the more things change…

Ever talk to someone and immediately know that they are full of shit?

Having had an eclectic career, I have had the luxury of meeting a lot of people and as much as I hate to say it some people can be put in neat little boxes based on only a first impression.

Most of my career was spent in some incarnation or other in the car business. Between the wholesale auctions and retail sales I accumulated a lot of connections and a lot of knowledge. In addition, and perhaps most important, I acquired a lot of wisdom, particularly in the areas of first impressions and knowing when to speak and when not to. Bottom line, you don’t know what someone knows and someone out there always knows more than you.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the automotive industry.

I was at the top of my profession in every venue of the car business. At the auction I was industry recognized and respected for my remarketing skills. I was regularly recruited to opine about market trends, valuations and often called on to execute the arduous task of changing a powerhouse customer’s expectations about what they think their inventory is worth vs its actual value.

In retail sales I was always at the top of the board in sales and customer satisfaction. I made it my business, while my colleagues were pacing the parking lot looking for victims or smoking cigarettes, to study the competition; learn what my product had/didn’t offer vs similar models; and know my own product inside and out. The guys who didn’t do so remained at the bottom of the board. In addition, I was the guy who was given the toughest of customers. The unruly and hostile or just the aggressive and unreasonable ones were immediately sent my way. One colleague called me “Magic Man”, after he saw me spin around a real hostile customer. I was also called the “anti-salesman” because I never lied, never pushed with cheesy lines and I always stayed calm and focused. The things I always did was learn who I was dealing with, never show my hand and, here is the big one, I never ever talked out of my ass ( for lack of a better term). Even as a senior manager of a auto finance company I never violated that policy. Again, there is always someone smarter. Once you’ve revealed yourself a fool there is absolutely no turning back.

Sadly, few people in the industry learned what I did. In the few times since I was forcibly retired, I have had the displeasure of buying a few cars. In the process of helping my mother buy her Escape, buying my motorcycle and my most recent car I have had only one good experience.

It was a good experience because I told the salesperson up front, as I did with the others, that I’m experienced in the business. ANY salesperson worth his salt who hears this will immediately treat you differently. By differently I mean that they will be more generous in appraising your trade (I know within 100 dollars what any trade is worth), in the first offer of price and in product knowledge. This salesperson simply asked me what I wanted, how much I wanted for my trade and how much I wanted to pay for the trade. Each of my numbers were readily accepted without the dreaded haggling process and it was smooth. Other than that it was mostly terrible in my other experiences.

I recently traded my truck in (I got a fair offer on my trade and the new vehicle) at a local dealership. It is a used vehicle and as shit happens it has an issue with the drive train that needed to be addressed. I told the service manager exactly what the problem was and I was correct. As I waited for my car to be evaluated I struck up a conversation with a bored salesman. He was an older gent, clearly at the end of his career, and I could tell by his desk that he wasn’t very organized. A messy desk tells customers a lot about their salesperson btw.

We got to talking. I asked him how sales were, what was hot and what wasn’t in the product line, etc. It wasn’t long before he recognized that I was an industry insider but instead of bringing his A game and not embarrassing himself he went the other direction and began talking directly out of his ass. I contained myself, not the first person to do this in front of me and I don’t point it out to them, I just pop some popcorn and dig in for the ride. Some of the things he said about the auctions immediately told me that his auction experience consisted of watching Barrett-Jackson on his sofa in his underwear.

Just as it was getting good and I was almost unable to contain my snicker he was called into the Sales Manager’s office where his manager proceeded to dress him down. Completely unrelated to our conversation, the best I can guess is that he had had a conversation with a customer that was laden with multiple errors, errors that the Sales Manager was forced to correct at great embarrassment to himself and the dealership. He gave it to the guy pretty good. I felt bad for the guy but I was hopeful that it may cause him to evaluate his habits and improve so that it never happened again but I suspect that at his age it won’t lead to change. I watched him leave the Sales Manager’s office with his tail between his legs. I felt bad for him and I didn’t. The manager wasn’t wrong in what he said. It was how he did it that bothered me.

The Sales Manager shouldn’t have dressed him down with the door open. I don’t care how small and claustrophobic his shitty little office was, the showroom was even smaller relatively speaking and he should have shut his door. Everyone heard this poor bastard get it. THAT is a major no-no for all involved.

In my many years in the biz, I spent most of them in a management capacity. Employee morale is everything and all positive morale stems from proper communication. Yelling is the biggest offense, tearing someone a new one in front of his colleagues is almost as bad. Every conversation with an employee has to have balance. For every thing you tell them they’re doing wrong you should try to tell them what they are doing right. And always behind closed doors.

This Sales Manager, who I enjoyed working with when I did my paperwork, showed a lot of others how not to do things and the lesson he “taught” his employee is forever overshadowed by the way he carried it out.

It’s not a new thing, the industry hasn’t changed much since I left it and I fear it never will.

18 thoughts on “the more things change…”

  1. So many people think that selling is as easy as buying … I worked in a used car yard while studying and sold a lot of cheap cars, not much in my pocket, but these people came back when they had more to spend because they appreciated the respect and lack of bs. Selling means you need to understand where the buyer stands, what he needs (as opposed to wants) and to never steer them wrong for a quick buck. 48 hours of work over a weekend, and I earned close to six figures for the five years of that job (and one of the customers bought the business when the boss retired! pps, I was his only employee after the first year).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Or hungry. Or desperate to not end up with studies that kept me broke for years after.
        And some of the jobs students do – for a pittance – were demeaning and horrid (work and bosses). I liked walking the yard, checking the stock, talking to people.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That, too. Why do something that isn’t enjoyable? I loved it for a few reasons: different people, nice people (generally), working outside (mostly), driving cars (love driving/riding/comp), basically my own boss (cd do homework in the quite times!).
        What’s not to like?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Car salesmen run a mile from me as I bleed them for every solitary penny/discount/special deal. I got a brand new diesel Peugeot 206 for £4000 in 2005. OK, we had 2 cars less than 12 months old to put in p/x (one had only cost me a grand with a previous trade in and the other was an identical car which had cost us £3K with another trade in) but I got the price down from £13,000 to £4250. I told him if he could lose the £250, he’d got deal and I’d write him a cheque there and then. A bit of calculation and yep, £4000 was agreed.
    Then I went to work.
    Already I had a year’s free insurance, air conditioning as standard and 3 years RAC cover.
    Included in the price was 6 months road tax, I asked for 12, and got it at no extra charge. I also asked for a full tank of fuel, which I also got. Then I asked about mats. He shook his head, then added I could buy a suitable set for around £40, so I said if they were only £40, he could afford to throw them in too. He did.
    When I got home, the phone was ringing. It was the salesman, and I thought he’d changed his mind or wanted to re-evaluate. He said no, everything was OK but wanted to confirm I had in fact purchased a diesel vehicle. I said yes, and I swear he was crying when he told me I was entitled to £400 cashback, so I got a new car for £3,600.
    Ten years later, I sold it with just over 30,000 miles on the clock (no, I haven’t missed an 0, thirty thousand miles) and got £1600 for it. So depreciation over ten years was two grand.

    Liked by 1 person

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