Don’t Fear the Salesperson

I checked in with my friends who were buying the Nissan Murano over the weekend. They did heed my advice by not purchasing their car on a rainy day, but I can’t give myself all of the credit. They walked away from the purchase because of a horrible experience at the dealership. As a former dealership employee (F&I and sales), I was disappointed to hear about this, but I was also proud of them for doing the right thing.

One bad apple can spoil the bunch.

Being a car salesperson is not an easy job. It comes with a shady stigma, aided by the characters who play “used car salesmen” in movies and TV shows. Because of this stigma, customers are hesitant to trust what you have say. And it doesn’t help the rest of the gang when some salespeople are dishonest and manipulative, like the gent who was “helping” my friends.

I warned them.

Remember the saying, “The best defense is a good offense?” This phrase is definitely applicable when purchasing a new or used car. I told the couple that they may be pressured to sign something before they were ready to bite the bullet. I advised them not to fall for this sales tactic.

The “scratch paper” sales tactic is becoming more prevalent. It confuses uneducated buyers and may obligate them to a purchase price before they even have a chance to haggle (i.e. have their offer presented to the sales manager). I don’t know if there’s a name for it (please put it in the comments below if you do), but basically the salesperson will say something like, “Ok. Let’s just write some numbers down on scratch paper.” He or she writes the numbers down and then says, “Sign here if you’d be willing to pay $XX for the car.” To this I say one thing – don’t do it. You are not obligated to sign anything other than your paperwork.

Don’t fear the Salesperson.

As the customer, it is crucial to know what to expect before heading into the dealership. First of all, don’t fear the salesperson. Salespeople are not evil predators; they’re trying to make a living just like you and me. Remember, you are the customer; and afterall, the salesman relies on your purchase for his or her livelihood. You have the upper hand; therefore, don’t be intimidated by bold salespeople, and don’t fall for sneaky sales tactics. I’ve put together the following list of five tips to help prepare customers before making this large purchase.

5 Helpful Tips before You Walk into the Dealership:
  • Test Drive: Research the model(s) that you would like to test drive and drive them all before narrowing it down to the one you’d like to buy. (There are tons of great websites out there that allow you to compare models with ease.)
  • Price: Know your budget/what you are willing to pay for the car, including the tax, tags, docs & processing fees. This is called an “out the door” price (more on this topic in a later post).
  • Commitment: It’s OK to make a few trips to the dealership before making your purchase (for test driving, pricing, etc.), but don’t walk through the entire sales process if you’re not ready to drive the vehicle home. That’s not fair to you or the salesman.
  • Know the Product: Learn about the vehicle you’re planning to purchase (model, year, price range, specs, etc.), and expect the salesperson to know the product well, too. If you aren’t happy with his or her ability, then either ask to work with a manager or, if it’s really bad, walk away like my friends did.
  • Stay Positive: Don’t be discouraged by a bad dealership experience. Just chock it up to the fact that you are an educated buyer who expects good quality salesmanship. Take a deep breath, and maybe wait a few days or a week, then go back and try it again.
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This article was written by

Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. William Bryant at 6:17 PM

    It's a trial close to get the negotiation started higher than normal. This might be helpful if you majorly lowball the offer. Customers should know, the negotiations only stop once you've signed all the papers and hit the curb. Until then, you can always change your negotiating strategy. Ask to see the invoice.

  2. CarChickMWB at 7:13 PM

    William-thanks for the extra advice. You make an excellent point about knowing who's in control and that customers can always request to see the dealer's invoice. And typically, if a salesperson is smart, they'll offer to show the customer the invoice anyhow.