Test-Driving Your Salesperson

This is how you test-drive your salesman. As I've said before, the person that you deal with is the most important part of the purchase equation. It's not price. It's not selection. It's the person.

I've had customers that purchased a car from me when they had a better deal somewhere else. Why would they do that? Why would they pay more for a vehicle with me than they had already worked out somewhere else? Easy. They liked me better than the goof they worked with at the other dealership.

So, here's how you test-drive your salesperson.

If he introduces himself with one word (i.e. "Tex"), run. No reputable salesperson at a reputable dealership has a name like "Tex" or "Horsechoker" or "Big O". Shortened names like "Jeff" or "Rob", initials like "T.J." are ok. 

Measure the handshake. I always shake hands. Always. If a salesperson doesn't shake your hand, he either doesn't respect you or has some kind of contagious disease. If there are more than one of you (your wife, perhaps) and he doesn't shake their hands, that's a red flag.

Does he repeat your name? A salesperson repeating your name isn't trying to be rude, he or she is most likely just saying it to ensure they heard it properly. Don't hold this against them.

Does the salesperson match your tempo? An overly excited salesperson is either inexperienced or on drugs. Seriously. The salesperson should match your tempo within 30 seconds. If he or she doesn't, chances are the mutual understanding won't be there and you'll just be wasting time. If you naturally talk soft, the salesperson should follow suit. If you're outgoing and gregarious, the salesperson should be able to pick up on that and share laughs with you.

Is he or she smiling? We're trained to smile. A salesperson who is not smiling might be succumbing to the grind of the job, and is likely to be less attentive than you deserve. Selling cars is one grinder of a profession. It's natural for a salesperson to be out of it at some point. But, any salesperson worth his or her desk knows how important it is to make sure the customer feels welcome at the dealership. 

Does he or she know the inventory? This is one of those no-brainer type of things, but a salesperson should know what's on the lot. A simple walk is all it takes, and there's no excuse for not knowing. Sometimes it can be tough (we have $10 million in inventory at our lot), but the salesperson should at least know where certain vehicles are grouped.

Does the salesperson go on the demo drive and show you the features? This one is kind of sticky, truthfully, because a lot of great salespeople are extremely busy and may not be able to take a lot of time with you one-on-one. If the store isn't that busy, however, he had better make sure you know everything he knows about that vehicle. They should also accompany you on the test drive, because you might have questions that you would like to ask and it would be extremely useful to have the salesperson right there with you.

Does the salesperson go immediately into some unknown office and come out with someone you've never met? Leave. I can't stress this enough. LEAVE. Unless they introduce the person as their manager, don't waste any more time. The person that they bring out is the person who is going to hammer you about the numbers, and any good salesperson is capable of giving you the numbers themselves. If the salesperson that greeted you is new, he or she should say so and introduce you to the person that is training them. If they aren't being trained by someone, RUN.

The salesperson should be courteous about your time. A good salesperson will answer any questions that you have about a vehicle. If you tell the salesperson that you don't have a lot of time, he or she should offer to set an appointment for you to come back at a later point in time. Good salespeople don't take shortcuts or try to cram an entire car deal into an hour. 

When presenting numbers, does the salesperson run back and forth to the manager's office? This is just the way some dealerships are set up, but if you make an offer, the salesperson should have some kind of idea if the offer is acceptable. If the salesperson doesn't joust with you a little bit over the numbers, he isn't the decision maker. The salesperson should also make sure that you know exactly what the all the numbers pertaining to the deal are. If you ask a question, he should have the answer.

Does the salesperson follow-up after the sale? Most won't. Most dealerships have an automated follow-up system worked out so that their salespeople can continue getting fresh business. A top-notch salesperson will do personalized follow-up anyway.

These are all important things to consider when choosing your salesperson. If you find a good one, and are loyal, you can be assured of quality service both now and in the future.



I was searching for an appropriate title for this post, and I think "Pain" works best.

Sorry about not posting in a while, I've been laid up with a kidney stone. Ouch. The good thing about working in car sales is that the management is usually pretty understanding about things, and they don't really care you need to take a couple days off to take care of yourself. We work enough as it is. 60 hours a week earns you a certain amount of understanding.

Yes, it was painful. Yes, it was the worst I've ever felt physically. Yes, I'm pretty much okay now. But for a while, in between trips to urgent care, the emergency room, and the bathroom, I felt like I was going to die. I didn't, of course, but I've definitely had better times. All I can say is thank God for bringing me through this, and for giving me the best girlfriend I could ever hope for. She was right there, making sure I had enough bananas, applesauce, water, and hugs to get me through. If not for her Love, well, I don't want to think about it.

What I've been dealing with most recently is the cold turkey manner in which I stopped taking the pain medication. The docs at the urgent care facility gave me Vicodin, which is one step down from freaking heroin. Thus, my brain has been pretty fried for the past week. Doing normal things takes a little bit more concentration that it normally would....ok, a lot more concentration. But I can feel myself coming out of the mental fog, slowly but surely. I had to simply shut off the supply; my father and stepmother work in the drug-treatment field and I didn't want to have to tell them I got hooked on pain meds. I'm battling. I'm a fighter.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to understand that car salespeople are just that - people. We have ailments just like you; we're not androids built solely to separate you from your money. We may seem like robots, but that is simply the scar tissue of one too many jokers that wasted our valuable time. Beneath that cold, calculating shell lies the flesh and blood of an actual person. Please think about that the next time you avoid making eye contact with one of us.



One of the biggest challenges that comes with being a car salesman is downtime. This job is easily 75% sitting around trying to keep yourself awake and 25% running your ass off. Having too much semi-free time (I say semi-free because every salesperson worth his or her desk always has one eye on the lot) is one big reason why I got into writing blogs.

One of the most destructive forces in the world is a bored car salesperson.

You don't think so? Think about it. If you're bored at work, it usually means you're not doing anything. The same thing applies to us. The difference is, if you're bored, you're still getting paid. A bored salesperson is a broke salesperson.

So, because we're not doing much a lot of the time, each of us has something that they do to pass the time. I, for one, write blog posts. It allows me to keep my mind engaged while blowing off time. Some guys smoke (a lot, actually). Others like to pretend they're still in the military and do push-ups. Others mindlessly surf the Internet.

A lot of guys don't have an efficient coping mechanism that allows them to keep their minds engaged while not going insane. Some of the weaker-minded guys enjoy making fun and cracking jokes at each other's expense. It's all in good fun.


Finding the Right Salesperson

The salesperson is the most vital part of the transaction. Always. There is no exception. If you don't get along with the mook that's trying to sell you a cell phone at the cell phone store, do you buy? Probably not.

Interesting story about that, actually. I needed to buy a new cell phone a couple years ago. I left work early with the express intent to purchase a phone. I went to the carrier store (not going to name names, but it starts with a "V" and rhymes with "Horizon"),  The waits are notoriously long at that particular location, and that day was no exception. After waiting about 15 minutes or so to for some help, a dapper chap who was in his 40's came over and asked me a few perfunctory questions.

"Hi, how can I help you?" he asked.

"Well, I'm just looking. I think I need a new phone." I replied. (How many people tell the salesperson that they're just looking, even though they have every intention of purchasing? Raise your hands.)

"Have you thought about what kind of phone you wanted?"

"I kind of like this one." I said, pointing at the new razor-thin cell phone du jour. "But I don't think that's the price that I saw online."

"Well, we sell a value package that includes some accessories." he said, curtly. The price was more than I wanted to pay, but only by a few quid.

"How much is it without the accessories?"

He gave me the price, one that I had been anticipating. I pulled my ballcap down lower over my head. I'm not feeling this guy's mojo.  He made me uncomfortable, and I'm a salesman.

Bad move.

I wandered over to a newer phone, one with a few more features than the one I was planning to buy. I picked it up, got a good feel for it. I looked at my salesman. He was checking his watch. I put the phone down, as he reached into his pocket.

"When you're ready to buy something, come back and see me." He handed me his business card. Seriously? Remember, I went to the store with the intention to buy. I had the money in my pocket, at least a couple hundred dollars, cash. And here the guy was, bouncing me out the door with a business card instead of a shiny new cell phone.

I was pissed. 

I thanked him for his time and left without further incident. Still, I had no cell phone. I got in my car and went to the big-box store across the street from the carrier store, remembering that there was a kiosk in the store. I walked up to the kiosk, and started playing with a same razor-thin phone I had started with. Right away, the salesman looked at me with disapproval.

"I wouldn't recommend that one." he said.

"Why is that?" I asked, surprised.

"Well, we have to replace them all the time. It won't survive a drop."

"Really? What would you recommend, then?" He motioned me over to the same keyboard phone I looked at in the carrier store.

"I'd get this one. I have one, and it has survived a lot. And with the full keyboard, sending text messages is a snap."

I picked up the phone. It had a nice, solid feel. I envisioned sending frantic texts to my buddies and girlfriend. This would work. "How much for this one?" I asked him, my respect for him growing.

He gave me the numbers. Ballgame. Write it up.

The moral of this story? The salesperson is the most important part of the equation. Even myself, as a salesman, needed to be sold something in order to buy it, and I also needed to be treated with respect. The fact that the salesman showed interest was enough to sway me, and telling me the features won me over. I looked at two identical sets of phones at two very different stores. The only thing different was the experience. The first guy couldn't sell me something that  I came there to buy. The second guy made me want it enough to buy. As salespeople, we need to make sure that we are presenting ourselves in the best way possible. You consumers, make sure you test-drive your salesperson. The right salesperson makes everything easier.

Ever Meet A Lottery Winner?

I met a guy who won the lottery.


The lucky guy won a "second chance" lottery by sending in tickets that had previously lost. I won't go into super-specific terms, but he won a million dollars. A million. Dollars. As in, $1,000,000.00. So what has he done with the money?

Well, he paid for his kids' college tuition, for one. He's paid off all his debt. He's building a house. He bought his daughter a new car. And....nothing else.

No extravagant purchases. He didn't buy 3 or 4 new cars (as I would have). He didn't buy a bathtub made of elephant bones and fresh whale baleen. This guy displays remarkable restraint.

He's coming in to buy a Camaro, though. Naturally. Who wouldn't?

I know exactly what I'd do if I won the lottery. There would be a get-together with my girlfriend, my family, and my closest friends. Depending on the amount, I would buy them all new American cars. I would buy myself a Corvette, a Buick LaCrosse, and a Silverado 2500HD Diesel Crew Cab. I'd buy a house. I'd pay off all my debt, and my girlfriend's school debt.

Would I try to save the world? Probably not. There are people that have way more resources than me to do that. I would do what I could, though. I'd probably donate a bit of it to the American Heart Association. I don't know.

It's nice to dream, though, isn't it?


The Trading Game

Bill and Jane come into the dealership, looking to buy one of our shiny new sedans. They are currently driving an earlier version of the same model. I greet Bill and Jane. They tell me what they're looking for. We find the perfect car, I do a perfect demonstration, and they take a test drive.

They come back bubbling about all the new features that the new car has versus their old car. Bill mentions that they want to trade in their old car. I do a write-up on it, and give it to my manager for an appraisal. We put together the purchase package for them, which on a new car, that first write-up is pretty close to our final offer.

Bill scrunches his face when I get to the trade-in portion of the write-up.

"What's wrong, Bill?" I say, knowing full well what is about to happen next.

Bill and Jane look at each other. "We thought we were going to get more for our trade." Bill says, sitting back in his seat and folding his arms.

"Well, how much were you thinking you were going to get out of it?" I ask.

"Well, ABC Motors said they would give us $1500 more than that." Jane says, looking at Bill afterward for approval.

Pause. If I'm lucky, Bill and Jane like me better than the goofball they dealt with at ABC Motors. After all, they didn't buy from that guy, they came to me. If I'm unlucky, Bill and Jane will go back to ABC Motors to buy from them.

Unpause. "Well, how about if I split the difference with you?" I ask, hoping to keep the deal in a profitable position. More often than not, this doesn't happen.  But it doesn't hurt to try, does it?

"We need $1,000 more for our car." Bill tells me. This will drive our deal down to the red.

I write up their offer. The manager accepts it, and I get to deliver a car.Why would we take a deal that loses us money? Because in new cars, a dealership needs all the deals it can get to hit various performance goals set for us by the manufacturer.

I've seen the above situation play out literally hundreds of times. More often, the customer makes some ridiculous demand for his trade that we can't reasonably accommodate and we lose the deal.

What am I getting at? We don't like trade-ins. Trades are an easy way to make a deal go sideways. It seems you can never give someone enough money for their trade, and you end up putting way too much money into their car than the market would normally dictate. My easiest deals are with customers that either don't have a trade-in, or have a lease vehicle that they need to turn in.

My advice? Stop going to Kelley Blue Book, NADA, and all those sites. None of them are accurate enough to use as a guide. Kelley is 2 months behind the market, and NADA is 3 months. Most dealerships use auction reports to gauge the value of a trade; basically, we look for what a vehicle like yours would cost for us to replace. Using a mix of auction reports, wholesale reports, and good old intuition, we then use arcane alchemy to put a number on your trade.

Which you won't be happy with. But then, that's part of the game, isn't it?


Why We Hate Kids


We don't really hate kids. We don't like the idea of kids. Whether the parents want to admit to it or not, the kids make the majority of the automotive buying decisions.

I'm wrong, you say? Think about it. You're a husband and wife with the means to afford either one of our nice, shiny 7-passenger crossover vehicles, or one of our exciting, sporty muscle cars. Which one do you choose? The answer, more often than not, depends on whether or not you have a passel of munchkins to transport. Is a DVD player important? If you have kids, it probably is. You can see my point.

Probably the biggest reason why we salespeople don't like to see kids is this simple fact: Kids are built-in excuses. Kids are a reason to leave before you've made a decision, and before I've made any money. Your precious little Timmy is a ticking time bomb, set to go off right as I'm going in for the close. Even before then, you don't want to take the test drive because you don't want to have to move your child safety seats around.

No. We're not ogres. Most of us have kids, so we can sympathize with your plight.

But next time, leave the kids at home, ok?