You Can Learn A Lot From A Car Salesman

Car salespeople are among the most despised human beings on the planet. According to a recent Gallup poll, car salespeople are tied with telemarketers and members of Congress as the second least trusted profession in America. The only group faring worse is lobbyists.

I spent four years selling Toyotas after college and I learned more there than I ever did in business school.

Know Your Product: Have you ever been in a situation where you knew more than the salesperson? Chances are that you didn’t buy from them. Knowing your product inside and out is key to gaining credibility and trust with your customer. I saw a ton of salespeople lose deals because the customer knew more than them. If that’s the case, what do they need a salesperson for?

Know Your Customer: What items do most customers inquire about the most? What are the demographics of your customers? What is important to them? What’s not? While each customer is unique, you’ll obviously run into the same scenarios over and over again. It’s best to be prepared.

Treat People With Respect: I was always shocked when I saw a salesperson ignoring the wife or the children when showing a car to a family. Forget that it’s rude and disrespectful, it’s bad business: Even if the car is for the husband, the wife is going to have a major say in the budget, the model, etc. When calling on a large corporate account, don’t treat the secretary any differently than you would the president of the company. Treat everyone with respect, it’s just good business.

Ask The Right Questions: You need to understand everything about your customer so you can recommend the product that best meets their budget, needs and wants. If you can find a product that meets all three attributes, closing the sale is relatively easy. Remember that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason; Listen more than you talk.

Demo The Product Every Time: I worked for a manager who wouldn’t give a salesperson a price for a car unless he took the customer on a test drive. If you don’t demo your product how do you even know if it’s the right choice for the customer? Also, if you just focus on price, you’ll lose every time. There is always a cheaper option out there. You need to build value in your product in order to justify the price.

Ask For The Sale: I would see people lose sales simply because they didn’t ask the customer to buy. They asked the right questions, made a connection with the customer, demoed the right product, and the customer left, never to come back. Why? Because they never asked for the sale. Sure it can be scary, but remember that a customer is seeing you for a reason. They want to buy something. If you present the right product, ask the right questions and treat people with respect, you have every right to ask them to buy it.

Sales Is A Numbers Game, Don’t Take It Personal: You did everything right and the customer still didn’t buy. It’s easy to get discouraged but don’t. I worked with a guy who calculated that he needed to give 100 presentations in order to sell his goal of 20 cars in a month. When he went on a cold streak, he would just tell himself that he was one step closer to his 100 demos and his goal. You’ll always go on a cold streak (and hot ones too) but in the end you’ll finish around your closing percentage. Talk to more customers and guess what? You’ll make more money.

This article originally appeared in Forbes on September 28, 2016.  

Tom Ward