Confessions of a Car Man


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.