Have you ever wondered what goes on in the mind of a car salesperson? They’re not all trying to scam you, but they might be using tricks you’d never thought about before.
It’s no secret that most people don’t like dealing with salespeople, and car salespeople usually have the worst rap. Admit it—sometimes they are a little pushy, and it can often come across loud and clear that they just want to sell you something, even if it’s not what’s the absolute best for you.
However, if you knew what they went through behind the scenes, you might actually be a little more understanding of their tactics. Along with Reddit users in the auto industry, car salesmen recently shared some of their most well-known tricks in an interview with Mental Floss, including how your salesperson can read you like a book.
Your Knowledge is Their Kryptonite
“As a former car salesman, our greatest fear was your smartphone. If we gave you a number and you had a smartphone in your hand with Autotrader or some other site pulled up, we were neutered.”—Reddit user salenth
Though customers usually choose to go through a dealership and salesperson to buy a vehicle, most of them don’t realize how much power they truly have in the situation. When a salesperson sees that someone has done their homework, they essentially realize that they’re now putty in their hands because the customer will walk away if they don’t get what they know is fair.
The deal may not end up being bad for the business, but they can ultimately work out something better for themselves when the customer isn’t as informed.
They Know How to Read You
“I don’t care what anybody says, verbally. If they pull up on our lot, they might say they’re not ready to buy, but that’s not true.”—Prentiss Smith, Toyota dealership general manager
Even something as simple as where you park on the dealership’s lot can tell a salesperson everything they need to know about you. Park at the very end or away from the actual building? They call that “Laydown Lane” because it’s usually where people park if they’re not confident negotiators and end up “laying down” and taking any random deal that’s given to them.
When trading a car in, they’ll also see how much gas you have in your tank—if it’s nearly empty, they’ll assume you’re ready to buy because you didn’t want to fill up the tank of a car you wouldn’t be driving at the end of the day.
They Don’t Like Naysayers
“Having a ‘Naysayer’ with you gets you a long way. Even if the car is perfect, they will say ‘Well didn’t you want a different color?’ or ‘This interior would get dirty really easily’ will make the salesman try harder for your business because they aren’t feeding off the energy of you finding your dream car.”—Reddit user proxemic14
A naysayer is great for the customer, but terrible for the dealer. Without them, someone is way more likely to purchase the car the dealer is trying to sell them because a dealer obviously won’t point out what they shouldn’t like about the car.
If you don’t have a naysayer of your own, just try to keep that mentality the next time you go shopping for a new car.
They Think of New Cars Like Puppies
“When customers show [a car] to their friends and neighbors, they will make such a fuss over it—just as they would a new puppy—that they’ll have no choice but to buy it.”—Mark McDonald, author of Car Salesman Confidential column on MotorTrend.com
Salespeople do something called “puppy-dogging,” which means they allow a customer to take a car home for the night if they’re indecisive about buying it.
To you, it might seem like they’re going the extra mile to make sure you like it, but it’s really just a way to seal the deal for themselves when it comes to a sale.
Be Straightforward Going In
“I don’t want you to play games. Just ignore the morons at Consumer Reports, tell me how much you want to put down, how much per month and what term and I will do my best to get that for you.”—Reddit user AkiraFireheart
A salesperson may not be able to get you everything you want, but a good one will give it an honest shot. Be aware of shady tactics when you go in, but don’t expect everyone in a car dealership to be a sleazeball.
Be honest, polite, and firm with them, and we guarantee it’ll go a long way.
They Rotate Stock to Lure You In
“I tell my guys all the time to go out there and move the whole front line of cars. Play musical chairs with the cars and customers start moving in. Action creates reaction.”—Prentiss Smith
Have you ever driven past a busy dealership and stopped by to see what they had to offer? As it turns out, it could’ve been nothing.
They just want to make you think they were really cranking out the sales that day. Another sign of a slow day? Seeing tons of balloons all over the parking lot.
Deals Might Not Apply to You
“I work as an IT for a car company and manage their website and online specials etc. I will tell you this, a lot of companies claim to have the best deal and crazy low interest rates, what they don’t tell you is you need really good credit to get those great deals, so when shopping shop for deals that you know you qualify for.”—Reddit user plasticmacca
Before you run out of the house to go buy a new car because of some awesome deal you saw, take a minute to read the fine print. Even though it might not mention certain conditions up front, there’s a good chance there are qualifications that need to be met, and you’ll be understandably disappointed if you don’t meet them.
Also, a salesperson might use the fact that you were ready to buy to their advantage and try to sell you something you weren’t interested in before.
You’re Not Crazy—They ARE Using Codewords
If you ever hear the term “one-legged shopper” around a car dealership, there’s not actually an amputee walking around. What the salespeople are talking about is someone who didn’t bring their spouse—their “other leg”—with them so they can use it as an excuse not to buy something since they have to check with the spouse first.
Other terms you might hear include an “up,” which is a potential customer, and a “ghost,” someone without any credit history.
What Really Happens In Their Manager’s Office?
“We’re trying to save the sale, the manager often give advice on more sales techniques to try. sometimes we will switch and get you a new sales person. we called it a ‘desk check.’”—Reddit user The0bvi0us
You might think going into a manager’s office in the middle of negotiations to see if they can approve a deal isn’t truthful, which is sometimes true. However, what they’re usually doing is just trying to get advice on how to make things go a little more smoothly.
They ultimately want the sale but don’t want to take a huge loss to get it, and brainstorming with others can be a big help sometimes.
They Actually Don’t Make Much Money
“We’re not paid anything for standing there 12 hours a day and not selling. And if I work a whole week and don’t sell a car that week, I make nothing. When I do finally sell a car, I might make a minimum commission, which at my dealership is $125. When you divide that by 60 to 90 hours a week, it’s nothing.”—Mark McDonald
According to Glassdoor, the average national salary for a car salesperson isn’t astronomical—just $31,000 per year. While that’s not chump change, it’s surprising when you consider how much energy can go into making a sale. Not to mention that their job isn’t always even necessary.
Because people do their research more often, they walk in knowing what they want and how much they want it for, which essentially just makes the salesperson in charge of paperwork. It also doesn’t help that people don’t trust them in general. “It is our responsibility to help change their opinions,” Smith said.