So many people email me with questions about being a car salesperson on a regular basis. So I thought it was time to share one of my personal experiences. That experience being, my first day as a car salesman. I am not writing this to encourage or discourage anyone from selling cars for a living. But rather to give an overall view of starting out in the car business. I personally love the car business, but it's not for everyone.
To start out, I was hired and sent to take a drug test. I got a phone call a couple days later and the sales manager said I passed the drug test and should report to the dealership for training on Tuesday. That was next Tuesday which was 10 days from the day I got the call. Anyway, I showed up on time and it was time for car sales training. My first day as a car salesman hasn't started yet, but I wanted to give you some background.
The dealership actually had a trainer that comes to town to train the staff. My class consisted of myself, three other students, and two current salesmen. Seems they occasionally have staff members go through the sales training more than once. ( I don't know if it was a refresher or they suck, I'll find out soon enough)
Of the other three students, two of them sold cars in the past. I and one other person were new to the car business. Since the two of us never sold cars before we had lunch together and tried to help each other when possible. We were both looking forward to our first day as a car salesman.
So here I am with two current car salespeople, two people that previously sold cars for Nissan and Chrysler, and another Newbie like myself. The two current salespeople were cordial, but quiet and reserved. I am sure they were not happy about having to take the training class over.
Plus they were with four new people that were going to be competing with for customers. I haven't even had my first day as a car salesman and I already could sense some attitude. You see the current sales staff never likes when newbies start. They feel like they are going to lose sales and ultimately commissions. Just knowing that made my first day as a car salesman even harder.
We had four days of training. The training covered all the steps of car sales, had to memorize some scripts and did some role-playing. Then we went into presenting numbers, negotiation, closing, and delivery. There was a lot covered in four days but it wasn't difficult. Most of it was easy enough, but that was theory and not reality. We finished up training on a Friday afternoon and were told to come back on Saturday at 8:30 AM. Here we go, with training under my belt I was ready for my first day as a car salesman.
Reality Strikes - First Day as a Car Salesman
I arrived at the dealership at 8:15 AM and was instructed to have a seat in the meeting room and wait for the 8:30 Saturday morning meeting. So it took a seat and watched as the rest of the sales staff and trainees strolled in until the room was full, not a seat left. Then at 8:30 AM sharp the General Sales Manager, two Sales Managers, and the Used Car Manager walked in and stood at the front of the room. For the next 30 minutes, we got filled in on sales from the day before, current incentives and inventory updates.
Then the attention turned me and my three classmates. We took turns standing up, introducing ourselves and giving a little background on past jobs etc… We were then welcomed to the team and listened as the General Sales Manager gave everyone a pep talk. The meeting was over and it was time for the rubber to hit the road. It was my first day as a car salesman and it was time to hit the floor.
So I walked out into the showroom and looked for customers. It was 9:00 AM and not a customer to be found. I looked around the dealership there were six or eight salesmen on the side of the building smoking cigarettes. Some salespeople were at their desks and some were on the phone while others were out on the lot walking the inventory. The rest of the sales staff was sprinkled around the showroom waiting for customers including my classmates.
Now what, eighteen car salespeople were looking for customers and not one to be found. Even if I did spot a customer what was the chance that I would get to them before the seventeen others? It was still early and I was still determined to have a good first day as a car salesman. It was Saturday, game day, the best day of the week to sell a car. I watched as a few customers came in the showroom were greeted by salespeople and I even managed to greet one myself, but they were here for an appointment with another car salesman.
Competition and the First Day as Car Salesperson
Customers continued to come on to the lot or into the showroom and finally, I shook hands with somebody that wanted to look at a car. Finally, here it was getting close to lunch and I just got my first customer. I went through my steps to the sale with the customer and then the test drive. He said he liked the car, so I walked him through service (part of our sales process) and sat him down at my desk. I took customer card wrote down his information, name, email, phone etc.
Then I asked him about his trade. I took down his trade information and got his keys. I took the info and the keys to the desk for the Used Car Manager to appraise. While that was being done I went back to the customer with an off the cuff, lowball trade number from the desk. I then worked a four-square with him. (some of you might not even know what a foursquare is) I used list price of the car, and the lowball trade number from the desk and figured payments.
He looked at me and said Ok, thanks. What did he mean, was he buying? Did I sell him a car? No, he said thanks, he was just wondering because he was thinking about buying this car, but not for another 3 months. He said, “He was just shopping, doing his homework”. So I go back to the desk with his story and the sales manager takes the customer. I watched, I listened and then I watched him shake hands with my sales manager and say goodbye. Strike one.
Back to the showroom floor, and that's when one of the other sales guys said that there was lunch in the meeting room for all the salespeople. Wow, free lunch? I found out that the dealership buys lunch every Saturday for the sales staff. Saturday is a busy day and they don't want anyone leaving for lunch so they feed us. Nice, except I was a little late to the lunch because I was tied up with a customer. However I did get enough to hold me over, but I will keep that in mind for next week.
After lunch, I headed back to the showroom floor and realize that the place is full of people. Couples, families, kids you name it. The place was packed and it looked like all seventeen car salespeople had customers. I thought perfect, I will get the next customer for sure. I walked around the showroom taking it all in.
Watching the veterans selling cars and keeping my eyes open for the next Fresh Up. (Fresh up, I learned that term on my first day as a car salesman) There they are, I spot a car pulling into the lot and I head in that direction, when suddenly another salesman pops out from behind a car and greets them as they exit their car.
Lessons Learned on My First Day as Car Salesman
Ok, I just learned something, I don't need to wait for them to enter the showroom. I can greet them outside at their car. With my new found knowledge I went outside in front of the dealership rather than waiting inside. It wasn't long and a couple pulls in with a 5 to a 6-year-old car. I greet them both and we start looking at cars. Meet and greet, selection, walk around and test drive. I let them both drive, walk through service and then bring them to my desk.
I pull out a customer card and start asking questions and I get shut down. We are just looking the husband says. I say no problem, but I would be glad to get you some numbers for when you are ready (the script). No thanks, we have to go. I grabbed a sales manager and he basically just said thanks for coming in. I am wondering, was it me?, Is this how car sales work? Did I do something wrong? How can you sell a car if nobody is buying? The sales manager said to go get another customer.
Back out to the showroom, I go to look for a customer. The showroom is still packed with people and it's about 3:00 and we close at 6:00 on Saturday. For the next hour or so I wander around the showroom and the lot. I see all the salespeople selling cars (at least most of them) and delivering cars. Late Saturday afternoon on my first day as a car salesman and my once positive attitude is starting to go south. I started asking myself if this car sales thing is right for me?
No Such Thing as Closing Time When You Have a Customer
It's starting to get late now nearly one hour before closing time and I see a woman walking the lot looking at cars. Ok, time to suck it up and try to keep from wasting the entire day. (I was starting to get a little salty.) I head out to greet the woman on the lot. She is looking at our luxury sedans. She is driving the same model only 11 years old. I think this must be a good sign, she is looking at the same make and model. (I am ashamed to admit this, but since I am telling all I have to confess.)
She was by herself and in her late forties. I naturally assume she is going to need a husband, shame on me. I intentionally looked at her hand and I saw a wedding ring. But, how am I going to bring her husband up without offending her? There was no way I could bring it up, it would probably blow my chances. No choice here but to assume she is the buyer and start moving the process forward. After I got the selection I got the keys. I pulled the car out of the row and did a walkaround. In my head I kept thinking to myself this is my first day as a car salesman and my last chance today to make something happen. I did a walk around just like we did in training and I didn't skip a beat. Then it was time for the test drive.
We went for a ride and I explained the interior features. I directed her to drive our route for test drives and she followed my directions perfectly. I kept thinking about my training and how I needed to do every step perfectly. We got back to the dealership and I had her park near the service entrance. We walked her through service to show her around as per our sales process and she told me that she regularly services her car with our dealership. Jackpot.
By now it's about 5:30 and we close at 6:00. Since it was my first day as a car salesman I didn't know if we closed right at six o'clock or do we have the customer come back or what. I was such a Newbie at the time. I quickly learned that when you have a customer you work the deal until it's done. It doesn't matter what time you close when you have a customer in front of you.
We walked into the showroom and I had her take a seat at my desk. I started filling out a customer card and that's when she told me what I need to hear. She said she was married, but she always buys her own cars and her husband buys his own cars. This woman was very pleasant, but she was not a pushover (yes she was, but I didn't know it at the time). She was intelligent and well versed in financing and the current incentives. She had a trade-in, an 11-year-old car of the same make and model that we test drove. I got her trade keys and headed for the sales desk.
First Pencil on the First Day as Car Salesman
I gave the trade information and keys to the desk manager and he gave me at hit number for the trade. (A hit number was low ball figure on the trade based on my visual assessment.) I head back to my customer and I did a Four Square with here. (Some of you might not even know what a FourSquare is.) Basically, I used a formula to work out a payment using list price, after allowing for the trade-in and down payment. This payment was typically very, very high, but I was Newbie and did as I was told.
I presented her with that number and she smiled as said no way, that's crazy. She threw a number back at me and I wrote it down. I was trained to take an offer unless it seemed absolutely crazy. So I wrote down her number and said: “If I can do this number will you take it home today”. She said yes, now I was getting excited. I started thinking that I might sell a car on my first day as a car salesman. I had her sign her name next to her offer to confirm her commitment and she did. Off I went to the desk manager as quickly as I could thinking I have a sale here.
The desk manager looked at her offer and her signature and asked? Will she take it home today? All excited I said yes, and then he said where did she get this number? I said she gave it to me when I did the FourSquare. Then he asked where is she coming up with this up number? I must have looked like a deer in the headlights. The excitement left me and I said I don't know.
The desk manager told me that I should have asked her and had her justify that number. I stood there with that same blank expression. Then he took my Foursquare, drew a line through her number and wrote down a number that was $110 dollars per month more than her number. Then he told me to give her that number, but I needed to confirm that she had excellent credit. My hopes were crushed, I thought there is no way that she will accept that number and that I will not sell a car on my first day as a car salesman. Plus I had no idea about her credit.
First Day as Car Salesman and Sold a Car
By now it's after 6:00 PM and I head over to my desk where my customer is patiently waiting. I muster up all the courage I can and show her the number and question her credit all at the same time. She says I am not worried about my credit, but I will not do $110 a month extra. She said I will do $100 over and not a penny more. I couldn't believe what she said, she accepted another $100 a month. Immediately I had her sign next to her offer because I still had a hard time believing what she said. My excitement was starting to return. So once again I went back to the desk with her offer.
The desk manager was waiting for me because the showroom was almost empty by now. I think I was the last deal working, the few remaining people were sold customers waiting for one of the Finance Managers. He looked at my offer and said “ you weak stick, you couldn't get the extra $10 a month. Then he said “write it up” and congratulations you sold your first car. Then I said what do you mean "write it up"? It was my first day as a car salesman and I sold my first car. I didn't know how to write it up.
How Do I Write it Up It's My First Day
One of the car salesmen that had a customer waiting for finance showed me how to write it up. He also handed me a form and told me that I need to sell my customer a package. A package consisted of after-sales products like paint protection, fabric protection, and soundproofing/undercoating. I could sell each product separately or as a package. This was all new to me, but I still went out and gave it a try. I talked about each item and used common sense to try and sell the benefits. She said that she had that on her last car and she would like it on her new car. Wow, that was easy, plus my commission on the package was $225.00.
After I got the paperwork together with some help from the desk manager and another sales person I sat with my customer. We engaged in small talk while one of the sales managers had a porter prep her new car and fill it with gas. We waited until it was her turn and I walked her to the finance office. The Finance Manager did his part of the deal and about 30 minutes later my customer was ready for her car.
I walked her out to the delivery area and there was her new car. The sales manager made sure everything was ready since it was my first day as a car salesman. The car was cleaned, fueled, and the license plates were removed from her used car and installed on the new car. She was very happy with her new car and as I watched her drive away I was happy. I sold a new car.
Overview of My First Day as a Car Salesman
By now it was about 7:30 PM, an hour and a half after closing, but I didn't care because I sold a car. While driving home In my head I went over my first day as a car salesman. Most of the day was a bit frustrating, but I really lucked out at the end of the day. I calculated my commission in my head for both the sale and the package and it came to $1637. That was when I realized that selling cars for a living was for me. I soon realized that the desk manager knew I had a deal, but he didn't push me too hard. I think the fact that I was a Newbie and it was closing time influenced his decision to make the deal so quickly. Plus in hindsight, the customer was not exactly a laydown, but she wasn't far from it, she made it easy for me to sell my first car.
Of the four of us that went through the training, one of the guys that sold cars before and I were the only trainees that sold cars that day. I look back and realize that I was lucky. It's not common for Newbies to have the kind of day that I had as my first day as a car salesman. I am not trying to tell anyone that wants to become a car salesman that they will have the same experience. This was my experience and everybody's experience is different and you can never tell how much you will make until it's over.
Thanks for reading, if you would like to send me the details about your first day as a car salesman or car saleswoman. I will be glad to post it on the site. Use the contact form or the email on that page. If we get enough first day stories I will create a whole section on my first day as a car salesman.
Later, Fresh Up on the Lot