A Car Lot
Credit: csmonitor.com

A Typical Workday

A car salesman has a long workday that requires more than just selling cars to a customers. First he must come in and check his emails and phone messages from customers to decide if he will need to set up appointments with customers. Then car salesmen usually go out and survey the lot and check for new inventory that came in overnight. This is a smart thing to check because this will allow them to offer new cars to customers.

Once all of this is done, he can go out and start selling cars. Most dealerships have something called "ups" which makes all car salesmen equal. "Ups" is basically when all car salesmen get in line and they take turns serving customers. When a car salesman is "up" it is his turn to serve the next customer that comes onto the lot.

The very next thing a car salesman must do to succeed is greet the customer. Saying something such as, "can I help you today?" won't work because a customer will probably say "I'm just looking." Instead, use questions that don't have yes or no answers such as "what kind of car are you looking for today?" Or "what features would you like in your next car?" Another way of greeting the customer in a nice way is saying something like "welcome to ___ dealership, my name is ___, what can I help you find today? Fill in the blanks with the real words.

Next they must ask customers questions to narrow their wish list down. Common question include:

  • Would you like a standard or automatic transmission? Some people don't like standard or don't know how to drive it.
  • What kind of color car would you like? Narrowing the color down will help customers find a good car too.
  • Would you like a new or used car? Some customers will be able to afford new cars and some will want used cars to save money.
  • Are you willing to lease a car? Leasing a car gives customers another way of getting a nice car without the high price tag.
  • What's your budget? This one is necessary. You'll need to know a customers budget to understand the type of car they'll need. If they give you a low amount then you'll need to show them older, more used cars.
  • What features would you like? What do customers value more; safety, performance, speed, style, fuel economy, size, the number of people it can fit, etc? This will help you a lot as a car salesman. If someone tells you that they want a car with speed and style then show them some sports cars or muscle cars. If someone tells you that they want a car will good fuel mileage then show them a small economic car.
  • What type of car would you like? Does this customer want a truck, mini-van, sedan, sports car, muscle car, sports utility, small economic  car, hybrid, etc.

Once a customer has found a car that they like then a salesman will take them on a test drive. If the customer likes the car then they will negotiate, do the paper work, give them the keys, and start all over again.

Education & Experience

One great advantage to being a car salesman is that they can easily get hired with a high school diploma, even in this economy.

Usually experience isn't necessary but any sort of sales experience will help increase the chances of getting hired. The best part is that automobile sales jobs are almost always hiring. The reason is many people give up and quit if they can't sell a car. The bad thing is that if you don't meet the Sales quota then you could get fired but this is rare for a good salesman.

Hours & Days Worked

Hours can be a huge disadvantage to those who have an outside life with friends and family. Car salesmen usually work over 8 hours per day. Most work 10-12+ hours each day. In addition it's common to work 5-7 days per week. This means sacrificing your Saturday's and sometimes Sunday's to make a living. Some car dealerships give you a day off on one of the slower days such as a Tuesday or Wednesday. Vacation time is usually given, but overall the hours are pretty harsh.

Wages & Commission

A typical car salesman earns straight commission. This is commission only. Sometimes they will pay you a salary plus commission but this is less common. This could be good and bad. The disadvantage is that you could work all day and not sell a car. Guess what, you just worked for free! Commission is a big advantage for people who can sell things easily. On a good day, you could sell multiple cars and earn great commission.

The commission pay rates are confusing for some people. Usually you'll make around 25% of profit off a car. This means if a car had a $2,000 profit you would get $500 in commission. Used cars typically make more than new cars because they have higher profit margins. Car salesmen usually get a "mini" deal on a car if it didn't make a lot of profit. A "mini"deal is usually somewhere between $50-150.

In addition to the commission percentage, the dealership might offer incentives for reaching sales quotas. Selling a certain number of cars in a month, selling a number of a specific type of car, or selling old inventory from the past year will provide good incentives that increase your paycheck. This is why many car salesmen will work harder to sell you a car at the end of the month.

Overall it varies. Some car salesmen don't try and starve. The best car salesmen earn over $100,000 each year, but the majority earn somewhere in the middle around $50,000+ which is pretty good for a non-labor intensive job that you can get right out of high school. Just remember that budgeting will be very hard if you become a car salesman. One week you might get $1,500 and the next week you might get $500.

Is This The Job For You?

If you are someone who isn't very good at selling stuff, know nothing about cars, have a family, and don't like the idea of earning commission then you might want to consider a different job. However, if you have the magic sales charm and are willing to put in the hours then you could make a good living selling cars. Just don't make the big mistake that most people make, quitting early. Give it a couple of months and if you still aren't earning good money by then, you'll want to look for another job.