Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 4:57 pm | A Few Clouds 66º

 
 
 
 
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The Working Life: Bob Levine Transfers Courtroom Skills to Car Sales

The showmanship and confidence he used as a trial lawyer serve him well as a top seller for Santa Barbara Auto Group

Bob Levine’s experience as a trial lawyer has helped him shine as a salesman for Santa Barbara Auto Group. “It was a natural transition as trial work is salesmanship,” he says. “In that role, I have to sell three things to 12 ordinary people we call jurors: facts, my client and myself.”
Bob Levine’s experience as a trial lawyer has helped him shine as a salesman for Santa Barbara Auto Group. “It was a natural transition as trial work is salesmanship,” he says. “In that role, I have to sell three things to 12 ordinary people we call jurors: facts, my client and myself.”  (Jenn Kennedy photo / www.kennedypix.com)

Buying a car can be excruciating. More than once, a trip to browse turned into a four-hour saga, which left me feeling war torn and exhausted. But my recent voyage to secure a new ride was a dramatically different experience. Bob Levine, a former trial lawyer, put me in the jury box and led me through the simplest sale ever.

Levine grew up in Milton, Mass., during the conservative Banned in Boston period when officials had wide authority to ban works of art featuring “objectionable” content. He credits his reserved, polite disposition to those New England beginnings and says with a shrug, “Manners are a good thing.”

Levine was a shy kid and flew under the radar, growing up with lawn-mowing and snow-shoveling jobs. He headed off to UCLA for a degree in economics, thinking a business foundation would give him the means to live a financially stable life. Once he graduated, Levine and his wife, Sue, decided that law school was a promising route, so he attended Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

During his legal studies, Levine resolved to step into his new career boldly by becoming a trial lawyer — a position that requires showmanship and confidence. After a clerking job for Caltrans, he was offered a job, and upon passing the boards, Levine joined the state agency.

During his year with Caltrans, Levine tried two cases against a partner in a successful Los Angeles firm, who hired him away after being impressed by his court skills. He worked there for several years before opening his own firm. Levine enjoyed running the day-to-day business.

“I liked management and business development — it was a perfect job,” he said, “and I was able to provide well for my family.”

After a decade in business, he left it all behind. He and Sue had put their kids through college and found themselves living in a quiet empty nest. Wanting to move closer to their children’s families, they relocated to Santa Barbara. Levine took 18 months off, during which he took classes at UCSB Extension and reflected on his next step. He responded to a listing for a car salesman at Santa Barbara Auto Group, 402 S. Hope Ave. Levine, who was used to being the boss and who hadn’t interviewed for a job in 22 years, took the position and became the top seller for the year out of the gates — an ongoing trend.

Asked why he chose the job and how his legal days contribute to his current success, Levine’s soft spoken and offers thoughtful replies.

“It was a natural transition as trial work is salesmanship,” he said. “In that role, I have to sell three things to 12 ordinary people we call jurors: facts, my client and myself.”

He says the first two are much harder than the last, and so he attributes most of his success to his ability to gain jury — and now customer — trust. He listens well and offers candid answers.

“Rule No. 1 is never to be anything but truthful or you’ve lost all credibility,” Levine said.

That approach has made him the top seller for the large dealer year after year. Citing his New England upbringing, Levine added, “I treat everyone with courtesy and respect.”

Levine has survived the recession better than most salesmen. He attributes at least half of his sales to repeat buyers or referrals.

“A happy client will mention you one to three times, but an unhappy client will tell 10 or more people, so I do my best to give customers a good experience,” he said.

Levine also doesn’t push customers into a sale. He sees his role as a conduit and said, “I like the challenge of figuring out what car and in what financing configuration suits a person’s needs best.”

On average, Levine sells 15 cars a month. He said that since the market has slowed, his sale of pre-owned cars has skyrocketed.

Noozhawk contributing writer Jenn Kennedy can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to see more of her work. Follow her on Twitter: @jennkennedy.

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