If you are a first-time car buyer or someone who hasn't set foot in a showroom in years, going to a dealership can be a bit intimidating. To help you get acquainted with the dealership sales staff, we've broken down who does what, more or less in the order of their appearance.
If you walk into a dealership showroom, the receptionist will often be your first point of contact. The receptionist answers the phone and can connect you to a salesperson or the internet manager. If you're only at the dealership to look around, the receptionist can give you vehicle brochures without involving a salesperson.
The Business Development Center Rep
Business Development Centers — BDCs for short — are becoming more common in bigger car dealerships. The BDC representative might be your first contact at the dealership and the person you hear from most often.
If you email or call a dealership looking for the sales department, the BDC rep may be the person who fields your request and answers basic questions. The rep sets you up with the salesperson who will ultimately show you a car. The rep will likely follow up with you by phone or email after a visit if you don't buy a car.
BDC reps don't actually sell cars, so they won't be out on the lot demonstrating features or test-driving with customers. That means they are almost always available to answer your inquiries, making it less likely that your question will fall through the cracks because all the salespeople are busy. The BDC rep's job is to get you all the information you need so you'll eventually come visit the store.
If you walk onto a dealership lot, your first point of contact, even before the receptionist, may be a salesperson. There are plenty of capable and ethical car salespeople, but the profession continues to struggle with a stereotype that is, unfortunately, sometimes true. Shoppers often see themselves as being at odds with car salespeople: You want the lowest price possible; they want to make the most money on the car. Ultimately, though, both of you want you to leave the lot with the car that's right for you. It's good to keep that in mind.
The salesperson will show you the vehicle, arrange and usually go along on a test drive, and start the negotiation for purchase. In many cases, salespeople will also begin the financing process by taking information for a credit application. Knowledgeable salespeople are helpful in pointing out certain features on the car, but they shouldn't be your only source of information. Take full advantage of Edmunds model reviews and road tests so you have plenty of information before you arrive at the dealership.
The Internet Sales Manager
Let's say you're car shopping via your smartphone or computer. In that case, your first point of contact may be the dealership's internet sales manager. (It might also be the BCD rep, as noted earlier.) If you want to keep your shopping as simple as possible, we suggest you work with the internet sales manager. As the name implies, these are the people who are in charge of selling cars via the internet. They communicate with customers through phone calls, texts and email, but they also meet face to face with shoppers to arrange test drives and car delivery. In our experience, working with the internet manager is key to getting the best deal with the least hassle.
When you purchase a vehicle from a dealership this way, you can usually arrange to have it delivered to your home. This is more convenient and helps you skip a visit to the finance and insurance office, where the finance and insurance staff sells additional products in what can sometimes be a high-pressure environment.
The Assistant Sales Manager (The Closer)
A step above the salesperson on the management ladder is the assistant sales manager. He (and most assistant sales managers continue to be men) usually steps in when it is time to talk numbers. It's his job to close the deal, hence the nickname. He's there to gain a firm purchase commitment from you and to ensure the dealership is getting the deal it wants. Although these folks have the term "manager" in their titles, they don't have ultimate power to decide the price.
When you make an offer on a car, the assistant sales manager usually takes it back to the sales manager in the "tower." That's the name for the sales manager's office, which looks out over the showroom floor. The assistant sales manager is a mediator, shuttling between the sales manager and the consumer. He tries to avoid looking like the "bad guy" since he's just relaying the message from the sales manager, a person you'll seldom see.
The Sales Manager
The sales manager is the person behind the curtain. When it comes to deciding how much a dealership wants to get for a car, most of the power rests with the sales manager. For many buyers, it can be frustrating not to deal with this person face to face. The only way to influence the sales manager is to remain firm in your negotiations with the salesperson and closer and not be afraid to walk away from a deal that is going in circles or taking way too long to conclude.
The Finance and Insurance Manager
It's the task of the finance and insurance manager (or F&I manager) to print out the sales or lease contract and make sure that the buyer's financing is in order. The F&I manager also presents and arranges dealership financing. Often, the interest rates offered by the automakers are the lowest available, so this can be a valuable step in the process.
The F&I manager also typically will offer you a number of products and services for purchase such as extended warranties, paint protection or a car alarm system. These items can be very profitable for the dealer. If you get drawn into buying products you don't really want, or don't negotiate their prices, you can end up spending more than you had planned for your vehicle purchase.
The General Manager
The dealership's general manager is the highest authority at the business. He or she presides over both the sales and service departments. If you have a problem with your vehicle that hasn't been resolved by anyone in the normal chain of command, the general manager is your next step.
Porters handle the cleaning, moving and delivery of vehicles at the dealership, so you might not ever have occasion to meet them. If you've purchased a vehicle online and arranged to have it delivered to your home or office, however, a porter will usually accompany the internet sales manager and provide a ride back to the dealership.
The Vehicle Delivery Specialist
You won't find vehicle delivery specialists at every dealership, but some of the bigger stores have them. This isn't someone who literally delivers the car to you. This is a tech expert whose job is to make sure you understand all the important features in your new car.
After your sale is complete, the vehicle delivery specialist will go over the car with you, looking for any dents, dings or scratches. The specialist will review the owner's and service manuals with you, too. Then comes the main event: a vehicle tutorial, which can last from 20 minutes to an hour. During this time, the delivery specialist will walk you through all basics: how to adjust the seats, operate the power windows, and move and store the rear seats in an SUV. He or she will typically pair your phone, explain steering-wheel controls and go over other safety or convenience features.
Before You Go Shopping
Now that you know who's who at the dealership, we suggest reading two helpful articles to understand how to work with them: 8 Steps to Buying a New Car and How to Lease a Car. They'll make the car-shopping experience easy, and maybe even fun.
To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.