The Greeting and Test Drive

The salesman attempts to lead you through a series of steps that ultimately will lead him to his goal. Here's how his game plan works:

First, the car salesman greets you. From the start, he tries to create a bond with you. He wants to gain your trust.

Then he asks you a few innocent questions. Thinking nothing of it, you answer these questions honestly, hoping that the information you give will help him to help you. In reality, the information you give him may be used against you in later negotiations. What kinds of information can the car salesman learn from you in a casual exchange? In only a few minutes, a shrewd salesman can get you to reveal:

  • Your monthly payment budget
  • How far you can stretch that budget
  • How much cash you have to spend
  • How much additional cash you can get
  • How much shopping you've already done
  • How desperate you are to buy a car
  • How much you know about his game
Using this information, the salesman can determine how serious you are about buying, how far you can be pushed, and most importantly, how much money you can be persuaded to spend.

He helps you determine which car is best for you. He'll do this based on the information you shared with him regarding your needs, your budget and so on. Or it may be that you simply told him which vehicle you want to buy.

Now he does the "walk-around" - a presentation of the vehicle, from front to back, top to bottom. As he does, he talks about the things - safety, comfort, performance - that he feels are important to you in the hopes of raising your "emotional temperature".

He invites you to sit in the car. He tells you to feel the plushness of the fabric and to flip the various switches. And as you do, you may be subconsciously convincing yourself that this car should be yours. It's called "taking mental ownership."

Now he asks you an all-important question: "How about a test drive?" He's hoping you'll say "yes" because he knows that everyone - even the most jaded car shopper - gets at least a little emotionally charged by test-driving a brand new car. And that's important because emotionally-charged buyers negotiate less effectively than analytical buyers.

So now you're zipping down the road behind the wheel of this vehicle. As you're driving, he's watching you and listening to you and determining how high your "emotional temperature" is rising. Along the way, he tells you how easy it is to own this awesome car. He may tell you how desperate his boss is to sell it. Or he may tell you about the big "limited time only" sale the dealership is having.

In other words, now that you're getting emotionally charged, he's creating a sense of urgency - the feeling that you'd be foolish if you didn't jump at the chance to own this beautiful new car today.

You arrive back at the dealership and now the salesman's do-or-die moment is at hand. He wants to get you inside the office and seated at his desk while you're still pumped up from the test drive. How he does this depends on his style. If he's straightforward, he may invite you to go inside and make an offer to buy the car. If he's sly, he may invite you to go inside and "talk about numbers" or have some coffee. If he's pushy, he may simply say "follow me" and march inside with you following like a puppy.

If none of these work - if you simply say "no" - then he may try the car salesman's classic line - his magic words: "What can we do to earn your business today?" This is your invitation to lay it on the line. And the salesman knows that, for most customers, it usually comes down to price. So if you say, "Nothing. I'm not buying today," then he responds with his ace-in-the-hole: "You mean you wouldn't buy today even if the price was right?" Or even better: "If I could sell you this $22,000 car for $16,000 (or whatever price he dreams up), would you buy it today?"

Note that he didn't offer to sell you that $22,000 car for only $16,000. He merely asked, "If I could, would you?"
"If I could..., would you...?" is one of many car salesmen's favorite techniques. It is not a real offer. It is merely a ploy.
By making an "offer" that is outrageously great, he knows that you'll probably say "yes". And he knows that if he can get you to say "yes" to any offer, then he has a chance of getting you to say "yes" to buying that car.

Now he's got your curiosity peaked. You think this may be the opportunity you're looking for. Besides, car shopping is a hassle; it would be nice to get it over with. The salesman says, "Let's see if we can work something out." And it's in to the sales office you go . . .

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