Lets Treat Car Salespeople Better!

Eleanor for your time.

I’ve been working in sales now for almost 5 years. It’s not an easy job, nor a relaxed one. You always have to have your head in the game, be at your best, and always looking to do more. Anything less results in a half-assed paycheck, an angry customer, or an angry boss. It’s not for the weak by any means. What I’d like to present is the idea that we, as a society, should treat our salespeople better.

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I’ve worked very extensively in Real Estate, mainly in Manhattan, which is one of the most competitive places in the world to attempt to live, or buy a home. The most difficult job for an agent working in Manhattan is getting new clients, and retaining those clients. If you have their trust, understanding, and friendship, than you are doing the job right. To be honest, it is more a business of relationships than sales, because most apartments in New York speak for themselves, we don’t have to sell them. When a client walks into an apartment, they know whether they are going to be able to live there or not. Nothing you say or do is going to be able to convince them to live in a place they will not live in, and nothing will take away the disappointment if they are not able to attain the apartment they would love to live in.

Aside from selling real estate, I also sold cars briefly. I can say very clearly and unequivocally, that my 2 1/2 month stint selling cars taught me more about actual SELLING than my 4 1/2 years in real estate.

We are all in sales in one way or another. When you want to order Pizza for dinner but your wife wants Chinese; the process of convincing her to get Pizza - Sales. When you meet a girl for the first time, and you want to take her on a date, but she’s taking some convincing... that’s sales too. Your selling yourself. But what actually happens when you walk into an environment that is a traditional haggling environment? Sales at it’s most apparent and direct form? Well, most people turn into complete and utter jerks.

The environment I am talking about is called a car dealership, and for most Americans, it will be the only place that they ever have to negotiate for anything.

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Humans have a particular problem with people working retail. We are all guilty of treating those who work in retail badly just because of what they do. Some do it consciously, most do it unconsciously. You may be thinking “I would never do such a thing, I’m a great person to everyone I speak to!” and maybe you are a genuinely good person, but something happens to us when we walk into a Starbucks and someone just can’t give our iced coffee to us quickly enough. We walk in the door and are probably already late for work, and the barista is fumbling. There are tons of customers waiting but they can’t seem to get one order right. Most people start to think, “has he ever done this before?” or “I have somewhere to be, can’t this idiot get it right?” and we take it out on the person trying to help us. What we should be thinking is: “I may be late to work, but how long has the barista been here, on their feet?” or “Maybe this is their first day at work? I remember how hard my first day was....”. For some reason, we generally are not able to sympathize with the person making our heavily needed coffee.

For some we get this feeling in a restaurant, some in the back of a cab, some in a clothing store, but for most people, it happens in a car dealership.

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Car salespeople have possibly the worst reputation in retail. In fact, calling someone a car salesperson, in itself, can be an insult, which is horrifying. Imagine how that must feel. Even if you’re a good person, even if you are there to try and help your customers as much as you can, even if you want everyone you meet to leave happy and pleased with the entire purchasing experience; that none of that matters just because of your job title. But lets get past how we’re going to treat a salesperson just because of their position, let’s get to what we want.

Most of us go in with the intention of getting the most expensive car we can for the cheapest price we can. Change the point of view. How would you feel if your salesman wanted to sell you the least expensive car for the highest price? You’d feel like someone was trying to take advantage of you. In fact, moreover, I think you wouldn’t want to deal with that salesperson at all, or that dealership either.

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What I would like to argue is that the person who negotiates the salesperson down to nothing, the person that plays dealerships against each other, going back and forth until the salesman is making almost nothing and probably getting chewed out at some point by their manager, or the manager getting chewed out by the dealership owner because they’re posting too many cars at a loss... That person is just as bad as the salesperson who tries to sell a car at $5000 over list price.

The worst part, by far, is that the people who get the cheapest cars are the richest people. Stockbrokers, bankers, hedge fund vp’s, etc. They would come in and tear us to shreds. Do you know why they did it? For sport. Because they wanted to come in and flex, to show us how much better they were than us. To get one over on us. The person that was there to help them; the person that spent time making sure their car was perfect upon delivery, spending time to program their car properly and go over every single feature with them, and that followed up to make sure their experience was a great one.

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Do you know why salespeople follow up? Because after delivery, that customer will fill out a customer satisfaction survey, and if that salesperson receives anything less than 10’s for every category, there is a good chance that they will not be eligible for ANY bonus. If you fall beneath a 9.4 for your ratings, no bonus for you my friend.

That’s what would hurt the most. Being talked down so far on price, that you literally made $100 dollars on the car you sold (which you would never see by the way because that went to paying back the draw against your commission) getting a bad rating, getting abused by a customer who was impatient, pushy, inappropriate, and flat out a terrible human being... all of that and the knowledge that your customer made $75,000 that month, and spent a week negotiating a $50 difference in monthly payment until there was no profit left for you.

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Lets do the math on that:

Base salary at most NYC dealerships: $100 - $200 a week

Draw at most NYC dealerships: $100 - $200 a week

10 car sales to rich people who negotiate you down to nothing at $100 a car: $1000 for the month

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Optimistically:

$1600 base salary and draw + $1000 for cars sold + $500 bonus if you stayed above a 9.4 rating - $800 for draw owed = $2300 a month.

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That equals to a yearly salary of $27,600 before taxes working between 45 and 50 hours a week, 5 - 6 days (not including the extra time worked when a customer comes in 5 mins before closing). A.k.a. $11.29 an hour. And this is for someone who works in Manhattan, arguably the most expensive place in the US.

If every deal a car salesperson made was as bad as the deal we just discussed, than that salesperson would make more money working at McDonald’s, working 40 hours a week. And not all salespeople sell 10 cars a month.

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So, the next time you walk into a car dealership, or coffee shop, or restaurant, or any other time you walk into a retail situation; before you engage, think, how would I like to be treated in this situation?

Some of the best people I’ve met work in sales, and you undoubtedly know someone who works in sales as well. So, lets treat them better, because in one way or another, we are all salespeople.

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