You’ve picked out the car you love, you did a test drive, and you sit down with your salesperson to start the process of agreeing on numbers. After you give him or her your information, the salesperson leaves you and does a Houdini impression. He or she has to talk to the sales manager to get some starting numbers. For every offer you decline, he or she will have to make a return trip to the sales manager for further direction.
So what goes on behind closed doors? Is it sinister and evil? Are you being ganged up on? Actually no. Your salesperson is trying to make a sale and get a commission, but he or she has to make you happy AND make the sales manager happy. Being a car salesperson is not easy or for the faint of heart.
The first conversation between a newer salesperson and the manager goes something like this:
“Hey Boss, I’ve got this nice couple I’ve been with for over an hour, we drove the car and they love it. They said they’d buy if the numbers are agreeable.”
It begins. The sales manager’s job is to sell the salesperson on the fact that the numbers are a great deal, so he or she can in turn sell you on it. The numbers from the manager is called “penciling” the deal, and you, the customer, are an “up”-the car business term for a shopper. So a more experienced salesperson will go to the manager and say something like:
“So I got this up, we drove the car, they like it just fine. I’ve qualified them, and I’m sure they have good credit. I got them to sign the deal sheet saying they’d buy today if the deal is right. They seem particularly interested in what their trade is worth.”
A seasoned sales manager knows his sales team, their strengths and weaknesses, and tries to manage the person accordingly. A salesperson’s biggest fear is the sales manager sending another salesperson in to close the deal and having to “split” the deal, meaning losing half their commission and half a sale towards a monthly bonus.
The sales manager’s job is to maximize the profit without losing the deal, so he is giving the salesperson ideas on what to say to the customer. Simply put, selling a car is nothing more than overcoming objections. If you overcome all the objections, you have sold a car.
At some point, one side or the other will hit the stop button. The customer will lock up on the price, the trade value, or the monthly payment and threaten to leave. That’s when the salesperson begins to really plead with the manager that his customer is about to “walk”. The sales manager must accept the deal, let the customer leave, or get someone else to try to convince you to buy. In many dealerships, if a salesperson lets a customer leave without telling the manager, he or she is fired. This is called “walking a customer” and is just not allowed.
If a second person goes in to try to close the deal, this is a “turn” or T/O (turn over) to someone else, and this is where the salesperson loses money. On the other hand, a smart salesperson knows that half a commission is better than no commission. If the second person has no luck, sometimes the manager will come out of the ivory tower to speak to you depending on how busy the dealership is.
Is evil happening in the sales manager’s office? No, not at all. The sales manager is doing what he or she can to help the salesperson sell a car, and make you the customer feel like you have won. It may seem like you are being ganged up on, but ultimately you have all the power because you can get up and leave at any time. I’ve never seen a customer held at gunpoint, or forced to sign anything he or she didn’t want to.
Fear not when your salesperson says he or she has to go talk to their manager, he or she is just trying to reach a compromise with you, and make his or her sales quotas.
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