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In His Element

Local Salesman has humble success

Chad Marriage is a salesman who genuinely loves people. But when you say the word salesman, the word genuine tends to shed its charm rather quickly. Salesmen often get a bad reputation and most of the time it makes sense: defenses rise when authenticity dips. Chad, though, is different. He hasn’t memorized any algorithm and he doesn’t need training—his secret sauce is simply human connection.

Chad spends hours a day listening to stories. His customers at Denny Menholt University Honda tell him about growing up on a farm, just as he did, and they belly laugh about how the winds of eastern Montana are callous enough to wipe you right off your feet. As Head of Maintenance for fifteen years at a retirement home, he fell in love with the residents as they crooned to him about aches and pains—where it hurts, why it hurts, what they wish they could do once more. He knew their kids and their grandkids.

“I became family with them,” Chad says, beaming.

That’s sort of what happened when he began selling cars. And Chad isn’t just selling cars—he’s outselling everyone else. On average, he sells 30 vehicles per month. Of the twelve dealerships within the Menholt Auto Group, Chad was their #1 salesperson last year, outselling the #2 salesperson by roughly one hundred vehicles. In the last seven years, he has received Honda’s Council of Sales Leadership Award rising from Silver to Gold, then to Gold Master (their highest ranking). These Sales Leadership Awards measure not only sales volume but also customer satisfaction and professional knowledge.

So how does a nice guy excel to this caliber without frills or folly? Answer: Chad doesn’t focus on the sale. He focuses on satisfaction.

“I’ve never seen a salesperson sell so many cars without issues after the sale,” says Michael Frame, General Manager of Denny Menholt University Honda. “He is hands down the best I’ve ever come across.” Issues that arise after a sale usually occur when a salesman over-promises something that he or she can’t deliver, or drops the ball on something because he or she is already busy with the next possible sale. This doesn’t happen with Chad because he knows that customer satisfaction is born long before that new owner drives off the lot.

Customer satisfaction begins with that first phone call—the one where he joyfully listens to a potential client talk about hunting for forty-five minutes, and we’re not talking about car hunting. We’re talking mule deer in the high desert. When the conversation does make its way around to vehicles, Chad gives people the space to simply shop.

“The process of buying a car can be fun. It doesn’t have to be scary. There’s no pressure. Come in, walk the lot, take your time,” Chad says. His face turns a slight shade of red when he tells me that at least once a month a woman will walk in upset because the last dealership refused a test drive without her husband present. That’s another story he’s glad he’s there to hear and remedy.

When a customer is ready to test drive or talk to a salesperson, Chad balances his extraordinary powers of listening, with asking the right questions. What will they do with this car? Hunt? Ski? Road trips? Who will be in it? Kids? What’s important to them in a car? Certain features?

“Once I learn their wants and needs, then I just try to guide them towards the right vehicle,” Chad says. “But I don’t want them to be sorry in six months. I want them to love it.” If he doesn’t feel that love, he will steer the customer away, completely unconcerned with sales volume.

While Chad’s ultimate secret to success does lie in satisfaction, it’s not only the customer’s—it’s his, too. It’s the relationships he builds through listening. It’s the repeat buyer that brings in their children or grandchildren. It’s the text he gets at night because a client’s check engine light came on, or they received a cancer diagnosis.

“I love my clients. They’re family,” Chad says. No wonder his Customer Satisfaction rating is 96 to100%. His sales are never final.

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