Find out What to Expect from Car Sales Jobs

Car salesman shaking hands with woman and son
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Americans have a love affair with automobiles. Next to owning a home, car ownership is part of the American dream. Helping people grab a piece of their American dream is the job of a car sales professional.

Despite the negative connotations that many associates with car dealers and car sales professionals, a career in auto sales is a fantastic choice for many. Not only can sales professionals earn an impressive income, but the sales skills learned can be priceless.

The Dealership

Unless you have the financial resources to start your own dealership, you will be working for an established car dealership. This means that you will report to the dealership each working day, meet with your sales manager, prepare for the day and spend time with your co-workers. Like any other job, if the dealership and the people you work for and with are difficult, overly demanding, negative and untrustworthy, you will be challenged to enjoy your position in auto sales. For unlike outside sales positions, you will be spending long hours at the dealership.

Choosing to work for a dealership that is well respected and that fosters an encouraging and supportive environment is, like any other sales job, crucial to your long-term success and happiness. While those who have been out of work for any length of time may suggest that choosing where you work is often not an option. However, most dealerships experience a high turn-over rate, creating opportunities for those interested in auto sales. As with any other job, doing some research on local dealerships probably will reveal which ones are considered good places to work.

New, Used or Both

Most dealerships carry both new automobiles and used. In general, more money is earned when selling used cars than selling new. This is primarily due to the public having Internet access where they can quickly and easily look up new car pricing and get competitive quotes with just a few clicks of a mouse.

Dealers that only sell used cars usually have fewer sales reps, fewer cars on their lots and have the reputation of being, well, used car salesmen. While there are used car sales professionals who embody this negative reputation, the tag is largely unwarranted and should not prevent you from pursuing this lucrative and rewarding sales career.


Most auto sales professionals will have a compensation program that includes both a base salary and a commission program. While this blended compensation plan is common, most every dealership will have their own unique twist on the comp plan. Some may only offer commissions on used car sales and give placement fees for sales of new cars. Others may not have a salary at all, still others may offer a "draw" against commissions.

Whatever compensation model your dealership offers needs to be fully understood before you start selling any vehicles. As with every comp plan, there will be ways to maximize your earnings by focusing on certain areas. Only with a full understanding of your comp plan can you determine what sales skills do you most need to develop in order to be successful.

You will also need to keep in mind that the dealership with have their preferred areas that they want their reps to focus. Fortunately, most established dealerships have intelligently designed their comp plans to motivate their reps to sell what makes the dealership the most profit.

The Benefits

Beyond a lucrative compensation plan, a successful sales rep in the auto industry often enjoys demo cars, manufacturer bonus plans, discounts on vehicles, service and auto parts.

The main downside to auto sales are the hours that most reps are expected to spend at the dealership. It is not uncommon for reps to put in 12 to 14 hour days, many of which are hours spent waiting for a car shopper to stop in to look at a vehicle. While this downtime can be used to visit with other sales reps, the most successful reps use downtime to follow up on prospects, to call customers to make sure all is going well with their vehicle or to spend time improving their sales skills.

Auto sales legend Joe Girard, who is widely accepted as the greatest car salesman in the world, used his downtime to write cards to his customers. Joe sent birthday cards, anniversary cards, Holiday greetings and purchase anniversary notes to all of his customers. The message he wrote in most of these notes was simply, "I like you!"

Simple, powerful and a way better use of downtime than checking the score of the Yankees game.