Hi, it’s Amy and Randy from Think Creative. We’re here today with Steve. He’s the general sales manager at Mercedes-Benz of Flagstaff.
How are you doing?
Good. How are you?
Good, good. How are you, Randy?
I’m doing great.
Good. Okay. We’re here to have a very exciting conversation about Steve. So tell us about yourself, Steve.
Well, I’ve been in this business an awfully long time. I got in the business because people used to tell me I should be a car salesman. So I think it was because of my outgoing personality.
Okay. Yeah. That makes sense. So where did you start?
I started, actually, in Sacramento. I started selling cars at Paul Snyder Pontiac Mazda Subaru. And my first month, I tied for salesman of the month and I knew the business was for me.
That makes sense [laughter].
Do you want to say the year or not, Steve?
We’ll go to that question.
Next question [laughter].
Wow. So you have a–
–lot of experience.
Yeah. A lot of experience.
That’s awesome. Love the car business.
I love the car business. Yeah.
Why? Why do you love the car business?
There’s never two days the same. It’s exciting, you get to take care of our customers, and it’s satisfying [inaudible]. Right now, we’re selling the best product out there, and that’s why I’m here. I mean, I moved from Southern California just for this job, just to be back with Mercedes.
Wow. That’s a big change, because we’re here in Flagstaff.
Yes. We are [laughter].
You say to be back with Mercedes. So you have Mercedes background?
Yeah. I have about eight years experience with Mercedes in previous dealerships I worked with.
In Arizona or all in California?
All in California.
I know you just recently transplanted over here, right?
So congratulations to that.
Three weeks ago.
Three weeks. That’s recent.
Three weeks. So what store did you come from in California? What was the last store you worked at?
Well, I was running a Ford store in the Inland Empire in Southern California, and I met with the owner of this dealership, Mr. Martin. And we seemed to hit it off, and he saw my Mercedes experience, and he told me about a store he had in Flagstaff, so I flew down here. I saw the facility. I saw how beautiful it was.
And it was my opportunity to get back with Mercedes-Benz, so I jumped on it.
Wow. So how do you feel here in Flagstaff?
I love it.
I love it. It’s a great town.
How is the elevation?
It took a while to adjust [laughter]. It took me about two weeks, and I think I’m still dealing with it.
So it is true.
But, yeah. It’s true.
It is true. Yeah.
I didn’t believe it at first, but–
Yeah. They told me it would take–
–two to three weeks, they said.
Yeah. And it’s true. You feel like you just have no energy, so.
Oh, so that explains [crosstalk].
Okay. So you have experience with Mercedes-Benz. You’ve made this big upheaval in your life, moving to Flagstaff for Mercedes-Benz. So obviously, Mercedes-Benz must be pretty great. Talk to us a little bit about that.
Well, to me, it’s the best product out there. I’ve probably worked with a lot of domestic manufacturers, a lot of imports, and to me, Mercedes-Benz is the best product out there. That’s why I wanted to be back here. It’s easy to sell these vehicles because it is the best. Representing it, you tell them it’s the best, it’s the truth. It’s very easy to present the vehicle, and it’s affordable for anybody.
Anybody could drive a Mercedes-Benz. A lot of people don’t think they can afford it, but there’s a model for everyone out there. So, yeah.
Okay. So you’ve touched on that, that it’s affordable for everybody. And I mean, I was definitely under the impression the Mercedes-Benz was way outside of my personal [laughter] lifestyle. So how is it affordable for everybody?
Well, there’s different price points, different models, and every model is beautiful. But they build the best product. The quality’s there, and the luxury’s there, and the resell value is there. And if, for instance, you lease a Mercedes-Benz because of the resell value, when you lease a car, the value at the end of the lease, the stronger it is, the lower your payment’s going to be. So you can buy a– or lease a Mercedes-Benz, maybe a higher dollar vehicle than you’re used to buying, with the payment of a much lower vehicle.
Oh, okay. That sounds like a great opportunity then. So tell us a little bit about what someone can expect when they come to Mercedes-Benz of Flagstaff. What’s going to happen?
Service. They’re going to get good service. We have sales people here that know the product. We’re going to cater to the community here. We will bend over backwards to do anything to help this customer get into a new Mercedes-Benz.
Okay. And what’s the process like for someone when they come into buy or lease a car? What can they expect? Let’s say it’s their first time; they’ve decided to go for Mercedes-Benz. What’s going to happen?
The stigmatism is really– like Amy says, “I can’t afford a Mercedes,” so a lot of people are honestly– the younger customers are scared. What should they know or feel coming from the–?
Well, that’s not true. I mean, really, there’s a model for everybody here. You just have to come in and we’ll show you. I mean, come in. It’s very easy. We’ll just ask you a few questions, ask you what you’re looking for in a Mercedes. Are you looking for a car or an SUV? But we have a model that will fit your budget. So we’ll sit down, discuss it with you, and we’ll show you the different alternatives and different models that you can get into. We make it as easy as possible here.
Sounds great. So what are some of your own personal favorite models [laughter]? What do you like out there?
Well, our flagship, the S-Class. I mean, there isn’t a sedan on the road that is a nicer car than that. It’s a luxury to drive. It’s second to nothing. I mean, Mercedes-Benz’s slogan is the best or nothing, and it’s true.
Perfect. All right. So if someone’s coming to buy a car, Mercedes-Benz or otherwise, where would you recommend that they do research on vehicles?
Well, if you go online, there’s probably a million places you could search. You could go to our website or you could go to Mercedes-Benz directly and there is just chock-full information there explaining the models in detail, so. But if you come down here, we’ll sit down and we’ll present the vehicle to you and give you every bit of information you need before you make your decision.
Okay. Do you think that buyers should be pre-approved before they’re coming in, or?
Not at all.
Because we have a team here that works hard to help. Even people that maybe think their credit is questionable, we’ve helped hundreds of people get financed or lease.
Again, it’s one of those things, the stigmatism that people come in– you just touched on it, the, I guess, special finance department here or whatnot. Obviously, your finance department’s super strong to get pretty much anybody approved. Is that what you’re saying?
So I mean, you want to just kind of touch on that a little bit?
Well, we have relationships with quite a few banks, and it’s amazing. I mean, I’ve been doing this a long time, and it seems, in the last few years, there’s more and more banks that are helping people with questionable credit out there. Because there was a time where the economy was bad and a lot of people went through some tough times. But there’s banks out there that are opening up to help these people get into new or pre-owned vehicles, and we could help you either way.
Now, what would you recommend for somebody– or not recommend, but just give us a little description, the difference between– you keep saying leasing. A lot of people might not really understand leasing. Everybody knows how to buy a car, right?
But leasing a car is a little different. Just kind of touch on that and let people know it’s not the big scary monster that everybody believes it to be.
Well, first of all, people think, “Well, I don’t own the car.” Well, when you finance a car, you don’t really own the car there either; the bank does, until you make that very last payment. So leasing gives you an opportunity to get into a higher-value car at an affordable payment, and you’re able to get into vehicles sooner. Every two or three years you could turn your vehicle in, return your lease, and get into something new, and still have an affordable payment.
Right. I like telling people, “When you lease, you have options. When you buy, you have one.”
Options versus obligations. Exactly.
So I mean, that–
Oh, I like that.
That’s usually what I kind of tell people. When you lease, you got three options at the end. You could keep it, right?
You could trade it in, right? Or you can just walk away.
So you got three options. When you buy a car, you got one option.
And you’re obligated, like you said, to just keep making your payments till you make that last payment.
So you don’t really have options at that point, so that’s why a lot of people don’t really look at leasing. Or they should look at leasing more is what I was trying to say. You should really look at leasing more because, like I said, more options. Everybody loves options.
Options are good. So you’ve been in the car business for a while, as you mentioned. What are some of the changes that you’ve seen over the years?
Wow [laughter]. That’s a loaded question. I think the business has gotten much better. The quality of people in the business now, I think they’re a lot more educated about the product we sell. I mean, we demand that in the employees we have here. They need to know their product. They need to know how to deal with people professionally, and we pride ourselves in that. I mean, we take care of our customers when they come in here. I mean, word of mouth is the best advertising. So we want to make sure everybody leaves here completely satisfied, and we make sure of it. And being the general sales manager of the store, after every transaction here, I exit interview every customer here to make sure that they were completely satisfied with the way they were treated here, the car they bought, the financial arrangements. So I just want to hear from them that everything went smooth.
Okay. So you speak to every customer?
And what else is your day-to-day like? What are your other duties?
Well [laughter], I’m responsible for the dealership, so I’m responsible for staying on top of the inventory we have, making sure we have the right selections, new and pre-owned. Training the sales staff and taking care of our customers.
And how long does that take, training the sales staff?
It’s ongoing. To me, it’s daily, and I don’t think that’s ever ending. You constantly want to improve at what you do in this business.
So when someone new starts, what is the training process like?
There’s probably a couple weeks we spend with them before they actually get out there and start dealing with the customers.
So that’s when they’re kind of just learning the product.
Learning the product. Yep.
I think what I’ve noticed a lot at this dealership is, like you said, not only is customer satisfaction at the highest level here, but I think, also, what I’ve noticed is transparency. You guys are very transparent with the customers, which, obviously, they appreciate. But I think that was probably the biggest change in the car business, I think. The transparency from years ago to now is leaps and bounds. I think customers come in, they expect honest people, which, again, everybody here is, and they leave knowing and feeling everybody here was honest and transparent. And that’s why I believe the satisfaction at this particular group and at this dealership is second to none. It’s up there. I’ve worked in the car industry for 20 years, and I’ve seen, unfortunately, a lot of bad car dealers out there, and there are bad groups out there. But this group takes customer satisfaction and transparency, I believe, to the utmost. So I think that’s one of the biggest, biggest changes I’ve seen in the car business. But like I said, also, with this group in particular.
And this group is the Martin Automotive Group?
Martin Automotive Group.
Yes. We had our grand opening last night, and the owner said something that, “We may make mistakes, but we will correct any mistake we make.” If there’s a customer that has an issue, we will take care of it immediately. And we want to make sure our customers are satisfied, and that’s satisfying to us. I mean, it’s a good feeling that I can go home at the end of each day knowing that we took care of our customers, that they left here completely satisfied, happy with the transaction, happy with the way they were treated.
And, yeah. I mean, of course, no place or person is perfect, so mistakes happen. But, yeah. If you’re willing to step up and correct them, then that really builds a lot of trust for an ongoing relationship.
And I could imagine that that obviously brings back a lot of repeat customers too, bring back their mom, their dad, their friends, their family. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to go to a dealership that you feel like who are like friends and family than a “car guy”?
And you have to have these customers come back. It’s the only way to stay in business, by taking care of your customers. So you have repeat and referral business. And that’s number one in our dealership here.
Okay. So we spoke just a little bit about how you met Mr. Michael Martin, and that’s how you came here. And about the Martin Automotive Group. What is being part of the Martin Automotive Group mean for you in this dealership?
The professionalism. And it’s a family atmosphere. I mean, really, everybody gets along good here. There is quality people in this organization and it’s a comfortable feeling. You come to work knowing that everybody cares, and that’s important to me, and that’s why I like this group too. It’s a great feeling to be working for this organization.
So let’s wrap things up with just a final question, and that is– and we’ve kind of talked about it already throughout this entire thing. But why should a customer choose Mercedes-Benz in Flagstaff?
Again, service. We’re going to take care of that customer. We’re going to do whatever it takes to make them happy, find the right car for them, fit it in their budget. And really, the relationship starts at the sale. It doesn’t end when they buy a car; it starts. For all their automotive needs, servicing, anything they need, we’re going to be here for them.
That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for your time today, Steve.
And good luck.