Dan Machu McLaughlin Motors (Moline, Ill.)

Dan Machu McLaughlin Motors (Moline, Ill.)

Dan Machu knows all too well the power of a referral. In fact, it’s how he got his start in the car business back in 2001. He was selling appliances at Sears when a customer, who happened to be the wife of one of the owners of Lundahl Volvo in Moline, Ill., recommended that he try car sales.

Six months after Machu joined the dealership’s sales team, McLaughlin Motors acquired the store, renamed it and added a Cadillac franchise. The new owner, Greg Swanson, says he was fortunate to inherit Machu. “Dan was a young salesman when I first met him, but I could tell from the beginning he had potential.”

Since that referral 11 years ago, Machu has sold more than 2,000 vehicles. Today, he averages 20 units per month, half of which consist of referral sales.

“The first few years were the toughest; I came in with the mentality that it was just something to do,” he says. “But as you sell more and treat customers exceptionally, the repeat customers and referrals start coming in, and it becomes easier.”

And there are plenty of examples of how easy it has become for Machu, including the time a single customer interaction led to the sale of three Cadillacs. “The customer’s father-in-law was there during the sale and also ended up purchasing one,” he explains. “Then he told his neighbor and he came in to buy one from me. It shows how easy it can be if you treat people well.

“Referred or repeat customers tend to be the easiest and happiest customers since there is a trust factor that’s already established,” he adds.

The key to establishing that trust is not the sale itself, but what happens afterward, he points out. And it’s not uncommon for Machu to offer his clients free car washes. He has even scheduled service appointments for his customers and provided them with loaner cars.

“For any issue — good or bad — I want to be the first person the customer calls,” Machu says. “But if you say you’re going to do something, you need to follow through.”

When it comes to lot customers, Machu gives them five minutes to look around before he makes his approach. He’s also sure not to be too aggressive when he eventually greets them.

“I offer a soft greeting without any pressure,” he says. “It’s a way for me to inquire without coming off as pushy.”

Greg Moroni, a sales consultant who has worked alongside Machu for seven years, says Machu has a “likeable personality” and is always willing to help. “He has mentored many of us by offering positive and helpful advice for us to consider. I can’t emphasize enough the wealth of information he willingly shares when called upon.” 

Swanson says there’s something else that sets Machu apart. “Not only is he knowledgeable about our cars, he also knows features of competitive makes,” Swanson says. “He even stays up to date on the changes that technology is bringing to this industry. He’s the franchise’s technology expert.”

Machu’s technological expertise extends to the company’s online sales effort. Swanson says he’s great at prospecting for new customers and has a high closing ratio for Internet sales. Moroni says that’s because Machu is always available to take a digital “up.”

“He fields leads quickly and efficiently around the clock, whether he’s at his desk or from his iPhone afterhours,” Moroni says. “He knows how to respond to customers, determine real interest and leads them to the sale.”

Machu hasn’t relinquished his “Salesman of the Month” title for the last 24 months. In fact, he’s been McLaughlin Motors’ “Salesman of the Year” for eight consecutive years. He has also earned Cadillac’s “Mark of Excellence” award in each of the last seven years. Machu says all it takes is a positive attitude and mindset.

“You have to set goals and assume you will reach them,” he says. “If you think 12 cars is a good month, then it will be. But if it is, then you will never reach 20.”