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Born To Sell PDF Print E-mail
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Written by JOHN MORTON   
Wednesday, 24 May 2017 20:38

Car salesman extraordinaire Dan Prom of Port Washington has sold nearly 7,000 vehicles. The career he began as a teenager will end in retirement next week.

Throughout his 40 years of car sales, Dan Prom figures he’s sold about 5,000 of them.
“No, wait, make that about 6,000,” he said. “No, on second thought, it’s probably closer to 7,000.”
When you consider he became a manager in 2001, with his duties no longer being only on the sales floor, there’s no telling what his final number would be.
“You can add thousands of more deals I’ve been a part of,” he said.
DANProm’s last day with Saukville’s Schmit Bros. Dodge is June 1. He’s looking ahead to retirement, but he still has an appreciation of where his prolific career began. Despite all those lofty numbers, he still vividly remembers sale number one.
“It was a 1976 Olds Cutlass Supreme — I think I was 18 at the time and at the Schooner Pub, doing what 18-year-olds do,” Prom, a 1976 graduate of Port Washington High School, said. “My friend Peter Wiess mentioned he’d like that particular car, so I went out and found him one.”
But it was the ‘73 Camaro he traded in that sent Prom’s sales career on the fast track.
“Francis and Barb Pierron were looking for a car for their daughter Michelle,” he said, referring to a well-known Saukville family. “I said, ‘I’ve got the perfect car.’”
The deal was made, and a pipeline of referrals kicked into gear.
“I’ve sold that family at least a dozen cars over the years,” Prom said. “When you count the additional cars for their business, it could be two dozen.”
There are many cases of sales going down through three generations within a family, he said, being one of eight siblings has helped as well.
“They all live in Ozaukee County, except by oldest brother Kevin, who’s in Illinois,” Prom said. “We’re a very loyal family and they’ve all helped with referrals.”
You could say sales work was in Prom’s blood, especially when you consider his father, Marvin, started a car dealership named Westside Dodge in 1950 with Prom’s uncle Bill. In 1964, Marvin sold it outright to Bill.
And Prom’s father pushed him in another direction.
“He actually wanted me to be an electrician. I even took some college tech classes for hat,” Prom said. “But I’ve always liked people and I’ve always liked cars. So I knew it would be a good fit.”
When Marvin died suddenly, Prom followed his heart to his uncle’s dealership. At the age of 19, he was learning the ropes.
“I did a little bit of everything,” he said.
He was 19 then, and then-competitor Mike Schmit recalls Prom having the courage to ask him a million-dollar question.
“He asked me, ‘Can you help me learn how to sell cars?’” Schmit said. “I said, “So you can work with your uncle against me? No, I’m not going to do that.’”
But as fate would have it, when Schmit Bros. Auto bought Westside in 1985, there stood Prom. And on board he came.
“He was the most delightful surprise we had,” Schmit said. “We kept him because he was so honest, so sincere, and we could tell he loved everything about it.”
Prom also saw the new scenario as a great opportunity to learn.
“They (Schmit) had been family owned since 1912, and I could relate to the importance of that,” Prom said. “I already knew Mike and I thought it was a better fit than having some big dealer group take over.”
As the years passed and the sales rolled in, Schmit marveled at how Prom built relationships.
“He actually takes a test drive with the customer in the car he or she is going to trade in,” Schmit said. “We’d never seen that. But he gets to know what the customer likes and doesn’t like about the car so he can find them precisely what they want.
“And when someone opens the trunk, he’ll take note of what he sees. If there are baseball bats, he’ll say ‘Oh, so you play ball? OK, that’s good to know.’ He finds that common ground.”
Prom’s people skills went beyond the lot, Schmit said.
“He loved the community events,” Schmit said. “He’s the guy handing out the T-shirts. He’s the guy interacting with the kids.”
Prom said it’s just part of his DNA.
“My wife (Julie) says there’s no such thing as a quick errand with me,” he said. “When we go somewhere, I’ll know someone or get to know someone and strike up a conversation. That’s what I find fun.”
Prom also loves a challenge.
“One time it took me four years to sell a car to a guy in Grafton,” he said. “The process started back in 1980. I know he didn’t buy a different one during that time, so I stuck with it. And it finally paid off.
“It was a good lesson in patience — especially early in my career.”
It was even among his favorite sales, until 35 years later when the 707-horsepower 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat emerged.
“It was the fastest production car — the most horsepower — ever made,” Prom said. “That was a fun sale. I’d say it was my most intriguing.”
But now it’s time to slow down, Prom says, despite only being 58.
“I’m young and healthy enough to actually enjoy my retirement,” said Prom, who looks forward to long weekends at the family cottage north of Shawano. The emphasis there is on the word long.
“Dealerships are not only open on Saturdays, it’s the busiest day,” he said. “So I always had to come back. Later I tried working every other Saturday, but I’d just feel guilty.”
His youngest child is off to college this fall, while a granddaughter is also in his life. Prom always targeted 58 as the age to hand in the keys — it was an arbitrary number, really, he said, with nothing to do with a 40-year anniversary — but now he finds everything lined up just right.
But will it last? After all, Prom’s boss is quick to say he’s welcome to return.
“I hope his retirement doesn’t last long,” Schmit said.
Prom was not only flattered, but it caused him to pause.
“That’s nice to hear and I must admit that anything’s possible,” he said. “Obviously I’ve never retired before so I don’t know if I’ll like it. I believe I’ll have enough to do, but we’ll see. I thought at least I’d try it first.”

 
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