Going Against the Tide

Dishon Putz got tired of selling cars.

Oh, he liked the dealership business (he’s still in it) and enjoyed watching customers drive away in their newly purchased automobiles (he still does).

But at a point in his 16 years in auto retailing, he realized he was becoming obsessed with the number of cars he sold in a given day or month. His fixation was rubbing off on others.

“I’d come home and my wife and kids would ask how many cars I sold that day,” recalls Putz, now general manager of Kelley Buick GMC in Barlow, FL, near Lakeland. “I was being defined by how many cars I sold.”

It was self-defining, too. It got so bad he would skip steps in the sales process and head right to the closing. But then came a realization followed by a reevaluation. He opted to radically switch things around.

“I decided I’d be the best on product knowledge, and I’d give customers the VIP treatment. In doing that, I didn’t care how many cars I sold.” Ironically, he ended up selling more cars, getting “tons of referrals” and becoming his dealership’s top salesperson.

“Sell, sell, sell is the wrong way to sell,” Putz says at a recent Thought Leadership Summits automotive conference. “Maybe you could do that before, but not now. You can’t use 1980s sales tactics on Millennials. It’s so customer-service oriented today. Being in selling mode 100% of the time is just not right.”

An Indiana native, he stumbled into dealership work. Some consumers’ intense perception of the stereotypical car salesperson surprised him. “I thought, ‘Wow, people hate me.’ They prejudged me. I made it a personal vision to try to change their perceptions.”

As a dealership general manager, he urges showroom staffers to center more on superior customer treatment and less on making the sale. “I don’t post sales numbers because I don’t want them to think that’s a driver. I don’t want them to sell vehicles. I want customers to buy vehicles.”

It’s not easy for everyone on the floor to make that mindset shift. “Trying to get everyone under the same roof is a challenge,” he says during a conference presentation entitled Stop Selling Cars to Sell More Cars. “In some cases, we’re trying to undo 20 years of work habits.”

Yet, an overemphasis on sheer selling has “demoralized salespeople, overworked managers and has created a miserable customer experience,” he says.

The dealership owner backs him fully. “I love him,” Putz says. “He told me, ‘If you can’t change people, then change people.’”

On a wall at the store, Putz posted a sign saying: “If you can’t follow the process, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person. You just can’t work here.”


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