Fourteen years ago, Michael Nekava was cleaning cars as a valet for Helms Bros. Inc., a nearly eight-decade-old Mercedes-Benz dealership. Today, he’s known on the show floor of the Bayside, N.Y.- based operation as “Mikey Mercedes,” a nickname he assumed once he started averaging 33 sales per month for the 200-unit-a- month operation.
Nekava was working toward his bachelor’s degree in business from Hofstra University when he began working in Helms Bros.’ service department. Six months before he graduated, Nekava made his move. “He came to my office dressed in a suit and expressed that he would be graduating college in six months and wanted to intern on the showroom floor,” General Manager Suzanne Cochrane recalls. “I knew immediately that whatever he did in life, he would be successful.”
Cochrane says Nekava returned to her office six months after he began his internship. Once again dressed in a suit and with his diploma in hand, he asked to join the sales team. “He told me he would be the best salesperson I ever worked with. He was right,” Cochrane says.
That was 2005, and Nekava hasn’t relinquished the store’s Salesperson of the Year award since. Last year’s award came with a gold Rolex watch, but Nekava didn’t stop there.
Wanting to see just how many vehicles he could deliver, Helms Bros. assigned Nekava an assistant once his monthly average reached 25 units for eight straight months. To say it worked would be an understatement, as Cochrane estimates that Nekava has sold more than 2,000 cars since he transitioned into sales. But don’t expect Nekava to take credit for that feat.
“From the service department to management, everyone is dedicated and willing to help,” he says.
As for his approach, Nekava says he simply eliminates the “fluff.” “Working in New York means everything is fast-paced, and clients want to know information in a matter of seconds,” he says. “So it’s my job to answer their questions in any form and free of stories, whether it’s a phone call, text message, e-mail or if they stop by to see me.”
That’s why Nekava doesn’t spend a lot of time surveying the lot for new customers. The majority of his sales are made to repeat and referral customers.
“To me that’s the most rewarding part,” Nekava says. “I love the relationships I create with clients and being there for them whenever they need me.”
As is the case with most sales professionals, there is no separa- tion between Nekava’s business and personal life. That’s why he lists his cell phone number on his business card. “There are no real working hours,” he says. “Sales are done 24 hours a day.
Nekava is even available on holidays, as was the case last Christmas Eve. He received a call from a father who wanted to sur- prise his daughter with a new car. Helms Bros. didn’t carry the vehicle he wanted, so Nekava went to work. He located the vehicle at another store and was able to get the dealer to agree to a swap. But that was just the beginning.
Because the dealership’s valet was off for the holiday, Nekava and his wife drove to pick up the vehicle. They gassed it up, had it detailed and made a quick call to Geico before Nekava was able to do his best impression of Santa Claus. “I was invited in like a member of the family,” he says. “And it was fun too, because it was my first Christmas dinner. I’m Jewish!”
That same month, Nekava broke the dealership’s monthly sales record with 64 units sold — a feat that didn’t surprise Cochrane. “Each year he raises the goalpost,” Cochrane says. “His love of Mer- cedes-Benz and his desire for constant self-improvement are truly inspirational.”
With the license plate on his silver E63 reading “HELMS,” and the fact he’s also a Mercedes-Benz Master Certified Sales Professional, it’s clear Nekava isn’t going anywhere.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity both Helms Bros. and my clients give me every day to create a relationship out of any automotive needs,” he says. “I’m in this for the long-term. It’s not just a job, it’s my life."