When Ford salesman Terry Myers is hot on a prospect, his mind often drifts to tennis.
It's all about the back-and-forth volleys, which to Myers simulate the give-and-take of sales. Some are quick hits. Others are drawn out overtures.
“Negotiating is like a tennis match,” says Myers, an Internet salesman at Sarasota Ford. “You have got to shut up until the ball comes back. But for someone like me who loves to talk, it's hard to shut up.”
It's also hard to sell cars amid a recession, where consumers have scaled back on big-ticket purchases. Yet in just 10 months, Myers has become one of Sarasota Ford's top sales leaders. Myers joined the dealership in May, after he sold Fords, Cadillacs and Toyotas in Charlotte, N.C., for six years.
“He does a great job for us,” says Sarasota Ford operating manager Matt Buchanan. “When he tells a customer something, he follows through.”
Myers has sold anywhere from 12 to 26 cars a month at Sarasota Ford. In December, for example, he posted 21 sales. An average salesperson closes about seven to 10 vehicle sales a month at the dealership, says Buchanan.
The negotiation side of the sale is where Myers, 46, finds he does his best work. At that point, he says he has a rapport with the customer, and he delves into the game. He combines subtle psychology techniques with pinpoint direct questions. He tries to avoid a “no” without spewing industry doublespeak — a delicate balance.
“I have a knack to sell,” Myers says, “and it has given me a pretty good life.”
Myers grew up on a small farm town in central Illinois. He started selling when he was 7 years old, he says, when he and a friend turned some colored wires they found in the woods into “jewelry.” The pair sold their wares door-to-door.
“We took the lemonade stand and went further with it,” Myers says. “We had a hoot.”
Myers also grew up fascinated about cars, the kind of young boy who could spot the make of a vehicle a mile away. As an adult, he's owned more than 100 cars, from junked fixer-uppers to a Porsche.
Myers got into sales professionally in his late teens, after he dropped out of Illinois Central College in his second year. “I was a horrible student,” he says. “I couldn't sit still.”
His sales career began with the Peoria Journal Star newspaper in 1984, where he sold Christmas cards for two weeks. He then got promoted to classified director. A subsidiary of the newspaper, PJS Publications, owned several trade and general interest magazines, and Myers soon went to work for that division. He sold display ads to nationwide clients there.
Myers decided to go into business for himself in 2001. He founded a printing company that focused on newsletters in Charlotte, where he lived. Clients included Charlotte-Mecklenburg County. The firm had six employees and $2.8 million in annual sales at its peak.
But in 2004, Myers sought a career change, one where he could still control his income, but one without the pressures of making payroll every week. He answered a classified ad for a car salesman at a local Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership.
Even though Myers was a novice car salesman, he found past lessons transferred over well. People still craved straight talk. Negotiating was still a don't-blink-first game. And networking and marketing yourself was still a bedrock key to success.
The transition worked. Myers sold 26 cars his first month in the business. He sold 28 cars the next month. Says Myers: “That pretty much solidified that I knew what I was doing.”
Myers, despite his success, acknowledges car sales can be a struggle. Car salespeople, of course, aren't usually high on the list of respected professions.
“People come into a car dealership with a mindset that a car dealer is slimy, greasy and just out to steal your money,” says Myers. “That's what we need to overcome.”
• Supply side: Sarasota Ford Internet salesman Terry Myers says anyone in sales should always know precisely what he can sell right then and there, and what he can't. He says a car salesman, for instance, fails if he walks around a lot with a customer without knowing where a car is. “Know your inventory and know where it's at,” Myers says. “If I don't know what's on my lot, then I'm an idiot.”
• Think ahead: Myers says in negotiating the best strategy is to plan one or two questions ahead. Adds Myers: “I never ask yes or no questions unless it benefits me.”
• Be agreeable: Myers will sometimes nod his head in the “yes” motion when he speaks to get the potential customer in a mood of agreement. “It's not just a sales business,” Myers says. “It's a psychology business.”
• Originality counts: Myers says all salespeople should follow the tired, but true, rule and be yourself. “Don't try to be someone you aren't,” says Myers. “People aren't stupid and can see through all of the BS.”
BEST SALES TOOL:
Terry Myers, Internet salesman at Sarasota Ford, says his greatest tool to aid sales is the giveaways he hands out to customers and potential customers. He mostly gives out business cards, pens and key chains with his name and cell phone number. Myers pays for some of the materials himself, a few hundred dollars, but he says it's worth it.
“I'm a marketer. I market myself. I never leave a place where I don't leave something,” Myers says. “I always give two cards and say 'feel free to lose one.' It's a corny thing to do but it works.”'