Confessions of a Car Man


The Sound Of Silence

Before I get into any more detail about the mechanics of a write-up, I want to talk about the most effective close known by Car Men: silence. It’s so easy. All you have to do is learn when to shut your mouth, but it’s also the hardest close for many Car Men to learn and use effectively. Why? Because we like to talk, and no one likes the sound of silence!

Over the last forty years I have found that the old adage “less is more” applies perfectly to a car deal. In training, budding Car Men are taught what they should or should not say in a given situation. Closing a deal is almost always tied directly to eliciting a response from the customer, but little or no time is taken to teach you the art of keeping your mouth shut when it’s appropriate and allow the customer to answer the question.

Silence is against a Car Man’s nature—bullshit is—so we’re always trying to come up with magic closing words when words may not be necessary. Ever listen to the radio and all of a sudden no is speaking? That’s called “dead air” and it’s a basic broadcast “no-no”. I want you to think about what goes through your mind when you encounter dead air. Does it make you feel a little uncomfortable? What the hell is going on, you ask yourself? Do you switch to another station just to make sure there isn’t some national disaster going on? Well you can use that same tension to help you sell a car!

Just like you, customers don’t like silence either. It makes them feel uncomfortable. It makes them want to say something to fill the gap, but no one has taught them to fight the temptation to speak. So keep this in mind as we go through the subtleties of writing up a deal and closing it.

The simple rule is this: Once you are in the booth, if you ask a closing question, DO NOT say anything else until there is a response from your customer. An example: “My boss says the payments are going to be $450 per month. How is that?” You now SHUT UP AND WAIT! At that moment time slows down. Ten seconds feels like a minute; twenty seconds an eternity. You can feel the tension rise as you await an answer. More importantly, the customer feels it too. Maybe worse than you, because the question and an expect response is aimed at him!

Imagine yourself in this situation: Joe Carman is sitting across from you. He’s asked you to buy the car and now waits patiently for your reply, his smiling face looking into yours. The tension starts to build. You sit there and smile back at him. Do you say yes or no? After what seems like an hour your eyes begin to bulge, your palms begin to sweat. But Joe just sits and waits. He’s as patient as Buddha. Who will win? Who speaks first? You or him?

This is the battlefield where many a car deal is made or lost. This is where the rubber really does meet the road. Many times the deal is lost because a lot of salesmen crack under the pressure. They can’t stand the silence either (who does?). They crack first and say something stupid and the moment is gone. They lose.

Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen when you ask a closing question and shut up? The customer might finally say “No freaking way am I going to pay $450!” If he does, then you start would-you-taking him again until you get another commitment. But if you stand your ground and keep your trap shut sometimes, especially when it becomes obvious to your customer that you’re not going to back down first, he’ll say the magic word: “Yes.”

Bingo! You’ve got yourself a deal!

So remember, as we go along, the sound of silence. It should be music to your ears if you’ve got the testicular fortitude to do it right. Keep it in mind as we explore the inner workings of a successful write-up. Can you do it?

And at this point I will shut up and wait for your answer.


On The Lot With David Teves: The Phone Call


“Good evening, Sledgeway Chevrolet. May I help you?"

“Let me talk to service.”

“Sorry, sir. The service department is closed for the evening."

“Closed, heh?”


“I wish I had a job like that.”

“Me too.”

“So they’re closed. With hours like that you think I could get a job back there?”

“I don’t know, sir, you’d have to talk to service about that. This is the sales department.”

“Oh, so you’re one of those dealer scumbags, heh?”


“Gee, sir. There’s no need to talk to me like that. You don’t even know me. I’m just a working stiff like you, just trying to make a living for my family. I know you’re stressed out about something, and I sure know where you’re coming from. My job is as stressful as they get. But remember, in this life men are all brothers. Now tell me, is there anything I can do for you that might help you out tonight?”


"That's MISTER Scumbag to you, Dude!"


“Hey, buddy? Fuck you!”


“Fuck you too, you asshole!


I’m the asshole?! I’m the freaking asshole?! How does he figure that?

Later that evening while driving home, I looked at myself in the review mirror and reflected on the situation.

Maybe I am an asshole.

Gettin' Certified

I’m getting’ certified. Soon I will become an official GM salesman, welcomed into the bosom of the reborn corporation like a long lost son. Soon I will be qualified to sell new Chevy cars and trucks with confidence and clarity like there’s no tomorrow. As a bonus, I’ll soon be eligible for any GM spiff money--as soon as the federal government gives them the okay.

I’m freaking excited!

Regardless of what some of you might think, I have no problem with gettin’ certified. As a matter of fact I kind of enjoy the process. Though I prefer the simplicity and potential gross profit of a used car, selling new ones is a hell of a lot easier if you know what you’re talking about. Understanding how Stabilitrak works and what the hell DEF is may be the key to my future success in my declining years.

No, I’ve got no problem with it. Seriously. I’m learning how my product stacks up against the competition. I’m figuring out how to calculate a payload for a horse trailer and which truck will pull it even though I don’t really get along with those types of people. Ford salesman are shaking in their boots just thinking about it. David Teves will soon be unleashed on the unsuspecting new vehicle automotive world. Lock up your wife and children, pink slip and check book.

But I do have once little itty-bitty bitch about the whole thing. It’s the part of the certification program where they try to teach you how to sell a car. For me that’s where the whole gall darn thing begins to break down.

Any faithful reader to this blog knows that I have written rather extensively on this subject: the manufactures version of the sales process versus real life; also, their attitude toward Car Men in general. Early in the course, “Becoming a Professional Sales Consultant” the term “car salesman” is presented as an old, out-molded term for those of us who sell their products. As the name of the course suggests, we are now “Sales Consultants”. This is a grand concept for sure. We are no longer the brave Car Men who hustled their iron for the last one hundred years; we are now described like clerks at a Target store.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for new advances in the car business, and I’m all for meeting the new generation of cooperative customers that GM optimistically thinks are out there. I’m all for sitting them down in my office and presenting them with a “sales plan” prepared by my willing sales manager that the customer will go along with with only minimal amount of haggling. I’m all for introducing them to the used car manager who will happily let them help him evaluate their trade. (I’ve suspected for years that used car managers secretly enjoy that.) I am all for showing them an appraisal sheet with not only the ACV (actual cash value) of their trade but the retail value as well, even though I don’t understand why the hell you would want to do that.

As I went through the course I couldn’t help but notice the images of what Sales Consultants look like it. It’s as if the models in a “Lands End” catalog stepped off the pages and went to work in a Chevy store. They are all a very handsome and diverse collection of YOUNG people, all looking as if they’ve been waiting for the opportunity to sell cars all their lives. As I said in the very first post of this blog, no one graduates from college and says, “I’m going to sell cars for a living.” These people do not exist. The car business is filled, and will always be filled, with misfits and dreamers who are willing to take a chance doing something that 99.5% of the population would never dream of doing.

We are, according to GM, a young, chipper crowd, bursting with knowledge, eager to please, eager to cooperate in the process of the politically correct perfect sale. I was struck with the tall willowy blond in her late twenties who represents the image of a sales manager. I couldn’t help but wonder, are there actually people like this out there somewhere in a wondrous Chevy dealership that totally embraces the GM approved sales process and has a high CSI to match?

Regardless of what the GM thinks, the car business will always be at least to a certain extent a war zone, and the Car Men are the infantry who fight the battles. It will always be a place where salesmen continually come in conflict with people who do not go along with the blissful vision of what a customer should be and should act. The Others have never taken the course on how to act with Sales Consultants. They haven’t passed the test that makes them the reasonable people GM (and all the others manufactures!) think they should be.

We Car Men should take note that “beating up” customers is not something you can do today. We have to conduct ourselves with professionalism and honor. (Me included.) But we should always remember that this is a dirty business and those that survive will be those with the talent and guts to do the job.

After, of course, you get certified.


UP NEXT: The First Moment of Truth

Test Drives Advice

I’ve already written extensively about what can happen to a Car Man on a demonstration ride. For those of you that are new to this blog, please refer to my previous posts, “My Ride with Rudy” and “Demo Rides”. You can find them easily by typing the titles into the search box at the very top left of this page. Do it now; I’ll wait. . .

…Done? Okay. The basic rule of a demonstration ride is this: Any drive that doesn’t find you dead in a trunk is a successful one. It can only go up from there.

If handled properly a test drive can be a wonderful opportunity. Having the customer say yes to the drive is one of my little closes, and the drive itself can be used to extract useful information that might help you make your deal.

Some dealerships are very specific about demo rides and routes. I suggest that you adhere to the rules—if only for your job security. I’ve heard of salesmen being followed on their rides to make sure they go on the prescribed route!

As hinted above, the first thing to consider is your safety. If you get really bad vibes from a customer, DO NOT take him out in a car! Even in this troubled market it’s just not worth the risk! This is especially true for female Car Men for reasons I don’t have to go into. DO NOT go on a ride (even if you’re the one driving) with a customer you suspect is intoxicated! ALWAYS get a copy of the customer’s driver’s license and leave it with the desk. And if you can get a cell phone number even better.

Plan your route! Do not be stingy on the ride—unless you suspect you are being jacked-off. You can’t expect a customer to make as important decision as buying a car by driving around the block. I suggest you have at least three different routes of varying lengths. If you sense a jack-off, take him on the shortest route. A real prospect should be taken on a longer route, and the longest route should be used if there is more than one buyer such as a spouse or parent.

The general rule is the longer the drive the better your chances of having a customer bond with the car, and the more time you have to make him feel relaxed with you.

While on the drive, your customer’s guard is down. Though you don’t want to spend the drive grilling the guy, you can use it as an opportunity find out a few useful things. These questions should be asked as if you are merely making conversation. I suggest you gaze out passenger side window and speak in a casual tone. The questions should be paced so that the customer doesn’t get the feeling he’s being worked. Here are some questions you might ask:

“What you driving now?”
“Thinking about trading it in?”
“What ya' do for a living?”
“Owe any money on the trade?”
“Dang, that teenage daughter of yours is a sweet little thing, isn’t she?” (Use with caution!)

Anyway, you get the idea.

Now here’s a classic question that might help you gauge how much the customer is bonding with his new ride:

“When you buy a new car, where’s the first place you’ll take it?”

I once asked this while sitting in the back of a new Nissan Quest. The customer answered with a rambling story about taking his new van up the California coast to a little cabin nestled in the redwoods. Hell, it made me want to go with him! Needless to say I sold the van and made a nice pop besides!

Sales trainers mostly recommend that you remain silent on a test drive. Bullshit, I say! Use it as a selling opportunity!

Just don’t overdo it.


Note: I also have a short story about demo rides you might enjoy. If you’re interested, access my short story blog, “unexpected pleasures” by clicking the link at the right of this page and type “The Demonstration Ride” into the search box.

UP NEXT: Gettin' Certified

Landing Your Customer On The Right Car

Landing your prospect on the right car is a magical combination of art and luck. Many a Car Man has discovered midway through his deal that the car he has written up is way more than the customer can qualify for or afford. I like to call it the sand-to-bag ratio. You can’t get ten pounds of sand into a five pound bag. So if your customer is telling you he has a grand to put down and wants a $250 payment, it’s probably not a good idea to show him a $40,000 SUV.

But alas, it's ultimately the customer’s decision on which vehicle to buy, and no amount of cajoling or attempted hypnotism will steer him away from the object of his desires. If you’re lucky, he may be intelligent enough to choose something that fits his budget. If you’re unlucky enough to have latched onto a goof with champagne tastes and a beer budget, there’s not much you can do about it. After all, it’s your job to write prospects up, and I certainly won’t tell you any different here. No sir! I won’t tell you that sometimes it’s better to cut your losses and find another up. You won’t hear that from me!

But if you’re smart and have a little patience you can influence which car your customer lands on. The trick is in your words and your actions. It starts with a little number sometimes known as profiling. All Car Men are excellent profilers. That’s why we should be put in charge of national security—but that’s something for another post.

Profiling starts the moment the customer parks his car. We’ve already talked about checking out the trade. If your customer is driving a newer Lexus it tells you a number of things: He might be a person of means and may have (or at least once had) good credit. But be cautious. The Lexus might be a warning sign that he’s buried in his car. You should immediately say a brief prayer to the Car God that he isn’t going to trade the sucker in! (Also keep in mind that people that drive expensive cars think they know everything!)

If your customer is driving a broken-down Mitsubishi Gallant it tells you something else: He’s not that particular about what he drives, and he probably doesn’t qualify for that $70K Cadillac Escalade on the showroom floor. This is not to say that he can’t buy something, but you have to be careful about what you show him. When it comes to finding the right car it’s easier to go up than down. Once he falls in love with something that’s too much for him, it’s damn near impossible to switch him to a less expensive car. Even if he realizes you’re right, his feelings get hurt and to save face he may leave and purchase the cheaper car from someone else who doesn’t know he’s a borderline idiot!

So your prospect gets out of his car. What do you do next? At least at the beginning you can’t do much. You have to let him roam a little and get a feel for the lot. This is when you begin the process of having him see you as a thinking feeling human being and not the seed of Satan. Once you’ve gained his confidence you can begin to steer him toward a car that’s right for him—and for you.

Of course the right car is a used car! In my humble opinion new cars are the work of the devil and should be viewed only as a necessary evil. The new car franchise sign on your building is the gateway to the little jewels on your used car lot. For the most part new cars are a mini-commission, something to be avoided at all costs. But sometimes you have no choice but a new car. Just accept the fact that money-wise you’re probably screwed and try to do the deal as quicly as possible.

As you show him around discreetly ask your customer what price range he’s trying for. These are code words for “how much down, and how much a month?” If you get an answer you can better steer him toward the vehicle that gives you the best chance of making a deal—hopefully with some gross in it.

Hint: Customers never want you to make money. It’s in their DNA. They also think (thank God!) that you make more money on a new car than a used because a new car is more money. You can use this mistaken belief to your advantage. If it comes down to choosing a used vehicle versus new try this: “Of course I’d make more money on you if you bought the new car, but the used car is your better buy.” (Flop!) Ironically this is usually the truth. New cars depreciate faster than a piano being thrown off the roof of a high building. A later model used car is best for everyone involved.

Remember: The time to switch a guy is at the beginning of the sale, not in the middle. Try not to”change horses in the middle of stream” as they say.

You might get wet.


NEXT: Test Drive Advice

Little Closes

Budding Car Men often think that there is some magical moment at the end of a sale when a deal is miraculously closed. Though it is true that there is a final closing question, capped with a handshake, but that question comes at the end of a carefully crafted presentation that's made up of many little closes. Little closes: that’s what it’s all about. From the moment you meet your prospect the closing begins.

Back when I was young, the managers compared a car deal with a roll of nickels. There are twenty nickels in a roll, and each one represents a step in a car deal. As it was hammered into me, you had to carefully go through each nickel/close to have a successful deal. If you skipped a step or changed their order you risked endangering or possibly losing your deal.

Over the years I've learned that you can skip a step or two and still make a deal, but at a cost of gross to you. You can always make a deal if you’ve stumbled across a buyer, but the amount of money you make is dependent on how that deal is constructed; hence, the importance of little closes.

Another thing I’ve learned is that there are more closes in a deal than nickels in a roll. A roll of fifty pennies is probably a better analogy. All the little things you do to get a customer to allow you to control the deal are a close. It starts from the moment you meet and greet. A positive reaction to your smile and opening lines is a close. “What type of vehicle are you looking for?” you ask. If they answer, that’s a close.

If you work at a dealership that keeps their cars locked, that’s an opportunity for a close. The act of a customer allowing you to go back to the office to retrieve a key is a close. Before you even get to the test drive there might be a half-dozen mini-closes that will ultimately help you make your deal.

The secret is your demeanor. You should try to come off as(and really be) a gentle, caring person. You must never make a prospect feel they are being trapped into buying a car, even when that’s exactly what you are attempting to do. Selling is a form of seduction. Customers must always feel that if they wanted to turn and leave the lot they can, because if you are doing your job correctly, they won’t want to leave. You must legitimately disarm their fears and let them allow you to sell them a car.

I’m sure that any of The Others reading this are up in arms about what I’ve just said, but as a Car Man philosopher once said, “Screw ‘em”. We are not doing anything wrong. We didn’t go out into the street, shot out the customers tires and dragged them back to the lot like a gang of deranged big game hunters. They came in voluntarily because they wanted a car. We are just doing our best to meet their needs and sell it to them--at an honest profit.

Yes the little closes, that’s the trick. Listening to your presentation is a close. “Would you like me to start the car up?” That’s a close. “Would you like to take it for a test drive?” All the little questions you ask on the ride. If they answer they are part of the pennies that add up to a roll.

The little closes help you make your deal; the professionalism that you apply to those closes is what might make you a commission that is more than a mini.


UP NEXT: Landing Your Customer On The Right Car

Have Them See You As Human

If you were to ask one of The Others about Car Men, they invariably say the same thing: “They stand out there like vultures!” Vultures. That’s what they think about us. We are nothibng but beasts of carrion prey. We feed on road kill then have the gall to shit on their newly-washed cars.

I guess that’s about right.

Face it my friends. Americans have a negative opinion of us. From birth they are bombarded by negative images portraying us as greedy, shifty, boarder-line criminals. Hell, even Carfax airs commercials depict car salesmen as evil bastards who are not to be trusted—unless, of course, we offer them a free Carfax.

So your first job when encountering one of The Others is to prove to them you are not son of Satan that they have been trained to think you are. (How about that for a sentence!)

The journey to gain their confidence starts from the moment you meet them. Here are some simple rules.

1. Do not get into their faces the moment they open the doors to their car. Lay back, be polite and wait for them to get out, retrieve the stroller from their trunk and get their bearings before approaching them. Are they heading toward the used car lot, or are they looking at new?

2. Discreetly check out their car. Does it give you clues about them? Is it a newer car that they might be buried in, or is it a clunker? Is there a bar graph on a window telling you it’s a rental? Are the license plate frames from a new car dealer, used car dealer, or, God forbid, a body shop? Is there a military base decal on the windshield? Does he have one of those fire helmet decals in the back to warn you of an impending stroker? All these things are vital clues about your up and their ability to buy a car.

3. Some dealers want you to aggressively approach the customer, hold out your hand, and immediately introduce yourself. (If you work for a dealer that wants you to say something like, “Hi! I’m Bill Smith. Did you come here for our red-hot sale?” quit.) I believe in hanging back a little. Remember, he’s expecting you to be an asshole, so even if you are don’t let him catch on until he’s at home with his new car. Hang back a little. Fold your hands, tilt your head slightly, smile and say, “How are you today?” Delay the task of landing them on a car for a minute and talk them about the weather or how cute their kids are.

At the beginning stages of a car deal your goal is to get them to like you and gain their confidence. So don’t do the following:

1. Stare at a woman’s breasts (unless you are really good at it.)

2. Comment on their tattoos or piercings unless you have something nice to say.

3. Tell them to get their kids to behave--unless they are in real danger. Nothing screws up a car deal more than having to call an ambulance.

4. Ask within the first ten seconds, “What’s your credit score?”

5. Ask, “Are you going to buy something to day?” As in if they are not you are going to drop them and get another up.

Hopefully by the time you go for a test drive you’ve established with the customer that you are not a member of the Mafia or are going to threaten them with a gun. If they see you as a caring, thoughtful human being, you will be well on your way to establishing a rapport that will end with a deal.


UP NEXT: Little Closes

On The Lot With David Teves: My Maddening May

Every Car Man experiences a month that makes him feel like driving a car into a wall. That was me in May 2010. As I mentioned at the beginning of the month, I made grand slam on May 1st. I made the mistake of posting this joyous fact on this blog, thereby pissing off the Car God. I should have known better. The Car God doesn’t like it when you brag too much. He will zap you with a cosmic lightning bolt that will put your sales in the dumbster quicker than you can say “Who’s up?”

That’s what happened to me.

The event was exasperated by the way we get paid. We get a check twice a month. Everything sold up to the fifteen gets paid on the sixteenth. Sales made during the rest of the month are paid on the first. It’s a great way to pay a salesman in my opinion, but the downside is that you tend to blow the money you made during the first half in expectations of a great second one.

One would think that if you make a $2500 pop on the first day of the freaking month you are going to have a pretty good half. I mean you’ve got two weeks to make would will surely be a great paycheck. Well, at least that the way it works in theory, but from the first to the fifteenth only I made an additional an additional $450. I wasn’t complaining too much, but it was not the half I had envisioned. What exasperated me was that I blanked the last week of the pay period! Oh, well. Come the sixteenth I got paid, and the rest of the month lay ahead of me like some great unpainted canvas. I had great expectations.

I blanked for the next two weeks.

There’s nothing worse than not selling a car for three weeks. It’s pure mental agony full of self-doubt and accusations. It’s a very humbling experience that can leave you mind-numbingly depressed. Had I lost my ability to sell a car? It seemed that everyone I spoke to was a either a crazy person or a car thief. I was even thinking about pulling out the ultimate close, “Buy the car, or I will kill you!”

I was scheduled off Memorial Day weekend; three glorious days to spend with my older brother, Danny, visiting here from Virginia. (see photo at the bottom of the page) I had it all planned out: wine tasting, lazy bullshit infused lunches, scotch and water at a local bar. But that was not to be. I had to work.

Saturday the 29th I didn’t have a dime made. You know, it never ceases to amaze me how our business works. “What goes around comes around” says the second rule that governs all Car Men everywhere. I made $1800 on Saturday, another $250 on Sunday and Monday.


Will the Car God be pissed off at me again for telling you this little story? I had the first two days of June off (thanks to Pablo and Tony), and as I write this early in the morning on the third, I am wondering what the month of June will hold for me.

I just hope the sales are spread out a little.


P.S. A brief word to The Others: This blog is not written with you in mind, but you are welcome to read it. But please spare me your wrath if what I say insults you. Frankly, I don’t give a shit what you think about Car Men.

There's No Night Like The First Night

When I was a young aspiring Car Man, I worked with a salesman named Bill Blount. Bill was the proto-typical dirty old man. Just about everything that came out of his mouth had some sort of sexual connotation. He was a homely man, slightly hunchbacked, who spoke in a booming baritone and was fond of singing off-key country-western songs in the middle of the showroom floor.

Bill was always willing to share his perverted views of the world. His favorite saying by far was “a suck is a suck”. (There is a really great story behind that little tidbit. If you want to read about it check out my blog entry posted on November 13, 2007.) But Bill had another favorite expression, and that is what I want to talk about here. He used to say, “There’s no night like the first night.”

Bill usually used this term while recounting his weekend hunts for what he called “old stoves” with his wingman Roger Marvel—or as I liked to call him, The Captain. Together they would prowl the singles bars of the East Bay that catered to an older crowed looking for desperate women of a certain age.

Bill also used this saying when talking about customers. He would often look at me and say, “You know, David, there’s no night like the first night.” What the hell was this old coot talking about? I just thought he was messing with me. Then one day, long after Bill had gone to that big used car lot in the sky, I realized what he meant. He was trying to tell me that my first encounter with a customer was the best chance to make a deal and hold a decent gross.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for following up the customers you "up" on the lot if for no other reason than it gives you something to do during your down times. But a wise Car Man knows that the best chance at making a decent commission is when you first encounter them. Follow-up calls, or as I like to call them begging calls, generally mean less money. Every time you call a prospect and try to entice them back your commission gets smaller and smaller.

So if you’re going to work the lot, your aim should not be to accumulate prospects, your goal should be to sell them a car NOW. When you go out to face them ask yourself this: would I rather have a nice commission now or a mini later? Now whore that I am I will take the mini later if I have to. But I do so grudgingly and it really pisses me off. We work hard and should be rewarded for our efforts. The Others are always looking for ways to screw us. Don’t let them do it to you!

So with this philosophy in mind, it's important that you become a pro at selling a car right now. For any of The Others who might have stumbled across the blog this does not mean ripping people off. It does not mean dishonesty. It does not mean any of the screwed up things you think you know about us. It means doing a professional job and earning a living for your family.

Now if I don’t say so myself I’m pretty good at selling a car right now—assuming the customer wants to buy a car in the first place. I’m not very good at convincing people to buy who don’t really want to. I’ll leave all those fancy closes to those fancy sales trainers. What I’m good at is recognizing a buyer and doing the correct things to maximize my chances of the both of us going home happy.

A lot of people think that there is some special time at the end of the sale where you say some magical words and close the deal. And though there always is a final professionally executed closing question, a car deal is made up of a series of many mini closes. From the moment you meet and greet a customer, you are closing them. The smile on your face is the first close. In those critical few seconds when your eyes lock with theirs and the first impressions are made the closing begins.


UP NEXT: Have Them See You As Human

On The Lot With David Teves

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I sold a car today and made a $2460 commission. I say this not to brag (well, maybe a little) but to point out a simple truth about our business: It’s a hard life, frustrating at times to the point of madness. Sometimes you look out over the lot and ask yourself, why the hell did I go down the road that led to this shit? Then you hit a grand slam. The universe rights itself a little and you remember the good things about selling iron for a living!

Later in the day, I waited on a lady. About forty, I’d guess. She told me she was going to buy a truck soon. She looked at me with sad eyes and said, “My husband of twenty years decided he didn’t want to be married anymore.”

Here I’d just made this huge pop and reality stepped in to deliver a message about the human condition! You take the good and savor it. You take the bad and try to deal with it as best (and as ethically) as you can.

Life goes on.

The big commission is now in the past.


P.S. Sorry for the delay in my next installment. I got involved in a project involving the 7538 songs in my iTunes library and it derailed me. (Thanks Scott!) Now that it’s done I hope to be on track with useless advice in the next few days.

Living In The Now

If you’re going to be a Car Man, one of the things you have to decide is where your going to spend your car selling time: Will it be in the future? In the past? Or will it be in the now? Actually living in the future and the past are related, (I like to call it future/past.) and traditionally it is the preferred way of approaching the art of selling cars.

What the hell am I talking about? The long-established image of a Car Man (and propagated by the manufactures and sales trainers) is a salesman who follows up on his past customers and prospects them for sales in the future. When I was a kid, this was drummed into me. The general theory is that after about ten years on the line, you shouldn’t have to take anymore fresh ups because all the people you previously sold cars and trucks to would diligently come back and buy from you again and again. And if you were still relying on taking ups after ten years, you, my friend, are nothing but a floor whore.

I’m sure that in many places in this great land of ours selling in the future/past is still possible, especially in established dealerships in smaller cities and towns. “Need a new car? Let’s go down and see Fred over at Nogross Ford. Bought eight cars from Ed over the years. Helluva guy.” But as my friend Andy might say, that’s a different paradigm, and in this case he just might be right.

Let me explain.

If you are working in a big turnover house, striving for repeat customers is not a practical way of surviving. First of all as a liner you may never see your customer again once you get the commitment and write-up except to say good-bye after he gets out of finance. The chances of making that coveted connection that will magically make him and his family loyal to you for years to come is just not there. (They might make a connection with the closer or even the F&I man but not you.)

In the big system houses salesmen are nothing but cannon fodder. Hell, they might get rid of you after ninety days so they won’t have to pay you benefits! These whorehouses are incredibly shitty places to work, but they do serve a purpose. They are the boot camps for future Car Men. Can you stand the pressure? Can you stand the hours? Can you stand the managers? You learn quickly that the only way to survive in these places is to live in the now, where there is no yesterday, and there may be no tomorrow. Take your ups, learn your craft, and hope for the best.

The choice of living in the future/past or living in the now has a lot to do with your personality. The more social a person you are, the greater the chances you have of making long-term connections with people and establishing repeat sales in the future. If you are lucky enough to find a dealership that will be a home for the years to come, you can use this as a good way of making a living. But be forewarned: The downside of future/past is that as you make these connections and your relationships with these customers becomes more and more personal you tend to make less and less money on each sale.

Then there are Car Men like me.

I don’t like people much. Years and years of dealing with The Others and their schemes have pretty much made me a loner. I don’t say this with pride. It’s actually quite sad when you think about it. Though I think the customers I sell cars to like me, and I have had my share of repeat sales, I’m not the type of guy who generates long-term loyalty in customers. So as far as the car business is concerned, I live in the now. Each day when I go to work there is no past or future, only that day. I go in and try to cut one out of the herd so to speak. I’m not saying this is right. It’s probably not for most people. But it works for me. So I may be nothing but an old floor whore, but if I don’t say so myself, I think I’m a pretty good one.

If you ask anyone I work with, they will tell you that my favorite expression is, “It’s in the past.” I don’t worry too much about what happened yesterday, whether I made a mini or found a big dummy with a way to go. Yesterday is gone, and you can’t get it back. The only thing you have to hold onto in this business is the now, this precious moment, and how you can use it for your advantage. Does this make any sense or is it just “Zen and the Art of Selling Cars”?

The downside of living in the now is that you’re dependent on floor traffic and the whims of the economy. Your ass is hanging out there all the time. The upside is if you do it right, you tend to make a lot more money per deal. In terms of this blog, this is where I may come in handy. Living in the now has made me learn a lot about the process of selling cars, about lining customers the right way, and committing them to buy. And in future posts I hope to share with you the things I have learned over the years that I know will work for you--even if you live in the future/past.


UP NEXT: There’s No Night Like The First Night

Paradigm Paralysis

I work with a salesman. Let’s call him Andy. He’s an affable guy who likes to work seven days a week (what’s that all about?) and enjoys spending a lot of quality time with the jack-offs—oops, I meant to say prospects--on Craig’s List. He is convinced that the car business has changed and the old ways irrelevant, and those of us who refuse to accept this fact are suffering from something he calls “paradigm paralysis”. Now what kind of propeller-head bullshit is that?

Over the past forty years I’ve been selling cars some things have changed. Cars and trucks are more expensive. That’s it. True, we now have the Internet, and yes it has given The Others new and improved ways of shopping us, but out on the line where the rubber meets the road nothing has changed.

I’ll give you an analogy: Your wife goes out and gets a make over. She comes home with new and improved hair and make-up, a new dress of the latest style with accessories to match. Damn she looks good! But in the end, when the dress comes off after the romantic diner you felt compelled to take her on, she’s still the same wife you’ve shared a bed with for the last twenty years.

It’s the same with the car business. You can pretty things up, try to find new and creative way to lure in customers and make extra sales, but underneath it is and will always be the same. When you encounter a prospect on your lot you still have to go through the same selling steps developed by the generations of Car Men that came before you, paradigm paralysis be damned. And if you think otherwise you, my friend, are a fool.

If you aspire to be a Car Man, you have to master the things that have always made this business work. You have to learn your craft and use it to your advantage. Regardless of what your managers or sales trainers tell you, you can’t make everyone you encounter happy. In reality all you have to do is to make eight to twelve people happy each month. Screw the rest of them. They don’t give a crap about you anyway!

The trick is to know the steps of the deal, execute them properly and in order, and gain control of the customer and the situation.

Ever been to a comedy club? The comedian comes out and does his act. If he’s good it sounds spontaneous. It’s almost as if he’s making it up as he goes along. I promise you this is not the case. A successful comedian works his ass off, perfecting his routine over the years so when its show time it comes as naturally off his tongue as, well, a Car Man selling a car.

So get your act together! Remember it’s war out there. It’s them against us so don’t take any prisoners. By that I don’t mean being overly aggressive, kinky or rude. That doesn’t work, and even if it does it will murder your CSI. Like Tony B. told me years ago, the sales process is like going to the doctor and getting a shot. First he rubs the alcohol on your arm and then he sticks the needle in you. It’s the same with The Others. First you have stroke them, gain their confidence, make them feel at ease.

Then you give them the shot!


UP NEXT: Living In The Now

On The Lot With David Teves

I thought it would be fun to supplement my not so regular blog entries with something I called “On The Lot With David Teves”. I’ll do this whenever something interesting happens to me while doing battle with The Others. Hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

An older Saturn sedan came on the lot with a tow hitch at the front. A couple emerged from the car. The female passenger had a seeing-eye dog with her, a golden retriever who may have been the most beautiful dog I have ever seen.

Nice folks. Told me they were camping up the road and were just thinking about another tow vehicle. Not ready to buy today. Not good news but at least they were up front about it. I replied, “That’s okay. If I sold a car to everyone I have ever waited on I’d be lying on a beach in Tahiti right now.”

They landed on a Saturn VUE. Being the eternal optimist, I went in and retrieved the keys. The husband guided her to the car where she proceeded to run her hand delicately down the length of it noting every nook and cranny. I opened the back hatch and the front door. She felt around, her fingers painting a picture of a vehicle she would never drive.

Then this happened:

“What color is it, honey,” she asked her doting husband.

“It’s gold,” he replied.

She frowned. “I don’t like that color,” she said.


Note: Had my first encounter with a beloved firefighter. It didn’t end well.