Car Talk: What are some other common techniques that car dealers use?
Deep Plaid: Just like a mechanic, a salesman has a toolbox he can use. Inside, are various weapons and techniques. You don't use them all every day, just whatever works on that particular customer.
Most of them are very honest techniques. We're taught to be great listeners, and to watch the customer's body language. The most important goal is to put customers at ease, and we have a number of tools to get there.
For example, each of us gives off clues about who we are and what we like. If I saw a customer's keychain with a little volleyball or football on it, but the customer was 65 years old, I might ask if their grandkids play volleyball. I want to switch the topic away from the car business. I want to establish a common bond and a rapport, put the customer at ease and make him as comfortable as possible.
Car Talk: Because you're more likely to buy a car when you're comfortable?
Deep Plaid: Right. Each of us hates spending money. Our biggest fear about buying a car is that we're going to make a mistake. After a home, a car is the largest purchase you'll ever make.
I want folks to relax as much as possible, so they don't feel that pain. I'll get them a soda, and talk for half an hour about football, fishing, camping, sports or hobbies - any topic that they adore. I'll try anything to get their mind off the money and the deal.
Car Talk: So, your very first goal is to get the customer as relaxed as possible?
Deep Plaid: Right. I'd even go so far as to visit someone at his house, if he was a tough customer. People are most comfortable in their home. That's their comfort zone. You'd be amazed how many deals I closed at customer's homes.
Once I thought I had a customer totally relaxed, I'd try a test to see if that was the case. I'd say, "Hey, come over here." I'd turn my back and not look over my shoulder. If they followed me, I knew they were relaxed, and I had some level of control over them.
Car Talk: If you had one piece of advice for someone headed through the door of a car dealership, what would it be?
Deep Plaid: Give yourself plenty of time to shop. Do not rush. Never, ever let a salesperson rush you into a decision. You'll regret it later.
Car Talk: So, 'fess up, is it a lucrative business? Are you retired and living on your yacht, the SS Upsell?
Deep Plaid: Lucrative? Not so much. But, there was always lucrative amounts of stress! The really big money was made by the dealer. Then again, most dealers have a huge investment and a lot of responsibility.
As for the yacht, the SS Minnow is more like it. Or, a 10-foot flat-bottom with a 5 horsepower Evinrude outboard engine.
I will say that I made a decent living, and made a lot of friends. But, I worked plenty of hours and was on my feet a lot. I had a friend who said, "You don't have to be crazy to be in the car business - but it helps!"
Car Talk: We're sure folks reading this will have other questions. Mind if you answer a few, in our Car Talk Community?
Deep Plaid: It would be a pleasure.
Car Talk: We have to ask. Are there a lot of toupees out there among car salesmen?
Deep Plaid: I'm bald headed as you can see. I always used to tell my customers I could sell them a car cheaper than anyone else... because I had low overhead.
Car Talk: That's a bad one.
Deep Plaid: I never said I was a comedian. I'll leave that to you guys.
Car Talk: And what about the plaid pants?
Deep Plaid: You really don't see that any more. Most dealers are now emphasizing a more relaxed look, which puts customers more at ease. Salesmen are wearing shorts, tennis shoes, and a polo shirt. If you're relaxed, the customer is going to be relaxed, and that's what you want.
Car Talk: Thanks Deep Plaid!
Deep Plaid: Hey, you blew my cover!
No, thank you. I sincerely hope I can save them some time, some hassle and a good chunk of their hard-earned dough on their next vehicle purchase.