Car Salesman Career Stages

So you've made the decision to be a professional retail car salesperson. You're new to the dealership and everything is fun and exciting. Your surrounded by all the brand new vehicles and you get to sell and drive them all. The excitement you feel is the feeling you want to keep forever, just like starting any new career. There are traps and pitfalls you need to be aware of. Read on to learn about the typical car salesman career stages you will encounter on your journey to becoming a professional car salesman.

life cycle of a car salesman jumping hurdles |

Retail car sales, just like any career, has its ups and downs. The quicker you recognize the downs, the quicker you'll transform into a mean green money making machine.

What you'll find here:

The "NEW" Will Wear Off Over Time

I've seen hundreds of car salespeople come and go over my career. I've seen very talented salespeople get caught up in clicks or thinking they "know it all" and make the mistake of quitting or moving to another dealership too quickly. There is no huge secret to being a successful car salesperson. There are two simple ingredients, I'll even share them with you below:

"10% Skill 90% Attitude"

Now please don't get me wrong. It takes skill to become a professional salesperson. However, you can have all the skill in the world but if your attitude is bad, you won't sell anything to anybody.

The hard part is keeping the two ingredients together every day, day in and day out. A customer knows within about 30 seconds of meeting you if they like you enough to buy a car from you. You must keep this in mind. This is where the term "First Impressions are Everything" came from.

My four stages of a car salesman's career will help you identify where you're at in your sales career and keep you from making a costly mistake.

Retail car sales can be a great and rewarding career choice, but it's not for everyone. If you're thinking about becoming a car salesman, take a look at a what a car salesman's day looks like to see if you have what it takes.

Some people make a very good living selling cars, continue to read more on how much money a car salesman can make.

Life Cycle of a Car Salesperson

When first entering into retail car sales, the first year is usually all it takes to find out if you're going to have what it takes. There are several other factors that will determine your future in car sales. However, the one that can take you out the quickest is your own personal ATTITUDE.

I've broke the salesperson life cycle down to 4 stages so you can recognize where you may be right now in your car sales career or what you should look out for and avoid.

The one flexible thing with my life cycle of a salesperson is the times I've allotted for each stage. Some people learn faster than others however the actions and symptoms are all about the same.

Stage #1: Introduction to Retail Car Sales (approx. 1 - 6 months) - It's new, fun and exciting. You have a great attitude and a thirst for product knowledge. You have pep-in-your-step and you always have a smile on your face.

You want to learn everything you can about retail car sales and everything you can about the vehicles you're selling.

You listen to what your Sales Manager's say to you to tell the customer and you pass the information on verbatim. You follow every step of the car dealerships sales process to a tee. You're having so much fun you come to work early and stay late.

Symptoms of Stage #1 are:

  • High Sales Volume
  • Different and Exciting
  • High Earnings

Preventive Measures for Stage #1 are:

  • Realize it Takes Time and Hard Work to Build Your Foundation
  • Keep and Maintain a Superior Attitude
  • Continue to Focus on the Basics
  • Learn at Least One Thing New Every Day!

Stage #2: Becoming Knowledgeable. (approx. 6 - 9 months) - This stage of your short career is when you start to become educated in the car business. You're enlightened and familiar with your surroundings and how things work in your dealership. You start learning the clicks within the dealership and starting to listen to people who may or MAY NOT have your best interests in mind.

You've started to believe in your head you can figure out your customers and stop truly listening to what they are telling you. Not only do you believe you can figure out your customers, you think you can figure out your Sales Managers also.

Once you start believing you have the customers, Managers and dealership figured out. You start to pre-qualify customers, thinking you know who will or will not buy a car by what they look like, what they're wearing or what they drive on the lot in.

Not only do you start pre-qualifying customers. You start to question the dealerships 12-Step selling procedure, believing you can do it better by cutting corners. (The process, whatever it may be was in place long before you got there.)

Symptoms of Stage #2 are:

  • Lower Than Previous Sales Volume
  • Questioning If Retail Car Sales is the Right Career Choice
  • Lower Earnings

Preventive Measures for Stage #2 are:

  • Build a Strong Referral Base
  • Keep Yourself in Front of People
  • Become an actor, Tiger and Chaplain
  • Polish Your Basic Skills
  • Learn Something New Every Day!

Stage #3: You Have Arrived. (approx. 9 - 12 months) - This is where it will start to get sketchy, your mind and attitude will play tricks on you. You will either die or rise at this time.

You've figured everything out, you know vehicle and product costs, values of trades, what routes to take, etc. You know who will buy and who won't buy. You start to cut corners anytime you can so you can take the easiest routes. You start to hang out within the clicks of salespeople whom are less successful.

You don't follow-up with your customers and start making excuses for why someone won't buy a car from you. Everything is "Whoa-Me." There's no traffic coming in the store, it's raining, it's hot, it's too cold outside. We don't have any cars, get my point yet?

Believe me when I tell you, a seasoned Sales Manager will recognize your in this stage well before you do. A good Sales Manager will attempt to help you and get you out of your funk. (If you're worth saving.) You just have to be smart enough to recognize they're trying to help you.

Symptoms of Stage #3 are:

  • Very Low Sales Volume
  • Frustrated
  • Bad Attitude
  • Lack of Energy (Lazy)
  • Desiring Career Change
  • Poor Work Habits
  • Want to Change Dealerships (Grass is Greener)
  • Extremely Low Earnings

Preventive Measures for Stage #3 are:

  • Surround Yourself with Positive and Successful People
  • Focus on Only the Things that Help you Sell a Car
  • Don't Take Rejection Personally (Huge Tip)
  • Maintain Constant Motion and Follow-up
  • Don't Make Excuses for why You're Not Selling a Car
  • Know that all Successful People Fail Before they Succeed
  • Learn Something New Every Day!


Transformation to a Professional Salesperson or FAILURE. (approx. 9 - 12 months) - Within stage #3 is when you will hit a crossroads during your car sales career. You will either "get it", and transform into a professional car salesperson, or you will "burn out" and quit or turn into a "use-to", a term used to describe individuals that sold cars previously and don't anymore. Apparently they were not very good at it.

Your attitude is very bad at this point and you look for any little reason to justify in your head a reason to quit. You speak with others in the business at other car dealerships and they tell you how much better it is where they are at. Problem is, if you go there you will be starting back at stage #1. If you don't fix your problem mentally you will be right back where you're at right now!

The Grass is NOT Always GREENER on the Other Side of the Fence!

Stage #4: Professional Retail Car Salesperson. (approx. 12 months) - Congratulations you are now a professional retail car salesperson. You have a realization that YOU make YOUR sales career. You hang out and listen to successful peers. You complete your follow-up on a consistent basis. You're sold on the dealerships selling system and you don't cut corners.

You now have rigid work habits with the understanding that if you're not doing something that has to do with selling a car, you're not making money. You find yourself looking forward to going to work and your attitude and feelings return to stage #1 permanently.

Symptoms of Stage #4 are:

  • Total Awareness
  • Extremely High Earnings
  • High Sales Volume
  • Customer Base Grows
  • Your Training and Skills are Becoming Strong
  • Excitement
  • Promotion Opportunities

Well there you have it. Again this timeline can happen over a few short weeks, months, or years. You can fall into any one of these sections at anytime. As long as you recognize the signs, you can pull yourself out and focus on what's important....Having fun and making MONEY!

Retail car sales is a fun and rewarding career. If you're looking to get into it, listen and learn all you can and make your own decision if it's right for you.

Click here to read more about car salesmen.

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Did You Know?

Some car dealerships pay their sales people a draw every month. This could be up to $2000 or more.

The salesperson has to make at least that much by the end of the month to just break even with the dealer.

If the salesperson does not at least make enough money to pay the dealer back. The deficiancy balance is carried over to the next month.

Consecutively failing to produce enough commission to cover his draw. The dealership will see him as a poor salesman and the sales managers will run him off after a couple of months.

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