How Not To Sell More Cars… Car Sales Tips

Recently, my wife informed me that we are due another baby at Christmas. It was a bit of a surprise but we were, understandably, delighted. Also delighted were several of my friends and family who seemed to revel in telling us that the relative calm, order and harmony we have with one baby will be destroyed by having two. I’m determined that it won’t but I’ll have to come back to you on that one! More importantly, this gives us a window of 6 months or so to get a few things done that will be rather more difficult immediately afterwards such as an extension on the house, maybe some bi-folding doors and a new kitchen.

I also decided that we should “do something” about the cars too. I have been thinking about this for a while as my car is wholly inappropriate for family life and my wife’s, whilst perfect for day-to-day use, is not really big enough for two kids and all of the paraphernalia that comes with them. So, we have three options… change mine, change hers, or change both. Changing both is unnecessary and I am a Yorkshireman so we’re really looking at option 1 or option 2. The most likely of these is changing hers for something larger and about 6 months old and this thought motivated me to visit a local garage to view a car that I had seen on Autotrader.

Parking my car in the glorious sunshine I got out and wandered around the car lot. After a couple of rounds of the lot and being unable to see the car I ventured into the showroom. The car was nowhere to be found. After about 10 minutes and much wandering I tried to find a salesperson but he / she was not easily found either. After a total of about 15 minutes one finally wandered out. This is an accurate account of our conversation…

Salesperson: “Help you?” He grunted and shrugged his shoulders.
Me: “I was looking for a car I saw in Autotrader. I cannot see it here. Is it sold?”
Salesperson: “Yes.” He looked away as if to walk off. Clearly, that was the end of the conversation from his perspective.
Me: (Now doing his job for him) “Do you get that kind of car in often?”
Salesperson: “No, but we are getting one in next week.”
Me: (Somewhat incredulously) “Right! So what’s the spec on that one?”
Salesperson: “Same.” Again shutting up and looking away.
Me: “What day will it be coming in.”
Salesperson: “Not sure.”
Me: (By now totally hacked off) “Thanks.” Leaves.

Honestly, I barely know where to start with this one. Does he not want to make any sales? Does he not want to sell more cars? Does he not want any business? Is he a total moron? Or is he so rich that he needs no commission?

What happened to politely greeting me? Finding out my name? Understanding where I found out about them from? Asking why I was changing the car? Finding out why that kind of car interested me? Working out if he could show me something else? Taking my details? Offering to call me next week when the car came in? Pre-arranging a test drive? I could go on but it’s just common sense if you want to sell more cars. Isn’t it?

There are some who will say that it’s all about car sales training and that the car salesperson was not at fault. I was watching Undercover Boss the other night and one of the directors of Hyundai went undercover within their business and one of his jaunts was to see a sales team in a showroom. One of the salespeople in the branch was sent two “fake” prospects as a test and she failed to build basic rapport (names, why they were there, what they were looking for, why that was I important to them etc) nor did she seem to have any basic knowledge about the cars themselves. None.

Now, one of the things that I like about Undercover Boss IS that it is positive. Sneaking up on your people in this way and filming them is not going to build much trust and morale if you are going to rip them apart afterwards on prime time TV so they focused on how she had not had any sales training and how she had had to learn her “product knowledge” with her father at home. But, let’s be honest here, she was a graduate with 7 months in the job and she knew seemingly nothing about the cars. Surely, she was aware that her knowledge was insufficient if she wanted to sell more cars? How difficult is it to know MPGs and boot sizes etc for a graduate who has being doing the role for the best part of a year?! Not too difficult, I’d say. I reckon a couple of weeks to get your head around it would be more realistic. Probably less.

Clearly, Hyundai should have been ensuring that all of their salespeople got amazing car sales training ( Hyundai if you’re reading!) but responsibility for your success always lies with you not with someone else and if they’re not fulfilling their part of the bargain then it is your responsibility to sort yourself out.

A son of a friend sells cars locally in Yorkshire for a well-known manufacturer and a national chain. He has been doing it less than a year. Prior to this he had never sold anything to anyone, let alone cars. He is also approaching 40 so he is not a spring chicken either and his work history is, at best, chequered prior to this job. In the last 6 months he has been top salesperson nationally (twice), won two national competitions and been consistently, week-on-week, top salesperson at his branch. To my knowledge, and on top of his commission, he has won an iPad, a holiday, some cash, a blue-tooth player, a spa weekend… cuddly toy.

I asked him what he did to sell more cars than many far more experienced car salespeople and become so successful, so fast. He said, “Work hard. Care about your customers. Listen to what they need. Give them what they want. Give them more than they want. Always follow through.”

I’m pretty sure that could be applied to any industry, any business or any job. What do you think?

If you want to read more articles like this one and get free podcasts and videos, make sure that you join my free success newsletter.

Comment via your favourite social media platform

Loading Facebook Comments ...


  1. says

    I find this articl;e both depressing and enlightening at the same time. How can any salesperson in any field treat their prospects or customers with such disdain. They clearly do not deserve to be in business. Then couple that with the attitude of an over achiever and it is clear why they are successful. In one sentence he has encapsulated the correct approach and is carrying it out what he preaches. Good luck to him!!

    • Gavin Ingham says

      Quite extraordinary really when you stop to think about it but not the first time I have had a shocking experience when trying to buy a car. And I agree, good luck to all of those who get their heads down and commit to providing a great customer experience… whatever their business.

  2. says

    Excellent article, which made me think “Blimey! I could have done OK in car sales” which is not something I’ve ever thought before! And of course congratulations on your next new arrival…

    • Gavin Ingham says

      Thanks Andy. I reckon you’d have done well in car sales too. Bet you didn’t think you were going to say that when you got up this morning!

  3. says

    Several issues here Gavin. There is probably an overpaid Manager on site who is not managing his team. Whoever employed this person did not follow up/support the role or has not actively monitored the persons ability and skills ( or lack of).
    The individual is most likely in the wrong job, thinking that Sales is an easy way to earn money and that people will want to go and buy a car from this companies large, well advertised site. Sites like this have so much choice to offer that they depend on the workforce just attending work and the customer doing the buying rather than smaller sites or single brand garages who have to rely on product knowledge and personal skills to sell their own product to customers. I think you came across a Sales Attendant rather than a Sales Person – big difference.
    Oh and if you want someone to find you a lovely car, I can put you in touch with a great Salesperson @ VW who will take all your details and will telephone you to discuss your requirements and preferences…
    happy car shopping!

    • Gavin Ingham says

      Indeed Alyson. So many that it is difficult to choose which to not talk about! And you’re right that some people just do not realise that being a great salesperson, in whatever industry, requires dedication and commitment. Have a great weekend :-).

  4. Tony Dandridge says

    Hi Gavin

    I hope that you are well, we must get together at some point, I’m doing some interesting research for a couple of clients into innovative sales focused technologies and services which an exchange of ideas between us may be useful for us both.

    However, I read your article on the quality of certain salespeople, below is a recent email transcript which I don’t know whether it made me laugh or my blood boil…

    The company in question is a decent sized business intelligence software provider with (what looks like) a great product:

    My initial enquiry went along the lines:

    “…I am working with a growing number of clients helping to identify innovative solutions which help drive business performance and efficiency.

    1. Is it possible to setup a web demo with you, whilst I have run through the basics and followed your getting started guide, it does look like there is far more functionality…

    2. Do you have any/many partners or representation in the UK?

    All very normal in my opinion sets me out as an influencer, with no buying power but fairly involved in the process.

    The reply was amongst the most aggressive email responses to an enquiry I have ever received from a solutions company stating:

    Reply to (1) above:

    Yes, but we will need the presence of one client on the call if they will be responsible for purchasing the license. If you will be responsible for purchasing the license, then a client need not be present.

    and reply to (2)

    An account executive could assist you more if I decide that a demo is the next step forward.

    and this is just the Sales Exec, I can’t see this one going forward…

    Speak soon
    Kindest regards

    • Gavin Ingham says


      Good to hear from you. I think that we can conclude that if you want to achieve extraordinary results in sales you need to really listen to your clients and see how you can work together to help each other. If you’re only focused on closing and making sales you are inevitably going to miss things!!

      Have a great weekend.
      Kind regards

  5. Tony Dandridge says

    I forgot to mention…

    The “super” salesman who would only demo to me if I had a client on the call describes himself (from his linkedin profile)

    “Some people are born developers, others maybe born financial experts. My gift is that of a sales/ marketing and networking orientation. I am passionate about marketing, sales and business strategy, especially within the online media and software industry.”

    Oh, how we laughed!

  6. says

    “Cuddly toy,” you’ve been watching too much TV! This is a great article and clearly demonstrates the difference in passion. Your friend’s son likes people and cars, the Hyundai employee seems as though she just needed a job … in a cosy environment.

    I purchased an iPad from the Apple store last week and after the sale, my daughter and I looked at a few accessories before leaving the store. As I left, the sales guy and myself engaged in some small talk and as I walked out the door he said, “thank you, see you again Trish.” He was a great salesperson anyway and I like the Apple store in Cribbs, Bristol, but that was a touch of class and customer service that made it worth me buying from them rather than Amazon, even though Apple are more expensive.

    My experience has been that those people working for Apple are at the very least passionate about the products they sell. To me, it’s a good place to start!

    • Gavin Ingham says

      Trish. You’re right! A good customer experience from staff who are passionate about their products, their company and their customers makes a massive difference and is worth real money in the real world. I too had a fantastic experience at and Apple store recently testing mikes for the iPad. I think that the “Genius” was as excited to do the tests as I was. Needless to say, he made a sale!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>