A Different Way of Selling Cars

1940s Dodge showroom

Lewis Reed (right) in new car showroom talking with a customer

Ask anyone who has been in the car business for a while how they create lasting customer relationships. They’ll tell you it’s through conversation. The benefit of an actual conversation is that it builds engagement, which ultimately builds a relationship between the salesman and the customer. Engagement fosters relationships, which build trust.

Selling cars in the 40’s and 50’s was very different than what it is today. Growing up in the car business, one of my favorite things to do as a kid was to go to the dealership with my grandfather on weekends. My grandfather was always on the showroom floor or walking around the dealership talking with customers and the employees. What I didn’t know at the time, was that by being accessible and not spending a lot of time in his office behind a desk, he was actually building rapport and trust with his customers and employees.

In Lewis Reed’s day, a customer would come into the showroom and sit for hours and talk about local sports teams, the weather or family. But they’d never mention an automobile. Then, the customer would come back, maybe talk a second day. And on the third day, they’d get down to dickering about a car. But it was all cautious, deliberate and very polite.

In the those days, it was unheard of for a salesman to spend the whole day in the showroom. There were no salesman’s desks in the Reed Brothers showroom until after World War II. Lewis Reed allotted specific sales territory to his salesmen in four different directions from the dealership. The salesmen spent all day in the outlying areas of Poolesville, Rockville, Barnesville and Spencerville demonstrating cars to potential customers. At that time, Reed Brothers was selling about eight new cars a month and most sales resulted from knocking on people’s doors. It was direct person to person sales contact, relationship building and trust – all built and sealed on a handshake.

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About Reed Brothers

I am a co-owner of the former Reed Brothers Dodge in Rockville, Maryland. Lewis Reed, the founder of Reed Brothers Dodge was my grandfather. We were a family-owned and operated car dealership in Rockville for almost a century. I served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in the top enlisted grade of Chief Master Sergeant in July 2006. In 2016, I received the Arthur M. Wagman Award for Historic Preservation Communication from Peerless Rockville for documenting the history of Reed Brothers Dodge in both blog and book format. This distinguished honor recognizes outstanding achievement by writers, educators, and historians whose work has heightened public awareness of Rockville’s architectural and cultural heritage, growth and development.

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