’t sweat the small months. She just concentrates on the task at hand. “I love selling cars,” she says.
One reason for her enviable record, Gala admits, is the fact that she’s selling the Subaru line, cars she refers to as “guilt free” because of their emissions, gas mileage and well-known durability. But the Subaru brand is not solely responsible for her success.
“I sell lots of Subarus,” she points out, “but I sell a lot of Volvos as well and even pickup trucks…we’re still selling trucks. People who buy trucks are buying because they need them for business. And there still are families who want trucks, so there’s still some market for that too.”
More than anything else, the economic situation has made buyers far more careful and informed.
“They’re guarded,” Gala says, “because they’ve realized that their car might not be worth as much as they owe on it, and sometimes they are reluctant to have their credit looked at because maybe things have changed in their finances.”
That sort of situation calls for tact on the salesperson’s part. “We just have to make people feel comfortable and realize that we’re here to help them. They warm right up and I think that’s one of the many reasons why a woman can be very successful in this business.”
“When I first started, I had a customer say, ‘Do you really expect me to buy a truck from a woman?’ I didn’t really know what to say, so I said, ‘Today is your lucky day. There are very few people who have the privilege of buying a truck from a woman.’ Since then he’s bought four trucks from me. Had I not had product knowledge, he would have told me to go get somebody who knows something about a truck.”
But nobody knows the product perfectly on the first day, especially a soft-spoken former stay-at-home mother of three who has little interest in cars other than selling them …right?
“Actually,” says Gala, “I sold 18 cars in my first month and sold five cars in my first three days here at Hunter. It really wasn’t about what I knew at that point, but that I was excited and I was friendly, I treated people the way they wanted to be treated. When I didn’t know the answer, I said, “I’m sorry…I don’t know the answer to that, but let me find out.” I didn’t make up any answers. I’d open the owner’s manual or go get help, and I would answer the question.”
For Gala, success in the car business boils down to being helpful and honest. “I had one customer who wanted a specific color. And after spending a bit of time with him, he bought a totally different color, in a manual transmission instead of an automatic.
What I did was I walked out with him and showed him the other colors. He thought he wanted automatic, but then he drove the manual and he really liked it. So it comes down to listening. So many people just don’t listen.”