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Selling vehicles is a high-tech biz

Amanda Vaughan
Northern News Services
Friday, August 3, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - The job title "car salesman" might bring to mind a fast-talking guy who would sell you his own mother, but according to Bruce Barker, it's a stereotype that hasn't aged well.

"People are way more informed now," said Barker. "They can do so much research on what they want on their computer now, that a salesman is just bluffing himself if he's being dishonest."

Barker has been selling cars for Kingland Ford for seven years now after six years as a mechanic for the company. He said his 13 years at the dealership have been good, and he enjoys being in the front of the shop.

"I love sales," he said, adding "I like dealing with people, and seeing past clients."

Barker said that things are brisk at Kingland.

"Every day is a busy day," he said. "My phone never quits."

According to Barker, the amount of time he spends with a client can vary wildly, depending on what they want and how long they need to think about it.

"One person might take a couple of hours, and the next person might take four days or a week to decide," he said.

And sales isn't as easy as walking in the door with a smile anymore, either.

"We take courses with Ford to be certified in sales," Barker said.

He added that the courses mostly involve knowing the vehicles inside and out and understanding the products they have to offer.

"We should be able to answer all the questions a customer might ask," said Barker, adding that Ford provides the certification courses online and by satellite, a boon in a remote location like Yellowknife.

Barker said one of the perks of being in the car business is the new products.

"We are always excited to see new vehicles, to see what they are like inside and how they drive," he said.

Barker's favourites are the trucks.

"I'm the truck guy, I love the trucks," he said, mentioning Ford staples such as the F-150 and F-350.

Keeping a car lot running in Yellowknife, like anything else in the North, has its unique challenges.

"The winter is a huge challenge," Barker said.

He said the employees try to keep a variety of vehicles plugged in and do their best to keep the snow cleared off them, but winter can be very persistent.

"If you have snow one day, and then snow again the next day, then it gets hard," he said.

Barker added that a lot of customers are understanding about the winter.

"Some people will phone ahead and give us a day's notice if they want to test drive a particular one," he said, but added that if someone comes in and wants a test drive on short notice, then "it depends if it starts up."