People, especially salespeople, love to bash used car salesmen. I hear it all the time in my training classes. They lob off-handed gaffs at used car salesmen. They belittle used car sales tactics. They call them “tricks” or “dirty” or “slick.” They laugh at the “lot vultures” and deride the seemingly predatory nature that is the used car salesman stereotype: cunning, manipulative, greedy, full of guile and evil karma. Salespeople do this, in part, to make themselves feel better about themselves. They pat themselves on the back. You can see it on their faces. “Not me,” they say to themselves, “I don’t stoop that low. I’ve got integrity.”
But do they? Do they really? After all, it’s much easier and safer to define yourself by who you’re not rather than by who you are.
Credible research suggests that most of the salespeople I’ve met are much closer to being used car salesmen than they care to admit or acknowledge. Social psychologist Dr. Robert Levine presented a paper to the Western Psychological Association in April 2005. The paper and subsequent lecture dealt with “The Psychology of Used Car Sales.” To lend real-world credibility to his research Dr. Levine took a job as a used car salesman. In the course of his research and his employment he categorized 10 psychological elements used by salesmen to sell used cars.
Now ask yourself: Do any of these tactics sound familiar?
1. Get a foot in the door. Get the customer on the lot and use promotional price tactics to accomplish this.
Question: Have you relied on internal or external incentives or promotions in order to close a deal?
2. Sell yourself. Make the customer think you’re they’re friend.
Question: Have you ever tried to fabricate a “friendship” with a customer who you know that you’d NEVER want to actually hang out with? Or, have you ever looked around a home, found something in common, and leveraged it as an ice breaker?
3. Sell the dealership. Say “this dealership has been here forever and that’s why people keep buying cars from us.”
Question: Have you ever said “We’ve been in business X number of years and are family owned and operated.”
4. The Walk. Take the customer around the lot and spend time with them.
Question: Have you ever invited a customer to walk around their home while you conduct a “heat load analysis” or “surveyed the equipment?”
5. The Walk-Around. Show the customer particular details about the car.
Question: Have you ever said “Quietest system on the market” or “Most efficient fan…”
6. The Test Drive. Make the customer feel as though they already own the car.
Question: Have you ever used an assumptive close?
7. Hypothetical Commitment. Ask the customer “If I could get you this car for $10,000 would you buy it?”
Question: Have you ever leveraged an up-front contract like “If we can find a system that fits your budget and meets your needs do you see any reason why we can’t move forward?”
8. The Trade-In. Get the customer to commit a bit further by giving away the keys to their old car.
Question: Have you ever said “And we’ll take away your old equipment and recycle it for you.”
9. The “Tie ’em in” Close. Try and get the customer to share their objections with you.
Question: Have you ever asked a customer what things are preventing the sale?
10. Close the deal. Collect commission.
Question: Do you like to close deals? Do you like to make money from closing deals?
Now ask yourself: “Am I a used car salesman?”
Source: Journal of the American Psychological Association, volume 386, number 6