The sales department is often called the ‘front end’ of the business. It is the face of the dealership. Once this part of the dealership was overrun with dishonest people who were in it for the quick money. Not unlike the mortgage brokers of today.
Back about one or two generations ago (15-40 years), the sales department made a ton of money for the dealerships. There were no regulations on financial services or products, Monroney Stickers (MSRP), standardized VIN#’s, or business ethics laws to protect the consumers. You may thank your politicians for some good they have done over the years.
These people are the grunt workers. Some will learn bad habits of old sales reps and/or managers, some aspiring sales guys will have enough brains to develop their own way of talking to customers, and the rest are just hopeless.
Despite the notion that these people are brainless drones, that don’t know anything but how to make a quick buck, they are still people and often are paid very low. The average commission and bonus for a sales rep adds up to only about $230 per car sold, and average monthly sales are about 10-12 units.
It maybe frustrating to talk to these guys, but try to get to know your sales reps, and be their friend… they will surprise you once they open up. Just imagine yourself in their shoes, these people get treated like they are worthless by customers and sales managers all day.
The sales reps just do not have much control over your deal. Their jobs are to set you up for the sales managers. Don’t shoot the messenger, and you may go hard balling with the sales managers directly – if you wish to do so.
Assistant Sales Managers
They are the senior sales reps. These guys are not quite sales managers, but team leaders and are called ‘the Closers’. Yes, the sales reps show you the car and prepare you for the closers to come in and close your deal. The assistant sales managers do not make decisions on pricing, they are also messengers. Same as above, you may skip this step and ask for the sales manager, if the store is not overly busy.
People you want to talk to are sales managers, or often called ‘desk managers’. Most who occupy these positions earn six-figure income, so they have some egos. Without being abrasive, just ask for a fair deal and they will provide you with a competitive figure.
One catch, they are playing games with you if they state that they have to get a clearance from the owner or the general manager. Then just walk away from the desk and leave, it should clean up their act. If not, you haven’t lost anything – just go to the next dealership.
General Sales Manager
From this position and on are mainly for your complaints, questions, and/or concerns about the sales process and the staff. The general sales manager (GSM) is the top sales manager. One step below general manager, and the general sales manager is the general manager depending on the ownership structure of the company. If you have any complaints about the sales reps and/or assistant managers, GSM will handle that. But if you have a problem with the sales manager, GSM and even the general manager (GM) might protect the sales manager. Go straight to the manufacturer for these cases. Most owners will stay out of daily operations.
This position actually runs the store. They coordinate duties of all departments, make the advertisement decisions, do budget reports, sales reports, and meets up with the manufacturer’s representatives on a regular basis. Some GMs will take consumers’ complaints, and some will let the GSMs take care of them. The GM position can be viewed as a problem solver of the store. Remember, the GMs will almost never interact directly with consumers.