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The secrets of a car salesman the manager doesn't want you to know

Posted by: Erik Bjornstad

Today, we mix it up a little bit and talk about a subject that's a little bit of a cultural icon in the US - the car salesman. On TV, they get portrayed by a fast-talking actor in a plaid suit. And that's because at least some of the image is rooted in reality, and in the experiences many of us have had in dealing with the professional salesperson at the dealership.  The guy who probably has a yacht named the "Let Me Go Talk To My Manager".

secrets-of-a-car-salesmanSay you had a best friend who was in the car sales business for a number of years.  What would you find out if you could pick their brain about car buying? We don't have any such friends, but we know people who do, so we asked them.  And here's what we found out about the secrets of a car salesman, how they work, and what they have to say.

The goal of the used car salesman is

To wear the best polyester suit money can buy? No. Actually, it's to build the best rapport and relationship with you (the potential customer) as possible. That's because they're always thinking ahead beyond the sale in front of them.  Sales people live off referrals, and they want your sister and mom and cousin and co-worker to come buy cars from them, too.  Any car salesman will tell you that it's really really easy to sell a car to someone who's Mom told them "you need to go see Bob. He'll treat you right."

The best shopping tips for a car are

Don't go shopping on a Saturday - it's the end of the week for the salesman and they may not be at their best.

Do go buy a new car at the end of the month - that's when salespeople may be approaching their quota or even be on the verge of a tasty bonus that they need just one more sale for.  That could be yours.

Don't fall in love with a specific model or color - good salespeople will ALWAYS pick up on this and it will put you at a big disadvantage.

Do split your car buying up and make multiple trips - start looking in the middle of the month.  Then go arrange your financing in time so you can go back at the end of the month to close the deal.

A good car salesman wants to

Get as much of your money as possible. Just kidding. Only a little bit. No, what we're really thinking of is that, in order to improve the sales chances as much as possible, they want to control the elements of your interaction with them. A subtle way to do this is have the customer obeying commands with them realizing it.  This can be as simple as "come in my office and sit down" or "come over here and look at this".  Every time you do something like that, it's a little psychological point in the salesman's column. Test drivers are another great way for the salesman to exert control over the process.  All of the times they're saying 'turn here', 'turn in there', 'park here', they're mentally preparing you, the prospective buyer, for the moment when they will say 'sign here'.

On a test drive, you should

Watch what you say.  When you are concentrating on driving a car you've never driven before, you're much more likely to be completely honest and say what you're really thinking.  The car salesman is mentally noting all of that for future reference.

The best piece of advice an honest car salesman will give you is

Don't let yourself be rushed into the process of car buying.  Give yourself plenty of time to shop and look around. You want to be 100% confident and satisfied with this major transaction you're (hopefully) about to make.

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This post was published on October 21, 2014 and was updated on August 2, 2022.

Topics: Cars and Light Trucks, Car Care