In this article, I’m going to answer the query “how to be a good salesman” by looking at the statistics of my store and figuring out what sets the top salespeople apart.

I have taken a deep dive, inspired by watching the salespeople at my dealership and combining my personal experiences. 

I believe in the car sales career. This article will take you from zero to hero with my nine keys for success!

How To Be a Good Car Salesman involves taking a look at the numbers!

There are 14 new car salespeople at our store, and last month they sold between 3 and 16.5 cars. Based on our pay plan, if you sell more 6 or fewer cars, you will make about $250 per car after all bonuses (plus $1000 for showing up). If you sell 14 or more cars, that average is about $400 per car after all bonuses (plus $1000 for showing up). That means that we have salespeople that made ~$1750 last month and we had one salesperson that made ~$7600.

What accounts for the $6k~ of monthly income disparity? What makes one salesperson better than another?

How To Be a Good Car Salesman: The Nine Keys

I spent some time this morning talking this over with my fellow managers, and we were able to shake out the nine keys on how to be a good car salesman. I’ll summarize the nine keys in this article and provide real-life examples. I hope to craft the automotive sales training here at Car Sales Story, and I believe that these nine keys of how to be a good car salesman should help you in your career!

How To Be a Good Car Salesman: Nine Keys... this is an example key picture!

Let’s jump in.

How To Be a Good Car Salesman #1: Deep Desire for Success

You have to want it. The chance that your dealership will always have a highly sought after car throughout your career is non-existent.

You are going to be challenged while you are learning this career, mastering the skill set required for selling cars. No-one becomes an expert without a sincere desire for success.

How To Be a Good Car Salesman: Finding your deep desire for success, maybe it will be your family?

You don’t need to have that deep desire today, because you can find your reason. Here are some that I regularly hear:

Deep Desire for the Success of Your Family/Kids:

A number of my top salesman friends have an instant answer when you ask what drives them. When asked, they will always say, “I do this for my children” or “I do this for my family.” That is an inner meaning that they have decided to center their life around.

Deep Desire for Financial Independence:

A few of the top salespeople I have met have a different answer when probed about their work ethic. When you cut through the noise, they will reveal that they work hard in pursuit of financial independence.

Deep Desire to Prove Yourself:

The least common reason I see is the salesperson who merely has something to prove. These ultra-competitive people hate losing, and will do anything to be the top of the pack. If that means reading a car sales blog to learn new skills, so be it. If they need to stay late on Sunday to close the last deal of the weekend, so be it. It’s about winning.

There are plenty of more reasons that can feed a sincere desire for success. The key is not the specific reason, but instead the fact that you have an idea in the first place. 

Finding your Deep Desire for Success

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our question must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

In “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl, the author describes his experiences and the lessons he learned while imprisoned in a Nazi internment camp. Having a sincere desire to succeed will stem from a self-defined mission. We live in tune with how we define our life.

I’ve personally found meaning in the promise of financial independence, the benefit of having something to write about, and the opportunity to be charitable. What drives you?

As a side note, I encourage you to read the book quoted above. Stop for a moment to contemplate how blessed we are to face down the challenges of demanding customers in comparison.

How To Be a Good Car Salesman #2: Positive Perseverance

Automotive sales training often ignores the difficulty of staying positive in the face of defeat. Too often, automotive sales training revolves around email cadence and customer service while neglecting the importance of real perseverance. 

how to be a good car salesman: finding your path

Staying positive in car sales can be difficult, but I have found some strategies for surviving the tough times.

Positive Friends at Work

They say that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. At your dealership, there are going to be a massive variety of personalities you can choose to spend time with. If you want to succeed, I suggest you find those who have a positive outlook on life. When you have a deal fall apart, seek their company. Make sure to be there for them on the flip side!


After a stressful Saturday, it’s easy to have a shitty Sunday. Instead, when you get home late on Saturday night, clear your head with some exercise. I like the Stronglifts 5×5 program, but find something that suits you.

Take a Walk:

Just finished with an annoying customer? Talk a walk around the block. The last you want to do is bring negative experience forward to your next customer!

How To Be a Good Car Salesman #3: Confidence

Why do salespeople avoid the phones? Why do salespeople let deals slide through the cracks?

Much of it boils down to a lack of confidence. 

how to be a good car salesman: finding your confidence

In sales, you need to be confident in your product. You need to think of your product as a solution that will solve the customer’s problem. You are here to show the customer how your product can fit their needs.

Ask for the Business!

Too often, I see car salespeople making this fundamental mistake. They don’t ask for the business every time.

Remember that you are not a mind reader.  Your opinion of whether or not the customer is buying today is not the opinion that matters. What matters is what they think. You can not read their mind. You can not know their financial situation. You do not, and can not, know all the things that are driving their decisions.

Customers are often not logical. Many are fairly emotional. 

If the customers like you, you should feel comfortable asking for the business. You don’t have to be pushy.

“May I ask, and I hope that this doesn’t come across as pushy, is there anything we can do to make a deal today?”

Simple, gentle, and soft, but to the point. 

If you avoid this question, you are doing yourself no favors!

Confidence Shortcut

One of the main confidence shortcuts when starting in car sales is product knowledge. Regardless of your experience in sales, if your product knowledge is top-notch, you will have value to offer to the customer. When you see that you are providing value, your confidence will grow. When your confidence grows, you will begin to feel more comfortable asking for the business.

My second confidence shortcut is sales books. Sales books like “Go for No! Yes is the Destination, No is How You Get There” helped me tremendously when I was starting in car sales. Amazon has plenty of four and five-star sales books written by sales veterans. I suggest you get yourself a few and start learning.

How To Be a Good Car Salesman #4: Checklist Mindset

I’ve written extensively about the importance of process before, such as in my article on maximizing referrals. Having a “checklist mindest” and being “process-oriented” is crucial to looking put together and running your life like a business.

how to be a good car salesman includes using the checklists you make!

In the car sales career, you can’t skip steps. You need to follow the car sales steps to a sale.

Not only are there steps to the sale, but there are also steps for your follow up. I’ve seen so many salespeople have fantastic effort when they work with customers, but then drop the ball on the follow-up, simply because they don’t have a process.

I can’t trust myself to have a complete process without a checklist, so I’ve crafted these car sales follow up script. When a customer is leaving the dealership without buying, I always text their cell phone from my cell phone with this message:

Andrei Smith Audi

That simple message makes it easy for them to find me when they are ready. In their iPhone, they merely type “Audi” into search, and my text comes up first. If I call, their iPhone will say “maybe: Andrei Smith,” which makes it easier for them to pick up.

These little steps build-up, and you need a checklist to follow to make sure that they stick!

Write it out and Laminate!

Every day when I arrive at work, I look down at the checklist that I have printed on my desk. As long as I follow that checklist, regardless of my mindset coming to work, I will get done what I need to get down. It’s that simple.

So write it out. Write down what you need to do every day. Write down how you are going to get perfect surveys from your customers. Write down a checklist that will make sure that you follow up diligently. Write it down!

Then, laminate it! You can use that tool to make your one-off checklists into daily processes. 

How To Be a Good Car Salesman #5: Trustworthy Character

What makes a salesperson trustworthy?

It comes down to the way they carry themselves. You are at an advantage in this regard.

There are so many non-trustworthy salespeople in the automotive industry that it is relatively easy to set yourself apart. Dress professionally and dedicate yourself to honesty. Do not try and control the customer’s choices; instead, adapt to what they tell you.

25 Ways…

One of the distinct traits of top salespeople is an obvious air of trustworthiness. For a more in-depth look at this, I liked this article from Unstuck. In the article, they list out their 25 ways to build trust in a relationship. Your relationship with your customers can be a great place to try some of these tips/mindsets:

1. Share all the information. Good or bad. As soon as you can.
2. Aim for win-win, not win-lose.
3. Give credit freely and publicly.
4. Reveal something personal.
5. Be accountable for yourself.

13. Avoid showing off.
14. Avoid exaggeration.
15. Tell the truth.

22. Stay open to new ideas.
23. Factor all those concerned into decisions.
24. Show up on time.
25. Respond — and do it in a timely manner.

How To Be a Good Car Salesman #6: Build Your Skills (Not Tricks)

Television and movies have been drilling into your mind the existence of sales tricks that professional salespeople use to convince customers to buy. “Sneaky sales tricks” are generally nonsense. The best salespeople know how to funnel customers into right paths, but they never seek to “trick” their customers. The idea of “tricking” people is insincere and unprofessional, and won’t stand in today’s economy.

In the car sales career, many dealerships sell the same products. That means that the thing that makes your dealership unique is mostly your product knowledge, your customer service, your professionalism. Your Yelp reviews will be your greatest marketers or worst enemies. You need to build a brand around yourself.

Your Brand

What makes you unique? What do you bring to the table?

how to be a good car salesman: be unique!

You need to be different.

When I meet customers, I selectively share parts about myself that will merge best with their worldview. 

When a customer is a professor at Stanford, I share about my mother, who is a UC Berkeley professor. I talk about growing up with her lab members going on trips, and about how her success shaped my life.

If a customer is athletic, I share about how I bike to work, and playing water polo in high school. 

With my Chinese customers, I talk about my last two years of learning their native language (Mandarin). I joke about learning how to eat authentic Chinese food at my girlfriend’s house.

In each of these customer situations, the customers are learning a different part about me. I’m selectively sharing what I’ve learned will foster a relationship. I’m finding common ground.

How To Be a Good Car Salesman #7: Patience

As salespeople gain experience, they realize patterns in their customers. They will start to think to themselves, “huh, I know where this is going” and “oh god, not this again.” 

You need to be careful with this pattern recognition. Although it can feel like a superpower to know what a customer is going to say before they say it, things can get dicey if you start to act on this information. 

I’ve seen otherwise decent salespeople cut off their customers mid-sentence because they thought they knew what they were going to say. 

Customers don’t like people cutting them off. Frankly, few people do. 

Fruits of Patience: Emptying their Cups

Customers, once they respect you, will want to share with you their situation. Regardless of the reality, in their minds, their lives and situations are unique. If you don’t listen patiently to them and allow them to empty their cup, they will never be able to receive what you have to say.

I find this is especially useful to think of when dealing with angry customers. For example, when a customer wants to complain about the lack of follow up from our service department, I can guess word-for-word what they are going to say. Regardless, I let them vent. I allow them to “empty their cup” so that they can peacefully receive what I am going to say afterward.

Don’t rush your customers. Listen to them, and don’t cut off their sentences!

how to be a good car salesman: let your customers empty their cup!

A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s full! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “This is you,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.”

How To Be a Good Car Salesman #8: Avoid Aggression

When I started in the car business, one of the most common things that people advised me to “control” my customers.

“It’s about control dude. You need to control what your customers know, you need to control what they want. Keep them in your office after the test drive and eventually you will grind them down until they give up and buy”

  • Advice I received in 2012

I’m here to tell you; this thinking is outdated. Your customers read articles online about how to buy cars. They learn the market before they ever turn up. You can’t trick them, and you can’t “control” them.

how to be a good car salesman: don't be too aggressive!

What you can do is lead them and convince them. You can learn how to sway their opinions.

In the 21st century, it’s rare to find someone willing to be spoken to forcefully. In all but a few cases, you will do better with honey than vinegar. 

So throw away your ego, and approach customers with flattery and kindness. Make them feel at home.

Too Strong

I once met a fantastic salesperson who had one giant flaw. Although they were disciplined and professional, they lost many deals during their negotiations. Coming from a strict background, they had little patience for customers who were indirect in their objections

So they responded with aggression. They would tell the customers forcefully how good a deal they were walking away from. This salesperson would stare at disbelief at customers, making visible his disappointment when the customer offered an obvious lowball.

That salesperson was me. I’m working hard to beat the habit, but it’s easy to become jaded in this profession. When I let my ego run wild, I tell myself things like “these customers are wasting my time” and “this person didn’t do their research.” 

The self-talk never got me anywhere. It only dug me deep into self-pity.

Get over yourself. It’s ok if you know what the customer is going to say. Let them say it. It’s okay if the customer needs guidance, give it gently. Make sure to not come across too strong.

People buy from people they like.

How To Be a Good Car Salesman #9: Play to your Strengths

When I was dating, I quickly figured out that I was no Casanova. The most common adjective women would use to describe me was “goofy.”

Goofy isn’t sexy. I knew that I needed to find a new strategy. 

I quickly realized that there wasn’t much of a jump between “goofy” and “funny.”

So I learned how to be funny. I never tried to act like James Bond; I just tried to make women laugh.

The lesson was that I found success when I started to play to my strengths.

How to Be a Good Car Salesman: Different Superpowers

There used to be a salesperson at my dealer named Paul, who was an absolute monster. He sold 20 cars his very first month at the dealership, working in the Internet department, at a time where the top Internet Sales Manager sold about 26 (and had worked for seven years at the same dealer). 

Paul was not personable. He wasn’t well connected, and he didn’t know the product very well.

What made him successful?

It turns out that Paul was simply a workhorse. Starting 30 minutes before the store opens, he was sitting at his computer. Paul would send quotes and emails from open to close, 13 hours a day. He would only get up when a customer came in to pick up a car.

If you compared Moe, another top salesperson at the time, to Paul, you would be amazed. Moe could barely use the CRM system, and he hated sending emails.

Moe, however, was the most personable person at the dealer. Customers would fall in love with him when they met him. His smile, his voice, the things he would say… They would win customers affections immediately.

how to be a good car salesman: find your superpower!

Remember that different people have different superpowers.

Automotive Sales Training: How to Be a Good Car Salesman

Although I use the term salesman in this article, all of this advice is genderless. I’ve shared with you the nine keys that I believe separate the top earners from the rest. Go now, find your superpower. Treat your customers with respect in your unique way. Sell a ton of cars and make some money.

Then, please, invest some of that dough!