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Confessions of a car salesman

Jeanie Ahn
·Senior Producer/Reporter

You’ve narrowed down the car you want to buy and you’re ready to walk into a dealership to wheel and deal. But just because you’ve done a bit of research doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the best price, says Stephen Jo, founder of Make & Model Inc., a car buying and leasing service that helps shoppers access insider discounts. Negotiating a fair deal is more about being able to manage the power dynamic of the transaction, says Jo. Below are a few of his tips on how get in the driver’s seat of the car-buying process.

Walk in with a friendly demeanor

“It’s counterintuitive, but when you go into a dealership with a friendly demeanor, it can actually help you be in control of the car-buying process,” says Jo. A hostile attitude can be a turn-off to sales people, because at the end of the day, they want to make the sale, too. Keeping the mood light, while letting them know you’re serious about buying, shows you’re a confident buyer.

Speak less, listen more

You don’t have to be all-knowing about the car-buying process, but you do have to display confidence if you don’t want to be taken advantage of. Carry yourself with confidence: Your posture and gestures can reveal your insecurities. Another giveaway, Jo says, is when people talk too much and overshare. “You just need to ask that simple strategic question of how much this car will cost, so let the salesperson talk,” advises Jo.

Build rapport

Mirror what the salesperson is trying to do with you by building rapport with him or her—find some common ground. Jo says that establishing some connection points help level the power dynamic.

Control the conversation with questions

“It’s good to ask all sorts of questions because whomever is asking the questions is controlling the conversation,” says Jo. The salespeople are trained to ask you questions to get to know you, to build trust and get you to start accepting their recommendations. So flip the script and ask the salesperson what type of car he or she drives and why. You might be able to use this information when it comes time comes to negotiate a deal.

And make sure you ask how long he or she has worked at the dealership. It’s an indicator of how hungry for a deal he or she might be, says Jo. Also, there are dealership politics at play, so if the salesperson you’re working with is relatively new there, he or she will probably need to go directly to a manager to negotiate the deal, so save your energy for that conversation, advises Jo.

Shop around

“One of the biggest fears for a dealership is that the customer will take their numbers and cross shop it with another—that’s the biggest power play you can make,” says Jo. Remember, dealerships put in a lot of effort to get you in the door, so potential customers walking out is their biggest fear. But you want to be able to utilize it correctly, not to threaten them, says Jo. He says the best way to go about it is to say: “I just don’t think I’m getting the best deal here, is this your best price because I think I can get a better deal at the other dealership.”

Jeanie is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Reach out by email jeaniea@oath.com; follow her on Twitter @jeanie531.


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