"Social media gives salespeople a way to humanize themselves," she says. "Car shoppers can learn about the person they are going to be dealing with beforehand, and that can help reduce the stress of meeting an essential stranger."
Darvish, who has been in the car business for 30 years, believes social media has a permanent place in automotive sales, and says we will see it used more and more in the coming years. "Social media isn't just about how many cars a dealership sells," she says. "It's about connecting with people."
The efforts are paying off for Madison. One customer drove from Seattle to buy a Toyota Land Cruiser from her. It wasn't because she had the absolute lowest price in the country; she didn't. In fact, the shopper said, her price was a few hundred dollars more than what was advertised in the Seattle area. But he had seen the videos and was so impressed by her professionalism that he thought the drive was worth it.
Social media might get the customers to Madison's doorstep, but a speedy and easy sales process wins them over. Madison says her average deal takes about 90 minutes, but can be shorter if the shoppers already have a strong idea of what they want. The deals tend to be quick because of the minimal negotiation time.
Toyota of Bozeman uses a one-price program it calls its Best Price Philosophy, which has been in place at the dealership since 1999. The dealership's owners believe that most customers don't like negotiating prices on the cars they plan to purchase, so that's no longer part of the sales process.
The program discounts all vehicles in inventory to the lowest price for which the dealership will sell the car, and places a big tag on the car with that information. It's the same price shoppers will see online.
Salespeople earn a flat amount per car sold, regardless of the price. They'll earn the same amount for selling a $5,000 used car as for a new $75,000 Land Cruiser. Not having to worry about earning a commission makes it easier to focus on simply getting the buyer the right car, Madison says. The more cars she sells, the more that flat amount increases. So her motivation is to sell as many vehicles as she can.
Her social media efforts have done more than just introduce her to new customers. The product comparison videos she regularly makes have helped her become more informed about cars in general.
"When making a comparison video, it's vital that your facts are 100 percent correct on both your car and the car you're comparing to," Madison says. "If I compare a Silverado to my Tundra, for example, and make a mistake while talking about the Silverado, online commentators will find the mistake and tear me apart. It's important I know my competition backwards and forwards."
She says the extra time spent studying her competition pays off for her when working with customers face to face on the lot. "When I have a real-life customer who is comparing a Silverado to my Tundra, I can accurately show and tell the customer the differences because I truly study the competing cars," she says.
After a deal is done, the relationship with the customer continues. Part of Madison's success is her follow-up routine. Along with the industry standard after-sale phone call, Madison keeps in touch with handwritten thank-you cards, holiday cards and most impressively, the personalized thank-you videos she sends to every customer with whom she makes a deal. Madison says her goal is to contact all the people who have bought cars from her at least once a quarter.
She says selling cars in Montana has challenges, especially for a young woman.
"This is truck country," Madison says, laughing. "I may not fit the image of who some customers expect to buy their hunting truck from." She says she's been quizzed by customers, just to see if she really knows her stuff. To make sure she's not caught off guard, she makes flashcards to memorize product specs and features.
She attributes some of her success to working for a progressive, family-owned dealership that's been supportive of her and her social media outreach. She says she has no plans to move into sales management in the future.
"Heck no," she says. "I like selling cars, and I'm happy doing it. I plan on doing this for years and years."