To sell cars, go the extra mile

Lindsey Breece

Dedication and reliability drive car salesman to success

Justin Bolen, 25, of Klaben Chrysler and Jeep off state Route 59 in Kent, is the youngest salesperson at the dealership, but he still keeps up. Having been a top monthly seller several times, Bolen works well with the staff.

Credit: Andrew popik

It’s 10 degrees outside, and everything in sight is covered in a blanket of fluffy white snow. A man dressed in a blue dress shirt, tie, black dress pants, a large black winter jacket and black waterproof boots walks outside and begins dusting the thick layer of snow off of a dark blue Jeep. After he finishes cleaning off the Jeep, he moves on to another car and then another, working his way down a line of what seems to be a sea of never-ending vehicles.

This is just one of the many tasks 25-year-old Justin Bolen has to complete on a daily basis. Bolen has worked as a sales and leasing associate at Klaben Chrysler/Jeep in Kent for six years and said one of the worst things about working in the car industry is removing snow from cars.

“It’s a lot of work, but I don’t mind the snow.” Bolen said. “You just have to dress warm and wear a couple pairs of socks and long johns.”

Bolen began working at Klaben in 1999 after moving to Ohio from Tennessee to be closer to his father and grandparents. He started out in the transportation department, where he was responsible for checking in new cars and making sure they weren’t damaged. After working in transportation for about a year, he moved to sales.

Bolen said he never aspired to be a car salesman but fell into the job because he had a friend who worked at the dealership and told him about job opportunities.

Even though Bolen is the youngest salesperson at the dealership, he is one of Klaben’s top sellers. In 2004, Bolen was named salesman of the month seven times.

Co-worker and fellow salesperson Ron Full attributed Bolen’s success to his reliability and his knowledge of the products he sells.

“Being persistent is probably a quality that makes any salesman a good salesman,” Full said. “I think salespeople should be commended for their consistency and their way of life. People think we are all out here to cheat (customers), but really we’re here to help them.”

Bolen said he thinks he’s been successful because he has a good personality and tries to go the extra mile for his all of his customers.

“I’ve been in other dealerships where I’ve felt uncomfortable, so I can understand how a customer feels,” Bolen said. “I try to give everybody 100 percent of my attention and make them feel important, because they are important to me. Without my customers, I wouldn’t have a job.”

Even though awards are given to high sellers, the atmosphere at Klaben is not a competitive one. Staff members joke with each other and also help each other with customers.

“We all work as a team here,” Bolen said. “We don’t butt heads or fight over customers.”

When there aren’t any customers in the store, Bolen works on establishing a repertoire with former customers. He often checks up on previous customers by calling them and sending them cards, letters and coupons. He also gives customers a personalized two-year calendar with a photo of the customer, the car they purchased, and himself. He pays for the calendars out of his own pocket.

“I try to keep in contact with everybody,” he said. “I’m not just here to sell you a car; I’m here to sell you your next 10 cars.”

Even though Bolen is one of Klaben’s top salesmen, Full said he thinks his age sometimes hinders his success.

“The average customer is around 35 to 50,” Full said. “He has to work harder to gain trust with the customer. But with some of the younger people, it doesn’t hurt him. Someone 23 or 24 will feel at his level.”

While Bolen has been successful as a salesman, he said some aspects of the job are frustrating. He normally works 60 hours a week.

Bolen said the long hours sometimes put a strain on his relationship with his girlfriend because they don’t get to spend a lot of time together.

Bolen’s girlfriend, Kathryn Allen, said they work to make time for each other.

“I go visit him almost every day at work,” she said. “I’ll take him lunch, or we’ll go out to lunch.”

Bolen said another tough thing about his job is dealing with rude customers.

“There are a lot of people who come in, and they’re just total jerks,” Bolen said. “You kind of just have to smile at them, say OK, and swallow your pride.”

Bolen said he copes with the stresses of his job by keeping a positive attitude and respecting his customers and co-workers.

“How you work and how your attitude is at work affects your personal life,” he said. “Your personality at work is pretty much how you’re going to be at home, so I try to stay positive. There are a lot of older guys here that have a negative attitude, and I just don’t listen to them.”

Despite the downsides, Bolen said he enjoys his job and plans to continue working at the dealership.

“The car business has it’s ups and downs, but I think it’s fun,” he said. “I like who I work for. They treat us just like family.”

Contact Pop Arts reporter Lindsey Breece at [email protected].