Justin Hart describes his path to a career in car sales as “unconventional.” Auto retail was the furthest thing from his mind three and a half years ago, when he was working as the general manager of an Arby’s restaurant in Chickasha, Okla. But a sales consultant (now F&I manager) from the nearby John Holt Auto Group, a one-rooftop Cadillac and Chevrolet dealer, frequented the restaurant daily. After a particularly bad day at the restaurant, he advised Hart to consider a career change.

With a wife and young son to take care of, Hart hesitated, but he took a chance and hasn’t looked back since. “Ever since Day One, it’s been good for me.”

Owner John Holt reports that Hart has increased his production every month since he began in April 2011 and averages 23 new- and used-vehicle sales per month. Hart attributes his success to several factors, most of which lead back to customer service. The dealership’s page on Cars.com boasts a 4.9 rating, and many of the positive reviews single out Hart. Holt says his customers love not only what Hart does for them before the sale but also the amount of time he puts in afterward, including follow-up phone calls and setting service appointments. Hart says the hardest part of converting a lead into a buyer is helping the customer get over past negative car-buying experiences, so being able to refer them to glowing reviews is helpful. He once used the Cars.com page to convince a buyer from Alaska to buy from his store.

Chickasha is a small farming community, so light-duty pickups represent the majority of the dealership’s sales. Hart’s first sold customer was a woman who showed up near the end of his first shift. She bought a custom, lifted truck, and Hart soon learned that his commission would be worth more than a month’s pay at Arby’s. That was the day he decided to become Chickasha’s top custom truck salesman. 

As Hart continues to work toward his goal, he says Holt rewards his and the sales team’s success. The owner awards “glory and bragging rights” along with monthly bonuses at the 12-, 16- and 21-unit marks and the occasional tickets to sporting events. Hart tries to reward his customers with bonuses as well. Whenever he ever sees clients dining out, he will always pick up their check. “Treating customers like a king or queen” can help alleviate their daily stress, Hart says, while making the often-stressful car-buying process more enjoyable. He appreciates that most customers, especially moms, lead busy lives, and he even keeps toys on his desk so children can play while Hart and the parents hash out a deal.

Hart says his work is made easier by co-workers such as John Holt, who Hart says is at the dealership every day, and Beau Lafferty, the dealership’s general manager. Lafferty is unwaveringly courteous, offering beverages to customers when they walk in and pitching in to help Hart make a good impression. Hart likes to walk sold customers around the dealership, introducing them to the F&I team and the service techs. “I like customers to be involved so they aren’t sitting at my desk by themselves, wondering what’s going on.”

On his days off, Hart spends as much time with his wife and children as he can, saying they like to hunt as a family. Any time away from the office is his kids’ time, he says, and Holt is generous with days off and keeps the store closed on holidays. “They’ll reward you for working hard,” Hart says.

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