Constant Motion: Karen Walker’s Road to Success

In 2004, Crevier BMW in Santa Ana was the No. 1 BMW dealership in the United States. The dealership had a total revenue of more than $280 million that year, even more than the No. 1 Honda dealership in the nation, which is located in a neighboring Southern California county.
Above the large paned windows which form the dealership’s street side is a small and understated white-lettered display off to the left reading: ‘Crevier BMW.’ UC Irvine graduate Karen Walker, one of four Crevier BMW Internet Sales Managers, thinks the dealership is austere, just like BMW.
‘A lot of people go to Lexus and Mercedes because they want something more plush and more luxurious,’ Walker said. ‘And when you are spending that much money, a lot of people who … don’t know BMWs are disappointed because when they get in one it doesn’t have that awe-factor, or I guess that’s the oooh factor. I do that whenever I’m in a Lexus. I go, ‘Oooh, this is nice.”
Walker started her career working at the Saab of Santa Ana a few hundred feet from Crevier. During those four months, she gained the experience necessary to begin working at Irvine BMW, where she served as a salesperson for two-and-a-half years before moving to Crevier BMW.
‘I took a sale away from Irvine BMW recently and that felt good,’ she said. ‘But I have a lot of friends there and I was actually happy that it wasn’t one of my friends that I took it away from.’
Walker graduated from UCI with a B.A. in economics, which helps her ‘in understanding and structuring deals. Also, it is helpful to understand and explain such concepts as supply and demand.’ Before coming to UCI, Walker attended community colleges in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego.
On a large whiteboard around the corner from Walker’s desk are displayed the ‘Top Performers’ of last month and the progress board of this month to date, listed in order of most units sold last month. The board can function as a daily reminder of an Internet sales manager’s unspectacular performance or as encouragement for continued success.
The board is constantly changing as the Internet sales people sell more BMWs and is another reminder of how competitive Walker’s job is.
‘Car sales is hugely competitive and it doesn’t matter where you go. It’s very competitive with your co-workers, which I don’t really like,’ Walker said. Yet when Walker rose to a position on the Internet sales staff at Crevier BMW on the second floor of the dealership, she appreciated that ‘up here we are very noncompetitive. It’s very cooperative and you can see as we’re working, we all have so many leads. I get 120 new leads a month, so that means 120 different people who are interested in a BMW.’
But of those 120 people, many may settle on another manufacturer’s car or buy from another nearby dealership, forcing the Internet salespeople to diligently work with every potential customer, establishing rapport and attempting to get their name higher on the ‘Top Performers’ board.
‘Part of why I don’t want to be last place on the board is because, hello! You’re last place,’ Walker said. ‘I was in second place last month. Cool! That was only my second full month. When you are doing that, at least for me, I feel secure. I feel OK because I made more money for the dealership than anybody in the Internet department.’
Having sold hundreds of cars in her career, Walker has worked with all kinds of people and has learned how to treat each person differently.
‘I love gay couples. They are wonderful. I don’t know, I do really well with them and I know that is sort of a stereotype, but I think it’s maybe how I deal with them,’ Walker said. Walker interacted with this one couple