The Ultimate Guide to Auto Sales

By Insights Team

It’s an age-old question: Are great salespeople born or made? It helps to have a bit of charisma and a healthy dose of a rise-and-grind mentality, but what sets a great salesperson apart is how prepared and committed they are to continued professional development. The best salespeople have mastered proven best practices that they apply consistently and fluently to their sales process.

If you're trying to achieve elite performance, the Applied Concepts Ultimate Guide to Auto Sales is a great place to start. And Applied Concepts' sales training is the perfect way to master the proven best practices driving modern auto retailing.

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Core Concepts in Auto Retailing

Modern auto retailing is inherently a multi-step process that requires 6+ interactions (including purely digital interactions) and a multi-channel process that requires sales reps to effectively leverage each communication channel. This fairly complex sales process requires you to not only properly handle each individual interaction but also be able to see the forest through the trees.4 Core Concepts

These core concepts will help guide you:

Advance the Ball

Good sales reps view each interaction as an opportunity to make a sale. Elite sales reps see the forest through the trees by viewing each interaction as an opportunity to advance the ball. An interaction should be designed to help the customer navigate their unique buying journey and get closer to a commitment.


Shape the buying process to fit the customer rather than attempt to shape the customer to fit the buying process.


There is no one-sized fits all approach. Through active listening and planning, your team can shape all interactions around the customer's unique situation.

Seamless Process

Ensure the buying process is a series of well-integrated interactions rather than a series of discrete interactions.

If you only dive deeply into one topic in this Ultimate Guide, we recommend you choose these Core Concepts. They are the beating heart of elite performance in modern auto retailing. You can read more about them in this article.

Sales Methods in Automotive

Have you given any thought to your sales methodology? It may seem like an esoteric concept that over-complicates things. But we are firm believers that spending some time thinking about the various sales methods is really valuable to make sure that 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.

Method 1: Command & Control

This method advocates for the rep driving the customer’s buying process by placing an emphasis on controlling the information flow and conversation, being persistent, and maintaining a certain degree of “hard selling”.

Method 2: Educate & Inform

This method focuses on creating a positive buying experience for the customer. It’s a much more customer-centric approach. Instead of the rep attempting to drive the customer’s behavior and buying process, the rep focuses on nurturing a relationship with that customer in order to become a trusted advisor.

Selling Methods

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 balance.

How hard you pull each lever depends on a number of factors, that you can read about in our article on that very topic.

Buying Journeys in Car Sales

Understanding your customer's buying journey is, in many ways, at the center of effective salesmanship. As discussed in this article, it helps drive what selling method to rely on most, it determines your choice and use of communication channels, influences your sales mentality, and needs to be incorporated into your sales process.

Remember, the buying journey has four stages: 

  1. Awareness: the customer first realizes that they have a need or problem and are researching ways to resolve the issue. 
  2. Consideration: the customer reviewed their options and narrowed them down to just a handful of choices. 
  3. Purchase: the customer has finalized their decision and they are figuring out what’s required of them to complete the purchase. 
  4. Post-purchase: once the customer completes their buying journey, customer service is following up to determine their level of satisfaction with the experience. 

We dive more into how to think through these buying journeys in this article: Buying Journeys Click

Communication Channels

Selling cars is an inherently multi-channel process and multi-step process, which means that means you need to be able to fluently navigate and harness the potential of each communication channel—phone, text message, email, and live chat.

Each communication channel comes with pros and cons as well as objectives and calls-to-action optimized for that communication channel.

Improving lead handling across all communication channels is in our DNA here at Applied Concepts. Let us know how we can help. We can start with a free assessment.


The phone is often the first and only interaction a consumer has with your dealership before coming into the showroom.

We generally see that the average caller will have completed around 5 to 10 hours of online research, and the majority are calling with a high intent to purchase a vehicle. The practical implication is that effective phone handling will determine whether or not they do business with you. The stakes are pretty high, and that's why phone skills are Applied Concepts' bread-and-butter and how we made our name in automotive sales training.

Text Message

Text Playbook | Auto SalesIf the phone is still king, text message is the new kid on the block threatening to take the crown. There are some serious advantages to incorporating text message into your sales arsenal, especially when it comes to buyer engagement (open rates are effectively 100%). But there are also some serious drawbacks that can really harm your close rates, especially in the area of what we call "responsible use".

Just because you text message every day in your personal life, do not assume you effectively text message with customers. There's actually more to it than you imagine, as you can see in our Text Message Selling Playbook.


Email Playbook | Auto SalesSimilar to text message, it's easy to fall into the trap that using email to interact with customers is as straightforward as emailing your buddy about your fantasy football draft. In fact, because of the high-volume nature of emails and the ability to automate emails, there are significant opportunities to sell more cars (and thus make more money) by raising your game even 1% across the thousands of emails sent per year.

The biggest opportunities we see tend to be improvements to the subject line and thoughtful use and placement of calls to action. We break this down in more detail in our Email Selling Playbook.

Live Chat

Live Chat Playbook | Auto SalesNot every dealer has a live chat platform, but everyday more and more dealers adopt this powerful lead generation method. If you're able to effectively integrate live chat into your website as well as your sales, marketing and customer success processes, you'll increase customer engagement and fill your pipeline with qualified leads. 

Therein lies the challenge. It needs to not only be effectively integrated into your website, it needs to be effectively integrated into 3 different functional areas of your business (sales, marketing, and customer success). This is fraught with complications because installing a live chat function is much easier than integrating it.

Our Live Chat Playbook is designed to get you started.


Video Playbook | Auto SalesWhether it's a video walkaround tour of a vehicle or a conversation via Zoom, video is becoming increasingly common, especially after COVID-19.

Sending customers a video tour of the vehicle that they are interested in is a great tool to have in your toolkit. It does not need to be complicated, nor do you need fancy equipment. A video tour that is (or at least seems) personalized is a great way to build trust through exceptional service. With some practice and a consistent plan you will see a very high ROI from these videos, translating to both a well-served, happy customer and more money in your wallet.

If you want to get started, look no further than this Playbook for Vehicle Video Tours.

Seamless Process

The customer's buying journey should appear as an ongoing, integrated conversation that happens to be split across multiple different channels rather than multiple discrete customers that that are lazily strung together.

Process Click

There are a lot of things that go into creating this seamless process. Some of the them are controlled at the dealership level (such as successful integration of a CRM, DMS, email automation, etc.). However, in this Ultimate Guide, we want to highlight two that are especially important for a rep or manager to be aware of:

Transition Between Communication Channels

You receive an inbound phone call, and the customer wants you to email them a link. You make an outbound phone call, and the customer wants you to text them a picture. These transitions between communication channels need to be seamless in order to create a positive buying experience and to make sure each interaction is actually accomplishing the goal of advancing the ball.

Transition Between People

The transition from a BDC rep to a sales rep or the transition from one sales rep to another also needs to be seamless in order to create positive buying experience. There are multiple keys to this, but central is the idea that each interaction should directly and thoughtfully build on the prior interactions. Perhaps the biggest opportunity lays in the avoiding the blind recycling of calls-to-action.

Effective InteractionsCust Interactions Click

How do you apply these best practices to an individual interaction?

The Applied Concepts perspective is that each interaction between a rep and a customer usually has 4 key components:

  1. Value - did the customer get what they needed from the rep?
  2. Discovery - did the rep get what they needed from the customer?
  3. Professionalism - were you and/or the communication professional in action, format, language, and appearance?
  4. Conversion - did you use an appropriate CTA to advance the ball?

In modern retailing, however, no interaction is isolated. It takes 6+ interactions (some of which may be digital) that need to be seamlessly integrated with one another. So the process is what connects each interaction.

When you combine value, discovery, professionalism, conversion, and process, what results is the total experience.

Interaction Equation


How Can We Help?

We dive into these topics (and more) in our training. Not only are there hours of tailored video content, but there are also dozens and dozens of one-on-one roleplay to help put these best practices into effect. Learn more HERE or connect with us HERE for a free assessment.

Tags: Advanced Topics, Sales, Playbooks & Guides