Advice: "I feel bad about selling people cars that they probably can't afford. What should I do?"

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Dear Quota Team,

I work in car sales at a mid-sized dealership. I’ve been here for just over a year. I am pretty good at what I do. I’m able to build relationships with customers and generally end up in the top half or top quarter of sales reps every month. If it matters, I did go to college but never finished my bachelors. Some personal family problems prevented me from finishing my degree and I ended up going into the workforce rather than finishing school.

The reason I’m writing in is because of this strange feeling I get when I’m at work. Basically, I feel guilty when selling to many of my customers. The majority of our customer base is either working class, middle-class, or struggling. We don’t really have a lot of rich people here. But when I talk to most of my customers, I always feel bad for them, and then I end up feeling guilty when trying to convince them to get into a vehicle that most of the time (and let’s just be honest here) they can’t afford. 

Of course, if somebody comes in and they have a bunch of money and know what they want, I don’t get this feeling, and it makes for a much easier sale. But what I want to do is to tell most of my customers to go buy a used economy vehicle for as little money as possible, and then work to build up their finances, or spend money on things that are more important. It’s actually really emotionally draining to feel like this all the time. I really don’t like it. 

Is there anything I can do to make this feeling go away? I consider myself a financially responsible person, and I like the type of money I can make in sales. But if I have to feel like this for the next few decades, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to last. What are your thoughts? 

Feeling Guilty in Michigan 


Dear Feeling,

You can’t stay in car sales. In fact, you probably shouldn’t stay in B2C sales at all. Dealing with the general public is already complicated for a myriad of reasons, and if you find yourself being so strongly affected by their personal situations, you won’t be able to do your job effectively. 

You should consider making the switch into B2B sales. It’s a completely different experience. In some ways, it’s easier. In some ways, it’s more difficult. But when it comes to your particular problem, you won’t have to deal with it when selling to businesses. Of course, you’ll definitely still come across sympathetic people, but businesspeople are able to make business decisions, and there’s no reason to feel sorry for them unless your product is a scam.

If, however, this doesn’t appeal to you, or if you find that even B2B sales engenders certain feelings that you can’t live with, then you should consider another profession. There’s no shame in doing what’s best for you, and sales simply might not be it. Good luck!  

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