I am going to be very honest, car sales is a hard business to be in.
The customers don’t trust you, the managers are hostile and stressed out. The cars are very expensive, the negotiations are intense and sometimes very conflict prone.
The hours are long, the breaks are nonexistent and some days you will go home with not a dollar in your pocket.
That being said, once I got the process down and I knew what I was doing, all those negatives got thrown out the window.
To succeed in car sales is one hell of an accomplishment. It is one of the most important litmus tests that you can pass in a selling career.
Car sales is what shaped me into the salesperson that I am today. It was a noteworthy experience that had many negatives but also a lot of positives that helped me gain so much more experience with the doors that it opened for me.
Here are my top 10 most important things that I learned working in car sales:
1. RESPECT YOUR OWN TIME
Let me be frank, the customers time matters (more on this in a moment) but your time also matters. This could apply to any sales job but especially a full 100% commission job like car sales.
The more time that you waste with someone who has no intention of buying the less time you have to spend with those who do.
Seems pretty simple right? Not entirely, especially in the beginning when you don’t know what you are doing.
One particular day a customer visited the lot wanting to do test drives on three of our newer model vehicles.
I was new to the job and I didn’t sit down with her to gather information, we just started driving.
Before I knew it we were on our third test drive and I didn’t even have her first name. She refused to give it to me. My future car sales self would have never allowed this but, again, I was a rookie. So I let it happen.
Two hours and fifteen minutes went by, we finished the third test drive and my manager was approaching us to help remedy the situation since he could tell I was being way too charitable to the client.
She saw my manager approaching and started walking away very quickly.
I tried to get her to give me her name and phone number so I could follow up. She refused and said “I am not buying today!” I responded, “What about a different day!?” She sped up and literally ran off the lot before I could do anything about it.
My manager laid into me and said that I just successfully wasted over two hours working with a lady that clearly had no intention of buying or even working with me in the future.
I decided that I would never let this happen again.
Shortly after this my manager introduced the “Deal Sheet” which was a savior on my team.
This sheet was the perfect tool for understanding what my customer needed/wanted and it assisted me in saving time and made my operation so much more efficient.
2. DISCOVERY IS VITAL
The Deal Sheet was a piece of paper with questions on it all designed to get as much useful information out of the customer as possible. Additionally, it helped me gain the knowledge that I needed to qualify the prospect without them evening noticing.
It was great for both parties.
The client got to share all the details about what kind of vehicle that they wanted and I was able to confidently know what they could afford well before I wasted time showing them cars that might be outside of their price range.
Everyone wants a brand new car but in all actuality they don’t have a good enough credit score to finance a Hot N Spicy from McDonalds.
With this sheet I could easily gather contact information, phone numbers and sometimes even emails, helping me easily follow-up in the future.
I could also find out if the customer was looking to pay a monthly finance or pay for the car up front.
Additionally, I was able to assess if they had a down payment, trade-in vehicle and any other important financial information.
Mixed into this I would find out if they wanted a new or used car, what kind of features they wanted, their top mileage amount, year, make, and models.
Most importantly though I was able to ask them “If I make the stars align and find you a vehicle that matches this list entirely, would you be willing to drive away with a car today?”
This question helped me build leverage later in the interaction if they said “Yes.” If they said “No” I would already know up front that this was going to be a customer I would not easily sell a car to that day.
It was a great way to figure out where they were in the process and I could adjust my strategy accordingly.
More than likely they gave me very little information to put on the deal sheet to begin with and pushed back against my attempt at discovery.
If they did push back and try to provide me with very little information I would tell them “Listen, I understand you just want to go look at some cars but if I don’t know what your price point is or your desired monthly payment, I could potentially put you in a car that is far too expensive. That is a disappointing experience for the both of us. I really want to avoid that, I don’t want to waste your time or mine.”
My manager made Deal Sheets mandatory, obviously, unless the customer refused.
In most cases if we hadn’t filled out the sheet up front he wouldn’t let us sit down at the table. For good reason too! If I didn’t do proper discovery I was just bouncing around shotgun selling with no idea what they wanted or what they could afford.
As much as they didn’t like giving so much information, it was a huge help and made the process go smoothly for both parties.
3. SHUT UP ABOUT THE PRODUCT
My first car deal was spearheaded by a more experienced salesperson, he handled the paperwork and I was left to mingle with the customer.
Before we sat down to start the negotiation, my manager told me “Daniel, here is what you need to do. Talk about everything but the car.” I took this and ran with it.
I noticed that the car they drove to the dealership in had a sign on it that said “Ken’s Knives.” I figured he had some sort of side business so I asked him about it.
This was the perfect question and it got him talking, talking so much that by the time the paperwork was placed in front of him, he was perfectly fine with the first number we gave him and he signed immediately.
I showed interest in something that mattered deeply to him and he grew to trust me, ultimately, relaxing him.
Sometimes we get too bogged down in the nuts and bolts of presenting the product in it’s entirety that we forget to actually get to know our clients.
Most of selling is not all about regurgitating product details and specifications. It is about basic conversation between two people and the trust that is formed by doing so.
4. TRUST PAYS DIVIDENDS
One of my co-workers was not so good at building trust with this clients.
Don’t get me wrong he was an amazing salesperson, he usually averaged 25-30 sales per month. Problem with his sales was that they were light on the profit margin.
One day my manager pulled me aside after I watched this co-worker sell three cars in one day and he said to me “Don’t be too down on yourself Daniel, we were basically giving those cars away. His deals hardly make him any money because his customers don’t really trust him. His sales are all about quantity and yours are about quality. Your customers love you and they enjoy working with you so when you sit down at the negotiation table you don’t have to work as hard. That is a much better way to sell.”
Be a listener, help your client feel relaxed working with you by getting to know them and they won’t hassle you nearly as much when it’s time to talk numbers.
5. USE THE CRM
I cannot tell you how many half deals I got just because I was really good at getting the customers full name and phone number.
I was also very good at making sure I recorded that information in the company database.
On my dealership, if someone entered the lot and bought right away, of course, that person gets the full commission.
In a lot of cases though, the customer comes to the lot then heads right out to go check out other ones. You know, shopping around.
If this happens, you take their name and whatever other information you have and you immediately enter it into the CRM.
If they return to the lot a different day and you are busy with another customer and you are unable to sign the paperwork with them, you still get half the commission. This is because you were the first one to make contact with them, even if you didn’t close the sale you still get paid half the money.
More importantly you took the time to enter their information into the CRM and that is what counts.
Have a note pad available or a phone application to help you save this information ahead of time. Remembering names and especially phone numbers is nearly impossible when things get really busy.
One time I was on vacation and I got two half deals just like that. I made several hundred dollars and I didn’t even have to lift a finger.
That is why you should utilize your CRM.
Talk about passive income!
6. NO SUCH THING AS OVERTIME
You will miss lunches, be late to dinners and overall you will have to make your sales top priority.
It may be your day off but if your customer calls and says they want to purchase today, either you drop what you are doing, go work the deal or you will lose half the sale.
It may not be fair but it is what your managers expect you to do.
That one half deal could be the difference between making your bonus for that two week period or not making it. Plus you never know when the next sale will come so you will want to give it priority no matter what.
As I mentioned in the beginning, you could work an entire shift and not make a single dollar. This is true but in that shift you may have interacted with six clients who decided not to buy that day but you got their information and inputted it into the database, if they return to purchase later you will either get the whole sale or half, leading to future sources of income.
That shift where you didn’t make any money is not a loss!
7. TREAT EVERY INTERACTION LIKE IT IS YOUR LAST
Your customer is going to dodge you, they will ignore your calls, they will never respond to your emails and you should always be ready to do everything you can to try to sell that person TODAY.
If they don’t like how pushy you are tell them that in car sales you sometimes don’t have an option “I might never see you again.”
I said this line to a customer once when she was wondering why I wanted her contact information.
I then went on to say “We have spent over an hour together, that is an hour I cannot get back, I would hope you will allow me to follow up with you” and before I knew it my manager was walking over. He convinced her to sit down and talk numbers.
Ultimately, she took the deal all because my manager offered her a new face and a new proposition.
This leads to my next point.
8. TURN OVER NO MATTER WHAT
When I first got my start I would let my customer leave the lot without talking to my manager. This is a big No No.
My manager always said “100% T.O.” Which means Turn Over. Whether you turn over the customer to a senior salesperson, a fellow co-worker, or your manager, you have to put a new face in front of them before they leave the lot.
Customers will get used to saying the same objections to you and they get stuck on repeat. Sometimes, like in the example above, all it took was a new face to get a lady that wouldn’t even give me her contact information to sit down and talk numbers, ultimately, buying the car.
100% T.O. All day. Everyday.
9. NEGOTIATE SMART
An older customer entered the lot ready to buy a brand new Mazda.
He liked me, he loved the car and actually had already owned an older model of the same vehicle so he was already a fan. He was primed and ready to buy.
We sat down at the table and he told me “Listen, I just came from the Toyota dealer and they tried to pull some back and forth nonsense messing with the price point and not being honest about the best deal they could offer me. I left immediately. If you do the same thing to me I am going to get up and walk out. I can’t deal with that crap again today. Go tell your manager, I want his absolute best price, he gets one shot and if he tries to horse me around I am going to do the same thing.”
I listened to his warning and told my manager. He had already sized the guy up and knew he was going to be a no-nonsense kind of buyer.
To make him feel at ease my manager walked over and helped him feel better about the situation. He showed him the market value of his trade -in (which he added 500 bucks on just to make him happy), the current price point on the car, the warranty information and all the details that he would potentially have questions about.
The customer was very pleased especially after his previous interaction at the other dealership. He thanked us and signed the agreement.
The main point here is to listen to the needs of your customer well before the negotiation starts.
I could have easily lost this sale but I responded to the situation and more importantly so did my manager.
Get to know your demographic, more than likely you will see very similar scenarios play out all the time.
Be ready to respond to certain types of personalities and react accordingly.
10. BE HUNGRY
This job requires saying yes to every opportunity.
The top salesperson on my lot was like this. Whether his shift just started or it was just ending he would always be ready to take on a new customer.
He was like this whether he had just sold a car or if he hadn’t sold any that day but especially if he hadn’t made a sale that day.
He was hungry and you need to be the same way.
When you see people shopping on your dealership lot, train yourself to see nothing but opportunity.
A former co-worker told the following story:
“One day a young guy came onto the lot on a bicycle with a local pizza shop shirt on, obviously, just leaving work. No one took him seriously, they judged him and thought there is no way this guy has any money to buy a brand new car. I thought to myself, why should I jump to conclusions and I walked up, introduced myself and he told me he wanted to buy this car. I was shocked and curious, but he immediately told me he had $10,000 that he wanted to put down and finance the rest. So we went inside, his credit was great and he drove away with that car only 40 minutes later with the bicycle in the back.”
The moral to that story is to never judge any customer that comes on your lot, everyone is an opportunity.
Every person you interact with is a possible person to make a deal with and you are shooting yourself in the foot if you do not seize upon that opportunity.
Car Sales is a business where you can make a lot of money and also challenge yourself to become one of the best salespeople out there. I hope this helps you in your journey!