Foundational Topics    July 14, 2021

Two Key Selling Methods in Auto Sales

Insights Team
Insights Team

Have you given any thought to your sales methodology? It may seem like an esoteric concept that over complicates things. But spending some time thinking about the various sales methods is really valuable to make sure your interactions are thoughtful and aligned behind a clear objective. Our take is that sales in the automotive industry is a balance between two methods.

Command & Control

The command & control selling method advocates for a sales rep exercising some control over the conversation and sales process. It often can be thought of as the “old school” way of selling..., but really what’s at the heart of command and control is the idea that, even in “modern auto retailing,” you need to exercise salesmanship. 

You do this by focusing on two foundational elements. First, ensure you get the customer’s contact information, which in many ways is the lifeblood of any sales process. Second, ensure each conversation you have advances the ball closer to the objective of closing a deal. You do this by making sure each interaction has some sort of call to action. A very common and valuable call to action is an appointment request, but the goal should really be advancing the ball with that call-to-action, whether that be an appointment request, sending them a credit application, sending them additional photos of the vehicle, or some other clear and actionable next step.


Our perspective is that command & control is central to the basic skillset of a car sales rep. It forms basic muscle memory because it provides a clear and easy to use approach to sales. Importantly, it also builds the courage to drive the conversation. Sometimes taking control of a customer’s buying journey can move the customer along their particular buying journey faster, which results in deals being done.


When layered on too thick or used improperly, there are some real disadvantages. Command and control can come off as pushy and invasive. This is especially likely if someone is in the awareness stage or the post-purchase stage. Improper use of command & control can negatively impact your customer’s buying experience as well as your personal brand and your dealership’s brand.

"Consumer data overwhelmingly supports that consumers value a car-buying experience that is transparent, predictable, streamlined, efficient, personalized..."
Cox Automotive - The Future of Digital Retail Study


Educate & Inform

The second method to understand is educate and inform. It’s a much more customer-centric approach. The sales rep focuses on nurturing a relationship with the customer in order to become a trusted advisor. You do this by asking thoughtful questions and providing enough information to keep them moving along their buying journey.

The anticipated outcome is that the customer will choose to purchase through you as a result of your ongoing support throughout the buying process. It’s more of a “soft sell” mentality, but remember that does not mean it’s a “weak” selling method – you still need to exercise salesmanship!


For many consumers, educate & inform is the expectation, and it's the direction the broader retail world is moving. Today’s customers require a more personalized and collaborative approach when deciding how to spend their hard-earned cash.


There are two key challenges associated with educate & inform.

  • You have to get comfortable losing a bit of control. You are shifting some of the power into the hands of the customer. As one might expect, this adds an element of uncertainty and can also lengthen the amount of time it takes to close the deal.
  • Another challenge is that it can be more difficult to master. It requires active listening, empathy, thoughtfulness, and being able to see the forest through the trees. By contrast, the command and control method is less involved and allows you to treat your customers the same, for the most part.

How to Blend Each Method

Imagine that you have two levers you can pull during an interaction with a customer. One lever says command & control and the other lever says educate & inform. In some instances, you want to pull the command & control lever all the way down. In other cases, you'll want to yank on the educate & inform lever. As you might expect, though, most of the time it'll be a blend. 

Exactly how you blend each method depends on a number of factors, including where your customer is in their buying journey, the buyer persona of your customer, the preferences of your store, and a number of other factors.

That being said, keep in mind the goal is not to use one method or the other. The goal is to make money -- both for you and for your store. So use whichever method is most likely to help you advance the ball towards that worthwhile goal.

How We Can Help

Our training dives into the two key selling methods in auto sales. Not only will you master the concepts, but you'll also practice each selling method during live one-on-one roleplay. Learn more HERE or connect with us HERE for a free assessment.