18 Top Tips on How to Be a Good Car Salesperson

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Meg Prater (she/her)
Meg Prater (she/her)

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What makes a good car salesperson? That depends on who you ask. For a dealership owner, it’s the person who brings in the most money. For a customer, it could be the sales staff who gives them a suitable car at a reasonable price.

Learn how to be a great car salesperson using expert advice.

As a vehicle owner, I’ve had my fair share of interactions with car salespeople, and I now have a good idea of the traits that put me at ease and lead me toward those new keys.

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But to help give you a balanced view on how to be a good car salesperson, I’ve asked a car sales expert to steer us in the right direction. Here are some of my top tips to get your engine running.

1. Learn and Remember Names

Learning students’ names is an important task for teachers, but car salespeople can also benefit from name recall.

Once I’m told a person’s name, I repeat it back to them and say, “Nice to meet you, [Name].”

Occasionally, I’ll comment on a person’s name by relating it to someone I know or a celebrity I like. However, I recommend being careful with this — for example, a person might not like hearing that your neighbor’s cat shares their name.

During conversation, repeat the person’s name a few times, but try not to make it too obvious. If you get the chance, write it down, along with some details to help you remember whom you’ve been talking to.

If I’ve met a lot of people over the course of a day, like at a conference, I’ll write down some names in a notes app on my smartphone to help with recall (they won’t always have that name badge!). Try it before you judge me — you’d be surprised by how often this approach has come in handy.

Mark Beneke, owner of Westland Auto, Inc., offers some advice for salespeople who forget a customer’s name: “Stop and immediately ask them. It will show them you’re secure enough to admit fault and that they are important enough to make sure you get their information properly. Don’t play the game of trying to find indirect ways to pretend like you remembered the whole time.”

Note: Don’t take out your phone to jot down a person’s name while you’re still talking to them. They might think that you’re disinterested.

2. Ask the Right Sales Questions

If you want to know more about your customers, you have to ask sales questions that help them communicate their needs.

Beneke says one of his favorite introductory questions is, “‘What brought you in today?’ Not yesterday or next week, but today.” He explains that this question should tell you if a customer is ready to buy a car.

Pro tip: Use questions to find out everything you can about your potential customers’ needs. For example, “Do you drive for work?” and “Do you like road trips?” could help you provide personalized options. You could offer an efficient hybrid vehicle for city commuters or a comfortable car with a lot of trunk space for avid road trippers.

car salesperson pro tip about reading body language

3. Build Rapport

Make sure you’re building rapport during every stage of the car-buying journey, from initial phone calls to the actual car purchase. But rapport isn’t just cracking lame car jokes and being an all-round people pleaser.

Beneke says, “Rapport does not mean being liked or connecting over some trivial subject. If the prospect likes you, it can open the door for you, but if they don’t feel you can deliver, they won’t buy from you.”

Remember that for most people, buying a car is a major decision. If you make a good first impression and build meaningful rapport during a stressful time, you’ll improve their car-buying process.

And after you’ve closed a sale with a customer, the benefits don’t end there. For example, if a customer feels like they got a good deal and appreciated your helpful approach, they’ll be more likely to give you a referral. Get referrals, and you’ll sell more cars.

YouGov found that the most popular method of research before an automobile purchase was to ask family and friends. In the United States, this was the preferred research method of a whopping 57% of survey respondents.

Pro tip: Learn to read a customer’s verbal and nonverbal (i.e., body language) cues. For example, if they’re folding their arms, you should probably ease off your sales pitch.

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    4. Don’t Bad-Mouth Anyone

    That includes other customers, other car dealerships, and your in-laws. As a customer, I’ve experienced salespeople disparaging others, and it never sat well with me. For example, if I hear a salesperson talk badly about another customer, I wonder if they’ll speak the same way about me after I’ve left.

    In some cases, a customer will complain about your competitor, but this doesn’t give you an excuse to do the same.

    Pro tip: Instead of leaning on the disadvantages of other car dealers, focus on the benefits you’re offering, like extended warranties and attractive trade-in offers.

    5. Make Eye Contact, but Not for Too Long

    Getting eye contact right takes time, but it’s worth it for building that all-important rapport. If you don’t make eye contact at all, you run the risk of looking disinterested. Hold for too long, and you might look glazed, unnatural, or creepy.

    Here’s some advice: When a customer is talking to you, look directly into their eyes for up to five seconds. After that, nod in agreement, change your facial expression, or alter your gaze.

    Note: Remember, it’s difficult for some people with autism or social anxiety 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.

    car salesperson pro tip about actively listening to customers

    6. Listen to the Customer

    We’ve all been there — the chatty salesperson who won’t let you get a word in edgewise. A good salesperson knows when to ease off with sales chatter and engage in active listening. Beneke says it’s “by far the most important part of the sales process.”

    Active listening during a sales situation is a win-win. The salesperson can figure out what the customer is looking for, and the prospect gets a chance to gather their thoughts or ask questions.

    Occasionally, I’ve walked away because a salesperson has bombarded me with a never-ending list of product features and questions aimed at pushing me toward a sale.

    Pro tip: In your conversations, work in what you’ve learned from actively listening to customers. I’m always impressed when a salesperson brings up seemingly irrelevant information I shared earlier.

    7. Treat Every Customer Equally

    Recently, my husband and I went to several dealerships in search of a new car. We were ready to buy a car that we would share pretty much equally. However, I had the same problem at each dealership we went to.

    The salespeople seemed to forget I was there — they always looked at my husband and asked him questions like, “What do you do for work?

    Not one person asked me this same question, which was pretty disappointing. We’re now proud owners of a Prius, but the exchanges annoyed me.

    So here’s my advice: When two people go to your dealership together, don’t make assumptions about who is using the car or paying for it. At first, direct your questions to all customers, and let them tell you about their driving needs and payment. This way, you can make sure each customer feels valued by your dealership.

    Pro tip: Do your part to get rid of unconscious bias and provide a better car-buying experience.

    A list of the top tips for how to be a great car salesperson.

    8. Share Product Information, but Don’t Bluff

    To improve customer experience, you’ll need to know a fair bit about the vehicles in the showroom. If you’re a beginner, it may be tempting to bluff, but prospects will see through that.

    Remember that customers may have already done their research online to find out a vehicle’s specs and price (thanks, Kelley Blue Book).

    So, if a customer asks a question you can’t answer, it’s okay to say something like, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you.” But make sure to follow up to show your dedication to helping them.

    Note: In most cases, there’s no need to list off all the features of a car. Instead, list important features and their benefits. For example, you could say, “This car comes with parking sensors, which are great for parking in this area’s narrow streets.

    9. Delay Discussing the Price of the Car

    It’s a good idea to know a car shopper’s budget and financing options in advance, which will help you advise them on the best car for their needs.

    However, wait until a customer is satisfied with their choice before discussing the price. You can ask, “So, do you think this is the car for you?” to gauge their interest.

    Pro tip: When you get down to price discussions, don’t forget to highlight anything that adds value, like add-ons, after-sales services, and warranties.

    Free Sales Plan Template

    Outline your company's sales strategy in one simple, coherent sales plan.

    • Target Market
    • Prospecting Strategy
    • Budget
    • Goals
    Learn more

      Download Free

      All fields are required.

      You're all set!

      Click this link to access this resource at any time.

      10. Discuss Payment After Price

      If you bring up payment early, customers might feel like you are overly eager to make a sale.

      Think of it this way: At a restaurant, the server doesn’t ask whether you’ll be paying by cash or credit card before you’ve even decided what to order. But some car salespeople are eager to rush the payment question because vehicles are such a large expense.

      Once your customer is happy with the car’s price, they’ll be more interested in their financing options (e.g., monthly payments).

      Note: Be fully transparent about any additional fees. I, for one, hate agreeing on a price only to see some pricey add-ons tacked on.

      11. Be Honest

      If you want to build trust, be honest and transparent with potential buyers. KPA’s 2024 Dealership Trust Survey found that 29% of respondents left one car dealership and went to another over trust issues.

      Remember the importance of family and friends for referrals? Well, if a customer feels they’ve been tricked into purchasing add-ons or a used car at a highly inflated price, they won’t be in a hurry to recommend you.

      To have a successful and fulfilling career as a car salesperson, put long-term customer loyalty ahead of a short-sighted sale.

      Pro tip: If you think that a certain vehicle isn’t the right fit for a customer, propose alternatives. I’ve always admired salespeople who are willing to sacrifice profit to ensure I have no post-purchase regrets.

      12. Always Follow Up

      Getting a customer’s contact information for a sales follow-up isn’t as easy as giving them your business card. One option is to request a customer’s phone number or email before they take a test drive.

      And it’s always a good idea to ask if they mind being contacted at the number provided and the best time to call.

      Pro tip: Follow up with customers even after they’ve made a purchase. After I bought a new car, I really appreciated it when the salesperson made a quick call to check that I was happy with my purchase.

      car salesperson pro tip to always follow up with the customer

      13. Have Patience

      If sales are slow and you start to feel like all your prospects are tire kickers, don’t give up. Car sales can depend on local and global economic factors, and there are some seasonal variations.

      You also need to be patient with potential buyers. If you try to rush them into a sale, you could end up sending them to another car dealership.

      Pro tip: During slow periods, use your time to research sales techniques and statistics and keep track of your leads.

      14. Leverage Online Marketing

      Even if you have no marketing budget, you can create your own strategy that brings customers to you. For example, you could contribute to a car blog or forum, post about car sales on LinkedIn, or even record car walkaround videos to share on YouTube.

      I regularly watch YouTube videos to discover more about products, and I’m a sucker for informative, well-produced videos that clock in under 10 minutes.

      Pro tip: If you dream of running your own dealership, use targeted online marketing practices like local search engine optimization (SEO) to build your professional brand.

      15. Get a CRM

      HubSpot’s CRM has many beneficial features for car sales teams.

      A customer relationship management (CRM) platform isn’t just for online auto sales. Even if you only sell cars in person, you’ll benefit from the automation and insights a CRM can provide.

      An automotive CRM solution can help you:

      Note: I work for HubSpot, so it would be remiss of me not to champion our own CRM. I think you’ll benefit from the free features, like pipeline management, which are customizable according to the needs of your car buyers.

      16. Ignore Bad Sales Training

      You probably received some bad advice during your sales training. Know when to scrap it and go with your gut. For example, if you’ve been told to “always be closing,” feel free to focus on helping the customer instead.

      Pro tip: Colleagues might suggest that you ask, “What can I do to get you to buy today?” But you should avoid it. It sounds desperate and shows scant regard for the customer’s actual needs.

      17. Boost Your Car Knowledge

      Make sure you dedicate time each week to improving your product knowledge. This includes the general specs of the cars on your lot, plus things like consumer trends and current events in the auto industry.

      For example, you could brush up on safety statistics or electric vehicle advancements.

      Pro tip: Subscribe to authoritative trade publications and follow car experts on social media. Having up-to-date industry knowledge shows you’re genuinely interested in what you do and dedicated to improving your customer service.

      good car salesperson pro tip on having up to date industry information

      18. Continuously Improve Your Soft Skills

      Often, customers think of car salespeople as being natural-born sellers with great negotiation skills. In fact, a good car salesperson must constantly work to improve various other soft skills, such as organization and adaptability.

      But communication is at the heart of everything a good salesperson does. You need to communicate effectively with customers and your sales manager and try to ensure every interaction brings an acceptable outcome for all involved.

      If you think you could brush up on your communication skills, don’t be afraid to seek outside guidance. For example, you could shadow a more experienced salesperson.

      When asked if a certain education level is necessary for improving your car sales skills, Beneke says, “I do not believe a salesperson needs any formal education to be extraordinary. Sales is about trust and relationships, which means you can educate yourself completely and practice in any situation that requires a social exchange.

      Pro tip: Even if a deal doesn’t happen, show customers that you appreciate the time they’ve taken to meet with you. If they’re made to feel uncomfortable about having cold feet, they might avoid your dealership and tell others about their negative experience.

      Take My Tips for a Test Drive

      I’ll admit it: Applying all of these sales tips will take some work, and they won’t help you win over every prospect. But if you stick to my expert-backed advice — like being honest and listening to your customers — the trickier steps will become easier with time.

      As you sharpen your sales skills, don’t forget that cars aren’t a one-off purchase for many. That’s why you should take the time to foster long-term relationships and make every customer feel important.

      With a customer-centric approach that leaves pushy sales tactics behind, you’ll get happy car buyers who are excited to refer you to friends and family.

      Editor's Note: This post was originally published in Dec. 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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