Is a Car Sales Job Right for Me

by John
(North Carolina)

Question: Is a car sales job right for me? I'm considering a career as a car salesman, but am looking for some advice.

I am 30 years old and have been in Law Enforcement for 10 years. I am at a point in my career where I am "burned out" with low pay and receiving the kind of treatment Law Enforcement Officers receive while on the job.

I do not make enough money where I work now to do anything with but pay bills. Nothing extra. No incentives at work, no advancement opportunities, more "jobs" to do while at work for the same low pay.

I have been interested in a car sales job for probably two or three years now. I have concerns that if I apply for a sales position and am hired by a dealership, I won't be making enough money to live, so essentially I wouldn't be gaining anything by changing careers.

I am interested in one auto maker in particular at this time, and feel confident that I could sell the product they make.

I currently drive one of this companies vehicles and have a high desire to see this company excel and succeed in the Automotive Industry.

I simply love this company and want everyone else to experience what I am experiencing, by owning one of their vehicles.

What do you think? Should I give it a shot? I've never sold cars nor worked in any type of sales, except as a sales associate at a local grocery store.

I just don't want to "Jump from the frying pan into the fire" per se. I have the high desire to succeed and the "want too" I feel you need to have to make selling cars a career.

Should I try it and if so, can you give me an idea of a possible salary range for a brand new car salesman?

I've read you Car Salesman Salary page but don't know if the salaries or procedures have changed from when that was posted up to now.

Thank you for taking the time to read and answer this long question.

Answer: Hi John,

The first few things that came to mind when I read your email had to do with what you might be giving up in your current career as opposed to what you might gain with a car sales job.

These however are things that you (as I'm sure you know) would have to weigh out for yourself.

My father was in Law Enforcement for 25 years, I have friends that are currently Sheriff's in Los Angeles and I work with a salesman that was an MP for 5 years and now is a successful car salesman.

In fact, the guy I work with brought up some of the points I'll mention below...

The things that come to mind are your retirement with the department you are with now. This will depend on when you qualify and how much you're paid, but if you qualify at 20 years, then you are already halfway there.

Other than offering 401k plans there is not a pension type of retirement plan with most car sales jobs (none that I know of). In addition, not all dealers will contribute to your 401k.

Next would be the benefits. I would bet that your current benefits package will be better in Law Enforcement than you'd find at most dealerships.

We have a really good benefits plan here at my dealership, but it is expensive ($7000+ per year/family) and needs to be accounted for when figuring how much you can make selling cars.

On top of that, you may have to wait as long as 6 months to a year before open enrollment. COBRA is expensive!

Guaranteed Salary:
Right now you say that your pay just gets you by every month, but it is getting you by every month.

Working on full commission especially in a field you have limited experience with and in a bad economy can be extremely stressful and costly. The bad economy is a big factor in deciding on a car sales job right now.

I've been on full commission now for 15 years and it still makes things a little difficult because I am never quite sure what next month will bring...Or not!

How You're Treated:
Some other things you mentioned that you were not happy with at your current job was how you were treated on the job.

I agree that Law Enforcement Officers can be
treated like crap by many they would come into contact with on a daily basis, but you will also run into this often in a car sales job.

For whatever reason, some people think they are better than salesmen, salesmen are second class citizens and everything they say is some sort of a scam or lie!

So the way you're treated will improve in some ways, but stay the same in others. Of course it's rare that anyone is attacked or shot at as a car salesman, but I think you catch my drift here.

Regarding what type of income that you could expect in your first year, I'll give you a real boring answer and say that it depends!

Not only on you, but on the dealership. Both you and the dealership need to be doing things that get customers in front of you as often as possible.

Once they are in front of you:

  • They will have needed to have trained you well
  • You'll have needed to have learned well
  • You'll have to apply what you've learned
  • They will need to give you good support throughout the deal (especially important early on in a sales career).

That being said, I'd still stick to what my car salesman salary page says, even in this economy, and think that the best most new car salesman are going to be is average and fall into the $30,000 to $45,000 a year.

Of course this can and will vary person to person.

Learning Curve:
Keep in mind, there is a big learning curve with a car sales job. Even people with successful sales experience in other fields don't always translate into good car salesmen.

It's really important to learn the basics and apply them day in and day out in a way that appears natural to customers.

I'm sure you've encountered pushy salesmen in your life and it's not always because they were pushy people, but they may simply know no other way to ask for the sale.

One positive is that the most successful people I've met in car sales are people with no prior sales experience (bonus for you).

I think people with past experience tend to think that they've got their new car sales job all figured out and it couldn't be much different than the retail sales or corporate sales job they switched over from.

To those people I say "Welcome to the Car Business!"

On the other hand, people with no prior experience tend to come in like sponges and absorb all they can and are honest with themselves.

This is what I did wrong on this deal, next time I'll do this, man I did a good job - I'll be sure to do it again, I should have recognized that I had no control over this customer and should have asked for help, etc.

To Sum This Up:
I'd say get one, some or all of Grant Cardone's sales books or audio courses (specifically for car sales), take a look at my Salesman page and click on the different links. Especially the how to sell cars link (that's the base of most all dealerships selling strategies).

You definitely have some positives that you'll bring to the table:

  • You'll be trusted more than others - Don't be afraid to tell people you were a 10 year Law Enforcement Officer. Use your judgment what customers to say that to.

  • You'll be good with paperwork.

  • You won't be scared to talk to customers (you might be surprised how many salesmen are)

  • You sound motivated to succeed,

I'd personally recommend studying up some more on car sales techniques and seeing if you can find a Mom & Pop dealer that might allow you to sell part time.

Or, you can use a week or two worth's of vacation time and actually get a full time car sales job.

This will help you see if a car sales job is right for you before you officially leave your current job. Larger dealers may even look for part time help when they have big "sales events."

If you like it and are making some money (key here in a bad economy), then go full speed ahead and make car sales a career. Eventually, find a dealer that sells the vehicles you like.

Hope this answers your questions, but please don't hesitate to contact me with any further.

Take care and good luck if you do decide to get a car sales job...

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