When I was a new salesperson on the dealership floor, customers would always ask me for the best price on a vehicle.

I would tell them the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, and then whisper that I sold one yesterday for $2,000 less than that, and see what I can do for them. They’d smile and we would head off for a test drive.

After we had completed the demo drive, the customer would say, “Darin, really, what’s the best price you can do it for?” Before I knew it, I would be negotiating right on the lot. I know now to never negotiate on the lot or showroom floor.

Those customers loved me, so off to my office we would go. I would pull out a worksheet and write down the selling price. Of course, they would question why I wrote that number. Then I would ask them for an offer. Wrong move again. The customer invariably would want $4,000 off the MSRP. Oh no!

I would question them on how they thought I could get $4,000 off. They would reply, “Come on Darin. Just tell your manager that’s all we are willing to pay. You can do it.”

I would tell my manager these people were going to buy today. He would tell me we could save them $400.

That left me negotiating with my manager. I would tell him the customer was only willing to pay $26,000. He would ask me how they arrived at that. After some hesitation, I would offer a little white lie: “I told them I could take off at least $1,000 and then they said and then…”

My manager would interrupt me, asking where I got all these crazy low-ball customers. You know the rest of the story. Even if the dealership closed the deal, the gross would be so low it was almost not even worth selling the car.

Every customer wants the best price. A salesperson should help them get it, but it has to be done right.

If there were a prize for the most-asked question in car sales, the winner would be, “What’s your best price?”

How you handle this question determines whether you sell the vehicle and if you end up with sufficient gross profit. Use three points in your selling system when you will hear this question.

  • “I’ll be more than glad to give you the best price, but I’d like to make sure that we pick the right vehicle for you first. Will that be OK?”
  • “My job at the dealership is to help you find a vehicle you really want and then I’ll give you the best price, OK?”
  • “No problem. We can be flexible but I have to make sure this is the vehicle you really want.”

Don’t hesitate and proceed with your presentation and product demonstration drive.

If the customer asks for your bottom-line best price during or immediately after the demo drive, use one of the following options.

  • “When we get back to the dealership I’ll go and get you the best price, OK?”
  • “OK, follow me and we’ll get the best price right now.”
  • “Great! So you liked the ride and all the features of the vehicle? OK, then follow me and I will get you the best price right now.”

Proceed with selling the dealership and asking for the sale. Get out your dealership worksheet and negotiate. Every sale won’t be a high-gross winner, but maintaining healthy grosses boils down to timing and wording. Practice what you say and when to say it.

Darin George is the general manager of ASC Sales Staff Recruiting & Training. He can be reached at darin@visitasc.com.