A young girl in St Mary rushes outside after the heavy rains to race makeshift cars down the gushing waters. She's fascinated by the trucks her father drives across the island, and wants to know everything about them, as she dreams of someday becoming a driver. With an inquisitive nature and a deepening passion for automobiles, it wasn't long before Petrena Purser decided what she wanted to become when she grew up - a car saleswoman.
"I was watching a television programme about cars one day and thought to myself, 'I could sell one of those'," she told Flair. Today, Purser is the newly appointed Honda brand manager, one of two women recently promoted to top sales positions at ATL Automotive Limited. The former Honda sales consultant and supervisor, nicknamed 'great white' by her colleagues due to her aggressive sales tactics, demonstrated just that when she sought her first job in the industry.
In 1998, Purser applied to the now defunct Motor Sales and Service Limited, but was told there was no vacancy. With a firm belief there had to be a place there for her, she called the sales manager every day and offered to work as an assistant. "Finally, he said due to my persistence, he would make me an assistant to the top sales consultant. Within six months, I was selling half the cars she sold on a monthly basis and they placed me in training for two years," she added.
But as sales consultant number 11, it would not be easy, so the budding and highly competitive sales giant had to outsmart her colleagues. "I was placed at the back of the room. When the customers come in, they have to pass 10 representatives to get to me and that was not going to happen. So I started hanging around the door and the parking lot to meet them first. I also noticed that everyone went to lunch at the same time, so I allowed them to go while I stayed in to get the calls. I would also drop in at the parts and service departments to meet and greet customers. I have even networked at funerals," she recalls with a chuckle.
These aggressive tactics propelled Purser to the top three and eventually, the million-dollar roundtable award, having sold $12 million in sales margins for six consecutive years. In 2009, Purser joined the ATL family - a choice she made from three offers she received at the time. "I knew my competition very well, I saw ATL as a progressive company and I loved the Honda brand," she said.
She made a grand entrance at ATL Motors by copping the Employee of the Year and Supervisor of the Year awards in 2010 and 2011. She attributes her growth as a leader to Christopher DaCosta, former Honda dealer principal whom she describes as stern, but the one who helped her become more fearless by consistently saying "take the bull by the horns". "I know my team inside out. I can tell what some of them are thinking, just by the way they walk. The sales team is young, but very focused and energetic and we will take Honda to new heights," she added.
Purser received a standing ovation following her tribute to DaCosta at the Staff Awards ceremony in July as she stood at the podium and saluted her former boss and declared she was his faithful lieutenant. Moments later, she was back on stage receiving the Supervisor of the Year award. DaCosta's departure paved the way for Purser's promotion and the appointment of a new dealer principal, Sam McKenzie, who was transferred from the Montego Bay location where he was also dealer principal.
Enter Tanya-Sue Young, former Montego Bay sales manager and newly appointed dealer principal - the first woman to head an ATL Automotive division. Young's ascension to the top comes two years after she joined the company. "Albeit my first automotive sales job, I have sold everything from vacations, excursions, telephones, websites and ice to Eskimos," explained the vivacious and bubbly saleswoman.
She leads a challenging yet rewarding division which grew exponentially under her's and DaCosta's leadership. "I love that this job gives me the opportunity to truly affect people's lives - being a part of dreams coming true and being able to assist with life-changing decisions. I take my duty to motivate my team to sell cars, while facilitating and guiding the transactions from start to finish, very seriously. I try not to micromanage, but I become quite demanding, exacting of our team, unbearable rather than unbeatable, but all this with the goal of ensuring that sales are closed and targets are met. The end result in most cases justifies the means ... I hope," she said with an infectious laugh.
The boss from the west believes a good sales person truly listens to his/her clients and creates a perfect match between the product and the specific needs and preferences of every client. "I love my team! We have built our own unique sales machine fuelled by team work, group motivation, pride in our product and an ongoing cycle of growth and improvement that ensures that we will keep getting better. I stand firmly by the position that when a team is strong - a leader can correct without offending and also be open to guidance from the team. He who follows well - learns to lead well! Team Montego Bay will never stop growing. When we hit the top of our game - we will dig deeper, push the boundaries and do better than before," she said.
Young's passion landed her the President's Award at the recently held staff awards function. "I actually cried when I was announced as the winner - it was totally unexpected! We work hard every day! Never leaving the team, pushing hard and in one powerful moment, it was like someone whispered "We see what you have been doing! We appreciate your hard work! It was a victory for the entire MoBay Team! It will go down as one of the best moments of my life," she ended.
As they make "unbeatable" a way of life, both women are big on customer service and vow to continue going above and beyond the call of duty to maintain excellent relations with their customers. According to Purser, when it comes to her customers, her mobile phone is never off. "It doesn't matter the time of day or night, whether it's a weekend or public holiday, I always answer and try my very best to assist."
According to Young, "When faced with a client who doesn't see things the way I do, I empathise, focus on the facts of the situation and ensure that a resolution that best serves the customer and the company is found. I learned a long time ago that the greatest customer-service compliment comes from a client who thought you would never be able to get it right."
Both women told Flair that they are ready to tackle the challenge of surviving in a male-dominated industry. "Women have long blasted through any limitations set on us by traditional schools of thought. Women can sell cars, race cars and fix cars! More significantly, a woman can manage any business - maintaining a healthy environment of productivity and profitability, developing strong teams, nurturing client loyalty and satisfaction," states Young. According to Purser, "I love to win in everything I do. It doesn't matter if you are male or female. I always tell my competition if the kitchen is too hot, step aside."