Tim Engle doesn’t sell Hyundais because he was born into a family business or because he’s a lifelong car guy or a natural-born salesman. The former employee of the U.S. Postal Service took early retirement at age 49 — after working his way up from clerk to letter carrier to district-level department manager — to nurse one of his daughters through a serious illness. Afterward, with a half-pension in hand and not much to do, Engle was, in his own words, “bored to death.”
“So I got some odd jobs. I drove a paratransit bus. I worked for Sprint. Then, in 2010, I met a nice lady named Lisa. She wanted to get married. I said, ‘Well, I need to find a new job. Then we’ll get married.’”
Engle signed up for Monster.com and applied for a wide range of jobs without success. Just as he feared his luck had run out, he got a call from Michael Strenge, general sales manager for McCafferty Auto Group in Langhorne, Pa., just outside Philadelphia. Engle liked what he heard, but his first days on the job were plagued with doubt.
“It was a little scary. I never thought I’d sell a car,” he says. “I looked at the Genesis, which is about $40,000, and thought, ‘Geez, who’s going to buy one of these from me?’”
But his first sale went off without a hitch, and five years later, Engle, 57, moves about 35 units a month and is the reigning No. 1 Hyundai salesperson in Pennsylvania for three years running. His secret varies, depending on whom you ask. His boss says it’s Engle’s unique combination of interpersonal skills and a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the product.
“He is an exceptional listener,” Strenge says. “He really relates to all different walks of life and all different types of people. He’s very genuine and he’s extremely knowledgeable, and he’s able to use that knowledge effectively. And when the new technology comes out, he studies it. It’s about rapport, but if you don’t have the product knowledge, you won’t do that well. He’s been able to master both.”
Engle acknowledges that listening is a big factor, and it helps that he dabbles in languages, with a passing knowledge of Korean, Chinese, French and Spanish (“I’m not fluent in those languages, but I know enough to sell a car,” he notes), but he believes the real secret to his success is hard work.
“I usually work bell-to-bell, every day, six days a week,” he says, noting that all Pennsylvania dealerships are closed on Sundays. “It’s all percentages. Meet more people, sell more cars.”
Engle also credits his success to the brand itself. “Hyundai has been on fire since I got here,” he says, pointing to the launch of the Genesis, the recently redesigned Sonata and the industry’s first 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty as examples. “We were getting more and more good, free press. And Hyundai people are very loyal. They buy one after the other. … Like I said, I’ve been so lucky to sell Hyundais.”
Strenge agrees, but he gives most of the credit for Engle’s success to the man himself. “He sets the pace for everyone, and he sets the bar high. I’ve been here a long time — 29 years — so basically since we opened the Hyundai store in 1986. I have seen a lot of salespeople, and he is the most talented. He listens and communicates. He has that unique skill.”
Asked whether he has any advice for anyone considering a second career as a sales pro, Engle doesn’t mince words.
“I would tell them to treat people with dignity and respect,” he says. “If they actually show up, in person, they’re buying a car from somebody, somewhere, soon. I tell the young guys who lose a customer, ‘The reason they got away is they went somewhere and met a real car salesman.’”