Control is probably the largest contributor to human behaviour. We fight for it in so many aspects of our lives: relationships, the way we make our living, where we live, we want control. There are also places where we BELIEVE we are fighting for control. For most Americans, one of those places is a franchise car dealership.
See, from the moment you park your car out front, you have no control over anything that happens afterwards. No seriously, you have zero control over anything that happens after that point. You’re led to believe you’re in control, of course. See, those discovery questions you’re asked early in the process are so the dealer can decide what car they’re selling you.
So while you fold your arms and try to be combative with the salesperson the whole sales team is already thinking about the next customer. Quite frankly, once you begin behaving that way most sales managers want you as far away from their store as possible. What you think will make the dealer bend to your whim is actually your lost opportunity for a decent deal or at least prolonging what the dealership was willing to offer to another date. Again, you are not in control.
Every step on the road to the sale (honestly in any sales profession) is about control. Generally this control is held by way of urgency. That pressure is engineered not to “make you buy a car” but instead make sure that control is held at every step of the process. What’s the difference? The difference is the first direction only gets you committed to the idea of buying a car. The latter instead is to get you committed to actual ownership.
See, if the salesperson is worth their weight the presentation and test drive should be the most obvious examples of committing the customer to actual ownership. Physically seeing yourself behind the wheel of that car and experiencing that fleeting example of what it’s ownership should entail is the first call your mind makes to actually owning that vehicle. But in reality your salesperson was two steps ahead of where you are now five minutes after you walked in the door.
How? Let me take it from the top. Let’s say it’s Saturday and you walk in the front doors of some Asian automaker’s franchise dealership. The salesperson greets you, offers you a beverage and sits you down.
Pause the tape.
As soon as you plant yourself in that seat you’ve given the salesperson control. You’ve said I’ll listen to them and answer their questions and even raise some of my own. You have said that you’re willing to give your valuable time to the process. So you’ll tell the salesperson what your top color preferences are and what options you’d like to have.
Hold on, stop again.
Now that you’ve given them the needs assessment all the feelings you get later during the test drive are a given if the salesperson is doing their job. Also you’ve helped the dealership make or lose money on their own terms. The salesperson should touch the desk and piece in the sales manager. Then at a modern dealership, inventory searches are powerful enough to pinpoint the car the customer wants and tell you which ones you have and how long they’ve been there so you can make an educated decision of which one to sell. And on top of everything you’ve also given the salesperson ammunition to fire back at you when you’re attempting to negotiate.
“Well you said you absolutely needed the sunroof, correct?”
But again we continue past the presentation and test drive. You’re back and now it’s time to talk numbers. This is where most customers become gangstas during the process. Thinking that they’re doing some hard, pile-driving negotiation when in reality they’re only really choosing a set of numbers within parameters the dealer already decided for them. So when the sales manager sends the salesperson back out to you with a set of numbers, trust when I say they didn’t pull said numbers out of their ass just to insult you. A hardened salesperson could already read your motivation.
“Hit them high and let’s see how much of it we can keep.”
“They know the internet price. Which incentives do they not qualify for?”
“How much is their trade worth? I think if we show them a fat number for it they’ll ignore the rest.”
That last one is very important. If you come into a franchise car dealership demanding a dollar amount for your trade you can fuck yourself. You’re not in control, and if the number is crazy enough the sales manager is laughing at you. There are only two real routes after this either the dealer offers you less money or they give you your number but raise the price of the car. Both of these scenarios are insulting to you. Do you want to avoid insult? Negotiate reasonably. The process is designed to not be a waste of your time, so don’t make it so.
Let DJ Khaled ring through your brain as you demand some mathematically impossible monthly payment numbers.
“You played yourself.”
Math is math. Dealerships don’t have time to bend the rules of mathematics to your whims. You’re more likely to get a swift goodbye. You are not in control. Don’t imagine that you are and you’re more inclined to get through the process in a timely fashion and with your wallet intact. I’m not even going to waste anymore of your time with the F&I process as it relates to control. But I hope I’ve given you an understanding of the psychology that goes into a dealership selling you a car.
Yes, I do understand there are outliers to this process. But not everyone is buying a 911 GT3, and even those of us that call ourselves automotive enthusiasts sometimes buy an Altima. Either way, someone was in control of you at multiple steps during the process. People release that control so easily during the process they don’t have a clue it’s happened. So be conscious, because the dealer sure is.