In this article I interview Ali Reda the World’s Greatest Car Salesman who broke a 44-year-old world record last year in 2017 with 1,582 cars sold in a single year.
This interview is jam packed with great advice for anyone wanting to improve their sales skills:
- Breaking the world record
- Transactional vs relationship selling
- Closing the sale
- Sales advice
- Sales mistakes
Breaking the world record
Michael Frank: In 2017 you broke a 44-year-old world record for the most number of cars sold 1,582 in one year.
The world record was previously held by a guy called Joe Girard, who set the record in 1973 with 1,425 cars sold.
Ali Reda: Yeah it was 1,582 cars sold, which was 1,530 new cars and 52 used cars, and in 2016 I sold 1300 cars, and in 2015 I sold 1200 cars. So I’ve been leading up to this and it took me 12 consecutive record breaking months to break that 44-year-old world record. I mean one bad month and it’s over. So we were pretty focused. We had a great start to the year. It didn’t just happen overnight. I mean this is literally 17 years in the making and year over year we were doing better and better and better.
Michael Frank: How many years have you sold at least a thousand cars?
Ali Reda: I think the first time I hit a thousand cars sold was probably in 2012
Michael Frank: So 5 years of selling at least 1,000 cars a year
Ali Reda: Yeah
Michael Frank: How many cars have you sold this year so far in 2018?
Ali Reda: I don’t know the exact count. But the last time I looked it was somewhere over 1,100 cars sold. So we’re not pacing that record, but we’re still on pace for what we feel is a pretty good year for us
Michael Frank: Do you think it’s possible for you or anyone else to sell 2, 000 cars in a year? Or is that going too far?
Ali Reda: Yeah, I think it’s possible. I think somebody’s gonna learn from the stuff that I’ve done and figure out a way to do it better and faster than I did. And that’s what it’s all about. Working smarter and figuring out faster and better ways to do things. And that happens in business and in sports all the time. And now with the digital age, who knows how fast things can progress.
Michael Frank: Let’s go through some of your stats.
You sold 1,582 cars in 2017 to break the world record for most cars sold in a year.
What’s the most number of cars you’ve sold in a day?
Ali Reda: My record is 31 cars in a day and that was in January of 2017.
Michael Frank: What the hell?
Ali Reda: Yeah, 31 was pretty crazy.
Michael Frank: What’s the most number of cars you’ve sold in a month?
Ali Reda: The most cars I’ve ever sold in a month was also in January 2017, and it was 167, and I sold 144 in the month prior to that. It was a great start to the year.
Michael Frank: How many cars do you sell on an “average” day?
Ali Reda: Well if you look at the numbers and break it down to the averages it’s 6 a day.
Michael Frank: So you sell 6 cars a day, which is about one every two hours, about 30 sales a week, or 120 cars sold per month on average.
Ali Reda: Correct.
Michael Frank: Do you know what the industry average is for someone with say five years experience for some comparison?
Ali Reda: Yeah.
Back in the 1970s the average car salesman made 10 sales per month.
Back in the 1980s the average car salesman made 10 sales per month.
In the 1990s they came out with rebates and more money on cars and more training and the average car salesman still only made 10 sales per month.
And here we are now in the 2010s, and we have the internet, we have training seminars, and we have all this other stuff and the average is still only 10 sales per month.
So there’s a problem there. It’s not the training. It’s not a lack of resources. It has something to do with our mindset and our belief systems, and what we think we’re capable of doing.
Michael Frank: So you’re absolutely killing it. You’re doing twelve times the industry average.
Ali Reda: I don’t know if I’m killing it, or if people are just not believing what’s really possible. I’d like that part to come up so it doesn’t seem like I’m killing it.
Michael Frank: What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without a sale?
Ali Reda: Early on if I think back it’s been a whole week without a sale. One thing I haven’t forgotten is how brutal this business can actually be and how demanding it really is. I am fortunate to be in the place that I am today, but that was because I set it up over the years, and that doesn’t mean that I didn’t go through those hard times. I still get butterflies in my stomach at the beginning of the month, and I still feel that, it’s just not as bad. It goes away right away as I get my first couple of sales. It’s in the nature of the beast. You know nobody’s harder on a salesperson than themselves. We’ll beat ourselves up you know. I don’t need a manager pushing me to make a sale. I need to be self motivated. But yeah it can be brutal.
How many customers per car sold?
Michael Frank: How many customers do you see on an “average” day? How many customers do you need to see to make a sale?
Ali Reda: I’ve conditioned a lot of my customers to come in and see me for everything: billing issues, service issues, oil changes, anything to do with their car. So that will throw this number off because I’m not selling to every single person that comes in, but when it comes to relationship selling and that’s what I’m very passionate about, my closing ratio is extremely high.
So if I’m talking to five people that are looking to buy a car than four of them are going to buy. So my closing ratio is maybe 85-90% percent and of that maybe 80-90% percent of the decisions are made are made by me because these people trust me and they’re asking me for my advice. So things go a lot faster and smoother in that sense.
Michael Frank: How many hours a day do you work?
Ali Reda: On Monday and Thursdays I work from 9am-9pm for 12 hours. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday I work from 9am-6pm. So I work 9 hours on those days. I usually try to come in about an hour early, and sometimes I’ll stay a little bit later depending on the day or the work or the time of the month. I don’t work Saturday and Sunday. So I work five days a week and that comes out to about 50 hours a week.
Michael Frank: How long do you take for lunch?
Ali Reda: What is that?
Michael Frank: Okay, so no lunch. It’s 12 hours back to back.
Ali Reda: Once upon a time I used to have a lunch.
Transactional vs relationship selling
Michael Frank: What’s your philosophy on sales and selling?
Ali Reda: If you’re selling to a friend or a family member or to your mother, how much easier and faster and more efficient are you with that person versus somebody that you just met up with on the street?
In a relationship based sale you’re interacting with someone on a personal level and you’re removing the business transaction out of it. So if you’re selling a car to your mother, she’s just going to come in kind of blindfolded and she’s going to say, well, what do you think? You’re the professional. So she’s trusting you and everything that you’re doing. Now imagine every single person that comes in is reacting that way.
The transactional person needs to sell you on liking you, trusting you, believing in you, and then there’s only a 15-20% chance that they’ll buy it from you. So why are we wasting our time and our focus and our money on a transactional person? We should be focusing on relationship type people coming in. And the business is so much faster and easier when you’re dealing with that type of person. In a relationship type sale, you only sell to people who know who you are. It’s not what you know, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you that matters.
“It’s not what you know, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you” – Ali Reda
Building rapport and relationships
Michael Frank: People do business with people they know, like, and trust. When someone first comes into the dealership, how do you go about developing that rapport? What kind of questions do you ask? How do you win them over? How do you build that relationship?
Ali Reda: So if you’re in a transactional sales role, it’s about being transparent and being yourself. The customer is coming in because they want a person to talk to. They don’t want want you to sound like the last five guys they just spoke to that all sound like robots that all say the same stuff.
Reading off a script never worked. I hated it. I never ever followed it. I felt kinda goofy reading somebody else’s words. So be yourself and use your own vocabulary. If there’s certain words you don’t say regularly, don’t say them to your customers.
Being aware of yourself, what you’re saying and doing, your surroundings, and how that customer is feeling is very important.
Be conscious of what you’re saying to people, what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. You have to make the customer feel comfortable. You’ve got to make them feel like they’re the only person in the dealership. You’ve got to make them feel like you’re looking out for their best interests.
Using sales tactics and certain words designed to trap you or cheat you, these are the types of things that are going to turn people off.
I like to tell salespeople, when you go to buy a suit or a shirt or shoes, pay attention to how the salesperson is treating you. Pay attention to what they’re saying. Pick up on all of the things you think are good and bad. That’s what you should be concentrating on.
Questions to ask
Michael Frank: When someone comes to see you for the first time, a new customer, you’ve never met them before, what kind of questions might you ask them?
Ali Reda: So I’m trying to get the big picture to figure out what kind of car is right for them. So I’m asking a lot of questions like:
“Who is the car for?”
“What kind of car are you currently driving?”
“How big is your family?”
“What is your budget?”
“How long have you been at your job?”
“How many miles do you drive?”
“How far do you drive to work?”
“What are your hobbies?”
I need to know all of these things prior to putting them in a certain vehicle. If I feel like something isn’t right or something doesn’t add up, then it’s my job as an advisor to step in and say, well, here’s what I think and why.
One thing we have to remember is that we can’t assume that the consumer knows everything you know. So you have to be very transparent, very open throughout the whole process, and it should be obvious that I’m asking you all of these questions because I want to figure out what the right fit is for you.
All of these questions are important and they do make a difference and people do make mistakes. They come in and buy the wrong car all the time. It’s our job to stop them from making a mistake and to guide them in the right direction.
It doesn’t benefit me as a salesperson to put somebody in the wrong car or to put somebody in the wrong payment, even though I could do it.
In 2-3 months they’re going to realize that it’s the wrong car and it’s the wrong payment and they’re going to come back to you. And the worst thing to say is “I can’t help you”, even though I did that to you. I would feel pretty awkward. And I know there’s times where you can’t just trade in a car a few months later, but if you did your job right, those instances are going to be far and few between.
New customers vs returning customers
Michael Frank: What percentage of your customers are new versus having dealt with you before?
Ali Reda: At this stage of my career I don’t deal with any new customers unless they ask for me. If they don’t know me and they walk into my office, I’ll gladly help them and get them a salesperson. But I don’t take anybody that’s new.
Referrals are very easy to sell because the person that has sent them to you has already told them everything about you, so you don’t have to get them to trust you or believe in you or anything because they already do, because somebody has already told them a story about you, and I treat referrals just like I treat a person I’ve talked to 20 times or that has bought 20 cars from me.
I treat every single person that comes in the same. I have the same tone. I have the same fun, exciting atmosphere for everybody. I don’t pick and choose who I’m friendly with. Everybody that comes in I treat them the same and it’s just so much easier that way.
Michael Frank: When you were dealing with new customers, what percentage become repeat customers?
Ali Reda: I had a pretty high amount of customers that would become repeat customers and come back and see me a second and a third time, and they would tell me it was one of their best experiences and I think it’s because I really had the ability to focus on them. I really had a lot of patience with people and I made them feel that they were the only person in my office and people feed off of that. You know if you rush somebody because you’re busy and you have a lot of distractions they’ll feel it. But I make them feel like they’re the only person there and still to this day I can have five, six people waiting behind them, and the person sitting in front of me is the most important person in my office.
It doesn’t matter what else is going on in a dealership. My cell phone can be ringing, emails can be going off, but I’m completely focused on that person sitting in front of me. I think because of that I had a very high rate of repeats from very early on. I probably had a 70% referral rate, and I wouldn’t ask for a referral.
A lot of people in our industry pay for referrals. They’ll say to a customer: “If you send me a customer, I’m going to pay you $200”. Well now what’s happened is you’ve taken the whole experience and made it about money, which I think is a horrible thing to do, and it’s a horrible message to send to your customer. I’ve never done that. I’ve never said to a customer, if you send me somebody, I’m going to give you $200 because now it becomes monetary, and now they become a number, and now they’re out there sending the wrong message also.
So I figured, why don’t I just give the customer an experience and a story, so that they’re out there telling a story about me and their experience at a family gathering, telling the story about how their salesperson did this, this and this for them, and everybody else is going to be intrigued by it, and they’re naturally going to come see you and send people to you and you’ll get natural referrals.
When you say to people I’ll pay you $200 for a referral, you’re arming them with words that they normally don’t say, because you’ve given them a monetary reason to go out there and say, go see this person, and they’re going to be pushy, they’re not salespeople, they’re sending the wrong message. That type of referral, I don’t even want in my office. I don’t want that person coming in because it’s a snowball effect of the wrong customers. I want natural referrals.
Michael Frank: Do you ask for referrals in addition to knocking their socks off with amazing service? Or do you not ask for the referral at all?
Ali Reda: Nope, I never ever ask for a referral. You know a lot of people before they leave say “Oh my God, I had such a good experience with you. I’m going to make sure I send you all my family and friends!” They say it naturally themselves. And my response to them is normally “As long as you’re happy, I’m happy”. That’s all I care about. And it’s genuine and it’s true. And sure enough they do send me a lot of people and sometimes I’ll get people come in and say “three different people out of the blue told me to come and see you!” And it’s so much easier now because that person really trusts you, and they have nothing to worry about, because their other friends have already bought a car from me.
So that keep that in mind. I know that the industry says, ask for referrals, but it’s not working. If it’s not working, why do we keep teaching it?
If out of all of the customers you’re seeing, you’re only getting one person sent to you because you paid them $200, you’re sending the wrong message.
Blow them away with the experience. Be excited about them buying a car. Be excited that it’s their son or daughter’s first car. Don’t forget the excitement level of purchasing a vehicle. We do it everyday so we tend to forget what’s going on. We tend to forget the emotional attachment that people have because we do it everyday. It’s just normal to us. It’s like putting on your pants right? You just don’t think about it. You gotta be aware of the situation. You’ve gotta be aware of the customer’s position. You’ve got to be compassionate towards what’s going on in their life. That’s how you give the customer an experience, by sharing it with them. That’s the type of thing that we should be focusing on, not asking for a referral.
Closing the sale
Michael Frank: How do you go about asking for the sale? How direct are you? When do you ask?
Ali Reda: In relationship selling, you don’t really have to close people like you do in a transactional business where you have to ask for the sale.
If you go through the process correctly when you’re dealing with people, and you’re transparent throughout the whole process together, you’re going to come to an agreement. I don’t like sales word tactics that put pressure on people like “If I could do this would you be willing to buy today?”
After we go through everything I just say:
“Does this seem like it’ll fit your family needs?”
“Does this fit your budget?”
“Is this the type of vehicle you’re looking for?”
“Does everything look good to you so far?”
I ask these questions throughout the process so that if there is a problem I can stop it there and not an hour later:
“Is everything going okay so far?”
“Do you have any questions?”
“If you have any questions for me, please feel free to ask”
That way you’re not two hours into it and then you realize an hour and a half ago they were not interested. So throughout the whole process you should be communicating with them constantly and making sure everything is going smoothly. Letting them know that it’s okay for them to ask questions.
But yeah, at the end of it, if I go through everything, I just ask them simply:
“Does everything look good so far?”
And if it’s a go:
“What time do you want to pick it up?”
Basically it’s as simple as that.
“I want to think about it”
Michael Frank: If they say “I want to think about it”, does that generally mean they have unanswered questions? Or are they usually too polite to say no?
Ali Reda: I guess you should be able to feel that. Sometimes I’ll get people say “I need to think about it” and for me it’s okay and I’ll give them their space and I’ll say “Okay I understand, no problem at all. If you have any questions please call me”. You want to gather as much information at the time but you can’t pressure them. Most people, if they’re not going to make a decision right then and there, you’re not going to be able to force them to. But I would at least give them their space and make sure you have all the information and follow up is huge in this scenario.
Michael Frank: How soon would you follow them up?
Ali Reda: I would call them the next day. Because they could have got up and gone to another dealership that night. If it’s early enough you can maybe send them a text message or a quick email saying: “Hey, thanks for stopping in, if you have any further questions please call me”. You don’t have to sound like an encyclopedia. Just sound like yourself. Just sound like a normal person. Just send them a quick text and say: “Hey, thanks for stopping in. I appreciate the opportunity. Please call me if you have any questions. Here’s my cell phone number”. Anything to make it a little more personal. And then the next day I will do the same thing and send them something a little bit more formal through email.
Michael Frank: What’s the most brutal rejection you’ve ever had from a customer? What’s the rudest thing a customer has ever said to you?
Ali Reda: I don’t remember anything really bad, but I had a car stolen from me one time, so that kind of sucked. That was early on in my career, I was just showing a Camaro to a guy who was parked right in front of the dealership, you know, he asked to hear the engine, I started it up and he’s sitting in the passenger seat and I’m standing right next to him with the door open and he’s literally got one leg hanging out, and all of a sudden he puts it in drive and just took off!
So that was not good, but that was the only time anything crazy like that happened. I think they found the car like three or four days later and it was stripped. It was a good learning experience. Nobody got hurt.
Michael Frank: A brutal lesson. But people are generally respectful? Or are they aggressive or defensive?
Ali Reda: People are armed, and they feel like they have to be a little bit abrasive and a little harsh and a little hard on us because they feel like we’re going to take advantage of them. It’s horrible to be in that position. But you have to be able to overcome that. You can’t take a personal. I mean if I take that person on, I lose a sale, and if I dwell on losing that sale, I’m going to lose the next two or three sales because of that. So we have to have thick skin. We have to be able to overcome it. And it doesn’t benefit me to argue with a customer over something because I’m not going to win. I can win the battle, but I’ll definitely lose the war. So it doesn’t make sense to argue. I just try to focus on fixing the issue. But we’re not going to please everybody. You’re not going to change people.
One thing you also have to remember as a salesperson, is that we don’t know where the customer has come from. You don’t know if the person has come from a road rage incident. You don’t know if they were fighting with their spouse. You don’t know if they have a sick child at home. Why am I going to get into a battle with this person if I have no idea where they came from?
So you’ve got to be aware of your position, be aware of their position, and you need to understand that people have bad days. And don’t assume that they’re just taking it out on you. It could just be a bad situation that you made worse because you weren’t patient and you didn’t listen.
Michael Frank: If you were mentoring someone to break your world record, if you were trying to build the perfect salesman, what kind of advice would you give them? What would be your “rules” of sales? What is your best sales advice?
Ali Reda: That’s a great question. I love that question. I think the first thing would be to build your brand name early on. Build relationships early on. What the person is doing outside of the dealership is more important than what they’re doing inside of the dealership. That means marketing themselves, getting active in their community, and that’s what I did over the years, going to charity events and local school functions and community centers.
I’m more active than anybody else I know of in my community, and I don’t have to be any more because I’m well known by everybody, but I still do it because I care and I like to do it, and being present in front of people is what keeps you fresh in front of people’s faces. It’s better than online because you can’t get the same reaction from people online that you do in person. So I would mold that person into the mayor of their city. That’s who people want to do business with.
Write down every 15 minutes of your day
Michael Frank: What other sales advice do you have?
Ali Reda: I also encourage all salespeople for any industry to write down your daily process and literally write it down and be truthful to yourself. This is just for yourself. You’re not going to share with anybody. Don’t take any shortcuts. Write down exactly what you did every 15 minutes of your day. That means if you walked outside, if you went to the bathroom, if you went to lunch, write it down, and then at the end of the day, or at the end of the week, read it and be honest and truthful with yourself and figure out where your gaps are.
If you want to better yourself, you’ve got to look at yourself first. I know our industry measures time in hours, but my day is measured in minutes. That’s how efficient it is. My day is measured in 15 minute increments. I write down my process. Until you understand your process and where the holes and gaps are, where your strengths and weaknesses are, how could you adjust? How could you get better if you don’t know what the problem is?
I can’t tell you how important it is to write down your process. It’s very important.
Michael Frank: What are the biggest mistakes that most salespeople make?
Ali Reda: Negative beliefs. We sabotage our own belief systems. We start profiling people. We start figuring out ways of sabotaging the deal. We say: “Hey this guy’s not going to buy anything. He didn’t pull up in the right car. He’s not wearing the right clothes” etc. So we start thinking that people are coming in to waste time rather than thinking everybody’s there to buy.
A person that has just started out in the business believes that every single person that comes in is buying something. I believe every single person that comes in is there for a reason and they’re there to buy something or they need my help in some way. I believe that. So because I believe that, that’s how I approach each customer.
Salespeople often think: “I only have a 20 percent chance of closing this person”. It’s a mindset thing. You need to believe that person’s there for a reason. I don’t know anybody that wakes up in the morning and says “I think I’m going to go into a dealership today and waste some time”. Nobody walks into a dealership to waste time. They’re there for a reason and it’s up to us to figure out why they’re there. Mindset is a huge issue. You’ve got to believe in yourself firstly, and then you’ve got to believe that the customer is there for a reason.
Michael Frank: So you believe you’re going to make a sale with every person you meet?
Ali Reda: Absolutely. I’m there to help them in some way. I believe that every single customer is there for a reason and they need me, and I believe every single person that comes in and asks me questions about cars, they’re buying something.
Michael Frank: It’s almost surprising to you if you don’t make a sale. It’s almost shocking.
Ali Reda: It’s funny because a lot of times if I don’t make a sale, it’s because I pretty much chose not to, because I don’t feel like I can put them in a better situation at that very moment. I might have them come back 30 or 60 days later.
Or I’ll say “Hey next month we’re going to have no interest coming out or we’re going to have this new program coming out, so why don’t you wait 30 days” and people love that.
And I’m not worried about that person going to the next dealership and buying something. I’m not worried about them leaving me because I’ve already built a relationship with them. I’ve already built that trust and they’ll say, okay, great, I’ll see you next month. And sure enough they do come back the next month and I put them in a better situation than they’re in.
I can do that now because I’ve built the business up to where I’m not worried about where that next person is coming from. Everyone should look at their business and say I want to get to that point where I’m not forced to sell something, I’m here to help somebody and put them in the right position. And that might be today, tomorrow, next month or six months from now.
Michael Frank: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? What’s the best advice you would give to someone else?
Ali Reda: The best advice I’ve ever been given was probably being aware of my surroundings. Being able to understand the position of the person sitting in front of you. Being able to have compassion towards them, and really understanding why they’re there.
You also need to be honest and transparent. Not just in sales but in life. You also need patience.
And my advice to people would be to believe in themselves. I’m a person that believes that if somebody did it then I can do it. And I’m telling you it’s possible, there is no secret handshake, there is no secret word etc. I greet all of my customers with a hug, not even a handshake anymore, which is very cool, and I love going to my job because of that. But I believe in myself, I believe in the process, and I believe in what I have to offer. It’s something great. And once people start believing in what’s possible and believing in themselves, I think they’ll become a lot better and become more successful.
Michael Frank: You’re a great guy Ali. It was a pleasure speaking with you.
Ali Reda: Awesome. Thanks Michael. I appreciate this opportunity very much.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Ali Reda grew up in inner city Detroit, and started in car sales back in June 2001. He quickly learned that the business was about people not cars. He began marketing himself in his community with the goal of becoming known by everyone. Year over year he was able to increase business and sales and in 2017 he broke the world record by selling 1530 new cars and 52 used cars. Ali credits his success on his ability to build life long meaningful relationships with people. In his quest to help others achieve such success he has co-authored the book How to Sell 100 Cars a Month Helping others believe in what’s possible is Ali’s goal.