Deadlines and Demands
Rather than giving the Internet manager the 5 p.m. drop-dead purchase deadline, tell him or her you are ready to buy and you're shopping around for the best price. This puts the Internet manager on notice that you are contacting other dealers for their prices. But you hardly need to even say that since Internet managers already assume shoppers are Web savvy and have checked the market. In fact, Internet managers anonymously check competing dealerships' prices so they can undercut them.
To prove the difference between the conventional sales approaches and those taken by the Internet car sales department, I walked onto a Toyota car lot and requested a price. It took 45 minutes of aggravation and game-playing to get even a vague price. But the next day, in a five-minute phone call, the Internet manager at the same dealership cheerfully gave me a price quote for the exact same car. It was $1,000 below the vague showroom quote.
Comparing Apples to Apples
When you're calling around for the best price, it is often hard to make accurate comparisons between cars since, as noted above, they are optioned differently. But an accurate method, which would help Bueno de Mesquita's approach, is to ask for a price quote in relationship to the invoice price. In other words, if a salesperson says the car is $23,457, you can ask, "How much over invoice is that?" The answer might be that it's $500 over invoice. Using the "amount over" invoice, you can then assume that, even when the options change, the price will be about the same in relationship to the invoice price of the vehicle.
This is a handy way to simplify pricing and make accurate comparisons. If you were to call another dealership, you could then say, "I've shopped around and found this car for $500 over invoice. What are you charging?" This is a nonconfrontational way to say, "Can you beat the competition's price?"
Even better, tell the salespeople that you have shopped around and gotten prices but don't specify what those prices are. Ask them to name a figure first — it could be even lower than what it would be if they merely beat the competition by a few hundred dollars.