A decade or so ago, prospective buyers called or walked into Mercedes-Benz Paarl and asked the young blonde woman on the sales floor to talk to a salesman. Over the last four years everyone insists on talking to Desiré van Deventer and no one else.
From the wine industry and homemaker to office equipment and “coincidentally” the automotive industry – this is the path that Desiré van Deventer, sales manager at Mercedes-Benz Paarl, has walked for the past ten years.
"Back then, when I visited Mercedes-Benz Paarl as a representative of Toshiba, the dealer principal asked me if I believed I could sell cars. I was admiring an SLK and didn’t know anything about cars apart from driving them as a sales rep. “Well,” I said, “if I could get someone excited about a photocopier, I would probably be able to get them excited about a new car. And that was it….”
Desiré, who has been with MB Paarl for 12 years, had to get used to the reality that she was no longer in her twenties and was looking for a new challenge after working all her adult life at KWV and Toshiba in Worcester, where she grew up.
“My first month was difficult, but I did sell a car. My sales manager back then was Albertus Smith. He jokingly said that if I sell an average of ten cars a month one day, I’ll be given an SLK. I drove back to Worcester in my new SLK three months later!”
For Desiré, who has been married for 19 years, the best thing still is to hand over a car to its new owner – “red ribbon and all”.
Mercedes-Benz Paarl moved to its new building next to the N1 in 2016. “As a sales rep, I had to work evenings and weekends and missed my children. I was appointed sales manager on 1 September that year. I was able to once again attend the sporting events of my sons, Jean-Otto (now 18), who went to Drostdy and is in Matric this year, and Gareth (13), who is in Grade 7 at Worcester Primary.”
Hubby Gerhard also comes from the automotive industry – he was at Hyundai.
“I have a wonderful team at home and at work. I am not the only woman in charge at the dealership. Grazelle van Schalkwyk is our top salesperson for used cars and Ria Gallowitz is our F&I manager. Another lady, Bianca Fluckiger, is our marketing manager and Natascha Neethling our financial manager.”
The three salesmen, who have Desiré as their sales manager, have been awarded the top three sales awards in the Supergroup recently, which is no surprise taking into consideration they sold no fewer than 14 GLC 63 AMGs last month in the midst of the national lockdown. Eduard Smit was the top salesman, Alex Scott second and Carel Duvenhage the third best salesman in the group.
“Even the Germans are talking about us!” adds Desiré.
Desiré, the only female sales manager in the Super Group and Mercedes-Benz in the Western Cape, admits she had to “work much harder” to be successful and has to prove “more often” that she knows what she is doing. “But, as a woman, I feel I am better at doing certain things, such as handling a difficult customer who demands to speak only to the manager. I am able to calm them down and listen to their problems – especially people who want to push me over simply because I am a woman. I love what I do!”
Despite the severe drought in large parts of the Karoo, the motor business in Graaff-Reinet is stepping up with more brands being represented in this part of the world.
If a pandemic and stock issues aren’t enough of a challenge, why not add a building project/dealership revamp/moving of facilities and getting a second dealership to full independent dealership status to a DP’s list of tasks.
Scott Auto Mazda in Bethlehem has a proud history that stretches back nearly 50 years, which makes them one of the best-known Mazda dealers in the Free State.