No, You Can't Leave

Rainy days are useless to us. There's no one walking the lot, nobody driving through. Useless. So, I guess I'll blog.

And I'm frustrated right now, which is something that's been happening more and more. You ever wonder why car salesman don't want you to leave? Because the probability of you buying a car once you leave is less than 25%. Once you leave, you either pass by another dealership, hear another dealership's ad on the radio, talk to your wife and she gets cold feet, talk to your husband and he gets cold feet, talk to your palm reader and she has a goat that can get you a great deal at XYZ Imports, any number of things.

Once you leave, the probability of me getting paid drops drastically. There's nothing that can even compare. There's no frame of reference I can give you that would make it easy to understand. You leaving means I can't take my girlfriend out to dinner. You leaving means I can't pay rent. That's why I do everything in my power to make you stay.

Perfect example:

I had a guy come in a couple days ago; really nice guy. He wanted to look at a GMC Acadia that he and his wife found on the Internet. They had been saving up for a number of years to buy a vehicle, and were waiting for a zero-percent financing deal to pull the trigger. We demoed the Acadia in question, sat down, and agreed on a deal. He couldn't bring his wife back that night, so we made an appointment for him to come in the next evening.

Fast forward to that evening. No show. I called him. No answer.

I called again a couple hours later. No answer.

I'm steamed at this point; we had taken the Acadia off of our lot and put a hold tag in it because he swore up and down that he was going to bring his wife back in.

I called him again the following morning. He finally answered. His wife got "cold feet." They had been saving for years for this exact deal. Now, I can't pay rent (figuratively, not literally) because this lady got "cold feet."

I can't imagine being married to such an indecisive shrew.


You probably don't understand it, and you probably resent me for it. I'm still not letting you leave.


Survival and Addiction

In this business, you're never on safe ground. The flood is always right below you, waiting to drag you in its deadly undertow. The rushing water eats away at your footing, forcing you to climb higher and higher to escape. You never do. You climb as fast as you can to stay exactly where you are.

I've had my share of addictions. In college, I was a borderline alcoholic. I drank two 40oz beers a night. It runs in the family. I defeated that demon years ago. I still enjoy a brew now and then, but I remember what kind of shape I was in back then and have made a conscious decision to never go back. I'm currently addicted to smartphones and technology. I've had countless smartphones and laptops over the past couple years. I'm still battling that one.

What do these two things have in common? How can two things that are as dissimilar as survival and addiction possibly be related?

In this business, you get addicted to selling things. It consumes 60 hours of your life each week. If you're hard-core, it can eat up more of your life than that. Selling cars becomes the only thing that you think about, because your survival is dependent on your ability to be consumed by selling cars. If you aren't constantly trying to figure out how to stay ahead of the next guy, you slip once, you miss out.

Selling cars became my addiction after I sold my first Chevy. It was more addictive than crack cocaine (I'm just guessing; I've never smoked crack or done any drug stronger than marijuana). The rush of receiving a customer's trust, getting them to sign on the dotted line, it's better than any drug. And it's constructive. It makes money and enables you to lead a lifestyle. 

When you sell cars, you get addicted to your own survival. No one in this business is going to help you but you, so you become completely immersed in trying to move as much iron as possible. And the moment you stop climbing, the moment you give up and lose your foothold, you're finished.

You also get addicted to the money. When I started selling cars, I was fresh out of college. In a few short weeks, I made more money than I ever had before. I made $30,000 my first year selling cars, equaling what most other grads were making. Every friggin' dime of that money was earned. I made that money running around a parking lot for 60 hours a week or more. I didn't get to sit in a cubicle, typing up inane P&L reports for some schmuck who didn't know my name. I didn't get a salary. I was paid for performance, so I performed. I had a month last year in which I made $10,000. Like I said, addictive.


Lies, Falsehoods, and Making Stuff Up

If I had one thing to say to a customer if I was assured there wouldn't be any blowback, it would be this:

You lie to us far more than we lie to you.

Customers lie to me all the time. I get all sorts of things, from "Well, I'm waiting on a settlement to come in, and it'll be here in a few weeks. Can I test drive the (insert name of super-expensive vehicle here)?" to "Well, we like you, and we like the car, we just need to go home and talk about it." And then there's my personal favorite, "Just looking!"


Maybe I'm not being fair. A couple of the statements that I mentioned above are simply conditioned responses to a certain question (not the first one....that one's just false). If I ask you if I can help you, what do you say? You probably say "Just looking" even if you came in to buy something. It's a conditioned response. You are programmed to say it, even if it doesn't make sense to say it. I've had conversations that go like this:

Me: "Hello, folks! Welcome to ABC Motors! How are you today?"

Man: "Just looking!"

Me: "Well, that seems like an interesting way to be."

Man: "We're just looking!"

But, simply because something is a conditioned response doesn't mean that it's not a lie. You're not just looking. You're looking for something, otherwise you wouldn't waste a perfectly good afternoon at a freaking parking lot surrounded by guys who are going to ask you if they can help you. Whew.

You don't come onto the lot unless you're at least thinking about buying a car. That's why we salespeople are trained to be so persistent. We have to cut through so many layers of crap to get to what your real intentions are that we have sharpened our verbal scalpels to peak performance.

If you're not ready to buy, what do you say to us? You have spent a lot of our time going over figures, having us show you vehicles, and lots of other time-consuming stuff. You don't want us to feel like you've completely wasted our time, so you fob us off with some mealy-mouthed excuse about how you and the wife or husband or gynecologist need to "talk about it and get back." It doesn't mean anything. What you are really trying to say is "I don't feel like you've sold me on the vehicle and convinced me I am getting a good deal." Remember, my job is to make you feel good about the numbers that I'm presenting to you. That's as much my fault as it is yours, but that's what you mean, just the same.

At the same time, there's really nothing for us to lie to you about. The price? Hey, the price is what it is. It's fluid, usually, but that doesn't mean that we're lying about it. The year? It's on the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). The miles? Digital odometers CANNOT be rolled back. Previous owners? We really don't know, and we might say what we think is the case, but there's always CARFAX to verify. The mechanical soundness of the vehicle? Feel free to do your own inspection, and take it to your personal mechanic if necessary.

Most of the time, what you think we're "lying" about is just stuff that we're making up at the time because we don't know the real answer, and most of the time we will tell you as much. Personally, I've told customers something that I didn't know was true or not, and I usually say "I think" or "I believe" when I tell them. I'm not trying to lie. Lying gets you fired and is not the way to make honest money.


Prime and Subprime, maybe

Many people know the difference between prime and subprime in terms of lending. Prime lending is characterized by sparkling facade of low interest rates and banks fighting for business, the customer skipping down the emerald road on their way to a super-great deal and a lifetime of free oil changes. Subprime is the murky, seedy underbelly filled with murderers and thieves, Doberman Pinschers behind a chain-link fence. A lot of people have to walk that lonely road, with mainstream dealers unable to procure decent loans for them. We used to be able to help people before the credit crisis. Not so much anymore.

I hate the term subprime. I'm not a fan of categorizing people by a three-digit number. People can control what their credit report says, but I don't think that a label should be attached to that group of people that have hit bumps in the road. I guess it's easier to describe a person's situation by giving it a label, but still, I don't think it's necessarily right. I know a lot of good people that have had some kind of tragedy or circumstance wreak havoc on their finances, and because of this there are dealers who look down upon them. I don't agree.

To say someone's "subprime" is a way of demeaning them; saying they are worth less than someone who is "prime". While a lower credit score means it is harder to lock down financing, we can't look down our noses at those people. We need to help them.