Sales Reps' Top Five Annoying Habits (Whether They're Selling Cars Or Software)

I’m in the process of buying a new car, and I’m trying to apply everything I’ve learned from my research into software negotiation towards getting a good deal. I’m noticing many of the irritating behaviors from the dealers’ sales staff that Forrester’s sourcing and vendor management clients encounter regularly from their software reps. Here is my list of the worst ones, but I’d love to hear other people’s suggestions:

  1. Refusing to give me a price. “Obviously” (the repeated use of that word nearly made the list btw) “I can’t give you a price until you’ve made your decision and finalized the spec.” Even though I’ve said exactly what model and options I want, the rep wants to avoid competing against another dealer, so he’s trying to delay starting price negotiation until I’m committed to his brand. I’m not playing ball, insisting that I like two cars almost equally, so price will be a decision criterion.
  2. Bundling in overpriced options. Car buyers and software buyers should both be wary of anything with the word ‘pack’ in the title, such as ‘dynamic handling pack’ or ‘database tuning pack.’ Don’t be fooled by the compelling discount you can get on these extras — that merely means their list price is too high for the value customers get from them. For example, why would I want the ‘navigation multimedia pack’, which is merely a £300 SatNav system that they’re trying to sell for £2,000. Oh, and it also gives a warning noise if you’re driving too close to the car in front. I’ve had something similar sat next to me for the last 25 years — I affectionately call her ‘Sat Nag.’
  3. Calling me ‘yourself’ instead of ‘you’. For instance: “Is the car just for yourself, or will your wife be driving it as well?” Ugh, this is so irritating, but all reps do it so they must teach it in rep school. What’s wrong with the word ‘you’? Incidentally, my answer was “not nearly as well, but she will be driving it.” The salesman thought that was witty, even if my wife didn’t.
  4. Getting the pricing rules wrong. I’ve studied the price list, and apparently I know it better than Jamie, the Mercedes sales guy. I've lost count of how many times I’ve had to correct him on the detail of what comes as standard with each model and what options are available. Software pricing is far more complex than car pricing, so it’s unsurprising that sales reps often give buyers incorrect information. They do so with such self-assurance that it’s hard to tell when they’re lying or guessing. If in doubt, make them show you the official policy statement in a published document — an ad hoc email is insufficient.
  5. Keeping me away from the sales manager. I know he’s the person who approves all the offers, so why can’t I negotiate directly with him? Because Jamie wants to be able to say, “Sorry, Doug, the manager, says no.” Well, two can play that game. Just as software buyers should keep their CIOs in reserve, I can say, “Sorry, my wife will only let me spend £x.” I’ve got to convince Jamie that that is my upper limit and arm him to sell my proposal to Doug.

Does anyone else have some annoying habits to add to my list? Or perhaps some other tips for getting my car a bit cheaper?



1. Even worse is a "best price on the windshield." I did my homework; I know they can do better. I won't shop there. As much as I hate the haggling game, at least I know I did my best.

2. This is a way of recovering the development cost of options no one really wants - probably because they are overpriced or even useless.

3. At least he didn't say "the wife." I really hate that. Here's another annoying habit: I don't like shopping for a car with my husband because the sales rep will only talk to him, not me, even though the car is for me and I'm standing right there. I only get my husband involved when it's haggling time, and Jamie has already heard my offer from me.

5. I find standing up and walking towards the door to be an effective way to say "You're both full of sh--." It cuts out at least 2 trips to Doug, who has already told Jamie the lowest price he will consider -- that is if there even is a "Doug."

As for software, I was the tech rep who sometimes went with the sales rep. I knew the pricing rules better than he did.

Walking away

Thanks for your comments Nancy. I like having my wife with me because she's a tougher haggler than I am and it unsettles the rep - he doesn't know who he has to convince.

You're absolutely right about No. 5. I always advise sourcing clients to establish their walk-away position, the credible threat, so the vendor knows the consequence of no agreement. Here's one tip that worked for me. I started to walk away, but then turned back and asked if I could use the restroom before I left. When I'd finished, the rep intercepted me on the way to the car and improved his offer. The toilet ploy gave him time to reconsider without having to actually run after me.


I've used the toilet ploy too, and it did save the chase.

I'm a tougher haggler than my late husband was too. The problem was that the sales rep rarely even looked at me, even though it was clear who was in charge.

Maybe... should consider a reverse auction.
Decide which dealers you would like to deal with, give them the specs for the vehicle you want, invite them to an event, and let the lowest qualified bidder have your business. In your line of work, I'm certain you could find qualified host for an event.

Maybe they can't help it...

It's sad to think that many of these sales reps were just thrown onto the floor with little training and a few useless manuals they're told to read.

Several of your frustrations mentioned above are classic "crutch" phrases, words, and behaviors in sales. Unfortunately, if they're going to be cliche sales people, you need to be a cliche buyer. Use phrases like "I'm still not sure", "We need to talk about it", and "do you have any more information on that?" Everyone hates to hear those phrases.

The best car sales person I ever spoke to almost, ALMOST, sold me a car on the spot when I really wasn't in the market to buy (which is obviously never true b/c anyone that works in sales knowns that even if you're "just looking" there is always something in your subconscious saying "you want" what they have). Needless to say, the line he used when I was walking away and indicated I wasn't interested: "It's ok, I understand, I'm not looking to work with everyone, just the right people." The comment clearly toys with your psyche and makes you think you rethink your decision because you're not "the right" person. I've seen the same line used elsewhere and it never fails to make the recipients second guess themselves

In India there is more demand

In India there is more demand than supply-
Also it is a cost market- Where everyone wants a discount
Sales agent here will try to sell old and outdated model- in lieu of the discount.