It’s the oldest trick in the book. When you’re out on the lot and you see a salesperson walk up, the default response is “I’m just looking.” This seems to be the conditioned response for everyone, even if they aren’t actually “just looking.” I know I have used it before myself in other situations. There are a few problems with this response. None of them help you, the consumer.
For starters, salespeople have adjusted to this response. A good salesperson knows how to move past this response now. At a minimum they will say, “Well thanks for stopping and looking at our dealership. Are you looking for a car, truck, or SUV.” Salespeople know that 99% of the time if they walk away after you say it, they won’t get a chance to talk to you again. The salesperson’s chances increase heavily just by moving past this. It’s hard to blame someone who makes their living off of commission for pressing on. The other problem is that people are so used to this working that they actually get a little upset when a salesperson doesn’t bid them adieu. This doesn’t do anyone any good.
So what do you do now to deflect the salesperson who comes out on the lot. Well, I’m not sure you’re going to like my response, but bear with me: Talk to them. Rarely is a person just looking. You have come to the lot for a reason. Just tell the salesperson what you wanted to know. If you are just looking for price information, just ask. If you want to know if the car you’re looking at has remote start, just ask. Or maybe you just wanted to look around the vehicle and see if you like it in person. Just tell them that. If you at least give a salesperson something to go off of they will feel like they have done their job. If you make them feel like they have won something by moving past this you are likely to end up with a less pushy salesperson. A lot of the time a salesperson just wants to be able to come back and give the boss some quality information since “Oh, they are just looking” is the fastest way to the doghouse.
Lastly, unless a dealership has the option of doing the entire sales process online, you are going to have to work with a salesperson at some point. So have a conversation with that salesperson for the purpose of finding out if you are comfortable working with them and that, most importantly, you think can trust them. The key here is to come to the lot with a plan and with information that you have already gathered online. Ask them what the price is and see if they give you the sticker price (which we’ve already talked about is never the actual price anymore). If they do, you might not be able to trust them. Ask them if the vehicle you’re looking at has remote start (knowing full well this one doesn’t). If they tell you that it does, or if they don’t know, you’ll know whether that salesperson knows their stuff.
The fact of the matter is that the salesperson is a necessary evil. Skipping “just looking” will relax the salesperson and take pressure away from them feeling like they have to sell to you. Use the salesperson to get all of the information you came looking for and find out if they are the person that you would like to work with or that you even want to buy from that dealership. How that salesperson treats you will most likely be how that dealership expects them to treat you.