How to Be an Adaptive Car Salesman


super salesman

As a car dealer, the key to progress and success is finding ways to stand out from the crowd, and figuring that your specific niche is probably occupied by three, four, or more dealerships just like you, the urge to be more creative should be brought to light.

Aside from the marketing muscle of the dealership as a whole, the finality of a sale can live and die on the traits of your sales team. Car buyers have done their research and adapted to many of the cliché tactics used by salespeople to help secure the deal.  

This isn’t about dealing with potential customers who are quick to buy and have usually selected their dream car after researching online and just want to get to the negotiating table. This is about applying one’s skills in different ways to capture the attention of window shoppers and possibly convert them into buyers.

Here are just a few examples of how to stretch your creative muscle into a positive direction, not just for you, but the dealership as a whole.

Know when to press a buyer

If you’ve ever seen The Simpsons, you’ll come across a classic character known as Gil Gunderson. He’s the desperate salesman who has talked his way out nearly every sale on the show. His tagline, “C’mon, help ol’ Gil out here, is a classic parody of a salesman who has run out of ideas and talked their customers into the opposite direction.

The “tell” of a great sell is the salesman who knows when to press customers. It’s all about timing, listening, and getting a feel for the customer’s likes and dislikes. Don’t appear over eager or inadvertently talk as if the buyer knows absolutely nothing about cars. Work with what they know, offer tidbits of what makes a car’s features stand out, etc. At the end of the conversation, you want the customer to feel they’ve learned more about the car and less about the salesman.

Use different approaches

There are a handful of car buyers who will try and view car lots on days with less foot traffic, or in some cases, when most of the staff is off.

Take Sundays, for example. Some dealerships are usually limited or closed on these days.



Certain buyers just want to view the selection without having to be approached by a salesman. Nothing wrong with that whatsoever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a guiding light from afar. In fact, having some salesman just walk around on their off days (at their own free will, of course) to be a background voice for those buyers canvassing the dealership can help. Even if it’s just to give a few, brief pointers on what a certain model does versus another, what type of trims are available, etc.

It’s OK to look ahead

Even though most salesmen function on commission, having the wherewithal to examine certain buyers who appear more willing to do business a few days or weeks down the road is key. The best way to stand out for those potential buyers is to tone down any aggressive tactics that seem urgent. Understand that some buyers are there looking for a new or used car that day or a couple days later and then there are some who want to be better prepared and may return with a decision a month or so later.

This is where striking a chord with the latter group becomes crucial. Don’t feel you need to be lackadaisical with your approach, but don’t control the conversation and come off as overly pushy. Some customers may feel turned off by that and look elsewhere for a similar car (even if your dealership offered a slightly better deal).

Think of it this way, for every “down-the-road” buyer, there’s going to be an immediate one just around the bend. Sometimes the key to establishing a great customer service mantra is to be approachable more so than anything else.

Taken as a whole, car salesmen must constantly refine their approach to customers and the way they pitch not just a car, but the brand of the dealership at the same time. Creating customer loyalty grows from the reputability of your dealership and the sales team you have in place to help cultivate that message even further.

Kyle O'Brien is a freelance writer and frequent contributor on dealings around the automotive industry, specifically car care tips, new and used car dealers, and has consulted for Acura of Springfield, among others.

Cody Larson

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