Ihis 41st year working at Jim Bass Cars & Trucks in San Angelo, Texas, Mike Smith jokingly says he is in the prime of his career.Though he laughs at the idea, its not far from the truth. Smith sold nearly 140 units in the first half of 2013.

Smith entered the realm of automotive retail at the age of 24 with a few years of footwear sales experience under his belt. Working in retail helped Smith understand the importance of networking and connecting with people, which is a vital part of the industry today. “I love meeting new people and treating them right,” he says. “It’s all about the Golden Rule.”

About 90 percent of Smith’s business is repeat customers or referrals. “Everyone knows him,” General Sales Manager Todd Price says. “He’s a car legend in these parts.”

Being involved in the community helps Smith establish faithful customers. Aside from selling cars, he is a professional auctioneer and mainly works charity auctions for stock and rodeo shows.

When he first started as an auctioneer in 1987, Smith would take one day off from work to travel to the auctions. While he’s now involved with more than lo- cal auctions, Smith is still able to balance it with selling cars.

“The friends I’ve made through auctioneering send me a lot of business,” he says.

Smith hardly takes time off and makes sure he is there for his clients whenever they need him.

“Everything about the car deal, he works for the benefit of the customer,” Price says. “He knows he’s going to be selling to them again and selling to their families.”

Three years into the job, Smith realized it could be a career. “I saw that it had a lot of potential,” he explains. “I hoped that if I stayed in it, it would get better and better. I’m very blessed because it did.”

Over the course of his career, Smith has sold more than 6,000 cars and trucks. He has averaged 20 units per month since he started. The dealership averages 230 per month overall.

Smith makes his business personal with follow-up techniques that he believes are more meaningful to customers than the now-customary string of e-mails. Unless the customer is of a younger generation, he prefers to pick up the phone and call them.

A positive attitude also helped Smith earn Jim Bass’ Salesman of the Year award eight times. For his latest victory, the company threw him a party and gave him several gifts, including a trip to the Las Vegas rodeo finals.

Additionally, the dealership wrapped a shuttle vehicle with Smith’s picture and “Salesman of the Year” description. They also put up a billboard featuring Smith and his wife — a realtor in the area — with a tagline that read, “The Perfect Team.”

The dealership also runs com- petitions between the salesmen for trips, leather goods, grills and more. Price says Smith is always in the running for the top prizes.

“The Bass family is great to their customers and their employees,” Smith says. “They are goodhearted and give back to the community.”

The only problem Smith encounters is not having the exact vehicle for a customer. “Timing is a huge part of buying a car,”

Smith explains. “Some customers wait too long and our inventory is picked through, but you just have to work through that and know your inventory to do the best that you can for the customer.”

Price says Smith provides the best possible service for his customers. He adds that his top sales producer also finds time to help fellow salespeople on the lot, even taking some of them under his wing. There isn’t anything Smith won’t agree to do.

“We as a managerial team have to slow him down sometimes so he doesn’t give away the dealership,” Price jokes.

“[The team has] a lot of respect for him and often ask him how he’s stayed so successful — especially since the customers have changed, the vehicles have changed and the entire business has changed.”

Smith always offers three pieces of advice to new salesmen: “Don’t ever lie to anybody is No. 1. Then, if you sell to somebody, you take care of them. Lastly, do not hop from one dealership to another."