When you think "Volvo," Mabel Peralta wants you to think of her.
To say Peralta is a Volvo enthusiast would be an understatement. When she was just 4 years old, she fell in love with her uncle’s 240:
“It looked like a Lego piece and smelled like crayons – I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.” She made a list of the cars she wanted when she grew up, and a navy blue 240 station wagon took the top spot.
It was her first car. And now, it’s a tattoo on her arm.
In fact, Volvos are the only car she’s ever owned. Although she’s sold other cars, selling Volvo is not surprisingly her favorite: “There’s something about those cars that when I see them, I get so happy.”
We sat down with Peralta to learn more about her automotive passions, as well as her concerns for her fellow peers in the industry.
MP: MP: I left Corporate America – and a really good paying job! – to go work at a dealership. And it’s because I went to go buy a car and it was one of the worst experiences ever. But I fell in love with the dealership I did buy from … the dealership I ended up working for.
They treated me like family from the moment I walked in the door. I’d only been there an hour, and I’d already met the owner, the owner’s brother, I met service ... it was just like, this is perfect.
MP: It would be immensely helpful for dealerships to have an ambassador – that one person who’s on the constant move. Not that they’re always happy-go-lucky, and not that they’re the only face of the store, but someone who is going to be the quasi-cheerleader. Someone who’s going to set the tone and provide some structure. Someone who’s going to be there to lift others up if they need that little boost. And someone who’s going to show others how to treat customers.
I was that person at Volvo Cars Glen Cove in Long Island. If there was a customer who came in with a problem, I was the first person they talked to. It’s a mindset of What can we do for you? We’re here to listen and make it right.
When the customer is happy in the store, they’ll be loyal to you, to the store, to the brand.
MP: Yes. I’ve been on the other side of the desk and felt like, Am I going to get this car? And you might have a lot hanging on your getting this car. It could be you need this car to get to work, you need this car to move, you need this car for your family.
Many people come in with a set idea – a negative one – of how a dealership is going to be. When the salesperson turns out to be completely the opposite in a good way, it makes a huge difference.
You just listen to them. You get away from the actual car buying and just ask the questions: how are you, how was your day? It relaxes them, and that is so essential for the car-buying experience overall.
I always say to my customers, I don’t need to sell you a car today. Even if I really do at that time need to sell a car [laughs]! I don't want to pressure them. The seed for this was planted when I started my career: I worked with a dealer principal, Kevin Flanagan of Smythe Volvo, who I’m still good friends with, who told me, You have to listen to your customers, because the minute you drop the ball and stop listening, you lose the sale. And even if you do get the sale, they're not going to come back.
When the pressure’s off, everything changes.
MP: I like an upfront approach to negotiating. When someone asks, What’s the best you can do on this car? I immediately ask them, Where do you want to be? Let’s just cut to the chase! I ask them where they’d like to be and then maybe I can be there or meet them halfway or something.
I’m there for them after the sale, and I always hear my customers out. Let’s say they tell me that their Bluetooth doesn’t work with their new phone – and they never paired it, oops! I’ll say, Yes, that is frustrating. Here, I’ll pair it up for you. And while I’m pairing it, I’m going to take a video and email it to you so that next time you get a new phone you’ll know what to do.
Many times I’ll let a customer know that I’m going to deliver the car for them. I’ll say, My delivery coordinator is out for the day, but I wear many hats. Do you mind if I record this? And then I can send it to you. And they love that.
I’ll even Facetime with them. I have a list of Volvo clientele that’ll message me. I save their name and the car they have, so I know how to fix their issue right away.
MP: Probably the one-on-one with customers. Also lately it’s been helping other people in the industry. Just back to that point that you don’t always have to be a salesperson. Yes, your job is to sell, but that doesn’t mean you have to carry that through from beginning to end.
You can be their friend for the day. You could be their confidant. You can be their ally! When I do a TO, I always sit or stand on the side of the customer so they know I’ve got their back. I’m going to fight to make sure they get the right price.
Offer to get them a drink or order them some food. Like, Hey, you want Starbucks? You’re going to be here for a bit because you’re taking this car home and it’s getting detailed so it’s going to be another hour. Even if they don’t want anything, they like the offer because they see that you’re concerned about them.
MP: Thanks! Everyone loves those do-good Pinterest posts ... yay, positivity! But you have to be real. When you have positive thoughts and things are going well, that’s great. But I also want to acknowledge those days when I’m not so positive. And it’s OK! It’s OK to cry – sometimes you just need to have a good cry and think, I survived that, I got this. Yeah my day might have sucked but the sun’s going to come up tomorrow and it’ll be a new day. Maybe it won’t be the best day either, but it’s going to be a continuation of me showing up and trying to make it better.
That’s what I want people to know. You don’t always have to be positive, and if you see someone who’s not being positive, don’t make them feel worse! Mental health right now, especially in the automotive industry … I am shocked that no one has stood up and said we need to do something about it. What’s going on is not pretty.
We see the highlight reel on social media and a lot of us feel like we can’t measure up to that. That’s why I make it a point to keep it real. I’ll tell you when I’m doing good, and I’ll also tell you when I’m doing bad.
MP: I recently came out about my alopecia – I basically had it bullied out of me. I could have really let it get to me. But I took a couple of hours to cry and I was like, You know what? I’m pretty sure there are other people out there like me who have alopecia and don’t talk about it.
So I’m going to take my wig off and I’m going to talk about it. And it’s been amazing! I’ve had so many people reach out who have alopecia too. Men, women, young people, older people. People who just didn’t feel like they had anyone to talk to.
I think that’s how it should be with mental health. You’ll see people online all, I’m killing it! I’m doing this, I’m doing that. And look at my Rolex. I just bought a house and my wife doesn’t work.
It’s like OK, awesome, good for you. You worked very hard for it. But there’s a new person starting out and they see you and they want to be you so bad. When they can’t sell 10 cars a month, they feel like a failure. Without realizing that it’s taken years for those individuals to get where they are.
Instead of saying, Hey, Joanne, you were selling 20 cars last month and now you’re only selling five, what’s up? Why can’t you do more?, we need people who actually care, who ask, What’s going on at home? Is there anything I can help you with? Do you need me to change your work schedule? How can I help you?
When you do that, show that you really care, they’re going to love you and they’re going to want to work hard for you.
The suicide rate in our industry is going up, depression is also definitely going up. Pill addiction, alcoholism, adultery – everything is going up as a coping mechanism. And dealers need to get it together or they’re going to lose a lot of great people.
I wish I had the schooling and could really help people more. But I do talk about it often because it is important. If you’re feeling depressed, you need a support system. You need to recognize when things aren’t going well, and that is the time to talk to somebody. There are people who want to listen.