From academia to the car lot: life as a car “salesman”
Following a spontaneous move from her hometown of Kelowna to Saskatoon, Lindsay Keys needed a job. For years, Lindsay had been pursuing a career as a professor, but she was feeling burnt out by academia, and needed something new.
She knew she could do well in sales, but she also wanted to make better money than she had in her past retail gigs. Then an idea: auto sales. She stopped in to a few dealerships with her resume, and by noon the next day, she had a job as an Automotive Sales and Lease Consultant.
Lindsay, 28, has now been working in Saskatchewan’s automotive industry, which has seen a 40% increase in auto sales since 2006, for the last two years.
To find out more about the quirks and challenges of selling cars (and making a major career shift), we asked her to tell us more about her life on the lot.
If we met at a party, how would you describe your job?
I sell cars. Do you want one? Come see me at the dealership – I’ll get you a good deal!
What does a typical day at work look like?
Every day is different! My job involves a variety of tasks, so I seldom get bored. A typical day might start with answering emails and making calls at my desk, and progress to anything from test-driving cars to helping the detail team get my sold cars showroom-clean so that they look absolutely perfect for their new owners. When I have downtime, I read car reviews online, or head into the workshop to learn more about the various components of the vehicles and how they work.
What surprises you about your job?
Being a car salesman destroys your clothes! I spend so much of my day doing things like cleaning vehicles and running around on pavement in high heels grabbing cars for customers that I’m constantly wearing out my shoes, and getting grease spots on all my dress pants!
Aside from that, it’s a rare day that I don’t learn something new at work. One day, I told my boss that I couldn’t drive a manual car, so we grabbed a used Honda Civic with a standard transmission and spent the rest of the afternoon on the back roads outside of Saskatoon. When we got back, I could drive anything on the lot!
What has been the biggest challenge about your career?
I’m an introvert. I like people, but if I don’t get any alone time during the day, I usually feel cranky and drained by late afternoon. It can be hard to put my feelings aside and be helpful and welcoming when customers come in later in the day. But I work entirely on commission, and if I’m not on my A-game, I don’t pay my bills, so usually I try to just focus on finding my customers the right vehicle, and not think about the fact that I feel tired or short-tempered. Most of the time, this strategy works well for me.
What advice could you give other job seekers looking to get a career in auto sales?
You need to adaptable, you need to be genuinely interested in people, and you need an excellent recall for statistics!
What has selling cars taught you about yourself? About people? About work?
Selling cars has taught me that when people are rude or mean, you’ll almost always come out in better shape if you don’t engage.
To do my job successfully, I have to ask a lot of questions; a new vehicle is one of the biggest decisions a person can make, and if you choose one that doesn’t fit your needs, you’ll wind up thousands in the hole when you trade it in six months down the line. This means that in order to make good recommendations and highlight the features in a vehicle that will be important to any given person, I need to know a fair bit about their lives. It also means that a lot of people are very guarded when shopping for a car, because they’re afraid that they’ll somehow get talked into buying the wrong vehicle. When people have put up these kinds of walls, personal questions like mine can feel intrusive, and they may respond rudely.
What is your next career or work goal?
I’m learning a lot about sales, marketing, and management, and I’d love to eventually use those skills to start my own business. For the moment, though, I’m just trying to learn as much as I can where I am.
What’s your perfect day off?
I have every Sunday off, and I look forward to it all week! My boyfriend and I always go for brunch in the morning, usually at either The Hollows, this amazing little farm-to-table restaurant tucked away in an old Chinese restaurant from the 1950s (they took over the space a couple of years ago but chose not to redecorate, apart from some cool thrift store additions and a lot of plants), or at Vista, a fantastic second-floor lounge that does brunch on the weekends. If the weather is nice, we might follow up brunch with a walk along Meewasin trail, which runs along the river, or do some window shopping on Broadway. In the summertime, Saskatoon has a different music, food, or culture festival almost every week, so it seems like there’s always something to check out if we’re looking for an activity.
Once in a while, we like making road trips outside of town – the prairie is dotted with hundreds of old abandoned farmhouses, so we’ll pack a lunch and our camera equipment, choose a random town on a map, and drive there and back. On the way there, we stop to explore and photograph all the spooky abandoned homesteads. There’s nothing like it back home!