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Automobile Salesperson

What They Do

Insider Info

The main duty of automobile salespeople is to help customers find a vehicle that matches both their needs and their finances. Automobile salespeople can sell used or new vehicles -- or both.

Salespeople work inside, in the showroom, and outside, on the car lot. They do a lot of talking on the job. They get to know customers in order to find out what their lives are like so they can pair them with the car most suited for them. They set up test drives and answer questions from potential customers.

Automobile salespeople need to know cars. You need to be able to answer lots of questions from customers about a car's specs (slang for "specifications").

Salespeople also need to deal with a lot of paperwork. They talk to customers about warranties, credit terms, trade-in allowances and other financial aspects of a sale. Some basic computer skills are required.

People skills are very important for an automobile salesperson. Because an average day of work could mean talking to dozens of people and attempting to get them to buy a car, they need to be outgoing and friendly, but they also need to know when to back away and give the customers some space.

Blair Qualey is the president and CEO of a car dealers' association. He says being a "people person" is an important trait for an automobile salesperson.

"I'm sure there are some who are not big people persons, but I'm not sure how successful they'd be. The people who are successful are very organized, they're gregarious, they're friendly, they know their material, they spend a lot of time nurturing and developing contacts."

And the old days of the auto salesperson having a reputation as being too pushy are coming to an end. You'll still find the occasional salesperson out there who goes for the hard-sell approach, but more and more, dealerships are realizing that method turns people away.

"There are always going to be people out there who use some of the old tricks," says Qualey. "But the industry is a lot more sophisticated in terms of sales than it was before."

The Internet is changing the industry a lot. Some sales are done entirely online. But even online sales are often still done through an auto salesperson. And people usually still want to see a car in person before they make the purchase.

"Yes, the Internet is becoming the new way of buying a car," says Sherry Linton. Linton is a product specialist selling automobiles. "There is lots you can do over the Internet with pictures, info, etc. I sold two trucks today over the Internet. One customer was about three hours away and the other was four hours away."

It's important to have a lot of stamina as an auto salesperson. Even if it's a slow day on the lot, there is always behind-the-scenes work to do. There is paperwork to be done and customers to call and check up on. And there are always new products to read about.

It's often a 40-hour work week, but some salespeople work up to 60 hours a week during busy times. The long hours and extended periods of time either standing or sitting can be tiring for some people.

Depending on the dealership, auto salespeople make a base salary and commission for each vehicle they sell.

This can be a very competitive industry, with auto salespeople competing with their co-workers for sales.

At a Glance

Make deals for wheels

  • Appearance and personality are important
  • Long workweeks are the norm
  • You should like talking with people


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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.