Among the many career paths in the car business, few are as challenging or rewarding as a job in automotive sales. But with a rapidly evolving industry landscape, joining a dealership’s sales department may seem more intimidating and less lucrative to new hires than it once did. On this episode of Inside Automotive, host Jim Fitzpatrick is joined on location by Hugh Okoye, general sales manager of Ocean Cadillac in Miami, to discuss his professional journey and what it takes to succeed in today’s car market.
Okoye’s automotive sales career spans over three decades, starting soon after his graduation from college. He explains that he was motivated to join the car business after meeting the general manager of a Honda dealership and seeing firsthand how lucrative a dealership job could be. In the following years, he would earn accolades and recognition for his sales expertise until eventually settling into his leadership role at Ocean Cadillac.
Okoye is aware of the challenges new hires face when they start their careers in automotive sales but urges them to commit. “No matter what you do, you gotta start somewhere,” he explains, “It’s not where you start; it’s where you end up…Our top guy, right here at this dealership, he was almost ready to quit after 90 days.” While it may not seem possible during the first few months, those with enough determination are well rewarded for their perseverance. “There are no other businesses…where you can enter and earn a six-figure salary in 12 months,” Okoye remarks.
Sales representatives play one of the most crucial roles in the dealership, which is why Okoye focuses on choosing candidates with the right skills and mindsets. Those with a background in hospitality, food service or other customer-facing industries “get my attention immediately.” But despite the high standards of service within the car business, automotive sales jobs remain some of the most accessible in the U.S., giving anyone a chance to succeed. Even as the industry grapples with electrification and digitization, there will always be a need for skilled salespeople to assist car buyers. “Even though we’re in the car business, we’re really in the people business,” concludes Okoye.