Even under the best of circumstances, most people are nervous walking into a car dealership.
You are afraid of getting taken advantage of, you are afraid there will be a confrontation, you are afraid you will be pressured. These are all legitimate concerns. When I was a wet-behind-the-ears car salesman trainee, my manager told me “don’t be scared son, there is no way a part-time customer can outsmart a full-time salesman.”
Much has changed since then, with car dealers figuring out that to be successful, you must have repeat and referral business. This has created a much more pleasant buying experience for most people. Dealers know if they go out of their way to make sure a customer is pleased, they are likely to tell 3 people. However, if they take advantage of a customer or treat them poorly, they can reach thousands from their computer. All this works in favor of the consumer, yet those fears still creep in as you are approached by your friendly salesperson.
In all my years on the retail side of the auto industry, never once did a customer ask this very important question: What is your process?
Believe me when I tell you, every dealership has a process and they expect their people to follow it. Unfortunately, there is no standardized process. Every dealer does it differently. So why is this question important? Asking that question will remove the fear of the unknown. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what is going to happen and in what order?
By asking that question, you will know when it is time to go out and find your dream car, when the numbers will be presented to you, when your trade-in will be valued, when credit information will need to be disclosed, even when the test drive will occur. If I were still owned dealerships today, I would have our process in writing for inspection by the customer as soon as they entered the dealership. Some customers might want to change the order in which things are done, and I would be flexible enough to respect their wishes.
Bad dealerships would never want to disclose their process upfront for one simple reason: it is all about control. The old way of thinking was that as a salesperson, if you didn’t have control, you weren’t going to get the sale. Two things the guy who trained me years ago told me, that I find appalling today were 1). When you head out to look at cars, walk in front of the customer and never look back, they’ll be right behind you like puppy dogs when you get to the inventory, and 2). When you present the numbers, ask if they meet their approval, then shut up-no matter how long you have to sit there-the first one who talks loses.
These are obviously control tactics that you won’t find inside good dealerships today. I often hear from people who say they were surprised by how easy it is to buy a car, and they felt they got a fair deal, which is all any of us can ask. As I say on the radio show, profit is not a dirty word and in most cases, a deal can be struck that is fair to the buyer and the seller. For a more pleasant experience, find out what a dealership’s sales process is. If they won’t tell you, it’s a good time to go elsewhere.