Monday, 05 March 2007 17:09

Houston parts department uses outside sales tactics to separate itself from competition

Written by Michelle DeCrescenzo

It was the day a car was promised to a customer. Repairs were to be finished by the afternoon, but the body shop was in a bind. A part had been damaged in transit, and time was of the essence. Sound familiar?

Typically, the customer would be told to wait, and the replacement part would be ordered and arrive the next day. Not in this case. Geoff Smith, outside sales rep and wholesale manager of Mike Calvert Toyota in Houston hopped in his truck and went to the rescue.

“This was a big part, small job, and they promised it out that afternoon,” Smith said. “They’re going to be able to paint and deliver the car today because I was able to make a trip 30 miles. I served our customer and I made them a believer in our service, and that’s kind of our philosophy.”


Employing an outside sales rep

While personally delivering parts is not part of Smith’s job description, it is just one example of how the parts department at Mike Calvert Toyota goes the extra mile. Located in the major metropolis of Houston, they do whatever it takes to stay above the competition, such as being the only dealership to employ a full-time outside sales rep.

“Here’s the deal, any big metro store gets the same parts from the same place at the same price,” Smith said. “We need something to make us different from the rest, and that’s just one of those things.”


Never a losing season

The parts department stocks over $1 million in inventory and employs 15 people and five contract drivers. Manager Sam Jones may be

difficult to reach on the phone during the busy workday, but his good-natured personality shines through in the words of an email, where he can’t help but crack a joke or two.

“He’s a very likeable guy, well-known and respected throughout the Toyota community, but he wouldn’t tell you that,” Smith said. “When things don’t go right, you absolutely hear from him. But it’s just until he’s said what he’s got to say, then he’s back to being his normal self.”

The parts department has never had a losing season and current sales are at $900,000 for parts and $270,000 for wholesale. When it comes to quality, Smith said Toyota is a very high quality part, and he would never even consider the use of aftermarket metal or lights. 

“It would be like eating caviar out of a paper cup, we don’t mix the junk with Toyota product,” Smith said.

The department has a specific program for price matching and many customers take advantage of this. Some parts can be sold as low as cost. Due to the amount of competition in Houston, discounts are deep and customers benefit, Smith said. In the end, it comes down to service to set competitors apart.


Customer satisfaction

For Brian Cubbage, manager of Bear Creek Collision Specialist, Inc in Houston, it’s the expertise that has encouraged him to do business with Mike Calvert for nearly a decade. In an average month, Bear Creek fixes 200 cars and spends about $20,000 on Toyota parts.

“We use a lot of people and we buy a whole lot of parts. I’ve used the same guy forever and ever at GM. But if he goes on vacation, it seems like you just can’t wait for your guy to get back,” Cubbage said. “Calvert is the only parts company that I use that I can call there and whoever answers the phone in parts I can talk to. Most places have 6 or 7 guys working in parts department. Calvert is the only one where whoever answers the phone can get me the right part, the first time. And that’s rare.”

For Costa Kouzounis, mechanical service writer at Demo’s Automotive Center in Houston, it’s all about the parts that Mike Calvert stocks. Demo’s has been in business since 1961, when Kouzounis’ father started the collision and mechanical repair facility. During that time the shop has grown immensely.

“We’ve found that their product mix fits very well with our product mix,” Kouzounis said. “The number of Toyotas here in our particular part of Houston is very dense. I rarely ever call on them and they don’t have a part. I don’t think there’s anybody that can stock every part for Toyota, or any other brand for that matter. I personally feel that they tailor their inventory to our needs. They don’t use a rear view mirror approach. They fine-tune it a lot better.”


Delivery with a twist

In the past, Mike Calvert used their own trucks and hired their own drivers for delivery, but rising liability led to the decision to contract the work. Two companies are contracted and a total of five drivers are enlisted to deliver throughout a wide region of Houston and as far as Galveston. There is also a service that delivers out of town during the day and at night. With internet sales, parts can be shipped worldwide.

Then there’s always Smith to come to the rescue with special deliveries or to show up in person and help a body shop with a questionable component or to identify something not easily explained over the phone.

“I’m kind of a pinch hitter,” Smith said. “If something comes up, and we just can’t handle it any way, I can usually step up to the plate and swing the bat. Having an extra hand with some flexibility is good some days.”


Mike Calvert Toyota has been in business for 24 years, and Jones has been there the entire time. Owners Mike Calvert and Jay Davis reward employees who have reached 20 years of service with a Rolex watch, and both Jones and Smith have one around their wrists.

“Buying somebody a high dollar watch is really money in the bank,” Smith said. “In the business world, when you have turnover, you have a new guy and you’re always training. It’s saying something wrong about your management style if you can’t retain your employees.”


Share the love

Customers are rewarded as well with an annual barbecue for wholesale clients, with Jones and Smith at the helm. Those guys don’t mess around at the grill and the pair used to compete in chili and barbecue cook offs held at the stadium across the street from the dealership.

Giving back goes well beyond employees and customers. Mike Calvert Toyota sponsors many charitable efforts both locally and abroad, including Child Advocates, Youth Development Center and the Brookwood Home for Adults. Calvert himself has traveled to Haiti on a mission for Hope for Haiti’s Children, a charity of which Calvert is a member of the board.

“Mike is a big tall guy, he’s usually got a big old beaming smile on his face,” Smith said. “If you’re a vendor doing an employee wrong, or an employee doing another employee wrong, his face clouds up. He speaks and people listen. He’s a champion of the little guy.”

    Mike Calvert Toyota
    2333 South Loop West
    Houston, TX 77054
    (713) 558-8272
    (800) 527-5368

Last modified on Friday, 02 December 2016 23:37