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Aug. 9, 2018
This paid piece is sponsored by Luxury Auto Mall.
When it’s time for Steve Kirby to buy a new vehicle, he calls Carol Morken at Luxury Auto Mall.
“I said, ‘Carol, put the options in the car as if it were yours.’ In every respect, what she says you can take to the bank,” said Kirby, the owner of Bluestem Capital Co.
Dominique Fontenille, owner of Chef Dominique’s Catering and Banquet Facility, makes the same call to Morken.
“She’s very trustworthy, and she’s not pushy,” he said. “We’ve never felt buyer’s remorse the next morning. She knows exactly what we want.”
Morken calls her loyal and longtime customers friends first.
After almost three decades as an automotive professional, her relationships are broad and deep enough she often knows what her customers will want to drive before they even do.
“It’s very much about the relationship,” she said. “That’s the No. 1 part of my job.”
Morken gravitated to the automotive world before she was technically old enough to drive. She grew up changing oil and washing her dad’s car so she would have an excuse to move it. She inherited her passion for the industry from him.
“We’d have a game where we’d look at taillights, and I could figure out what kind of vehicle it was by the taillights,” she said.
She didn’t plan to make a career in the industry, though. She went to school for sales with an eye toward fashion merchandising when a conversation about auto sales with a counselor changed her mind.
“He said, ‘It takes a very special person to sell cars, and I don’t think that’s for you,’ ” she said.
Morken didn’t follow his advice, and the first dealership she approached in Marshall, Minn., offered her a job.
“I enjoyed it right away, but I moved to California and wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” she said. “When I pulled into town, I looked at this Cadillac store and thought it would be a nice place to work, and there was an ad in the paper two weeks later. This was where I discovered it was my career and not just a job. I recently tracked down my old manager from California after 28 years to have brunch and thank him for all I learned from him. It had a huge impact on me.”
She worked for the dealership for two years and then returned to Sioux Falls, where she continued selling vehicles. She began working with BMW in 1997, Mercedes-Benz in 2003, and today sells both at Luxury Auto Mall, as well as many different pre-owned vehicles.
“I love the values of Luxury Auto Mall. It’s everything I want my customers to experience,” she said. “It’s relaxed. We’ll sit down, have a cup of coffee and figure it out.”
Buying a vehicle from Morken starts with a conversation about the customer’s lifestyle and needs.
“I just try to put myself in the client’s shoes and relate to the experience,” she said. “It should be fun. Clients walk away saying it’s so easy. We’re not commissioned-based. I’m only focused on finding the right car for the customers.”
Because of Luxury Auto Mall’s One Low Price model, there’s also no negotiation involved, so the conversation can focus on how the vehicle fits a customer’s needs, she said.
“I think of it more as an advisory role than a sales role,” said Mike Chaplin, Luxury Auto Mall’s general manager. “There are car salespeople, and then there are professionals in the automotive business. That’s what separates them. I think she’s built more loyalty in the car business than anyone in Sioux Falls.”
Morken creates friendships through her professionalism, similar to a top Realtor or financial adviser, he said.
“She’ll tell her clients a car has just come in that she knows they’ve been looking for it for years. Or it may be a client she knows has a child going to college, and we have a $20,000 car come in that would be perfect. That’s the differentiator. She’s a master at the job.”
Morken’s skill also has been recognized by Mercedes-Benz, which named her a rare master-certified sales consultant in 2013 – one of 40 in the industry to receive the distinction that year. The honor was based on her sales and customer-satisfaction record and included a trip to the automaker’s headquarters in Germany.
“It was amazing,” she said. “They’re so proud of what they do and rightfully so.”
Morken also commits to passing on her expertise. She employs her own assistant and works with the person to help them grow into the business. Her most recent assistant, Cheyenne Shafto, went on her own in June after 18 months with Morken.
“It’s been so fun and rewarding,” Morken said.
Morken keeps massive file folders on her customers, which have amassed as her following has grown and entire families begin working with her.
She mentions one woman with poor circulation who requires a heated steering wheel. Many clients seek the latest safety features.
“You put those in your memory bank,” she said. “I also greatly rely on our service department to take care of my clients. And they very much deliver.”
Kirby, who has been working with Morken since his former sales consultant retired and recommended her, said she flips the stereotype of what many expect someone selling cars to be like.
“Everything she’s recommended to me has been exactly what I want. She’s a very quick learner about what her customers want and don’t want. She’s got a great batting record,” he said, recalling one time Morken suggested he pass on upgrading a sound system because it added to the cost without delivering commensurate value.
“That says a lot about someone,” he said. “There’s never any doubt that what I hear is her best attempt to speak realistically and professionally. We’re lucky to have her.”
Fontenille, who has worked with Morken for almost 15 years, buys his family’s vehicles as well as the Mercedes vans for his catering business from her. She has learned what he wants in a vehicle and typically calls him when the right fit will be arriving. Several staff members on his team have become customers too. He jokes their parking lot is filled with Luxury Auto vehicles.
“Right at the beginning of the relationship she was straight-up,” he said. “She told me if I waited four or five months I’d be better off trading my car in. I was very impressed. Most people just want to sell today. She wants to build a relationship.”
Here’s more from Morken about herself and the industry she loves.
What kind of vehicle are you driving?
I have a Mercedes E Class. I love my car. Every day I get in and drive to work, I love the experience. I love the quietness. I love the performance. Not that I speed, but when I want to, it’s there.
What’s the most popular vehicle you sell to women?
Probably the BMW X5 and the Mercedes GLS. The X5 is fun to drive every day. If you want it to be like you’re out on the racetrack, it can be that. The GLS is a smooth ride with the ability to haul kids and equipment for soccer, football, hockey, all those things.
For the buyer who wants the latest and greatest, what would you recommend?
The Mercedes E Class. The car would even park itself. And as a matter of fact, it just stopped me from backing into another car in a parking lot because it came to a complete stop for me on its own. When you are on your Bluetooth in the car, there’s so much clarity it sounds like you are sitting on the couch in your living room.
Is there a new release you’re most looking forward to?
The new BMW X5. That’s coming out in the fall. They’re redesigning it inside and out. We change our vehicles every seven years, so it’s been awhile, and it will be something exciting for our market.
What’s the most common question you get from customers?
I get asked about remote starts all the time, and for 21 years I’ve had to say no remote starts. On Mercedes, we’re finally getting remote start, which the Germans previously wouldn’t put in vehicles, so that’s huge. And it will come with an app, so you can start it from anywhere. And it’s coming on a couple select models of BMW to start.
How long do you see yourself continuing to sell cars?
Forever. I love what I do, and the very part best of my job is my customers. They’re not just clients. They’re friends.
To reach Carol Morken, stop by Luxury Auto Mall any day or call 605-221-2000.
“I think she’s built more loyalty in the car business than anyone in Sioux Falls.” Meet the woman Mercedes-Benz dubbed one of the best in her field, and hear from her customers why they won’t go anywhere else.