Shop Right: The Business Manager Is Just Another Salesman

January 23, 2010

If you read the first part of our buying guide to new cars, this is where we left off: everyone at the dealership is way off balance because you've thrown monkey wrenches into their carefully scripted and choreographed way of doing business.

In case you didn't read the first part, let's rehash a bit before we move on (it will only cover the high points). In the first part, we told you to:

  • Take control of the process from the start

  • Use the salesperson to test as many cars as you think necessary

  • Drive the cars

  • Take some time to make notes and use the time the salesperson is putting cars away to make sure all your needs are met

  • Make sure you know all of the incentives available on a model before you get to the dealership many are online and then make an offer that is totally outrageous, asking for like consideration for your trade (don't ask for the huge discount and then let them bury it in your trade be sure you get the same kind of deal for your trade; remember there are other dealerships out there and if they see you putting on your coat they'll meet most of your wishes

  • Never give the dealership your credit card of a huge deposit $50 or $100 should hold the car if the dealership is honest (we've worked with people who only had $25 to hold a car and they bought it)

  • Read every piece of paper before you sign it and make sure that everything is totaled out before you sign your name to it, especially on the purchase and sales agreement

  • Stick to your guns at each step of the way

Now we've arrived at the business manager's office, for the ritual paper signing. It is, after all or should be the final step in buying your car, right. The business office is just a mere formality where all the paperwork is completed to ensure that the correct bill of sale is generated, along with any other necessary paperwork, right?

In truth, the answer is wrong! The business office is just another sales office with a different kind of salesperson. This salesperson, carries a manager's title and sometimes the responsibilities but it's really just a sales office.

If you're involved in the normal deal you've probably been dragged around the dealership or offered coffee and a seat in the waiting area, following the usual procedure:

  • Meet and greet

  • Qualification (bet you didn't know all the questions the salesperson was asking about your family and how you drive and whether your kids played in the local hockey league were actually telling the salesperson the types of vehicles he thinks he should be showing you. Does it sound like he's not really listening to you he's not. The good ones do and, as one salesperson we know and respect highly listens to his customers, his customers come back for car-after-car. He's a top 300 salesman in a company and never lifts a phone to canvas. People just come back because he's of the old school, where honesty and listening still count. His continually good paycheck shows it, even in poor months.

  • Test drive 1; test drive 2; test drive 3; realization that you don't want the huge SUV, but that the smaller crossover might work better and test drive 4 where you find one that works

  • Offer, counteroffer the sales dance

  • The manager's assist this guy is the closer, he's just a super-salesman and when that doesn't work, the real manager steps in

  • The sales dance continues keep cool and don't blink; the first one who does actually loses

  • You don't blink, the dealership does and you get your deal

  • The paperwork shuffle begins and they ask for your credit card (remember, don't give it)

  • The wait starts

Although the real sales process should, by all rights, take an hour or less, in most places it is stretched beyond belief, simply because the dealer always thinks he can make an extra buck or two and if he stretches things to the point where you become anxious, then you'll make any deal just to move things along. That's why don't let anyone kid you otherwise it has taken so long to get to the business office, where the whole dance starts all over again.

This time it's the business manager who will try to sell you anything and everything he can sell you, including a new loan. Make sure that you have your own financing arranged at your own rate and when the business manager says, if I can beat the rate you're getting, will you finance the deal with us? Your answer should be: No thanks, I have my financing arranged, just do the paperwork please, I have other errands to run now. Always be courteous.

Don't think the business manager won't try 15 ways for Sunday to move you into their pool of banks where he might be getting qualifying for a trip or something so he wants to kick some business the way of certain banks or to the automaker's finance arm. Just stay firm, get the necessary paperwork or set up an appointment to bring in the check from your own bank or credit union and then take your keys and leave.

Arrive a little early on the appointed day with your checks they'll still try to sell you stuff right up to the end and make sure the business manager is in. One neat trick is to have you come back when the business manager you originally dealt with is off so another manager can have a go at you. Don't let it flummox you. Just sign the paperwork, make sure the plates are transferred and that the vehicle is ready, and shake hands and drive away.

The key to this whole process is control. If you control the process with a small deposit, research and keeping your cool at all times, you'll get the deal you want, especially in a new car year where dealers want to recover from last year's disastrous sales.

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