How to Be a Good Car Salesperson
- Remember Names
- Ask the Right Questions
- Build Rapport
- Listen Twice as Much as You Talk
- Treat Every Customer Equally
- Don't Disparage Other Dealers
- Don't Be Pushy
- Make Eye Contact
- Avoid Untrustworthy Language
- Discuss Price Last
- Never Let Yourself Be Bored
- Always Follow Up
- Be the Last Face They See
- Leave Bad Training Behind
An Accenture survey of 10,000 car buyers shows the average consumer spends between 13 and 15 hours shopping before writing a check. Considering most SaaS deals valued at ~$25,000 close in an average of 90 days -- that’s a fast sales cycle.
Car shoppers can easily find True Market Value, competitive sticker prices, and national inventory online. That means consumer choice has become less about which dealership offers the best price and more about which salesperson they like best.
So, want to know how to sell more cars? Brush up on car sales best practices, and ensure you always give customers an exceptional experience.
How to Be a Successful Car Salesperson
1. Remember Names
Brain Coach Jim Kwik says, “There is no such thing as a good or bad memory. There is just trained memory and untrained memory.” He argues, “Your ability to remember a new name has to do with your intrinsic understanding of why it matters.”
Consider how much you stand to earn by remembering each new prospect’s name. To help with recall, once you learn a buyer’s name, use it immediately. For example:
Salesperson: “Hello, welcome to XYZ Motors, I’m Meg, and who might you be?”
Customer: “My name is Bonnie.”
Salesperson: “Great! Nice to meet you Bonnie. What brings you in today?”
Once you’ve used the name, repeat is silently to yourself several times. Use it occasionally in the conversation, and make sure to write it down once they leave.
Focus on a particular feature of a person’s face. It could be blue eyes, their haircut, or a friendly smile. Connect their name to a visual anchor so you remember it easily. For example, “This is Bonnie. Bonnie does not have a bonnet on.” It’s also helpful to link each person’s name to an image. In this case, I might visualize a giant bonnet on Bonnie’s head.
2. Ask the Right Questions
After you ask their name, your first question will likely be, “What brings you in today?” It’s important to qualify their answer by asking the right follow-up questions. Ask, “Do you know which car you’re interested in?” “What are your must-haves in a car?” and, “Will you be the primary driver of this car?”
These questions provide context about what your buyer is looking for, their budget, and who you’re selling to. Their answers also allow you to cross-sell or upsell. If the customer lists safety as a must-have, consider upselling them on a four-wheel drive package or pedestrian alert add-on.
3. Build Rapport
If you notice your prospect crossing their arms, becoming quiet, or shifting uncomfortably, stop selling and focus on rapport. If you continue to push an overwhelmed prospect with questions or selling points, you risk alienating them and losing the sale.
Instead, ask them what they like to do on the weekends, what they do for work, or where they’re from. These questions are non-threatening and easy to answer.
Once your prospect's body language has relaxed, ease back into the sales process by asking, “Bonnie, you mentioned you like to ski on the weekends, would you use this vehicle to get up to the mountains?” This steers the conversation back to the sale and averts a crisis of cold feet.
4. Listen Twice as Much as You Talk
Listen to prospects more than you share opinions. When choosing between a salesperson who talks over them and one who listens -- they’ll choose the latter every time.
It’s tempting to fill any conversational pause -- but don’t. By immediately following their answers with another question, you risk cutting them off before they’ve completed their response.
Similarly, if you talk through a lull during the test drive, you might distract your prospect from formulating valuable thoughts or concerns they have about the vehicle.
Instead, pause for one or two seconds after your prospect has finished speaking to ensure they’ve had time to reflect.
5. Treat Every Customer Equally
My husband and I recently visited several dealerships to buy a car. We were motivated buyers looking for a car we would share equally. At every dealership, the salespeople looked at my husband directly and asked what he did for a living. Each time, I waited for them to ask me the same question -- two months and a Prius later, I’m still waiting.
This might seem like a small or insignificant overlook, but it stood out to me. When partners are buying a car together, don’t assume one is investing more than the other. Ask each of them the same questions so everyone feels like a valued part of the sales process.
6. Don’t Disparage Other Dealers
Don’t disparage other dealerships. When prospects mention competitors, avoid the temptation to trash talk. Reply with, “I see,” or “Alright,” and explain what makes your dealership different.
By focusing on the benefits your dealership offers, you avoid making a negative impression on your prospect, and you’ve further illustrated what makes your business the better choice.
For example, instead of saying, “Oh, Dealership X offers terrible warranties. I don’t think you’ll find what you want there,” say “We’re offering a five-year warranty on all new cars. This offer is exclusive to our dealership!”
7. Don’t Be Pushy
When a prospect is on their third test drive of the same car, it’s difficult to keep yourself from asking, “So, are you ready to buy?” or “What do you think?”
Instead of asking direct or overly broad questions, say, “So, Bonnie, could you see yourself driving this car?” If you’re feeling confident, ask, “Is this a car you would buy today?”
These questions continue to prime the buyer without cornering them or giving them too much to consider. The latter is also a great alternative to the desperate-sounding, “What can I do to get you to buy today?”
8. Make Eye Contact
As your prospect is speaking, make sure to hold their gaze. Look directly into their eyes for up to five seconds before smiling, changing your facial expression, or altering your gaze. Any longer and you risk having a glazed, unnatural, or creepy expression. Any shorter and you might appear disinterested or impatient.
Remember, it’s difficult for some people with autism, social anxiety, or Asperger Syndrome to make or hold eye contact. If someone is avoiding your gaze, be sensitive to their needs and hold a soft gaze that doesn’t make them uncomfortable.
9. Avoid Using Untrustworthy Language
“With all due respect," “I don’t want to waste your time,” “Honestly” and “To be honest with you,” are obnoxious sales phrases that make you untrustworthy.
Instead, say, “I see where you’re coming from. Would you mind if I offered a different opinion?” and wait for your prospect to respond.
And, instead of saying, “To be honest with you,” or “I don’t want to waste your time,” simply be honest with your prospects from the start, and you won’t have to clarify your statements.
10. Discuss Price Last
When you ask, “Is this a car you’re ready to buy today?” and the answer is “Absolutely,” it’s time to discuss price. Payment, cash down, and trade-in value are all part of this process.
Wait until the buyer is in love with the car and ready to buy. Then, leverage your sales manager to negotiate a price that will give your buyer a fair deal and maximize the dollars in your dealership’s pocket.
11. Never Be Bored
There will be slow days and weeks at your dealership. Use downtime to your advantage, and challenge yourself to never be bored. Use slow days to learn about your cars, read about next year’s models, listen to podcasts that hone your skills, and follow up with prospects.
The best way to get ahead of the other salespeople on your floor? Use sales lulls to become stronger at selling.
12. Always Follow Up
Having trouble getting customers to give you their phone number before they leave? Close for their phone number before you take them on a test drive.
Your prospect doesn’t want to jeopardize a chance to drive the car, which will make it easier for you to ask, “Alright, you’re almost ready for the test drive. All I need is a phone number at which to reach you.” Before they leave, let your prospect know when you’ll follow up -- and stick to it.
When you do follow up, start by asking how they are. Then, instead of saying, “Well, have you thought any more about the car?” ask, “Can I answer any questions about the cars you saw this weekend?” This question is less pushy and more likely to keep your prospect on the phone.
Your follow-up obligations don’t end when your prospect buys a car from you. Call them a week or 10 days after their purchase to see how they like their new car. Write them a thank-you note and ask them to keep you in mind next time they’re shopping for a new vehicle.
13. Be the Last Face They See
If your customer buys a car from you, be there for the technical walk-through and personal inspection. Offer to take your buyer's picture and be excited for them. This is a big purchase and something most people want to celebrate.
If your prospect says they need a few days to make a decision, be understanding, tell them you’ll follow up, and walk them to the door. This keeps you top of mind, and it avoids making them feel like you’re frustrated they didn’t buy.
14. Leave Bad Training Behind
You’ve likely encountered some bad advice during your sales training. Know when to leave it behind and go with your gut.
Today’s consumer has many options. The old pushy tactics that worked 20 years ago likely won’t earn you the sale today. Be patient, listen, and support your buyer through this big purchase. Be a partner instead of a pusher -- the results will be worth your while.