Ego, as defined by Ryan Holiday, is the unhealthy belief in your importance. In auto sales manager training, veterans will often teach you about the external obstacles that you must face down on your path to success. Little attention is paid to the dangers of internal obstacles.

This article is inspired by my second reading of ‘Ego Is The Enemy’ by Ryan Holiday

During your progression in sales, patterns to your deals will emerge, and customers will slowly be fit into studied groups. Your sales cycle will start to move along like a well-oiled machine. You will learn the details of your job and of your manager’s job as well.

These skills, with time and effort, will propel you to the top of your game.

Sadly in many cases, this will coincide with the growth of your ego, whose self-importance will feed on the results of your labor. This self-importance will wish to be recognized, to be applauded. In turn, it can and will sabotage your happiness and effectiveness. Your ego will become your greatest enemy.

This article is inspired by ‘Ego Is The Enemy’ by Ryan Holiday, which I read for the second time this weekend. It’s a fantastic and in-depth look at the variety of ways that your ego will stand in your own way, filled with eye-opening short stories drawn from history.

I’ve found that any mention of the danger of ego is generally absent in auto sales manager training, so this is my attempt to correct that!

Auto Sales Manager Training: Adaptation

As you get better at sales, you will build a mental playbook. Customers will fall into archetypes that you will bundle into small groups. This is natural. This pattern recognition is a skill that has made us successful throughout our history. From Gregor Mendel noticing the patterns in his garden to programming software to reunite pets with pet owners, pattern recognition is everywhere.

The danger is that as you become more advanced at recognizing patterns, you may become too attached to the patterns that you recognize. As your success strokes the fires of your ego; you will become blind to everything but your first impression. You will lose the ability to adapt to a situation on the fly even as your auto sales skills develop.

Learning situational awareness is a crucial part of auto sales manager training. This type of consciousness can be sabotaged easily by ego.

Ego Blinding My Situational Awareness

This incident transpired just a few weeks ago.

Two young professionals come in, in their late 20’s. Husband and wife, recently engaged (big engagement ring on the wife’s finger). They look friendly enough, their heads moving back and forth quickly as they take in all the available cars. I notice their corporate badges on their hips (Facebook) while I strike up a conversation.

Me: Welcome to Audi! Thanks for coming in today. Can I get you two any water, tea or coffee? Or did you want me to open up any cars?


Matt: Hi, I’m Matt and this is Jennifer. We are OK without drinks. Can you show my wife the Q5?


Jennifer: Yes, I’d like to see the Q5. I need something that is going to fit child seats.


Matt: She would also like to see the S5 and the RS5 sports cars.


Jennifer: *Silent, looks at Matt and then back to me*

(Note: The Q5 is a mid-sized family SUV. The S5 and RS5 are sport coupes, fast 2-door cars that do not fit child seats easily)


Me: Ok! Sounds like we are looking for a mid-sized SUV for you Jennifer, I’ve got plenty of options to show you. Did we want to test drive today?


Matt: Yes.


Me: Got it. Let me take you over to the Q5 to start the process. Jennifer can I grab your driver’s license?


Matt: I’ll be driving. Get the keys for the S5 and RS5 as well.


Me: Happy to do that! Are you sure you don’t want to just start with the Q5? I think it’s a better fit for child seats.


Matt: Do I get to drive what I want or what? Get the keys dude.

So at this point, things aren’t going well. Jennifer had gone silent, and Matt wanted to drive sports coupes.

I had fit this couple into a box when they had first walked in (recently engaged, expecting children, need space for child seats). My ego told me I was right, and I was reading this situation correctly. What I missed was the fact that, in this couple’s relationship, what Matt says goes.

As I went to grab the keys, I realized that Matt had been straightforward, while Jennifer had been meek.

My overconfidence in my abilities stopped me (in those few crucial moments) from continuing to adapt during the conversation. I missed essential physical communication from the couple and lost my opportunity to build rapport.

As I returned with the keys, I noticed that Matt’s face was red – he had taken my questioning as an insult. At this point, I gave all the attention to Matt. I directed questions to him and Jennifer remained quiet.

Reflections on Matt and Jennifer

Did I like their relationship dynamic? No, not particularly. Is it my place to decide? Again, no. My job, in that situation, was to read the situation correctly, not to jump to conclusions or judge.

This all comes back to my auto sales manager training.

In sales that are direct to consumer, much of your job is steering the customers for the sake of efficiency. When a customer mentions that they need a car to tow a boat, and then immediately ask to drive a tiny sports coupe, you aren’t doing them any favors by showing them sports coupes.

That being said, leading can only work when the customers are willing to listen. Many customers are Type A, and won’t take well to being taught. Type A customers are not impossible to sell to but they do require a different approach.

So, on reflection, I could have handled Matt and Jennifer differently. My ego told me that my snap judgment was correct, and I stopped reading signs as soon as I had drawn my conclusion. My ego was unchecked, and I was too sure of myself. Ego was my enemy.

Auto Sales Manager Training: Respecting The Roles

Every sales organization requires support for pre- and post-deal roles. At the car dealership, there are finance managers who apply deals to the bank, used car managers that appraise cars, and admins who file and pull paperwork. There are whole departments of people that make selling cars possible.

Learning and appreciating that your company is a machine is critical to your efficiency. As you get better at sales, you will learn many of the ancillary jobs at your dealer, by osmosis.

You will learn, in time, how to apply a deal for financing, how to detail a car, how to pull old deals and how to detail a car.

It can be beneficial to learn these skills, and it’s critical if you ever want to be a general manager. The danger here is that your ego can blind you from seeing when you are stepping on your coworkers’ “toes.”

Ego Blinding My Respect

This incident was a bit longer ago, in 2017.

My deal was going fine, and I was close to closing it. The numbers were settled, and we just had to run credit. At this point, the customer introduces a surprise trade into the deal.

No problem, I replied, sliding the credit application in front of them to do. They could fill that out while I would go to get their car was appraised. Time was of the essence.

As I ran out to the car, I pulled out my Provision app to get a head start on the process. Quickly scanning the VIN #, I realized that I could probably figure out roughly what the trade was worth myself to save myself and my boss some time. I played around for a few minutes, and settled on a guess of $13k for the trade, after taking into account that it needed new tires.

When I arrived at the used car appraisal site, I couldn’t find anyone. I called the manager (Kurt), agitation in my voice, asking where I could find him.

As Kurt came out, I explained that I had already scanned the car and done an inspection. I pointed out the small scratches, and the tires then showed him the auction report that I had based my estimate on. I asked what his thoughts were. Kurt quietly began his inspection. He walked back into his office, and I followed, where he pulled up the car up on the same web application that I had used.

“I think it’s worth $10k, market is down on this one. Oh and by the way, you’re not the used car manager, so don’t think you can do my job. I don’t need you trying to take my job. Now, I’m busy, go close your deal.” Kurt said, quickly returning his gaze to the computer.

I let my face contort (there was no way this car was worth $10k!) I sighed and headed back to my customers, confused on what had just happened.

Auto Sales Manager Training: Reflections On Roles

Everyone wants to deliver; everyone wants to be significant at work. If you act like you know how to do everyone else’s job, you can come across as overconfident. Was Kurt oversensitive? That’s not important. My actions were my only responsibility.

My ego, on that day, screamed in my head that I needed to rush. After all, I had things to do after work, and my customer’s experience was my responsibility. I wanted it to be perfect! My ego told me that I knew better than my manager.

In the end, I probably did my customer’s a disservice by rushing and stepping on Kurt’s toes.

It took me a week before I was back in my used car manager’s good graces. On reflection, the key “takeaways” for me were that I was responsible for not rushing the system. I should not continue cutting corners. I must not overtly encroach on my coworker’s jobs and responsibilities.

In the end, I haven’t stopped learning other’s roles. I think that learning is my natural mode. I am more careful not to step on other’s toes, for fear of damaging relationships.

Auto Sales Manager Training: Ego Is The Enemy Review

In auto sales manager training the focus is often on external obstacles and how to overcome them. I think that we can all learn from Ryan Holiday’s book ‘The Ego is the Enemy’ to be wary of the danger of our egos.

Take a moment after reading this to check in with yourself. Is there anything that you could do differently in terms of your keeping your ego in check?

This is a subject that I struggle with, but with focus, I’ve been able to improve. I hope to bring my interest in the dangers of ego to the auto sales manager training that I provide to my coaching clients.