In the world of car sales, knowledge is power. With a litany of online resources, consumer advocacy articles and research abound, it’s easy to arm yourself to the teeth before making that bold venture out to the lots. But as long as there are car sales, there will be car salesmen. A good one will have you analyzed and categorized within 5 minutes. Here’s how you can do the same.
Let’s start by noting that car salesmen (and saleswomen) are, in fact, people. Most of them are honest and hard working and are out there trying to support a family just as would an accountant or physician. Are some crooked a-holes? Sure. But if you walk through the door with a chip on your shoulder and constantly on high alert, you’re only hurting yourself. After all, the goal is to find a good salesperson you feel comfortable with not only for this purchase, but future ones as well. Like so many others these days, this is a relationship based business. With that said, here are some of the characters you’ll meet and how to identify and deal with them.
1. The New Guy
A big volume dealer with a low margin product will always have high turnover. Requirements for employment start with a desire to make “big bucks” and finish with a drug test. That’s it. After all, it’s sink or swim at a superdealership. And if you haven’t cut it after 60 days, they’ll toss you back and cast another line. The New Guy has wide eyes, lots of energy and possibly just started shaving. He’s not experienced enough to completely screw you and is awful at negotiations (which is good). Having not weathered the business for long, he’s eager to please and will do anything to make a deal happen. Therein lies the problem. He won’t know anything about the product and he’ll guess instead of saying “I don’t know, let me find out.” Know the cars, become his friend, get him excited, and then beat him down with a smile on your face.
2. The Sleaze
This one’s easy, the stereotypical salesman looking to knock your head off at every juncture. He’s easily identifiable by an expensive suit that looks awful, excessive jewelry and possibly alligator shoes. He’ll immediately ask what your target payment and credit score are. He knows the inventory like the back of his hand, and he knows which cars will make him the most money. He’ll ask questions but not listen to answers. He speaks very generally about the product because in his mind, sales skills are all that’s necessary to be successful. If you play along, you’ll be walking funny for 4-6 years. If you try to beat him at his own game, he’ll become confrontational. He has no time for anything but a quick, big gross. Since you can’t teach this old dog new tricks, just move along and find another salesperson.
3. The Bimbo
Women that choose to work hard and assert themselves wreck shop in the car industry. They provide a disarming change of pace and understand that buying a car is an emotional decision. This is not the case with The Bimbo. She compensates for her lack of expertise with her, um, physical assets. She’s dressed to kill and you’ll swear at some point she’s “into you”. Don’t be fooled by this wolf in sheep’s clothing. What she really wants is a new Gucci handbag. You should do your homework on the car itself since she can’t even find the door locks. The silver lining is that she is much less confrontational than her male counterparts, so ignore all the smiles and winks and you should be just fine.
4. The Showman
This guy cracks me up. He’s been at this for a while and knows the products inside and out. One question from you sends him on a 45 minute tangent about the “rich, supple, fully aniline leather interior” or “40 millimeter high-density projector headlamps”. The Showman is very mindful of his appearance and likes to make sweeping hand gestures a la Vanna White. If you like getting swept up in the car buying experience, this is your man. His wager is that you’ll have no choice but to buy after he consumes your entire day off. Stay focused, make him aware of your schedule and all is good.
5. The Consultant
This is the one you want since he does everything right. I promise these guys are out there. The Consultant asks plenty of questions and listens intently before selecting a car. Price is discussed generally so as to accommodate your budget. No negotiations happen until the perfect car is found. He moves smoothly from step to step, guiding instead of pushing. Due to his tenure and high level of experience, negotiations are friendly but tough. Rule of thumb: if he’s still smiling, keep pushing. The Consultant thrives on repeat and referral business, so selling you a car is pointless if you leave with a bad taste in your mouth. Keep coming back and he’ll keep taking care of you. But don’t get lazy, always double-check his price elsewhere and admit that he’s worth a few hundred extra dollars in the end.