Derrick Young answered a newspaper ad to join the sales team at Town & Country Ford in Bessemer, Ala., in 1999, shortly before the store opened for business. Young lives an hour away and, at the time, he didn’t believe auto retail was his calling, so he didn’t expect to stay at the dealership for long. But he was drawn in by the prospect of building a business and a customer base from scratch.

Fifteen years later, Young is at Town & Country to stay. In fact, he enjoys his work so much that the last four digits of his cell phone number spell out F-O-R-D. With an average of 18 units per month, Young has led the store in volume and total income every single year. In 2013, he was named Ford’s fourth best salesman in the Southwest region for used and certified pre-owned vehicles.

Co-owner William Sain Sr. says Young is an expert at managing his time — he sends out 500 birthday cards every month and 2,000 Christmas cards — as well as closing deals on incoming calls, Internet leads and lot ups. He has earned the right to a flexible schedule, allowing him, his wife and his son to take five or six short vacations a year. “Just this month, we went to the beach for four days. But I still managed to deliver 21 units,” he says. “And the month isn’t even over yet.”

Young cultivates leads through his “Bird Dog Club,” a group of 15 friends and customers who send him referrals. He pays each member $200 for every sold referral, and some Bird Dogs earn as much as $600 every month. To close deals with new customers, he relies on low-pressure tactics.

“The trick is to not be pushy with someone you’ve never sold to before,” Young says. “The trust factor exists with referrals and repeats, but not with strangers. People don’t want a salesperson hanging all over them when they’re looking around.”

Young tries to make used-car customers feel like new-car buyers by filling the tank, handing them two sets of keys and, whenever possible, replacing the floormats. He says he wants to make sure he does something different than other salesmen. Young finds that this kind of considerate customer service breeds loyalty. A few months ago, a couple who had away moved to Florida after buying their last vehicle from Young came back to Alabama to visit relatives. Before they left, they stopped into Town & Country to buy a truck.

When Young started selling vehicles, 70% of his sold customers were phone leads and walk-ins. Today, most car buyers start their search online, so Young has found a new way to drive face-to-face interactions: He takes business cards wherever he goes and hands them out freely, always looking for opportunities to make new friends and, hopefully, sell more vehicles.