Dekendrick Woodard wasn’t exactly a natural his manager says, when he joined Holt Auto Group inMay 2008. But now, nearly five years later, he’s an Internet sales manager who’s rolling about 28 vehicles per month, and he’s the No. 1 sales producer at Holt Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Arlington, Texas.
But the road to success had its bumps along the way. Woodard started at one of Holt’s now- defunct Saturn stores, and he was only a year into his sales career when the marque filed for bankruptcy in 2009. The group then purchased a Dodge dealership, which meant Woodard wasn’t out of a job. But for a newbie still learning the ropes, the transition meant he’d have to start from scratch and rebuild his sales strategies.
“It was a pretty tough transition, because there are so many different trim levels. And I never dealt with a truck or minivan [with Saturn],” Woodard explains. “But as a salesperson, you’ve got to continue to change with the times and figure things out.”
That meant he also had to change his approach to mesh with the expectations of his new clientele. “Saturn had a no-has- sle, no-haggle philosophy; everyone knew that coming on the lot,” Woodard recalls. “The price was the price.”
With the help of his general sales manager and longtime friend Shawn Andrus, Woodard began crafting some new strategies of his own. One of those tactics includes a simple “Thank you” text he sends to customers.
“I’m just sending them a friendly thank you for stopping by,” he says. “It gives them a way to get in contact with you and lets them know you appreciate them coming out.”
That kind of connection with customers is how Woodard draws in his repeat customers. “As long as you treat them right the first time, they remember you,” he says. “[I have custom- ers who] still call me on my cell phone and say, ‘Hi, I’m coming up there for an oil change.’ And that’s because they still have my number.”
Woodard has even lured some of his first Saturn customers in to buy a Dodge. His secret: good old-fashioned customer service.
“It’s no big secret,” he says.
“Treat them right, and they’ll come back.”
Holt averages about 100 new vehicles per month and about 90 used, so Woodard clearly makes up a big chunk of the store’s sales. Last year, Andrus notes, he sold more than 30 vehicles in four separate months.
“He’s pretty much been the top producer probably nine of 12 months for the last two to three years,” Andrus says. “So it goes to show that work ethic and being here on time and being accountable go a long way.”
It was about a year after he hopped on the floor at Saturn when Woodard got the swing of things in sales, and his managers asked him to switch to Internet sales. It’s a role he maintains at Holt Chrysler Jeep Dodge, where the Internet sales team is asked to guide Internet leads through the entire transaction.
“A lot of things in the automobile business have transitioned to the Internet, so you get more opportunity coming through the Internet than you do on the showroom floor these days,” Andrus says. “So we figured it would be best suited for him to talk to as many people as he possibly could.” But as Woodard discovered, the transition meant learning a new set of rules. “When someone sends an Internet inquiry, they send it to you and five other Dodge dealerships in a 30-mile radius. So it’s a lot more difficult than being on the floor,” he says. “Most floor people don’t believe that. They think that just because you get leads that it equals sales.”
The reality is most Internet leads come with questions he must field. And Woodard knows he must answer all of them upfront or he risks losing the customer to a competitor. And that means sometimes providing a price quote if the customer asks.
“Most people are going to come see you after you answer their questions, so you might as well answer them upfront,” he says, adding that most customers are just looking for the lowest price. “You just do your best to build value: build value in the dealership, build value in the product.”