How the Young Salesperson Beat the Veteran

By | May 16, 2011

The Sales Story of How I Bought My Cool New Car

I just acquired a shiny new car. I bought it from a relatively young salesperson instead of from the veteran who sold me my last one. This column points out seven basic sales lessons that apply to selling insurance as well as cars.

Lesson 1: Meet the buyer on his schedule, not yours. I phoned the dealership looking for the veteran salesman, wanting to talk about a potential purchase. He impressed me by instantly remembering me from four years ago. I told him I was ready to get together the next day and wanted to set up a time. Instead, he held me off until the following day. So, I used the day in between to shop elsewhere.

Lesson 2: Don’t assume a current buyer won’t shop. I’ll admit it. I was too easy on the salesman the last time around. I could have negotiated a better deal. But with what I do for a living, I naturally empathize with salespeople, even to my detriment. This time around, I was ready. Plus, my current car was in great shape with low mileage, making it a valuable trade-in. Yet, we were bored with it and ready for a change. In the free day before my appointment, my wife and I visited a nearby dealership with comparable class cars. We met a young salesman and test-drove a few vehicles. He had our trade-in appraised without drama and we were given a competitive first offer (wisely shown to us on-screen, not in print). We left promising to make a decision soon.

Lesson 3: Don’t assume what the buyer wants. The next day we arrived early for our appointment with our incumbent salesman. We mentioned that we had shopped the day before. This instantly deflated him. Still, the veteran assumed we wanted the same car as before, just newer. We explained we weren’t sure which model we wanted and needed to test-drive a few. By the third and last car, including the 2011 version of our current vehicle, he was itching to work the numbers.

Lesson 4: Don’t talk numbers until the time is right. Some buyers operate slower than others. In our case, we were serious, but didn’t love any of the available cars. Our salesman had invested an hour plus in us and wanted to deal, whether we were ready to or not. The previous day, the segue to numbers was handled more smoothly.

Lesson 5: Offer a competitive price, up front. We let our salesperson prepare the numbers on an upscale model and would have bought it if the price was right. It wasn’t. Before agreeing to a quote, I asked for their offer on my trade. It’s how we started the day before. I had researched the wholesale book value.

The veteran offered me significantly below it, while the youngster offered us the exact amount. This I revealed. So, when he presented his initial quote, the trade-in value had increased but the quoted price was high. After saying no, the price dropped sharply. And when I stood up to go, it dropped even further.

At that point, I told them we’d think about it and left.

Lesson 6: Be willing to give a little. After two long hours with the incumbent veteran, we revisited his rival and re-test drove the car we were considering. Once satisfied, I requested a better deal, got 2.5 out of the 3 things asked for, and bought on the spot. While producers generally shouldn’t lower premiums, they can offer offsetting value-added agency services.

Lesson 7: Exceed expectations. Dealing for a car or an insurance policy doesn’t have to be a battle of wills. It can be a smooth ride as long as both parties are serious. The end result isn’t always a sale, but the odds are good when the product is suitable, the pricing is competitive, and the salesperson acts in a manner minimally expected by the buyer. Exceeding expectations, as the maxim goes, is even better.

As for which car model I ended up buying, hey this columnist has to keep some secrets.

Topics Auto

About Alan L. Shulman

Alan Shulman, CPCU, is the publisher of Agency Ideas® sales and marketing newsletter (free basic subscription at He is also the author of “500 Sales Ideas for Commercial Lines Producers” among many other P&C sales resources. Email: Website: More from Alan L. Shulman

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Insurance Journal West May 16, 2011
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