Top 10 questions to ask a car salesman

How to take control and get a better deal

Top ten: car salesman

MORE NEW car sales mean more people going into dealerships to deal. The problem is, the showroom floor is far from being a level playing field. Sales people are trained to manage customers from the moment they step on the forecourt, to the second they sign on the dotted line.

It’s about power: who has it, and who doesn’t. Surprisingly, though dealers need customers far more than customers need dealers, power generally rests with the latter.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. By asking sales people a few simple, but powerful questions themselves, customers can begin to wrest control of the sales encounter. The more control they have, the more confident they will feel and the better the deal they will win for themselves.

Here are 10 questions they should ask:

Hello, I’m [NAME] – and you are?

Salesmen are taught to gain control of customers quickly and the best way is with a warm introduction. Beat them to it by introducing yourself and asking their name first. It’ll do wonders for your confidence, and make you feel a little more in control. You’ll win the salesman’s respect, too.

What choice of teas and coffees do you have?  I’m parched…

This reinforces your sense of control by establishing who’s the boss. There’s nothing like seeing a salesman play mother.

How are you going to make my day?

This lets salesman know you’re a serious customer while putting the responsibility of pleasing you in his hands. If he makes you unhappy, it’s clear you’ll walk.

How badly do you want my part-exchange?

This only works if you have a saleable car but usefully turns the tables; transforming you from passive purchaser of his car to active seller of yours. Dealers can make much more money selling used cars than new, so don’t undersell what you have.

How big is the discount?

Salesmen are fond of asking customers so-called “open” questions (questions that invite a discussion) rather than “closed” questions (ones that can be answered  with a simple “no”) so approach the tricky subject of discounts by asking a question that assumes one will be given – you just want to know how much.

How low can you go?

Dealers can be flexible with finance rates, so don’t accept the first one they offer you.

What colours, trims or options should I have/avoid?

You want to bring the salesman down from his selling perch, and behaving more like an impartial and trusted advisor. Test if he’s capable by seeing if he can steer you intelligently towards the right trims and specifications.

What extras are you going to sweeten the deal with?

Price isn’t the only thing up for negotiation; there are options, too. Even a free or reduced-price extended warranty or service plan would be nice.

Can I speak to the decision maker?

Some dealers like to keep the people who really pull the strings out of sight, and use their salespeople as powerless intermediaries shuttling back and forth from you to them. If you don’t feel you’re being taken seriously enough, or just not getting through, politely ask the salesman if he’d mind introducing you to his boss.

Where’s the exit?

This is the one question no salesman wants to hear.  Tell him there’s no point him ringing you back, and you certainly won’t be going home to mull things over. Between this desk and that door, he may just sharpen his pencil.

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