Top Skills You Need to Build
a Successful Car Dealership

See also: Tips to Improve Customer Service

Essential Skills for Car Dealership Success

In the US alone, new car dealerships represent a $1.1 trillion industry. At first blush, that probably makes you think it’s a great opportunity. Don’t jump onto that idea too fast, though. While a new car dealership can prove lucrative, it’s not an automatic good fit for every entrepreneur.

Building a successful car dealership takes a complex set of skills. Most people don’t possess all of those skills right out of the gate. If you think running a dealership might be right for you, keep reading. We’ll cover some of the most essential skills you’ll need or need to develop to make your dealership venture flourish.

Administrative Skills

Most dealerships will acquire administrative staff over time, but much of that work will fall on you in the early days. For example, you’ll need to handle things like organizing the initial financing, getting an auto dealer bond, and hiring staff.

For these elements of the job, good organization and solid communication are priorities. It’s easy to lose track of details like making payments or renewing licenses and permits in the daily hustle. Good communication is key in selecting appropriate staff. It’s also invaluable in making sure that staff members understand what you want when you delegate work to them.

Good Attitude

As the dealership owner, you’ll likely handle at least some of the sales duties during your first few years. Sales work involves a lot of rejections. Customers will come in, look at vehicles, and seem like a great prospect. Then, they’ll walk off the lot without buying.

You need a good attitude to shake it off when those things happen. Fortunately, there are several things you can do that will help you maintain a good attitude, such as:

  • 1. Getting regular exercise
  • 2. Eating right
  • 3. Reading or listening to inspirational material
  • 4. Practicing gratitude

These kinds of activities help cement your positive attitude and shake off setbacks.


Negotiation is a necessary and inescapable element of all sales. It’s even more common in car sales. Most customers do at least a little research about the car they want, its value, and what kind of prices they can expect. Many of them will aim to talk the price down, at least a little.

Good negotiation involves several key elements. You must understand what a successful sale looks like for you with the vehicle in question. Knowing that will help figure out what trade-offs you’re willing to make. Just as importantly, knowing what success looks like also helps you define your walk-away point.

Moving a car off the lot is good, but only if you make enough revenue to justify it.

Basic Finance Skills

You will need a decent working knowledge of how car financing works. For example, customers will ask how much their payments will be on a car and expect a reliable answer from you.

At a minimum, you should have a decent understanding of current interest rates on car loans for the major credit score ranges. You should also know the policies for the major automotive financing services.

Finance skills will also help you understand how financially healthy your business is at any given time, which can help inform business decisions.

Product Expertise

You can’t realistically know everything about every vehicle on your lot. With that said, customers will expect you to know a great deal about the cars and trucks that you sell. For example, they’ll expect you to know what kinds of features you can get on a specific model, what kind of gas mileage different cars get, and engine specifics.

This boils down to study and exposure. At first, you’ll spend a lot of time studying the details of the vehicles until you know them. After you build up that baseline level of knowledge, it will become more of a matter of exposure. New models of a vehicle will often have similar specs to older models. It will become more of a process of mentally updating information than learning by rote.

If you don’t feel confident about your memorization skills, there are several memorization strategies you can employ, including:

  1. Writing it out
  2. Distributed practice
  3. Sleep on it
  4. Grouping
  5. Mnemonics

Just remember that learning new information is a process. You can’t do it all overnight.


Aggressive sales tactics can work on some customers but will turn off just as many. Good listening skills will give you insights into what the customer wants from their purchase. For some customers, it’s strictly a utility purchase. They need a vehicle to fulfill some function in their life. For other customers, the vehicle purchase is about fulfilling some particular lifestyle goal. Listening skills will help you identify which is which and that can help you put the right person in the right vehicle.


Every entrepreneur needs a healthy dose of confidence simply to survive the experience of business ownership. You need confidence in your product, your business, and yourself. Without that confidence in your pocket, every problem will look like an insurmountable, business-killing obstacle. Building confidence can seem like one of those insurmountable obstacles, but it is something you can develop.

Look for ways to build confidence, such as taking the occasional risk or speaking with strangers. Don’t rely too much on the opinions of others. While you should carefully weigh the opinions of people you respect, such as a spouse or mentor, you can’t rely on other people to keep you feeling positive about yourself or your business venture.

Building Your Dealership

Building a successful car dealership isn’t just about being great at negotiating or super persuasive. Those can help you sell cars, but a dealership contains a lot of moving parts. You need skills like admin skills, finance skills, confidence, and a good attitude to keep things running smoothly. The good news is that these are all skills you can develop with some time and effort.

Lisa Trymbiski

About the Author

Lisa Trymbiski is the manager at Bryant Surety Bonds leading a team of talented professionals assisting clients in the surety bond industry. Education, superior service and compliance are her top priorities in the completion of a successful business transaction.