The Truth About Car Sales
When you are young and without a college education, any job that promises fast, large sums of money, always sounds interesting. I was looking through the jobs sections of the newspaper when I ran into an advertisement for a local car dealership. The add was catchy, with a shiny new car in the background. It said they were looking for new sales people with no experience required. It also mentioned that anyone hired would get paid a minimum of $2500.00 per month for two months while being trained. I wasted no time, I filled out a job application and sent in my resume. The hiring process took about 3 weeks. I went through many interviews and a training program before I was finally told that I got the job. I had no idea what I had just got myself into.
My first day on the job was a scary one. Walking into the show floor for the first time was quite intimidating. There were many sales men. Guys and girls with black dress pants and white button up shirts and ties. The new car smell was everywhere. Out in the parking lot, there was long lines of brand new cars. A lovely sight indeed. My first assignment was to drive one of every single type of cars we sold. I jumped on a brand new sports car and took it for a drive. It was just like being in a commercial, the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. Then I went for a cruise in a quiet and comfortable family sedan. I couldn’t believe it, it was fun and a good way to start the job.
The first two months at work were pretty simple. I was to follow one of the more experienced sales man around and learn as much as I could from him. He was your typical sales man. Always dressed in a white dress shirt, and black hair slicked back. I got to practice greeting people: “hi there, welcome to Tempe Honda. Is there any one I could help you find” I would say. Most people would simply respond with the usual “no thanks, I’m just looking”. I soon found out that selling a car to someone who does not want to talk to you was going to be complicated. I was turned down many times before I finally sold my first car. I don’t remember a time when I was more excited. They were a young couple who were having their first baby. They needed something bigger, so I sold them an SUV. My manager would always tell me things like “the first one is the hardest one” or “you are going to sell many cars and make a bunch of money” to encourage me to do it again. And it worked, I started selling a few cars, things were going well. I got my first sour experience my third month on the job.
I had sold a few cars the previous month. I knew I was going to get a nice paycheck. When I opened the white envelope and saw my paycheck, I had a horrible sinking feeling. They took back the $5000.00 they gave me for the first 2 months while I was training. When I talked to my manager about it, he told me that the money was intended to be sort of like a loan. And I was going to pay it back when I sold some cars. I was upset because no one ever mentioned that to me. I went back to work with a bad attitude. That’s when I learned that customers do not like to speak to a sales man that looks upset. I learned to keep my emotions at the door. For the next 12 months my feelings towards the sales job were on a steady decline. Even though I settled into a nice pace of car sold per month, I was growing very tired of the attitude and emotions that surround the dealership. My attitude towards customers changed too. When I first started, I was happy to talk to them, eager to help them out. After a year of working there, I couldn’t stand the sight of some customers. I did not want to deal with their attitude. In a way I almost stopped looking at them like people. They were simply someone I had to talk to into buying a car and giving me some money. My life at home was taking a toll too. I was spending so much time at the dealership that I hardly ever saw my loved ones. It didn’t help that when I did see them, I was in a bad mood from the customers I talked to at work. I felt like my life was going downhill.
After two years there I decided that something had to change if I wanted to be happy. I didn’t know where to start. I felt trapped at the dealership. I knew I couldn’t just go get an hourly job and make the same kind of money. My wife and I were blessed with our first son. Complications during her pregnancy prevented her from going back to work after Elias was born. I was working at a job where I was miserable, and had no way of getting out. It took courage and much planning before my wife convinced me to go back to school. When I asked my managers for a schedule change that would allow me to study, I was turned down immediately. I had no choice, I quit.
This I believe, working as a car sales man is one of the toughest jobs a person can have. It drains you physically from the many hours of the day you spend out in the hot sun. It drains you mentally from all the lies and mind games you deal with every day. It affects your personal life in ways you never thought it would. The insecurities it brings hunt you inside. Not knowing whether or not you will get a commission check at the end of the month is a horrible feeling. It is only made worse by knowing you have bills to pay and a young family to support. This job is not for everyone, and for those who do try it, it’s a bumpy road ahead.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.