The car sales process and the “9 point plan”

The car sales process has been developed over many years and evolves with each new generation of sales teams, new products coming to the market and the need to develop new income streams and profit centres. The fundamental process has remained the same, however, and is designed with only one objective: to separate you from your money (and, of course get you in a new car).

This is the general chain of events when your average customer enters the showroom:

• The “meet and greet”
• Introductions
• Information gathering (qualification)
• Part-exchange appraisal (where appropriate)
• The test drive (“test drives sell cars!”)
• Funding solutions (our friend, the Business Manager)
• Third-party involvement
• Negotiation
• The close

These nine actions are all part of a deliberate plan and can be broken down as follows:

The meet and greet

The salesman is trained to greet the customer with a big friendly smile and a warm handshake. This is vitally important as another mantra is “people buy people” and first impressions are important to both the customer and the salesman. Training also teaches the salesman to pick up on any sign of timidity or lack of confidence and use it to their advantage.


The salesman will announce his name and perhaps offer a business card. He will always offer the customer a seat while maintaining eye contact. By asking the customer to sit down he is attempting to gain control of the situation at an early stage as he tries to qualify the customer’s needs.

Information gathering/qualification

The first and most important thing the salesman will do is record the customer’s details as they are now officially a “prospect”. Name, Address, Telephone Number and Email address are all vital for today’s marketing databases. The salesman will then begin to qualify the customer by establishing the “wants and needs”.

• “Do you need a 3- or 5- door car?”
• “Do you want a petrol or diesel engine?”
• “How many miles do you cover a year?”
• “Is this a first or second car?”
• “Would you like a manual or automatic gearbox?”
• “Do you have a part-exchange?”
• “What is your budget?”
• “Whose bank will you be using to fund your purchase – ours or yours?”
• “When are you looking to make your purchase?”
• “What model\colours do you like?”

All these questions are designed to try to match the customer with the correct car but, as we know, this is not always the “correct” car for the customer. It will on many occasions turn out to be the “correct” car for the salesman (the one which earns him the most commission). If you follow our earlier tips on research you can avoid the pitfalls that may occur here if you were underprepared.

Part-exchange appraisal

The salesman will attempt to gather as much information about the customer’s current vehicle as possible. He will often say that the customer’s particular model is outdated and therefore worth less than they may think. The salesman will more often be told not to ask the customer how much they are looking for because if they say a higher figure the salesman will have less confidence when delivering his valuation. The salesman will take a tour of the vehicle, recording all the relevant information such as defects or marks. He is not likely to want to do much conversing during this exercise. When he has finished looking over the car the salesman will then go and ask the controller or manager to give a valuation figure.
These valuations are worked out using the trade “bibles”: Glass’s guide and CAP Black Book.

Test drive

Based on the information given, the salesman will always offer a test drive (he needs to “create desire”). Usually the customer will be taken on a prearranged route for 10-20 minutes and during this time the salesman will ask various questions relating to the car:
• “How does it feel?”
• “Is it comfortable?”
• “Is the engine responsive?”
• “How’s the visibility?”
• “How smooth does it feel?”

A little trick widely used in the trade is where the customer is directed to park on return from the test drive. Believe it or not they will always try to park as close as possible to the customer’s current car so a direct comparison can be made. They want the customer to get out of the shiny new car and see their old car sitting next to it. They want the customer to think “I’ve got to get back in the old car after driving this lovely new car”. Again they are “creating desire”.

Funding solutions

On arrival back at the showroom the salesman will usually introduce the customer to the Business Manager while he goes off to get the price on the customer’s part-exchange. The Business Manager will attempt to interest the customer in various finance packages (which are usually the ones which earn the company the most profit) and explain about other add-on products and accessories. An attempt will also be made at a “trial close” by asking a question such as:
“How will you be leaving a deposit today?”
The Business Manager will also ask other leading questions such as:
“What is your target monthly payment?”
“Did you want to put any more money down on top of the value of your existing car?”
The customer will always be offered add-on products such as paintwork protection, GAP protection (basically “back to invoice” insurance which covers the difference between an insurance payout and the original price of a new car), tyre protection and PPP (payment protection plans). These are all valuable products but the dealer usually makes a massive margin on them so, as with everything, it pays to shop around.

Third-party involvement

The salesman will have informed his Controller\Manager of every action that has been taken so far and will have been coached on what to say to the customer based on their responses. This is all designed to ensure that the sales process is adhered to. The customer may not even have had any dealings with a manager at this stage.


The customer will no doubt be aware what the retail price of the car they potentially want is. They may have an idea how much their current vehicle is roughly worth and they will have an idea of the cost of any optional extras. Also they will have an idea of the cost of the monthly repayments if they are getting finance on the vehicle. The negotiation begins when the gap between the figures the dealer has presented and the customer’s “ideal world” has to be bridged.

The close

When the customer is content with everything that has happened and is prepared to proceed with the purchase, a deposit will be taken and they will be asked to sign the purchase order. At this stage a mutual collection point will be arranged and the customer will have been closed.

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