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What I Learned from Being Hounded to Death by Car Salesmen

Finding that fine line between perseverance and annoyance.

Car Salesperson
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Towards the end of last year, it became pretty obvious to everyone in my family except me that I needed a new car. “Dad, this car is old. All the other parents drive new cars,” my son complained. I gently reminded him that our trusty Yukon ran just fine and car payments should be avoided like the plague. My logic didn’t seem to resonate. “Whatever Dad,” he quipped back. Feeling deflated, I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a look and see what was out there, so I fired up the Web browser and started looking around.

Most of the car buying sites such as,, and others are pretty good about getting your personal information up front in exchange for showing you “hassle free” pricing. I knew I was giving them permission to call me, but I wanted to see the bottom line, so I bargained away my privacy in a trice. I browsed through new and used car listings oblivious of what was to follow the next day.

Also by Henry Clifford: Reboot Your Referral Program

Early the next morning I noticed some missed phone calls and new texts. I opened up my email and discovered dozens of unread messages from my new friends in the car industry, assuring me the answer to all my problems lay in a new 2020 Wagon Queen Family Truckster. Some of them were pretty clever. A particularly memorable email featured the salesperson in a video holding up a placard with my name on it. Talk about click bait! I know they all meant well, but I wondered aloud to what degree “hounding” results in closed business? I tried to recall the last time I closed a sale with a customer who was at all reluctant. Our customers are generally engaged, excited, and want to know how soon we can start. What’s the deal with car salespeople?

Maybe it’s the competitive nature of the auto dealers. In the car world, you can buy your vehicle from any dealership and the end of the process usually comes down to price. I don’t know about you, but I don’t take my vehicles to the dealership for service, so a car deal is a transaction, maybe a long-game relationship with one salesperson at best.

Then I thought about Carmax and it all made sense. Here I was getting hounded to death by traditional car salespeople and it reminded me again why I’ve been buying vehicles from Carmax for years. They’re there when you want them, with no pressure. It’s not that they don’t care whether you buy, but they understand their job is to provide you all the information you need, when you need it, and then back off.

What can we learn in the CI channel from this dynamic? Clearly Carmax saw a high-pressure industry full of desperation and decided to disrupt it. To what degree are we providing all the answers to customer questions on our Web sites or another easily accessible medium? If the customer isn’t allowed the breathing room to do their own research, we’re bound to chase them into the arms of our competitors.

Also by Henry Clifford: Are You Answering Customer Questions?

Customers in our channel generally gravitate our way because we offer a high level of service that’s not available in a big-box environment. In order to deliver on those expectations, we have to be expert listeners and perceivers. No two buyers are alike, and what works for one might be a huge annoyance for another. I hear the term “ghosted” used a lot to describe prospects we can’t reach. Maybe they don’t want to be reached? Why did they go radio silent? Did we email the proposal and sticker shock them? At least the car industry has stickers on the vehicles.

What are you doing to walk the line between indifference and hounding?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.