How to Sell A Car – Part Two

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

In my last post, we examined your basic alpha nature, your need to dominate other people. Did you read the comments after the post? Wow. Not very happy are they? No surprise there. As you know, most people think car salesmen are the scum of the earth: cheating, lying, arrogant, ignorant, over-aggressive sumbitches with their own circle in Hell (where they try to sell each other five-year warrantees for all eternity). Are consumers wrong to hate you so? Nope. But don’t worry about that. There’s nothing inherently wrong with your innate desire for interpersonal dominance. It’s what you do with it that matters.

Remember media mogul Ted Turner’s desk sign: lead, follow or get out of the way? It’s more than a warning; it’s every possible human interaction defined on 12” of brass. When two or more people meet, those are the options. The TTAC’ers who described their horrific experiences with car salesmen are, in the main, alphas (smart, car-savvy ones to boot). They walked because they weren’t willing to follow your lead. That’s alpha to alpha conflict for you; it almost always ends in tears. More importantly, the end result was exactly the same as if these car-buying alphas were brochure-grabbing submissives: they “got out of the way.” The followers? They bought a car.

This is your job as a car salesman: turn as many customers as possible into followers. And to do that, you’ve got to be a leader. Not a bully. A leader.

Before I explain the difference between the two, I want to counter a concept that’s been infecting car sales for some time: rapport. According to the trainers spreading this bone-headed pseudo-science (called Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP), rapport is the “quality of harmony, recognition and mutual acceptance that exists between people when they are at ease with one another and where communication is occurring easily.” They’ve got lots of tricks to help you: matching, mirroring, modeling, pacing, etc. Bottom line? They think you should be the customer’s friend.

Have you ever heard the expression “never sell to a friend?” Well, exactly. There’s no better way to ruin a friendship than to sell your friend a car. As soon as something goes wrong, the friendship is toast. As you know, a car is usually a customer’s second largest (i.e. most expensive) purchase. As you may recall, your non-alpha car buyers are profoundly risk-aversive. They don’t want a friend that can schmooze about baseball or house prices or restaurants. They want someone they can trust to help them buy– or not buy– a car. Confused? Think of it this way: would you rather hitch a ride in an airplane flown by your best friend– no matter how well trained– or a professional pilot?

Not to belabor the point, but did you ever have a teacher you really respected, admired and trusted? Someone who taught you something important and filled you with confidence in yourself? Did you play videogames with them at home? I don’t think so. (Again, resist the urge to think of any exceptions.) A successful car salesman can be friendly, but he or she should never try to be the customer’s friend. Ingratiating yourself to the customer means subverting your natural alpha tendencies to establish a peer-to-peer relationship. That’s just plain wrong. What car buyers want, what they need, what they deserve is a professional. A leader.

Entire forests have died to create all the books on the subject of leadership. Let me condense them for you. A great leader is honest, passionate, knowledgeable, attentive, clever, patient, disciplined, committed, charismatic, open-minded, positive and, lest we forget, funny. All you need to think about is honesty. A great car salesman should never, ever lie to anyone. Remember: your potential customers are looking for an excuse to confirm their profound distrust of your basic character. One lie, no matter how small, and your ability to lead is history. You can always fall back on bullying, but that sucks. It erodes your ability to look yourself in the mirror in the morning and, eventually, makes your customers hate you on sight.

So, never lie about price, availability, depreciation, specifications, features, the dealer’s profit, your commission, your uncle’s role in the Kennedy assassination, what you had for lunch, your favorite football team, anything. The NLP zealots are right about one thing: 90% of communication is non-verbal. One tiny little lie, and your hyper hyper-sensitive customer will know. They will never trust you again. Nor should they. By the way, do you know why you lie? Because you’re desperate. You don’t have a proven and comfortable sales methodology that takes you from first customer contact to vehicle handover and beyond.

We’ll start on that in the next installment. Meanwhile, the “right” thing for the customer to do is to trust you. Well, it will be, when we’re done.


Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Tms1999 Tms1999 on Jun 25, 2006

    Pretty nice series. I'm not sure about other countries, but my experience in Europe is very different when it comes to buy a car. Most likely, you will not take a test drive. The dealership has no new cars in stock. If you are lucky, they may have the same model in the showroom. In a different color, different trim, different engine. You can sit in it. You can't drive it. When by chance they have something driveable, you are guaranteed to go to one of their partner dealership, and test drive something in another trim/color/engine. You definitely pick options out of a catalog, the nice salesperson will add up the price for you, factor in a 2% to 8% discount and order your car. Expect 4 to 6 weeks delivery. For a normal car. Expect 6 month plus for higher end segments (MB, BMW, etc) Buying a car there is very relaxed, there is absolutely no pressure. I bought 2 cars so far in the US, and yes, all the symptoms described have been encountered. The first time, I got screwed over big time. The second time, not so much. Live and learn. And buy you next car from amazon.com.

  • CellMan CellMan on Jun 27, 2006

    I have to share my experience... There are two BMW dealerships in my city, both owned by the same guy. First one has had a long reputation as being pathetically poor in customer satisfaction, so much so that an anti-dealer website was put up by someone that eventually had about a hundred testimonials of horrendous service, experience and rip-offs from customers, potential customers and even (ex) employees. Second dealership was built recently and I was ready to buy my first car. The first six trips were downright off-putting. I ended up meeting most of the sales staff, but always felt derided, that I wasn't worthy, or was simply a waste of time. Perhaps I didn't look the part of a BMW customer, I don't know. When I asked them specific questions about options, mechanicals or even electronics, they all gave me various and conflicting answers and could not confirm what I knew through my own research about the model I wanted. I had naively expected that they would know every nuance and detail of the cars they sold. I persisted one last time with another visit. This time I met a new sales guy. He treated me like a human being, like an equal. He was honest, forthright, reliable and never pushy or prodding. It was such a breath of fresh air. He gained my trust and confidence. After a few more meetings with him and some test drives later, I placed an order for my car with him. This guy made all the difference to me. Like me, he was passionate about cars, BMWs in particular, totally humble and human. He knew so much intricate detail about what he sold and told me flatly when he didn't. We talked about children and our familes and in essence he became a friend to me. He has since moved on to another dealership for another manufacturer, and I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I would even consider that other manufacturer when looking for a new car in the future, just so that I could deal with him again. There are those rare jems among the mass of undistinguished rocks that are worth seeking. Though the future in car retailing may be salespersonless, I'm not yet ready to give up on them yet.

  • Scott What people want is the Jetson Car sound.This has come up before.
  • Joerg I just bought a Corolla Cross Hybrid SE a few weeks ago, and I regret it. But not for any of the reasons stated so far. It drives well enough for me, gas mileage is great for a car like that, the interior is fine, nothing to complain about for normal daily use. I bought this relatively small SUV thinking it is basically just a smaller version of the RAV4 (the RAV4 felt too big for me, drives like a tank, so I never really considered it). I also considered the AWD Prius, but storage capacity is just too small (my dog would not fit in the small and low cargo space).But there are a few things that I consider critical for me, and that I thought would be a given for any SUV (and therefore did not do my due diligence before the purchase): It can’t use snow chains per the manual, nor any other snow traction devices. Even with AWD, snow chains are sometimes required where I go, or just needed to get out of a stuck situation.The roof rack capacity is only a miniscule 75 lbs, so I can’t really load my roof top box with stuff for bigger trips.Ironically, the European version allows snow chains and roof rack capacity is 165 lbs. Same for the US Prius version. What was Toyota thinking?Lastly, I don’t like that there is no spare tire, but I knew that before the purchase. But it is ridiculous that this space is just filled up with a block of foam. At least it should be made available for additional storage. In hindsight, I should have bought a RAV4. The basic LE Hybrid version would have been just about 1k more.
  • MaintenanceCosts Looks like the best combination of capability, interior comfort, and subtle appearance can be achieved by taking a Laramie (crew cab, short bed, 4x4 of course) and equipping it with the Sport Appearance, Towing Technology, and Level 2 packages as well as a few standalone options. That's my pick.Rebel is too CRUSH THAT CAN BRO and Limited and up are too cowboy Cadillac.
  • Xidex easier to buy a mustang that already sounds like that. love the coyote growl
  • Oberkanone Shaker motor on an EV. No thanks.
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