Monday, December 21, 2009

The Six Deadly Sins of Car Salesmen

The internationally renowned research and polling company, J.D. Power, LLC conducts an annual survey of U.S. car buyers to learn what motivates them to buy from one particular car dealer rather than another. Their latest survey of 48,000 recent car buyers discovered that there were six reasons that people chose not to buy from a car dealer.

Surprisingly 49% of people who buy cars, buy from the first dealership they visit. This is a shocking statistic to me because it means that a lot of car buyers are not getting competitive prices from several dealers. This means that they overpaid for their vehicles. Of the 51% of those 48,000 car buyers who shopped more than one car dealership before buying, 21% bought the same make car from another dealer than the first one they visited for six reasons. I’ve labeled these “The Six Deadly Sins of Car Salesmen”.

(1) Thou shalt not be rude to thy customer. In schools for sales people, no matter what you’re selling, you’d think this would be full explained. How could a salesman expect to make a sale after insulting the prospective customer? But, apparently it happens often. One of the most common offenses is male chauvinist car salesmen referring to female customers as “honey” or “sweetie pie” and even telling them to go home and come back with their husbands.
(2) Thou shalt not be dishonest with thy customer. Of course this applies only to the salesmen who are “caught’ being dishonest.
(3) Thou shalt be knowledgeable about thy product. Today’s automobile is a highly complex, very sophisticated computerized machine. Buyers look to the sales person for answers to their questions. A buyer rightfully assumes that, if the salesman can’t even show me how the navigation system works or tell me what the city gas mileage is, why she should believe he’s right about anything else he has been telling her.
(4) Thou shalt not pressure thy customer. Can you believe that car salesmen still haven’t figured this one out yet? Who likes to be pressured? I often drive by car dealerships and see a half dozen or more sales people gathered together in a “pack”, often smoking cigarettes waiting for their prey to drive onto the lot. I wonder how many prospective car buyers just keep on driving after drinking in that fearful scene.
(5) Thou shalt not ignore thy customer. My first reaction to this one is how a salesman, especially in such dire economic times, could afford to ignore anybody that might be thinking about buying a car. The unfortunate answer is that a lot of car salesmen think they can tell just buy a person’s appearance if they can afford to buy a car. Boy is that stupid! I know many wealthy people who dress down because they like the comfort or because they don’t want to be seen as having a lot of money. That guy who walks into a car showroom wearing a Tee shirt, flip flops, and jeans may well be able to buy the whole dealership.
(6) Thou shalt quote thy customer a firm price. You may find this hard to believe, but this is true of 95+% of car sales people. In fact, a lot of car dealerships have a firm rule never to give a prospective customer a firm price unless that customer will buy now. A salesman can be fired for giving a customer a firm price and letting that customer leave the dealership. This is “old school” but still common and it’s very insulting to the customer. When I ask other car dealers why they continue this practice, they ask me “why should I give the customer a firm price so that he can go to my competitor and let him beat it by $100?” What these car dealers don’t understand that this is what the free marketplace is all about…shopping and comparing products and prices so that you can make the best buying decision. If you deny your customer this inherent right, he will not buy from you. If you do give the customer a firm price, you show your trust and often times that customer will return to give you a 2nd chance to meet a better price.

I wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas or I hope you already enjoyed a happy Hanukah and I wish everyone a happy New Year.


  1. Well said, Earl. With this kind of philosophy, it's not surprising that your dealership receives high marks in such places as PriusChat Forum.

  2. Well said, Earl. With this kind of philosophy, it's not surprising that your dealership receives high marks in such places as PriusChat Forum.


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