Every stereotype, objectively examined is nothing more than a highly inflated caricature of reality. Although there may  have been some grain of truth to the caricature in the distant past, a person in the present would be hard-pressed to put a face to the supposed stereotype.

Case in point: Used car salesman. It’s a safe bet that most of us have purchased a used car at some point in our lives. Many of us may have even done so from a used car lot. This means we’ve come in contact with the dreaded used car salesman. Did that experience line up with the stereotype?

I recently came across an article written to online marketers about how not to be like the nefarious, tooth-pick chewing salesman. Using the author’s stereotypes, I will demonstrate how the impressions we have are false: they do not and cannot exist.

  1. Inflate the price so you can have a blowout. First, we’re confusing used car salesmen with dealerships. The lowly employee has no more power to set the price of that 2011 Buick than the clerk at Wal-mart does to set the sale price on a bag of Cheetos. Secondly, the author is confusing Boxing Day retail sales with car sales.  Marking a car down $1000 to $29,000 from $30,000 is a far cry from the 75% off “Everything Must Go” sale. Advertising buzz makes it sound like there’s a huge discount but compared to retail promotions, there really is no blowout when it comes to the pre-owned car sale.
  2. Sugarcoat the Facts. You are much more likely to be lied to (that is what sugarcoating is after all, right?) when purchasing a used vehicle privately than you are off the lot. When purchasing from a dealer, a record of all the work performed on the vehicle can be provided to you. If that car with 30,000 kms has had $7000 worth of work done to it, then you decide if it’s worth the sticker tag. Want to know if the vehicle was in an accident? In most jurisdictions, you can enter the VIN and see the entire vehicle history (your salesman can provide this to you). The reality is that purchasing a vehicle from a reliable dealer is your greatest protection because they will provide you with documentation of everything that has been done to that vehicle.
  3. Distract Your ProspectThe author suggests that used car salesmen use a tactic of “look, there’s a bird” to avoid answering your questions and seal the deal. I think it is insulting to the purchaser to suggest that you’re entering into a transaction with the attention span of a hummingbird (I assume hummingbirds have short attention spans, but I could be stereotyping them).
  4. Talk Trash Behind Their Backs. Successful salespeople have read many books, some of which may include”How to Win Friends and Influence People” or “The Little Red Book of Selling.” There isn’t a sales manual on the planet that says anything other than to treat people as you want to be treated. There also isn’t an industry on the planet that has people working in it that aren’t successful and are talking behind your back right now, blaming you for their failures.
  5. Prey on Their Vulnerabilities. One way the author illustrates this “secret tactic” is the following: “If your prospect is in a hurry, take your time consulting with your manager. Take your time looking for the car keys. This will wear them down and reduce the likelihood that they’ll ask hard-to-answer questions.” In my experience in sales, treating people this way will lead to prospects simply walking away. Sales is about finding people’s needs and demonstrating how your product meets those needs. Salespeople want you to ask the hard questions, because it is ONLY by answering those questions that they will be able to sell you a vehicle that works for you.

The reality is that car salesmen today are at a significant disadvantage because the consumer is more educated than ever before. The internet allows the shopper to educate themselves long before they ever step foot on the lot. And, this is a good thing. The salespersons job is to help you, not trick you. Neither you nor I would have anything to do with a salesperson that practiced any of the above “tactics.”

One last reason why no salesman worth their weight in salt would attempt to pull the wool over your eyes; If they dupe you, who do you tell? EVERYONE. It would be foolish to jeopardize their careers just to get you into a vehicle that you aren’t going to love. And that’s why, when you shop at a reputable dealership, with professional salespeople, you CAN buy with confidence.

It is also why, I suspect you haven’t run into the stereotype–I know I haven’t.

Brandon Snowsell is a professional auto salesman plying his trade at Saskatoon Motor Products in Saskatoon, SK. He welcomes your comments. Feel free to visit him Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday. Appointments are recommended and can be booked here.

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