Ask Graham McGregor to be a politician and he’ll tell you it’s like selling cars. The MPP for Brampton North said working at a dealership helped him understand people and taught him communication skills.
The auto industry, said Ontario’s first Progressive Conservative MLA, is less about cars and more about people. “Being a good listener is so much more important than being a good speaker,” he said.
“The solution isn’t always more taxpayers’ money, or a bigger engine, or more horsepower, or fancy features. Sometimes it’s about getting the car into someone’s driveway. Or finding a solution to a regulation that bothers someone that will help improve their life.
McGregor’s career in the automotive industry began in April 2016 after a friend suggested he sell cars, which he had never considered before. Until then, the Carleton University political science graduate had worked for Tory MP Parm Gill and – after Gill was unseated in the 2015 election – he delivered pizzas.
Through a mutual connection, McGregor was hired by Mazda of Brampton. He read the history of the automaker and its brands and learned about the dealership and how the sales process works.
“You don’t get paid to know cars, you get paid to sell cars,” said McGregor, who noted he struggled in his first three months. “I was 22, the youngest in the dealership, and spent a lot of time learning about Mazda vehicles. When I was trying to sell one to a customer, I spent a lot of time talking about it and it didn’t go over very well.
He averaged only about one transaction per week compared to his fellow salespeople, who made about three sales over the same period. The manager who hired him finally gave him a little advice. While McGregor had the skills and vehicle knowledge, he made the mistake of talking too much.
Selling cars, McGregor said, is like being a barber. You spend a few moments talking to the client about the type of cut they want, then casually talk to them about something they’re interested in while you get the job done. The customer will leave satisfied and will come back.
“I still remember it to this day,” McGregor said. “Apart from buying a house, buying a car is the most important purchase a person will make. It’s a very emotional experience.
“You’re not going to think about the size of the engine two weeks after buying it, or if it’s 5.7 liters per 100 kilometers or whatever. You’re going to think about how you feel behind the wheel. We wanted to do everything we could to make buying the car a good emotional experience.
The advice worked and he cried, selling 11 cars in a month. In addition to learning to listen to customers, he also discovered the importance of working on the phone during quieter times.
“We worked about 50 hours a week at the dealership, but only dealt with customers for 15 or 20 hours, so you saw sales people dragging jokes around,” he said. “But some of the others would spend their time hammering phone calls.
“Those who were doing this were consistently showing bigger and bigger sales numbers and you would really see those results,” he said. “The tenacity of the sales people I worked with showed. The reality is that you are not going to sell to all customers. If you hit 30%, that’s pretty good.
In 2018, McGregor was offered the opportunity to manage the campaign of Progressive Conservative candidate Amarjot Sandhu, who was running for the seat of Brampton West in the provincial election. While he enjoyed selling cars, he decided to quit his job.
“I can honestly say I was so happy at the dealership,” McGregor said. “We had a great management team, great after-sales service, things were running very well.” He was told he would be welcome back if the policy didn’t work out.
He spent the next four years working as a political staffer, where many of the lessons he learned at Mazda of Brampton – the importance of listening and providing solutions – applied to his new role. He also found that working on the telephone and calling constituents, campaign volunteers or government departments when the provincial assembly was not in session amounted to following up on customers during periods of slow sales.
“Your job as an MPP is to make sure your neighborhood is a priority at the Ontario level and you only do that by working the phone and following up and being a squeaky wheel to make sure that you get the attention you need,” McGregor said.
In 2022, McGregor ran in the provincial election as the Progressive Conservative candidate in the riding of Brampton North. He said a month before the election, he was talking to a member of a local community group who needed advice on how to properly structure a nonprofit.
McGregor said he offered a few suggestions and was told this was the first time a politician had listened to him and given specific advice. It reminded him of when he was 22 and learned the importance of listening to customers at the dealership.
“That’s when I thought I could really be a good politician,” he said. “I always thought I could do a good job, don’t get me wrong, but it gave me energy to win (the election).”
Construction of Highway 413
Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario MPP Graham McGregor said one of the top priorities of the current Ontario government is to move forward with the proposed construction of Highway 413 In September, he introduced a private member’s motion on the project.
In it, he called Highway 413 “an essential piece of key public infrastructure that will save drivers up to five hours a week by easing traffic in North America’s busiest corridor.” , and will support up to 3,500 jobs and generate up to $350 million a year in gross domestic product.
The 52 kilometer route would be built between highways 401, 407 and 400. There would also be extensions to highways 410 and 427. Although the highway is supported by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who made it one Progressive Conservative Party campaign promises, his building has met with resistance because of the impact it will have on the environment, including the Greenbelt.
“God bless them, but we have to make sure we come together to make sure it gets done,” McGregor said of the highway. “We have a clear mandate to do so.”