10 Cunning Ways Salespeople Get You To Buy (and how to avoid them)

I was reading a thread on Quora the other day in which people were sharing tricks they knew of that car salespeople implemented to get people to buy.

One guy shared a couple he was aware of (he wasn’t a salesperson himself), but then went on to say that 30% of car salespeople he’d interacted with and usually bought from, didn’t use tricks.


What he meant was, 30% were so good that he didn’t spot the tricks they were using, so they seemed plausible and legitimate.

All car salespeople use tricks to get you to buy because if they didn’t.

1) They’d be in big trouble with their manager

2) They’d be struggling to hit their quota and be in big trouble with their manager

Whereas this post looks at the motor industry, these psychological methods and tactics are used across sales (and even marketing) in general.

Knowing in advance the lengths that people will go to to get you to buy from them means you can walk into the process fully armed and aware.

And if you’re anything like me, you can have some fun by dropping in comments like ‘Oh I see you’re trying to anchor me now, how cute’.

Trust me, that fucks with their flow and composure.


anchor on a sandy bottom

1. Anchoring

Every car sales dealership knows you will never pay sticker price unless you’re dumb as a rock.

So why do they bother, why not just put the actual price on the vehicle window?

Because once you have looked at the top end price you’re anchored to it and nothing you can do will entirely change that.

In your non-conscious mind you now have the belief that that is what the car is worth and anything you get off that price means you got a deal and you stuck it to the man.

They have done research with professors of psychology who knew they had been anchored and they still paid more than those who had not been anchored.

How Do You Avoid It?

It’s tricky to avoid anchoring because you need to know the starting point of the negotiation.

However, if you can say to yourself something like:

‘Whatever the sticker price is I’m going to take 25% off and start from that point’, then you may mitigate it somewhat.

And constantly reminding yourself you’ve been anchored can help too.

man signing his nam

2. Getting You To Sign Your Name

They may ask you to write down on a scrap of paper what you’re prepared to pay for the car you have your eye on under the pretense that they need to take it to their manager.

Then they’ll ask you to sign it to show you’re genuine.

The minute you sign it, the chances you’re going to buy shoot up exponentially.

There is research to suggest that when we sign something either physically, or even electronically, is the moment we take ownership of it.

How Do You Avoid It?

Don’t write down the price you want, unless you’re prepared to go stupidly low in which case they probably won’t take it.

Similarly, don’t sign it unless you have decided that it’s the car for you and the price you wrote down is at LEAST 25% under sticker price.

white rhino

3. Invoking Scarcity 

They may tell you that the car is unique, one of a kind and will be gone if you as much as walk to the bathroom.

This invokes fomo (fear of missing out) and it can often influence us even when we know at a conscious level that it’s utter bullshit.

How Do You Avoid It?

Just ignore them.

Remind yourself that close to 50,000 cars are produced every single day in the US and there really isn’t just one that’s just right for you.

brain power

4. Priming

This is complicated to explain and very difficult to spot if the person is skilled at it.

An obvious example would be that they may ask you questions about previously buying a car. This is designed to activate the neural network for buying a car.

But it could be super subtle.

Let’s suppose you’re with your partner and one of you is more interested than the other.

The salesperson can seem to change the subject by asking something like, ‘I’m curious to know, when was the last time you two agreed on a purchase like a car?’

Seems innocuous, but really designed to activate the neural network of you agreeing on a purchase.

Priming is super, super, powerful.

How Do You Avoid It?

You have to be aware of it to avoid it and that’s not easy because if done well it sounds conversational.

If you spot something like the above example you could immediately start to think of a time when you and your partner failed to agree on something.

hour glass

5. Imposing (false) Time Limits

I went to buy car for my wife earlier this year.

We were at a Jeep dealership and the guy was pushing me to make a decision there and then even though I told him several times and up front that I wouldn’t be buying that day.

The car was on at about $31k and he suddenly said in exasperation, ‘If I can get it down to $25k would you buy today?’

I said, ‘No, but at least I know what the starting point is when I come back’.

He insisted it was a today only price. Yet when I went back 2-weeks later, remarkably the deal was still available and we ended up paying a shade over $24k.

How Do You Avoid It?

Just ignore them

If they say they have other people interested in that car – ignore them

If they say that the offer they are extending to you ends that day – ignore them.

Any time limit they impose is almost certainly a false one designed to get you to put pen to paper.

The worst that can happen is you don’t get a car you liked, but trust me, they haven’t stopped making cars you like and another one will be right behind.

6. Going Missing

They really aren’t arguing with their sales manager or even sales director.

They’re not in an office fighting for you to get the price down and they’re not pleading with head office.

They’re just chilling.

The longer they leave you (within reason) the more you will be grateful for what they come back with and think you have a deal.

How Do You Avoid It?

Just remind yourself that this person is NOT on your side no matter how much he tries to suggest that.

He’s probably sat in a room playing on his phone just like you are.

pouring cream into coffee

7. Using The Law Of Reciprocity

When somebody does something for us or gives us something no matter how small, most of us then have a desire to give something back.

Think of when somebody pays you a compliment.

Your default reaction will be to compliment them back. It’s the law of reciprocity.

Fetching you a coffee or bottle of water may be a tiny thing in reality, but it can help nudge you toward the purchase.

How Do You Avoid It?

Just say no.

You can manage without a coffee for the time being

If you really do need a drink, then go and get it yourself from the vending machine when they ‘go missing’.

hand shake

8. Complimenting You On Your Bargaining Skills

They want you to think you have had them over, that they are losing money.

They will tell you that you beat them and they are probably not getting any commission, but it’s okay, it happens from time to time.

They know that nobody likes to think they came off worse in a negotiation because it creates a status drop and a dopamine crash.

Similarly, if you believe their lies then you feel good about life as dopamine runs rampant through your bloodstream.

And guess what happens when you’re super stoked like that?

Yep, you’re more likely to be swayed by people than if you were in a more skeptical mood.

How Do You Avoid It?

If you’re really ballsy, you can drop your price again.

They will hate it, and probably you, but if they’re rushing to agree on a price it probably means you haven’t gone low enough.

Otherwise, just remind yourself they’re trying to lower their own status purposefully to get you to buy.

colored spiral

9. Using Conversational Hypnosis

This is used very well by pros, but probably not known by many and it’s also very misunderstood.

Hypnosis is simply a trance state, there’s nothing special about it – we all go into it many times a day without realizing.

If you have ever stared into space imagining your were somewhere else you were in trance.

Similarly, if you have driven from A to C and never noticed you passed through B, that’s because you were in a trance state.

And if you got so engrossed in a task that time stood still then you were in trance (and yes probably the flow state too).

This is how a car salesperson may use it.

‘Imagine you’re out in the car now.

You’re cruising down the turnpike maybe to go on vacation, you have the moonroof open – it’s a gorgeous summer day, the kids are quiet in the back because they’re engrossed in a movie and you’re listening to your favorite music on the amazing sound system blah blah blah.’

This is the mental equivalent of asking you to hold the puppy when you walk into a pet store.

They are trying to get you to ‘own’ the car before you have bought the car.

The moment you start to see all that stuff and really get engrossed in it, is probably the moment you need to get your cheque book out.

How Do You Avoid It?

As they ask you to imagine your journey on vacation, you see yourself broken down by the side of the turnpike with your partner ranting and raving at you for buying such a shitty car.

That should even things out.

dollars and cents

10. Asking For A Strange Amount

Do you know how most homeless people can massive increase the amount of money they recieve from strangers?

Ask for not just a specific amount of money, but one that is unusual too.

If they ask for 56 cents it’s far more likely to elicit a positive response than if they just ask for some spare change.

It shatters our reference point of what we thought would happen as well as creating a believe that this person must really need it for something specific.

Your salesperson may beaver way on his calculator for a while before coming back and saying something like:

‘Okay, the lowest I can go is $23,719’

Oh wow you think, that’s a strange figure, he must be being straight with me.

Yeh right.

How Do You Avoid It?

You get your own calculator out (or the one on your phone) and do some feaverish calculations of your own.

And then you counter with, ‘I appreciate where you’re coming from, but as you can see from my calculations (show them you’re phone with the number in question on), I couldn’t possibly go higher than twenty one thousand, six hundred and twelve dollars and 19 cents.’


You have just reversed the process and as most sales people will have no clue about the psychology behind what they just tried to do to you, they will be probably think you’re absolutely serious.

So there you have it, just 10 of the ways people use to try and get you to buy.

If you have any you’d like to add, please do leave me a comment!