Life Lessons from Car Salesmen

Posted on October 7, 2013 by


For the past 5 Months, I worked at a car dealership, not as a dealer, but doing research.

A very enlightening time for me, socially and even, emotionally.  I never imagined myself ever working at one because I was never a car person and didn’t think I ever fit in “with the guys.”

I guess 5 months of seeing these folks day in and day out, I eventually had to find some in with them.  Now, I look at them and cars a lot differently.  Emphasis on the adverbial phrase “a lot.”

I can see where these salespersons come from, and I can even sort of bullshit my way through a conversation about cars now.

What did I learn?

  1. Salespersons (at least this one, a leading dealership) basically live there because it is a matter of their survival.  At the one I was in, they had to sell 10-12 cars a month. They would begin at 8 AM and would stay until 9 PM.  If completing a deal, they might stay there until 1:30 AM.  Even at this dealership, considered one of the busiest in Metro LA, there was still a hefty amount of downtime.
  2. Salespersons at “the point” on “slow days” can wait there for as long as 4-5 hours.  This despite the dealership being one of the top dealerships.
  3. This is probably obvious, but not immediately apparent when making a deal:  there are many, differing personalities in car salesmanship.  Some may be pushy.  Others not as much.  Some loud, aggressive, and talkative.  Others, reserved.  People succeed and fail being either.
  4. Things all salespersons probably hate:  a)  canceled appointments  b)  people who don’t even acknowledge them when they say hi when coming into the dealership  c) customers whom they are negotiating with and think they can get something really cheap d) spending lots of time with people, doing test drives, only to end up with no deal.  Time is money for each of them.  They do not want to get into conversations that they feel might “waste” time they could spend perhaps making a deal.
  5. My dealership was dude heavy, so with a couple of them, the ones that I really got along with, we spent a lot of time talking about the non-dudes.  Shootin’ the shwartz.
  6. “You think he likes going to temple?  No, but he’s out there, all the time, in the community, networking.  It’s an all-the-time thing” – On how a top-selling car salesman keeps getting clients
  7. “To win em over, you gotta make em smile.  If you get that, you’ve won half the battle.” – Sage advice from one of the top-selling salesmen, who was also very receptive to our research project
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