If Vehicle Personalization were personified, he’d be a man in his 30s. Think — former military, total gearhead, unmatched drive (pun intended), and always learning. We’d name him Grady Cooper. Actually, his mother named him Grady Cooper. Meet the Special Projects Manager at Step One Automotive Group in Crestview, Florida. Yes, the embodiment of Vehicle Personalization is not a myth, but a man, and he hails from the Sunshine State.
During a recent episode of Insignia Group’s podcast, Next Up, Accessories, Cooper gave us valuable insight into the dealer group approach to selling accessories. The primary focus may not be what you'd think. Cooper's job is overseeing a team of Delivery Coordinators, who currently span four stores. While many processes to drive success are in place, much of it boils down to the character of his people.
"When you take care of your employees, they take better care of the customer," Cooper tells us. "I look for somebody with a willingness to learn, and the ability to read people." Cooper acknowledges that to err is human, and mistakes in the sale and the delivery are going to happen. Step One Automotive Group believes it's what you do to make it right that counts in the end.
Step One Automotive Group checks every box when it comes to best practices, and we advocate box-checking. Cooper encourages his team to make careful observations about the customer's current vehicle. Starting at the trade, both sales and delivery coordinators become better versed in their customer's language.
"If I notice the customer has two car seats in the back, I know they've got small children. If they're looking at a vehicle without running boards, I know they're going to need those. I can recommend that," Cooper says.
Delivery coordinators are trained to present accessories prior to F&I, and start with a lead-in product. For this Florida-based dealer, that product is window tint.
"Know the product, know the customer, know the need and fill that need with accessories,” Cooper says. “Our automobile is an extension of our personality, and that's one way to express ourselves. A lot of people find comfort in that. It becomes a hobby." This is coming from the guy who's been carrying around a notebook to house ideas for his dream car since the eighth grade.
In his role, Cooper puts a high focus on communication, reading a customer, and excelling at customer service. He emphasizes a smooth process from transaction to delivery, and encourages the team to work towards that end. His encouraging and inspiring personality spur the team onward. In these unprecedented times, Cooper’s philosophy hasn’t changed.
“Anyone in the world just wants to be respected. We do our best to be as respectful as possible [in response to COVID].”
The accessory program within Step One Automotive Group continues to grow under Cooper’s leadership. The underlying theme is plain old hard work.
"If you don't do it for yourself, no one else will. Just go and do it. That's the biggest thing. The military taught me that,” Cooper says. “We set realistic goals and expectations each month. Everybody wants that slice of pie in the sky, but until you put in the work, you're never going to get there.”
So how can you emulate Cooper in management or sales? Work hard, own up to mistakes, know your product, and respect others. Also, just being a lifelong car lover and having a borderline obsession with excelling doesn’t hurt.
Grady Cooper, we love you and cheers to many more years working together!