How to Sell More Cars

How to Sell More Cars to Customers, Wholesalers and Other Dealerships

Anyone who says selling cars is easy is either blowing smoke up your tailpipe, have never tried it or have been doing it long enough to know the tricks of the trade. Even if the latter is true, they still know how difficult it can be if you haven’t learned the proven tips for selling a car.

Buying a vehicle is a big purchase for most people, and they don’t take it lightly. Customers do their research and don’t want to feel pressured to make decisions at the dealership. Before they even pull up to the lot, most customers are already putting up walls to ward off salespeople. Getting a read on prospects is already hard enough, and it can seem impossible when the prospect doesn’t want to open up.

Because buying a car is a huge financial commitment many customers are hesitant to pull the trigger, but if they’re at the dealership they’re serious about making a purchase. Whether they buy a car from your dealership largely comes down to having the right vehicles available and how you move in to make the sale.

Then there’s the issue of aged inventory. Vehicles that haven’t caught the eye of consumers will fall prey to lot rot if you don’t take additional measures. In this instance wholesalers and other dealers become your buyer.

End customers may be the primary buying source, but taking a more holistic approach that includes wholesalers and dealers is the most efficient way to really boost car sales. Use this guide to discover car selling techniques and solutions that can help salespeople win over every type of buyer.

How to Sell More Cars to Potential Customers

You’re working the floor and you spot a customer walking onto the lot. What’s your immediate reaction? Do you rush over and immediately go into sales mode? Or do you stroll over and introduce yourself like you would in any other situation?

The first few minutes are crucial for making a car sale. Many customers are guarded and have preconceived notions about car salespeople that are less than flattering. It’s your job to change their opinion by being a professional who offers real value.

Initiating the Car Conversation

Dress to impress.
There’s no getting around a first impression. Despite our best intentions, humans make first impressions largely based on what they see. And that first impression is hard to overcome. Car salespeople should look professional at all times. Clothes should be business casual at the very least, you should always wear a warm smile and carry yourself with confidence.

Trust is everything.
Understand that virtually every customer pulls up to the lot thinking salespeople are pushy and just looking out for their own best interest (i.e. commission on a sale). Taking a low pressure approach and keeping your focus on the customer’s needs will build trust that nurtures a sale. And if the customer mentions something you connect with chat about it even if it isn’t directly related to the vehicle purchase. Rapport is one of the quickest ways to build trust.

Be genuine.
No fake smiles, false promises or empty compliments (about the customer or the car they’re interested in). Salespeople that are genuinely interested in helping a customer find the best vehicle for their needs and budget tend to be the top performers.

Find your happy place for working with customers. It could be commission, love for cars, pride in being able to pair people with vehicles - what matters most is that you find your motivation for truly wanting to help customers make the best purchase.

Engage customers with open-ended questions.
Engagement is key for making just about any type of sale. Many seasoned salespeople have learned engagement is a lot easier when you ask open-ended questions. An open-ended question is a question that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. For example, you can engage a customer by asking, “what do you like and dislike about your current vehicle?” You can also open up the conversation and show you willingness to help by asking, “what are the must-have features you’re looking for?”

Asking open-ended questions is one of the top tips for selling a car because it will get the customer talking and sharing information without feeling pressured.

Be cordial with other salespeople.
No customer is turned on by a cutthroat salesman. If you think they aren’t paying attention to how you interact with other salespeople at the lot, think again. If you’re friendly with the other salespeople it gives the impression that you’re a team player who isn’t the type that will steamroll others (including customers) to close a deal.

Avoid direct financial questions at this stage.
The car-buying budget is a touchy subject for many people. If you directly ask how much they’re looking to spend at the onset it can set off red flags in the mind of the buyer. Customers want salespeople to focus on their needs first and foremost. Going straight to what they want to spend can make it seem like you’re more focused on the commission.

Instead, listen for clues in the conversation that give you a rough idea of their budget. Body language is also a giveaway. For example, if they tense up or shake their head when they see/hear the sticker price you know it’s more than they want to spend.

Finding “the One”

Know your inventory.
Before you get chummy with customers, you have to know your inventory - what’s on the lot, which cars are featured in ads and what’s being reconditioned.

Get to know your customer.
Rapport builds trust while also helping you figure out who the customer is and what they’re looking for in a vehicle. So let them do most of the talking after you ask an open-ended question, and look for ways to show you understand their needs, wants and concerns. Listening is a skill that will serve you well and is just as important as highlighting your expertise when you provide advice and answers to their questions.

Provide solutions.
If a customer opens up to a salesperson they’re looking for guidance. Your expert opinion, industry knowledge and experience is what they benefit from the most. Remember, many customers do their research online before they visit a dealership. On top of knowing your inventory inside and out, you’ve got to listen to their needs, pain points and hang ups to provide solutions they haven’t come up with on their own.

Hit on features and benefits.
No matter what type of sales you’re in, highlighting features and benefits is a winning tactic. A feature is a part or capability of the vehicle, like a rear view camera. The benefit is what you get from the feature - a rear view camera makes parallel parking easier, backing out of the driveway is safer, you’re less likely to ding your bumper, etc. When you’re describing a vehicle, pair the features with benefits. For maximum impact, hit on benefits that they’ve already alluded to earlier in the conversation. It tells the customer that you’re listening to their needs and makes the sales pitch more relevant.

Get a feel for their financial situation.
How does the customer intend to purchase the vehicle? Are they interested in financing through the dealership? How much are they wanting to spend a month?

Through your conversations with the customer you should get a better feel for their financial situation. Always stick to vehicles that fit the customer’s budget. Test driving a vehicle that’s out of their price range will make it that much more difficult to close a deal on a car the customer can afford. If they aren’t open to discussing numbers, err on the side of caution and show them the most affordable models first and then move up in price.

Negotiating the Sale

Keep focused on a win-win deal.
The last thing you want is to lose a sale in the negotiation phase after working so hard to make a connection and find the perfect car. Hopefully you’ve gotten a good feel for their financial situation so you know what terms matter most to the customer. Keep this in mind when you’re negotiating the specifics of the sale. The best deals are the ones where both parties feel like they got a good deal.

Show them the value.
Most people are willing to open up the purse strings and spend a little more if it’s justified. In other words, if they see the value in spending more they will. But buyers aren’t taking your word for it or concerned about your opinion. You have to back up value points with data. If you can show how a more expensive model or upgrade is a sound investment in terms of resale, gas savings, improved safety, etc. there’s a good chance the customer will stretch their budget a little further. Here again, you’ll want to use what you learned in earlier conversations and stick to value points that appeal most to the customer.

The four square system.
The four square system is commonly used to determine a price during negotiations. It consists of price, payments, trade in and cash down. The two factors you want to pay most attention to are payments and cash down. These can be modified to meet the customer’s long-term and immediate needs without lowering the price.

Team up with a manager.
Once you have a commitment from a customer it can help to have a manager come in to seal the deal, especially if you are new to selling cars.

Additional Car Sales Tips for Selling More

  • Before initiating contact with a new customer prepare yourself for the “I’m just looking” response. Nine times out of ten that’s what they say even when they’re looking to buy.
  • Make eye contact when you’re talking to customers.
  • Ask open-ended questions that will get a positive answer.
  • Mimic the customer’s body language as a way to build a connection.
  • Be wary if the customer’s arms are crossed. It’s a defensive, closed off posture that suggests the customer isn’t in the mindset to negotiate.
  • If the customer seems closed off talk about something other than cars until they relax.
  • People who have never bought a car on their own before usually need extra guidance and attention before they are comfortable enough to commit.
  • Make it all about the customer. After all, they’re the one that’s making a five figure purchase, not you.
  • Understand that every car buyer is unique. You’ll never come across two buyers that have the same exact needs, preferences and lifestyles.
  • Patience pays off. It can take weeks to get a customer to commit. If you try to rush the deal it may never happen.

How do I get more traffic to my dealership?

The first step to selling more cars is to get more qualified customers out to your lot. Sales is a numbers game to a large degree, so make sure the numbers work in your favor.

  • Provide excellent, detailed car descriptions. Vague descriptions aren’t likely to peak a buyer’s interest. Give them as many details as possible because you never know which feature is going to check a must-have box. And don’t forget to hit on the benefits.
  • Add lots of high-quality photos of vehicles. At the end of the day, car buyers shop with their eyes. Customers also want to see high-quality photos to know that the vehicle truly matches the description.
  • Actively manage online reviews. Customers are reading reviews before they decide which dealership to visit. All it takes is a few bad reviews to drive potential customers to your competition. You can’t control what people say online, but you can control how you respond. Someone on the marketing team needs to be tasked with responding to negative reviews quickly. The response should acknowledge the individual's dissatisfaction, apologize and offer solutions to make things right. Often reviewers will update their review with a more positive opinion, and readers will see that you care about customer experience.
  • Market everywhere online. A recent study from Cox Automotive found car buyers are spending more time online and less time at the dealership. These days if your dealership doesn’t have a website you’re not really competitive. But simply having a website still isn’t enough. To gain visibility in the search engines you need to put effort into local search engine optimization (SEO). For brick-and-mortar businesses like car dealerships, what you really want to rank for is locally-based searches to capture leads that are looking to buy in your area. If you think social media is a waste of time, think again. It’s a powerful (and free) marketing platform that can bring more traffic to your lot. Social media is especially useful for advertising special promotions and deals.
  • Follow up. Many people don’t buy a car on their first visit to the dealership. On average, buyers visit 2-3 dealerships before making a purchase. Whether or not a person buys a vehicle, follow up is essential. It keeps you at the forefront of the buyer’s mind if they are still in the market, and keeping the lines of communication open with customers who make a purchase can lead to more referrals.

How to Sell More Cars to Car Dealership Owners

Some cars just aren’t meant to be sold to the general public. For whatever reason, they sit for months without generating any real interest. They start to take up space and even salespeople begin to overlook them.

That’s when it’s time to consider your wholesale options. Many dealers are adverse to wholesaling. They liken it to admitting defeat when in reality it’s a savvy decision that has real upsides. Wholesaling vehicles can:

  • Prevent lot rot issues.
  • Free up funds that can be used to purchase other higher yield vehicles.
  • Shorten time to sale.
  • Be a revenue generator.

You read that last point right. Wholesaling can actually be profitable if you play your cards right. Use these tips for selling a car to another dealer or wholesaler and you’re more likely to turn a profit than take a loss on aged inventory and trade-ins that don’t sell in your market.

Get to know other dealers in your area.
Sometimes a car won’t sell because it isn’t right for your customer base. But that doesn’t mean other dealerships aren’t eager to have it on their lot. Don’t think of other dealers in town as strictly competition. Getting to know their niche and what they sell can lead to strategic partnerships that help you move inventory.

Build relationships with local wholesalers.
Wholesalers are skilled at selling vehicles that seem unsellable. Their entire business is based on finding used vehicles on the cheap and getting them in the hands of the right dealer. Building relationships with wholesalers in your area gives you another avenue for making a profit on vehicles that don’t fit your customers’ needs. This can take time and a few successful deals. Trust is huge for wholesalers since they often agree to purchase vehicles sight unseen.

Give online auto auctions a try.
Many dealers use traditional auto auctions as a last resort because they are cumbersome and rarely a profitable venture. The time it takes out of your day and transporting the vehicle to the auction site eats into the profit margin often turning the wholesale into a loss.

Online auto auctions help close the gap and even make wholesaling to other dealerships a viable business model. There’s much less expense involved in terms of fees and transport, the process is much less time-consuming and the pool of buyers is much larger.

ACV Auctions is used by thousands of dealers across the country to buy and sell vehicles. Our platform offers a simplified, streamlined auto auction process that saves you time and money as a seller and provides more assurance as a buyer. One thing that sets our platform apart is in-depth condition reports. We send our inspectors to your location to create comprehensive condition reports that include all the specifics as well as 30-40 high-res photos. With our end-to-end service title transfers and transportation are also handled.

Sign up for a free ACV account and create a listing in just a few minutes.