car saleschicks yea?nay?
August 25, 2006 6:52 PM   Subscribe

I am a female 33. I just started a job selling cars. I was wondering others opinions of auto saleswomen. Or if any other women on here had the same career, what their experience was.
posted by meeshell to Work & Money (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Be charming, as honest as you can muster and aggressive. You will empty the lot.
posted by caddis at 7:03 PM on August 25, 2006

I agree with caddis. I'm done with pushy, smelly, dishonest, sleazy, male car salespeople. I've met a few that were decent and honest, but they are a rarity, and because of that if you can stand out as a female salesperson as well as gaining a reputation as honest and charming, you will do very, very well.
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:08 PM on August 25, 2006

If you're selling high-end luxury cars, some men are going to expect there's a quid pro quo involving their not negotiating the price too aggressively, and your not objecting to intimate "test drives". This sucks, but it's far from uncommon, and may even be an expectation of some sleazy dealership managers.
posted by orthogonality at 7:30 PM on August 25, 2006

My two most recent car purchaes were done by researching over the internet, deciding on a price I was willing to pay, checking on-line for dealer inventory that matched my car and had the appropriate extra package, then calling and negotiating. Both times the only time I actually saw the salesperson (both men) was when I went to pick up the car and pay.

I bring this up because I think the days of a career pushing iron are almost gone. Cars are a commodity and can be researched and learned about in the privacy of your living room. Most of the folks who are going into showrooms to be "sold" a car are either older and are not used to dealing with a woman car salesperson or are friends of the dealer.

While I make sweeping generalizations, and I am a sample of one, it is my opinion that woman salesperson will be at a significant disadvantage and both male and female sales folk days are numbered.

YMMV of course.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:34 PM on August 25, 2006

While I make sweeping generalizations, and I am a sample of one

You don't see many car dealerships reducing the number of cars they have on hand, do you? If everyone was buying using the Internet and bidding wars then dealers wouldn't need to maintain all that stock on hand.

Yet they do.
posted by mendel at 7:36 PM on August 25, 2006

My first new car purchase, in 1986, was with a felmale salesperson. It was a great experience. I felt much less pressured and it seemed more low-key than subsequent experiences with male salesperson.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:38 PM on August 25, 2006

After a Toyota salesman called me "honey" and "sugar," I started dealing exclusively with saleswomen. I've had pretty good success with them, and I've bought 6 cars in the last couple decades. Go for it. Needless to say, I never bought - and never will buy - a Toyota.
posted by clarkstonian at 7:40 PM on August 25, 2006

You will probably do very well. I think women are well suited to sales because they convey empathy in a natural way.

The last time I bought a car I worked with a man at the lot but he was not the typical pushy salesperson. Instead he listened to my needs and put thought into the cars he showed me. He created an atmosphere of communication and even trust. After I bought the car I found out that he is that dealer's #1 sales rep and it was easy to see why. One year later I'm still very happy with my decision and when I need another car I will go back to him.

The important thing in sales is to listen to your prospect. If you let a prospect talk they will often tell you what they need to be closed.
posted by Soda-Da at 7:41 PM on August 25, 2006

orthogonality, what do you define as high-end? Have you worked in a dealership like this?

I temped at a Lexus dealership for a while, and the sole female salesperson was incredibly successful. The customers were young, obviously professionals, and nearly always came in as a couple. There was no nonsense like orthogonality mentions. It seems to me that would be more likely to happen at a used car lot.
posted by peep at 7:45 PM on August 25, 2006

I appreciate your perspective JohnnyGunn. However during this first week of training traffic is pretty busy. Many people enjoy the rush of test driving..its a pretty emotional purchase for many people..being the second most expensive sometimes the most expensive purchase they make. I am working in a midsize lot which sells used and new (chrystler products). The management has yet to mention any..happy ending test drives but he has mentioned that my cleavage probably wouldn't hurt.

I have always worked in sales or customer service fields and am relatively comfortable in talking to customers quite laid back about that part..and fairly attractive but am still a bit intimidated. Mostly because I know a bit about cars but couldn't explain all the details and specs on all brands. That and the fact that it is generally not females you see working in abundance...I cant figure out if that is because running around on the lot is hot and sweaty outside work or if it just isn't profitable.

I am at a point where I can take a chance and make 30k working 12 hour days with a potential of 65-70k for our area (not including high end brands) OR I can take a salaried job m-f 9-5 guaranteed 27k.
posted by meeshell at 7:52 PM on August 25, 2006

Remember the old salesman's trick: the woman always makes the decision. If you can sell her, the man will do what he's told. You have to look like you're listening to him, but while he's kicking the tyres, you're chatting to the woman about his this car is great for X.

Your sales will soar, because women are patronised or ignored by otherwise-competent salesmen.
posted by bonaldi at 8:07 PM on August 25, 2006

I know a bit about cars but couldn't explain all the details and specs on all brands.

You really do need to learn this. Guys will come in who have been researching every tiny aspect of the car you are selling and all its competitors. Knowing where your car triumphs its competition will be a huge asset. It could be power, speed, reliability, resale value, number of power outlets, you name it, but you had better know it or some guys will walk.

I am just guessing, but rather than the cleavage advantage, I would think that your biggest advantage might be with women, especially if you can establish a level of trust, because so many male car salesmen are basically patronizing to women customers. With guys, your smile will beat your cleavage any day. They will want you to like them. Of course with more cleavage they may want that even more.
posted by caddis at 8:22 PM on August 25, 2006

I'll assume it was a typo, but in case it wasn't, it would be a good idea to know that the mark is spelled 'Chrysler'.

The best salesperson will know the important details about what they're selling. BUT, they will also know what one or two of the competing models in that price-range are (from other brands) and how their products stack up. Know the advantages of your stuff over the next company's.

For example, if someone comes in to look at a Neon, it would be a good idea to know how the Neon compares to the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, etc. Same thing for the Town + Country, etc.
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:28 PM on August 25, 2006

"I'll assume it was a typo, but in case it wasn't, it would be a good idea to know that the mark is spelled 'Chrysler'.
Heh hastily flipping thru metaspellcheck.

I will be selling off the used lot. I am told that is where the money is. The variety of brands and models will change daily on the lot
posted by meeshell at 8:33 PM on August 25, 2006

I recently helped a friend shop for a new car, and the most helpful sales person was a woman. I didn't like her specifically because she was a woman, but as a woman, I think sometimes it's less intimidating to have another woman helping you.
posted by tastybrains at 8:34 PM on August 25, 2006

If you're good at sales, you'll be successful. If you can get a handle on the technical/nuts-and-bolts aspects of your products, you'll be wildly successful.

People base their decisions on either emotional or intellectual criteria, or a combination of the two. Your innate abilities (to be empathetic, low-pressure, wear a big smile, and perhaps show some cleavage) will help on an emotional level. Without the facts -- and the confidence that knowing them will instill in you -- there's a segment you'll never fully reach.

Pick up car fan magazines (car and driver is a good one) and find out what excites the gear-heads about what you're selling. That'll help you with the lingo and it'll tell you what to bring up in conversation.

Maybe even experiment with the cleavage. See if you think skin makes more of a difference than knowledge. It might.

Either way, it sounds like the car sales job is better than the desk job for you, as long as you can manage having money come in in fits and starts rather than regular, predictable intervals.

Best of luck either way!
posted by nadise at 8:39 PM on August 25, 2006

Last time I went car shopping the only dealership I considered buying from was the one where I worked with a woman salesperson. And at first I was reluctant to talk to her becasue I thought a middle aged woman couldn't answer my questions (how sexist of me!).

Anyways, she actually listened to me, didn't feed me a line of crap and, most helpfully, she didn't show me every damn car on the lot she narrowed it down to three that fit my criteria. I came this close to spending about twice my budget with zero pressure from her. She was a pretty good saleswoman, I'd definetly go back to her.
posted by fshgrl at 8:57 PM on August 25, 2006

caddis++. I think orthogonality has been watching a little too much low-budget porn.

By the way, when the Saturn models first came out in the 90s, their commercials featured women salespeople and emphasized a no-nonsense, customer-focused sales strategy. This was brilliant marketing: within a few years everyone was driving one of their shitty cars. no offense
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:10 PM on August 25, 2006

Glad to read it was a typo. :-)

As a geek, I want a salesperson who knows their stuff. Otherwise, you're just someone to fill out the sales order and take the commission. I'll sigh, be unimpressed, and feel that I know/care more about the purchase than you do.

When I care more about finding the right vehicle than you do, you lose.

Listen to me, listen to my needs, tell me what you have that meets them , and don't waste my time. You'll gain my respect. I'm married, so skin doesn't matter at all. IMO, you're more likely to lose respect if I think you're using your looks as a crutch.

Bottom line: Be Informed, Be professional. I didn't come there looking for sex, I want a car.
posted by Wild_Eep at 9:17 PM on August 25, 2006

This This American Life episode has a (rather charming) story about a Chevrolet dealership in Chicago in which the #1 salesperson is a grandmother. It's the fourth episode in the show, but I'm sure you'll find the rest the the episode (about people's relationship to their cars) completely relevant to your new job.

As always with TAL, the whole episode is fantastic.

Good luck in your new job.
posted by curtm at 9:25 PM on August 25, 2006

This is more "should I be a car salesperson" stuff, but I assume you've seen the great Edmunds undercover car salesman piece?

Please, no cleavage. I'd trust a woman to help me more than a sleazy car salesman, but if she's way hotter than me or flirting with my boyfriend, I'd mistrust her more.
posted by Gucky at 9:42 PM on August 25, 2006

My father works in the marketing department of a major japanese automaker. One of his focus areas is increasing marketing to women and changing the sales process so that it will appeal to women, who are historically shut out of the car-buying process or feel that they have to take a male friend that "understands all that stuff" and is capable of resisting all of the upsales. There has been a significant amount of research on how to appeal to women, from basic things like keeping restrooms clean to changing the way they do upsales and spending more time explaining features and benefits.

The #1 key is always going to be knowledge. Sure, you might have boobs, but if you don't know why a 'Hemi' badge makes me shrug, or the difference between a V configuration and an Inline configuration, I'm going to think you're a bimbo and go elsewhere. The next key is not bullshitting me about upsales. I know what an underbody protectant does. Do you, or are you just trying to cram it down my throat because your sales manager told you you had to? Here's a hint: If you sell cars, it doesn't matter how many of those freaking upsales you sell, no matter what the sales manager says. Move inventory instead. His job is to make money by getting you to sell bullshit, your job is to make money by selling cars.

Don't get myopia. When you're in a city away from home, occasionally stop off at a dealership and let them try to sell you a car. My dad and I used to do this for fun. We'd get all the way to the point where they were starting to print paperwork, and then we'd walk. He'd point out what they did wrong. Compare what they do to what you do, and anything that set off your alarm bells ... well, just make sure you don't do it.

A lot of research has been published about this topic. I'd ask your District Sales Manager for some help figuring it out ... go through your sales manager in your dealership and say that you want to take an initiative and focus on sales to women (who typically buy larger and higher-dollar cars ... gotta haul those kids, after all!) and if they could help you with research or access to anything that the company has done to help appeal to women.
posted by SpecialK at 10:13 PM on August 25, 2006

I was wondering others opinions of auto saleswomen

My opinion is other things matter a lot more than gender such as how easy is she to talk to , is there an easy rapport of some kind, but ok with a woman car salesperson, she'd better know her stuff and not make me feel like a dope. (I know, conflicting requirements.) Here's why:

People base their decisions on either emotional or intellectual criteria, or a combination of the two.

People make decisions based on emotion and then back it up with intellectual criteria. As a salesperson you may already agree with that but here's the tip: guys generally don't acknowlege that and will almost always deny it especially in their own cases and especially when it comes to cars and especially in front of women. So, when selling to men, watch the emotional process to know what's happening, but be ready for all the followup intellectual justification. Yup, this means engine specs, suspension design, braking systems, all that, but be careful, whatever you do, don't let 'em think you think you know more than they do. Good luck with it.

Oh and seconded on the cleavage etc, forget about it, guys are dumb but most aren't that dumb.
posted by scheptech at 10:38 PM on August 25, 2006

Start reading lots of Car Talk and learn stuff about cars. You'll impress the guys, and more important, their wives. :-)
posted by drstein at 10:39 PM on August 25, 2006

I just read or heard something about a trend for auto sellers to recruit saleswomen, usually out of the department stores. Seems as if it's a trend, and the pay's usually better.

Don't BS and you should be fine. This may or may not be difficult based on your management.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:50 PM on August 25, 2006

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article on women car dealers. Some excerpts:

[S]everal surveys have found many women would prefer to buy a car from another woman.

Some evidence suggests women may even be better at selling cars than men. Saleswomen are less likely than their male counterparts to ignore female customers or to ask them if their boyfriend or husband is helping finance the purchase, according to a 2005 market study conducted by CNW using "mystery shoppers."

And CNW has found 9.5% of men actually preferred to buy a car from a woman, compared with 8.9% who preferred a man (81.6% had no preference). Both men and women, however, prefer a man working behind the parts counter and servicing their vehicles.

That some of his female mall recruits will have no experience with cars doesn't present much of a problem for Ken Jackson, a human-resources vice president at Asbury, based in New York. The company tells new sales recruits to be honest with customers: Instead of answering a question with wrong information, they are supposed to admit they don't know and refer the customer to a manager.

The full article is here.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:53 PM on August 25, 2006

I dealt with a female saleswoman who took her top off during a test drive. Ew. I'm sure this is obvious, but with many guys overdoing it would be a real turn-off.
posted by grouse at 12:02 AM on August 26, 2006

Thank you all for all the honest imput. In my past jobs commissioned based they were more tech gadget type sales, mobile phones, copiers (boring) or clothing (easy but no money) I rarely depended on the boobage and quite honestly rarely remembered that part, but on the confidence that I knew my stuff and gave them my full attention. In fact I never really thought about it as an asset til my manager mentioned it. Have no fear, there is sleaze even on the employee side. I took ownership of the customers best interest and most responded well with this... I knew how the features worked and why it benefited the customer. Cars... I know basics, but not details. I guess I should think of them as big gadgets and study up a bit.

Yes I read the Edmunds piece and it left me a bit intrigued with the challange as well as nervous.

My personality is bubbly and friendly and for the most part honest..I dont always tell everything but what I do say is honest. It is just the product and the fact that few women work the industry that is a bit intimidating. Either way I will give it my best shot. If it works, great. If not at least I can say I tried. I have plenty of retail management history to fall back on and generally dont have a hard time finding other employment. The risk here is just a bit higher than I have taken in the past.

I dealt with a female saleswoman who took her top off during a test drive. Ew.

ditto eww.

Please, no cleavage. I'd trust a woman to help me more than a sleazy car salesman, but if she's way hotter than me or flirting with my boyfriend, I'd mistrust her more.

no worries there...I said I was fairly attractive...not even close to hot in my own opinion.

I figure somebodys gotta sell milk, some bodys gotta sell bread...somebody has to sell cars too. Would be nice to break the 30k salary tho. If nothing else I will NEVER look at buying a car in the same light again.
posted by meeshell at 4:55 AM on August 26, 2006

Having been a female car salesbot, my three pieces of advice to you are:

1) Study HARD. Know more about those cars than ANYBODY walking onto the lot might. There are men (sorry guys, this one was always men,) who will be total cockbites if you don't know the most mundane bit of trivia about the engine. These are also usually the men who bring a cash down onto the lot, and intend to buy that day, so you'll have to spend four or six hours with them treating you like a cute little chew toy while they swing their dicks. This happened to me ONCE. Anybody wanna hear about the '96 Geo line?

2) Resist the temptation to be NICE. I'm not saying be unkind, impolite, unhelpful or unpleasant, but you know that little voice in your head that says, Even though this guy seems skeevy, I don't want to say 'No, I don't like you' when he asks you out? That voice that encourages you to say, 'Oh wow, I'm so busy' or 'Oh wow, I'm seeing someone' or anything that gives him room to work on you some more? Resist *that* temptation.

You will have people try to talk you out of test drives, you will have people who say, "It's okay if I do the shopping, my husband/wife won't mind". You will have people lie to you about all kinds of things (I own my current car! I have 5000 dollars down!) so pay attention to early warning signs in a conversation.

If someone is there without their spouse, and that spouse isn't in a full-body cast? Give them your card and move on, you're not selling a car that day. If someone wants to pretty please skip out on the test drive/feature explanation/go on the test drive alone, the answer is NO, or it will come back to haunt you in a million ways, usually the humiliating one where the guy stands in the middle of the lot and screams about how you tricked his wife into buying a car that he hadn't even driven!

Your lot will have rules about certain points of the sales process. Follow them. Those rules are there to help you. They also give you an out when you need to say no. You don't have to say, "Ma'am, I know you're just going to skip out at the last moment since your husband isn't here, so I'm not going to waste anymore of my time with you. Here's my card, come back when you're serious." You can say, apologetically, "My lot manager won't authorize a test drive unless you and your husband can both go for the test drive, when can we schedule that?"

3) Despite the fact that the world is full of douchebags, and you will meet many of them, most people just want to buy a car. They may not understand that their trade in isn't worth the payments they have left on it. They may not know that being behind on child support will prevent them from getting a loan. They don't know the intricacies of the payment schedules of 10 different banks, or why they can't just drive the car by themselves.

They don't buy cars every day, but you'll sell them every day. So be polite, helpful, friendly and kind, help them make it the best experience they can be, and instead of selling one car that day, you just might sell them their next four.

Good luck!!
posted by headspace at 7:16 AM on August 26, 2006

As a female I would love to deal with a female car salesperson. As someone mentioned, married women tend to have the final say so when it comes to major purchases and I get very weary of male salespersons who don't understand that. In fact, I recently sent a new home window contractor/salesman packing because whenever I asked him a question he would answer my husband. Hello?!

This assumes you would show me (as a woman) more respect than I would expect from a male salesman. And I wouldn't like it if you came across with a superior attitude, were bitchy, too 'hard', flirted w/my husband, dressed too 'powerhouse' or too 'slutty' (was that cleavage).

My husband (age mid-40's) wouldn't have a problem dealing with a woman either. But you may run into older men, or old-fashioned men who wouldn't like, or would feel awkward, dealing with women.

I expect car salespeople to know everything about the cars they sale - the mechanics, the accessories available, the life expectancy of various parts, all of it. I wouldn't trust you much if you couldn't answer my questions without running to ask someone else.
posted by LadyBonita at 8:32 AM on August 26, 2006

I just so happened to contact about ten car dealers in the chicago area via email. I did not share my full address or telephone number with them because I felt this being 2006, getting an offer on a new BMW 330i via email should be possible.

what I got back was astonishing. not one person had actually read my email. I had asked for their price, their leasing rate based on a 36month contract with 15k miles p.a. and a sample contract. I was literally ready to spend a night here reading through those, fax one back and then heading straight into the dealership to pick up the car. but all I got were requests to come in, call them or half-baked offers. (what good is knowing you're supposed to pay 500/month on a different car?)

so my recommendation is this: just listen. don't *sell* but listen. find out what people want and give them just that. it's a job that's famous for dishonesty and if you are the one that people can go to without feeling being taken for a ride, you will stick out massively. if I had found someone who hadn't tried to waste my time and had just given me an offer I somewhat liked, I sure as hell would have recommended him or her.

as an advertising profession, I can assure you there is absolutely nothing more powerful than word of mouth. this goes both ways. if you come across as someone who solves problems, you're in a good place.

(I hope you're not in a high-pressure sales enviroment, I hear those are hell...)

by the way, if there are audi or bmw dealers in the chicago areas you feel like recommending, I am still interested...
posted by krautland at 1:09 PM on August 26, 2006

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