EVOLUTION VIII MR’s recent thread reminded me of how little this topic is discussed. Most people have no idea what they’re walking into at a car dealership and some people have a level of anxiety about the whole process but can’t put their finger on exactly what it is… other than “Gee I hope I’m not getting screwed.”
I use the word “shady” because most of the techniques used are not illegal or “lies” per se. However once you know about them they’ll make you think WTF.
Several years ago I took part in a master car salesman course in a state down south. It lasted a week and covered in depth all the “interesting” things you can do to make an automotive sale. The classes were private and in a small building owned by a company not related to any specific dealership; it’s not like you could walk in off the street or wander into the wrong conference room at your hotel to listen in.
Why? How? Honestly I was lied to. I won’t get into specifics, but rather than jump the next flight home I infiltrated the ranks, was invited in and learned some valuable information before vanishing into the night…
Some of what I learned is common knowledge but it’s often presented as “a few bad eggs” not a larger problem. And certainly not presented as techniques that car salesmen are trained to use from the start.
It’s going to take me some time to collect and write all my thoughts on the subject so I figured I’d start the thread now and see what you guys have to input as well. I’m not going to be spilling any trade secrets that can’t be found elsewhere on the web, but we don’t yet have a thread for this here… and we should.
I’ll be updating this first post with your input and mine as this thread progresses :tup:
UPDATE: took me a while but I found some of my old info. While this might not be typical, these are some of the items taught in the training sessions I attended.
On the first day our teacher who was a self described “master salesmen” asked everyone in the class “who here went to college?” I was the only one who raised my hand. “You’re the only one? Well, you probably think you’re better than everyone else here!” I just smirked… I’m not quite sure of the point he was trying to make by asking his college question, but felt it had more to do with him trying to foresee who in the class might give him issues. It was after this and a few other questionable comments to the class that solidified my intent to stick it out for the duration. This could be interesting. It was 3 days long and I might learn something…
The potential salesmen & women in this class were told that your personal image is key. Dressing conservative with a simple tie and shirt portrayed an image that made you look knowledgeable but not so smart that you were better than the customer. Any “flashy” clothing wasn’t allowed. Facial hair was strictly prohibited. One middle-aged black gentlemen had a well groomed mustache. The teacher told him in front of our class of 20 people (and 30 more via teleconference) that he needed to shave it off. No facial hair allowed of any sort. The guy politely responded by saying he started growing it when his son was born and that it had significance to his family. But the teacher derided him in front of everyone by saying if he wanted a job at the end of this training he’d shave it off for tomorrow. He never came back the next day.
The teacher told us that as soon as a customer was on the lot that we needed jump into action! He described his typical sales room where salesmen should be waiting at the windows or near the glass doors, watching and looking for anyone who might pull in. This was a first come, first served battle where the salesmen who approached the customer was the victor and the other salesmen starved… He told us that no customers should be on the lot for more than a few minutes before a salesman had “hooked” them.
After “hooking” them, a salesmen should immediately show them the highest end model on the lot. You’re not supposed to ask what a customer is looking for; you’re supposed to determine that through the course of a few cars while looking for buying signs. The goal is to draw out these buying signs then get you on a test drive. More on that in a minute. His logic behind starting out at the highest end car was that it’s easier to sell down than to sell up. “Features” that carried over to the lower end models had more “prestige” coming from the higher end cars. He told us to focus on these apparent “features” and learn them to use over and over again. I’m putting “features” in quotes because you might be thinking I’m talking about a special stereo or adaptive headlights… but no, I’m talking about common things that every single car has in common across all makes & models. For example, “Did you know Mr. Jones that this car is built so well that you could pick it up into the air by only it’s doors! That’s a solid vehicle right there!” - we were told that you could use this statement for ANY vehicle currently made because it’s some design mandate (either by the government or manufactures, I can’t remember which) and it’s a claim that the customer could never check for themselves. This line could then be repeated for any customer and with any vehicle. It was feeding them a line of crap that while might be true, was still a line of crap. And if Mr. Jones had the perception that the $20k car had the same “super strong doors” as the $30k car, he might feel better about buying the $20k car.
I’ll give more examples of this as I remember them but I’m sure you can think of some of your own.
A salesmen was also ALWAYS supposed to tell the customer that there was a sale going on… regardless if there was an advertized promotion. “As long as there are cars on the lot there is a sale going on!” he told us. And the customers would have no clue, except they would have the perception of urgency… that they needed to buy right now before the sale ended.
The teacher advised us to look for buying signs. What were buying signs? Anything and everything. If you said you liked a car = buying sign. If you criticized a car, BAM! Another buying sign, but you needed to put in a little more work to convince them. The ultimate goal as a salesmen was to GET THEM ON A TEST DRIVE. This was hammered home. Our “master salesmen” told us that once you got someone into car and on a test drive that it was 90% of the transaction. We were told to pick a landmark that we’d pass on the ride back to the dealership where once at that spot we’d hit them with the slick line of “So Mr. Jones, what can I do to get you to leave our dealership with this car today?”
At this point there was a literal flow chart of responses and counter points for any excuse the customer might come up with. “Well Mr. Jones, why don’t we go pick up your wife right now!” - anything to not let the customer out of your sight and our of your control. If a salesmen let a potential customer leave the dealership with an excuse like “I need to sleep on it” he / she was considered an abysmal failure. The teacher gave us examples of him literally driving with a customer back to their house, staying after hours, etc. just to get the sale done.
The next step was to get them back into the showroom and work the deal. At this point we were told to offer the customer a drink, snack, coffee… ANYTHING. The idea is that you buy them a $1 Coke and subconsciously they’ll feel obligated to buy a car from you. And they’ll need something to keep them occupied while you intentionally leave them alone for an extended period of time. By drawing things out time-wise the customer might be in more of a hurry to agree to something that might be to the dealerships advantage. If everything is going well and basic terms are agreed to, the sales manager would then come out and toss a line like “Man, you sure got a good deal here Mr. Jones! I wasn’t sure we could do ______ at first but we made it happen!” - This is more crap and made up to make you feel better about the decision you’re about to make. If things are not going so good a salesmen was supposed to hand over the sale to the sales manager directly.
When it came time for the finance aspect of the deal there were more interesting things the dealership could do… I’ll cover some of them here. The first thing some dealerships like to do is lie about the interest rate they’ve secured for you. The finance manager might say “Great news! We got you a 7.5% rate!” when in fact they got you a 6.5% rate, but the lender is jacking it up 1% and giving the difference to the dealership. Often times this extra % is cut directly to the dealership in one check, it is NOT paid out over time. Paint sealant / protection, VIN etching, “gold” plating on logos and badges only cost the dealership pennies compared to what they’ll charge you… don’t add them to your loan. And aftermarket warranties, while they can come in handy, are major money makers for dealerships. A dealerships cost on a warranty might only be $600 but they’ll charge you 2x or 3x that amount. If you do purchase an aftermarket warranty It’s important to call the company and make sure they actually have you on file and covered…
(I’m getting tired as I write this… I’ll elaborate more when I can after I sleep, lol)