Just four years ago, Kimberley Conway was working in a comfortable managerial position at a BC post-secondary institution. Then, in what Conway acknowledges was a not completely rational decision, she turned her back on that job â€“ and its secure pension. She threw her hat in the sales ring with Maple Ridge Chrysler Jeep Dodge, the number-one Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership in BC, and one of five best-performing in Canada.
A gutsy move for anyone, but especially for Conway, a single mother of two kids, aged eight and 12 at the time. And to move from a regular paycheque to 100 percent commission? That only heightened the drama of her decision to enter the sales world.
But Conwayâ€™s intuition told her she would do well in the male-dominated arena of car sales. She was wrong â€“ she did great. Shortly after joining the sales team of 20, Conway found her monthly sales numbers putting her consistently in the top five, and several times hitting number one. Not bad for someone with no sales background, especially at such a successful dealership.
So confident was Maple Ridge Chrysler in Conwayâ€™s abilities that they recently made her the sales manager at their new FIAT dealership just down the road. In this interview with Make It Business magazine, Conway talks about her journey into sales, how she does well at it, and what she looks for in new sales employees.
How did you make the jump from your previous life into your sales life?
During a divorce, and while raising my kids, I returned to the work world at an educational institution. After working my way up to a managerial position, one day I asked myself if I could go any higher where I was. The answer was, â€œNo.â€?
Well, Maple Ridge Chrysler was where Iâ€™d always purchased my cars from. Theyâ€™d kept saying to me, â€œYou have to sell cars, Kim. You have to come work with us.â€?
My reply was, â€œYou guys think Iâ€™m giving up my government job to sell cars for you? Youâ€™re nuts!â€?
But I started giving it some thought. Unbeknownst to the management, I went there and interviewed all the sales associates. I inquired how they felt about their employer. I came to the conclusion, â€œWhy not give it a try?â€?
If I had known fully the risk I was taking, I probably wouldnâ€™t have done it. I had two kids and I was raising them on my own. I have never sold anything in my life, but it felt right. I just wanted to give it a shot. Iâ€™ve never looked back. Iâ€™m making twice the money that I made at the education institution, and Iâ€™m having more fun doing it.
The ownership group knew from day one that my aspiration was to move into a managerial position. I worked my butt off and here we are today at FIAT of Maple Ridge.
When you were selling on the floor, how many cars would you sell in an average month?
In an average month, I would sell 15 cars. My highest month was 25 cars. Anywhere between 15-20 is where I set my goals. Now, you have to put these numbers in context. Maple Ridge Chrysler is one of five of the best-performing Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealerships by volume in Canada. Each month we move more than 200 cars. A lot of other dealerships will do 70 to 80.
Did you have any formal training in sales?
Not formal training, but at this dealership there has always been support. The reality in this business is that you learn on your own by trial-and-error, and by observation. In this industry you make or break it depending on the work you put in.
What do you attribute your success to?
A positive attitude; drive; determination. Iâ€™ve always believed that people will be what they choose to be, and what they put into being. In sales departments in any industry, whatever effort you put in is what youâ€™re going to see come back to you.
I call it filling the funnel. The more people you talk to and network with â€“ the more you fill your funnel â€“ the more is going to come out the other end. Itâ€™s a lot of work to get activity into the funnel.
The general impression that folks have of car salespeople is that youâ€™re just waiting around for customers to show up on the lot. Is this true?
That is definitely not the case. Itâ€™s an old belief. People think that if they go to the car lot, a bunch of salespeople are just waiting to pounce on them when they get there. Does that still happen? Yes, it does. There still is that stigma in the industry. But we are trying to change the sales experience.
That being said, female salespeople have a totally different approach. Eighty-eight percent of decisions in a household are made by women and, frankly, they would rather deal with a female salesperson.
Now that you have moved from the sales floor to the managerial floor, how do you identify a promising salesperson who is going to make you, and your company, money?
Personality and enthusiasm. For the right salesperson, you just know it instantly on meeting them. I meet people everywhere I go in retail environments, and you just know from their body language, their energy, the way they speak, that this is a person who can sell. You either have it or you donâ€™t. Itâ€™s something youâ€™re born with. Your personality is your personality.