The Green Pea Phenomenon: Making the Customer Like You

I entered the car business in 1995. That’s when the old body style 300Zs, the new body style two-door Ford Escorts and Convertible Geo Trackers were hot at the pre-owned lot I worked in Virginia Beach, Va. In those days beepers were the “in” thing, cell phones were as big as briefcases, customers didn’t care about M.P.G. because a gallon of premium gas was only $1.20, vehicles had tape players instead of MP3 players and customers would call AAA for directions instead of asking if a vehicle had navigation.

The first day I walked into the dealership to sell cars, my trainer said one thing that forever stuck with me,

“Make them like you, make them like the car and the rest is easy.”

You have to keep it simple. Today, I believe sales reps over-complicate deals, which result in NO SALES. I recently went vehicle shopping with a friend for a new Tahoe, and I couldn’t keep from making mental notes of all the mistakes the salesmen made. They were over-complicating the deal by talking about interest rates and payments before my friend even sat in the vehicle. After about an hour of butchering the sales process, my friend decided not to buy there.

”Make them like you, make them like the car and the rest is easy.” That philosophy has served me well over the years, and it’s the same thing I’ve taught others. My first month, I sold 14 cars. Earning $4,200 from 14 sales in one month wasn’t bad for a 19-year-old former daytime telemarketer and Wendy’s employee by night.

Sell more cars with VOISYS scored internet leadsThe success of green peas never ceases to surprise me. It’s amazing that the less you know the better you do in auto sales. Everyone has seen a green pea come in and wipe up the floor with a seasoned vet. Why? You do not have to know anything about cars to sell them. You just have to make customers like you and the car, and the rest is easy. They work strictly off what they know. Green peas do know they can sell one car and earn more than they did working one week at their previous job. They don’t know how much a customer’s payment will be and won’t approximate interest rates. They simply tell the customer that the finance manager will go over that information.

They don’t cherry pick. The green peas aren’t the ones sitting on the bench behind a cigarette and a cup of coffee. They see an up and are on it without pre-qualifying. They don’t know about prime or sub-prime and front or back ends, and they treat all prospects the same. They make the customer like them; then they make the customer like the car.

In my second month selling cars, I got more involved in the sale. We were taught to “beat ‘em up.” Now remember I was at a pre-owned lot. I’d slowly walk into my office, sit down, let out a sigh and read over each line of the bureau. I wasn’t necessarily reading every line, but the customer didn’t know that. The key was to avoid looking at the customer while reviewing the bureau and make a few facial expressions. I was taught to do this with every customer—regardless of credit score. Then, I’d question the customer about every derogatory piece of information, even if it was a $10 charge off or something banks wouldn’t care about. If the person had no derogatory credit, I’d tell them they had too much credit and “I’ll see what we can do.” Thankfully, “Beat ‘em up” has evolved into consultation and is done with much more tact and finesse.

Every car sale will not happen the same way, but there are exact steps a sales person should use to close a deal. All salespeople have different styles, attitudes and methods of handling your customers. You have Johnny Hyper, Scottie Laid-Back, Bob Comedian and Tim No-Personality. If you pair one of these guys up with the wrong customer, disaster may strike. If all these different salespeople followed the same steps, confusion could be cut down and they all would have the same ability to control the sale.

Here are the steps:

  1. Meet and Greet
  2. Consultation
  3. Presentation/Walk Around
  4. Demonstration
  5. Trial Close
  6. Negotiate/Write Up
  7. Shop Walk
  8. T.O. to F&I
  9. Delivery
  10. Follow-up

These steps aren’t only good for the green peas. They’re also good for Michael Top-Gun who normally does 25+ units a month and has hit a slump. Even the best sales folks hit slumps. There were many times I hit a slump and had to revert back to “Make them like you and make them like the car…” and the 10 steps to a sale.

Since you are spending gazillions on a DMS, CRM, leads, web sites, advertising, etc., why not make sure your sales team is closing sales correctly? What good is bringing prospects in, if they aren’t being handled correctly once they’re on the lot? While advertising is important, a well-trained sales staff is equally important. Take your time, and train your team correctly.

Good Selling!
Erika Hoffler


About the author
Erika Hoffler has been in the Auto Industry for over 15 years. She currently is a Sales Manager for VOISYS where she has been for the last 6 years. She has a strong background in BDC and Appointment setting and is always willing to share her insight. She can be contacted at 800-999-1880 or