Confessions of a Car Man


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.