Don’t sweat the small stuff! Pressure from the sales desk and management with production and customer need and can be intimidating, but if you can fall back to a process and follow through on the steps to the sale you will succeed.
As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewingGerry Gould.
Gerry has over three decades of automotive sales, and management experience. He began his automotive career as a sales consultant at Fitzgerald Hicks Dodge in Salem, NH where his father was the general manager. Soon after, Gerry and his father opened Gould Auto Sales as an independent pre-owned dealership in Lawrence, MA which they later sold. After the sale, Gerry was hired at Ira Oldsmobile-Toyota in Danvers, MA as a sales consultant where he swiftly moved through the ranks of virtually all front-end management positions.
In 1996 Gerry joined the team of David Lewis & Associates where he dedicated his knowledge and experience to training others. Following a successful tenure with David Lewis & Associates he relocated to Florida in 2002 where he held the position of Florida’s Regional F&I Director for AutoNation the nation’s largest automotive retailer until 2009 when he accepted the position of Director of Training for United Development Systems, a well-established general agent focused on F&I performance and development.
Through the years Gerry has spoken at and held numerous workshops for groups and conferences related to automotive front-end operations. He has also crafted several Sales, Sales and F&I Management training programs and published numerous articles in industry journals.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was the oldest of 3 siblings. My dad was an orphan child so much of our time was spent with my mother’s side of the family — a very large Italian family from East Boston. I spent nearly every summer growing up with my older cousins who would often challenge me to do the craziest things. One time they had me climb a General Electric neon sign that could be viewed from the Tobin Bridge which spans across the Mystic River connecting Boston to East Boston. It was dusk and just about the time I reached the sign it lit up! I fell back and broke my arm. That is just one example of the crazy things they asked me to do.
During that time, I grew up fast and furious. Both the streets and the influence my cousins had on me spurred a confidence I still carry with me today. My family moved out to Andover, Ma., when I was entering middle school and my interest soon changed to sports: baseball, football and gymnastics. During my middle and high school years I was very popular and had many friends. I was thirteen years old selling newspapers as the traffic would enter the Sumner Tunnel into Boston when I realized I would rather work than play. I began saving money and soon I could buy things my friends would only wish for. My first real job was washing dishes. Then I went on to reconditioning cars which led me into the retail automotive business.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.
When I look back at my career, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by many mentors, especially my dad for his strong work ethic. Others were:
My first Sales Manager, Norman Fitzgerald for his role in helping me succeed in selling cars.
Ira Rosenberg of Ira Toyota for his compassion and entertaining demeanor.
Denny Simms for taking me under his wing and teaching how to train and get a clear message across.
There are too many mentors to mention during my days at AutoNation, but many leaders there were a major source of inspiration and influence, including one supervisor that pushed me to take the leap and start my own company.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Without question Denny Sims gave me the most encouragement. Denny was the Director of Training for David Lewis & Associates. Denny and I had begun writing new material for some upcoming workshops and he had a mild stoke while working on the project. I felt lost as this was all new to me. Through Denny’s encouragement I completed the task. As a result of the stoke Denny’s ability to facilitate training sessions was diminished so David asked me to step into the role. It was through Denny’s encouragement that I accepted the challenge. Those two events are a big reason I am who and what I am today.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
A mistake in my career that changed my approach in finance was asking (or not asking) for the business. When I was a child I would always try to get extra cookies after dinner without asking, and my grandfather told me to simply make a straight forward request to my mother: “may I please have some cookies”. Whoa! It worked! So simple. And rewarding.
Early in my career I didn’t ask for the business and it showed. I remembered this early childhood lesson and when I changed my approach to respectfully ask for the business my performance sky rocketed. Of course, there are a lot of theories and skills behind properly asking for the business, but something simple and straightforward can be a game changer, such as asking a customer if they want the car; or proposing that if we were fortunate enough to find a car that fits their needs, are they in a position to proceed. Not enough people know how to ask for the business and that leads to lost opportunities.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Get off you’re a!%[email protected]! Practice, drill and rehearse. Become a subject matter expert. Research — Research — Research.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
It is a recent publication: Drive by Daniel Pink. I love the idea of updating your software.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Aim high is soaring — Aim low is boring. Because you have to reach for it to achieve it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Virtual automotive sales, sales management, and financial services training. It’s the new norm as the car research, shopping and buying process is moving almost entirely online. The pandemic forced a lot of people to adapt to the digital version of car buying, but it is and will continue to be the purchase journey of choice for most going forward.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?
1) Don’t sweat the small stuff! Pressure from the sales desk and management with production and customer need and can be intimidating, but if you can fall back to a process and follow through on the steps to the sale you will succeed.
2) Just do it — Don’t hesitate on taking action. Make the calls, build your network, invest in yourself and your brand with engagement and interaction on social media and embrace the job of a professional sales consultant. The best in the business get to where they are by doing what is required regardless of pressure or time restrictions.
3) Get it done — There are so many untapped resources in a dealership and excuses of time and pressure are often a fall back that prevents capitalizing on the opportunity. Take for instance the service department. This is a great resource to build a book of business and relationships that can refer clients to you. So, don’t wait and get it done.
4) A little + a little + a little = a lot — These small steps repeated each day will compound results and guarantee success in any environment. I have seen incredible and sustainable growth by embracing the practices.
Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
I play the game film in my head first. The foundation of confidence is in product knowledge and understanding the landscape of your market and competition. As long as you have that foundation, confidence is natural. Then, even in high stress situations you can fall back on process and allow your knowledge to shine. Peak performance is all about understanding the need and being prepared to deliver, and I find that playing the game in my head first helps to reinforce my product knowledge and process so I don’t get rattled.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.
For me, meditation and breathing has not optimized my performance, but perhaps I have not had the right teacher and I’m open to learn. However, visualization is a big part of optimizing my performance. I am a firm believer in process and consistency. It’s kind of like an athlete, except I’m a mental athlete and just like running a race or being in the big game, you must imagine hitting that home run or breaking that record. Visualizing the win is almost like achieving the win for me. It makes me get in the zone even more and gets me to that “A game” level.
Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?
Just get in the moment. Again, falling back into the process, not over thinking it and relying on your established knowledge base gives you confidence. Confidence sells, confidence clears distraction and allows you to make the most of your opportunity.
We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
Arriving early is critical. It’s important to be comfortable in the space before beginning a presentation or discussion.
I also run several practice drills and rehearse multiple times, and think of all of the questions the audience may have so I’m prepared to answer anything.
What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?
I used to talk over people. I was told by one of my mentors to count 3 Mississippi’s before I speak when spoken to. This helped me to not only stop speaking over people, but to become a much better listener.
As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
First, Flow shouldn’t be confused with the comfort zone. I’m a firm believe that we all need to step outside of our comfort zone to grow and be challenged. Flow, to me, means you’re in “the zone”, a place where you feel confident and self-assured; a place where you feel you can overcome all obstacles in your way. Seeking out your industry and product knowledge along with the latest trends helps in achieving a state of Flow or reaching the zone.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Changing the way auto dealers are perceived by embracing our Product Prep platform. I am a coach, and I love it. A coach needs a team and a team that wants to achieve and perform their job with integrity, professionalism and transparency. My greatest reward is seeing the success that is created as a result of my coaching and training. We have created a platform that brings live interactive training to many people and it allows me the opportunity to work with so many great people and share my experience and expertise with them for the purpose of making their performance better and by creating a better buying experience for customers. Ultimately, this has the power to influence the reputation of dealers.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Bob Iger. The lessons he has learned about management and collaboration are invaluable and his accomplishments are inspiring, yet he still has a down to earth relatable vibe.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
www.gerrygould.com is my website. I provide training sessions through Product Prep, and I am also available on LinkedIn and YouTube.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.