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Career: Auto Salesperson

A Day in the life of a Auto Salesperson

Car salespeople like the challenge of learning about autos and the unique features of each model and brand, and finding the appropriate match for a customer. "I don't know of another profession," mentioned one salesman, "where there's so much excitement and uncertainty. Everyone who walks into your business wants to buy a car. You've got to find a way to make them want to buy your car. You've got to understand what they need." This psychological aspect to the profession cannot be minimized. People buy cars for a variety of reasons, and the automobile salesman's job is to discover what those are. Successful salesmen are combinations of businessmen, advisors, and friends. The average automobile salesman sells between 200 and 1,000 cars per year. Most average over one per day. Although many salesmen work partially for salary, many include "commission on sales" as a significant part of their compensation, placing them under some pressure to sell cars. Professional turnover, based primarily on production, is high. Those who can't sell cars aren't given a long chance to prove themselves; dealers are under pressure to sell cars themselves. Automobile dealers follow their clients from the moment they walk into the dealership through their signing of the final paperwork. Successful salespeople exude honesty and interest. Integrity is respected. Car sales requires someone who thrives on the excitement of the deal and has a strong degree of self-confidence. Other important qualities are the ability to listen, a thorough knowledge of product line, and an understanding of financing options. The most significant schism in the industry is between those who work for initial dealerships, and those who work for used car dealerships. Not only must the used-car salesman be aware of the features associated with a variety of models, she must also be familiar with mileage, modifications, rebuilds, and the quirks of each car on the lot. As well, the used-car salesman works against a stereotype as a slick, oily con-artist looking to make a quick buck. Part of this may be due to the larger commissions used-car salesman make on each sale, thus encouraging them to complete as many sales as possible.

Paying Your Dues

A high-school education is required mainly by the large employers. College coursework in such fields as marketing, finance, sales, psychology and public speaking is becoming more common. Large employers have their own sales-training methods, and many new salesmen spend three or four weeks at a national training center, where they learn about the manufacturing process, each model's features, all available options, general negotiating strategies and the culture of the company they work for. Others are trained by other salesmen and have an initial probationary period where all deals must be overseen and approved by more experienced colleague. Voluntary certification through the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and the Society of Automotive Sales Professionals (SASP) is gaining popularity, but is not required.

Associated Careers

Automobile salesmen use their personal finesse and their deftness with numbers in a variety of professions as salesmen. Some move into real-estate sales, where the same abilities are important. A few become supply-house salesmen, and negotiate large scale contracts and long-term relationships between retail salesmen and suppliers. Others who are successful and can get financing start their own car dealerships where they hire other car salesmen. Most automobile salesman continue to work at least part-time as automobile salesmen with increasing commissions, finding the excitement of the deal and the challenge of selling such a high-ticket item addictive.

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