“Trust me, I’m a car salesman” – How to become an authority

As part of teaching Sellchology – Selling through psychology, I teach salespeople that there are 8 primary influencers of buying behavior. One of those influencers is Higher Authority. Knowing how to positively and effectively use this principle will help sales teams influence customers at a higher level.

The principle of Higher Authority is based on positioning yourself as a trusted expert in the mind of the customer. This influencer is effective because most of society has been conditioned to follow the advice, rules, and direction given by someone who’s perceived to have unique knowledge, expertise or power.

You can achieve greater Higher Authority through 6 methods:

  1. Title
  2. Dress
  3. Words / Tonality
  4. Assigned authority
  5. Assumed authority
  6. Experience


1.  Title – Who’s the Boss?

Most salespeople go by the title “salesperson”, “sales consultant” or “sales advisor.” Each of these titles are progressively more authoritative than the preceding one. A consultant knows more than a sales person, and an advisor presumably knows more than a consultant.

Or consider the following titles: Master Certified, Product Specialist, Sales and Customer Service Manager or Executive Sales Advisor. These titles carry more perceived authority than a “salesperson.”

When I sold cars full-time I changed my title from “sales” to “Sales and Customer Service Advisor.” I told my customers, “Unlike regular salespeople, I answer directly to the owner and my responsibilities go beyond just selling a car. My job is to make sure you have a great experience with us.” This elevated my authority and therefore increased my influence.

Ask yourself: “Does my title elevate my authority?”

2.  Dress – Why judging a book by its cover could make you rich

salesmanConsider the dress code at your dealership and especially your personal dress code. If a customer lined up all the sales consultants against a wall and judged them by their looks, who would pass this authority test?

The way you dress will increase or decrease the subconscious influence you will have with your customer. The power of a uniform is the reason why a janitor in a building can make you wait outside the restroom until he’s done cleaning it.

Higher Authority influence can also explain some behaviors that can be harmful. For example, many people on 9/11 stayed in a burning building that was just hit by a plane. They did so because they were told by officers in uniform to stay in their office.

As a professional sales consultant, make sure you have polished shoes, matching belt, pressed shirt, a tie, and a crease in the center of your pants. You must be shaved, have clean nails and have breath mints in your pocket. Look the part of a professional and you will be perceived as a professional!

Look in the mirror and ask yourself: “Based on the way I look, will someone trust me with $40,000?”

3.  Words/Tonality – I’m sorry, you said what?

The words we use and the tone we use will determine whether we are perceived to have Higher Authority. A person who speaks loudly is often perceived to have more conviction. In contrast, speaking in softer tones draws people in and conveys empathy. Salespeople need to learn how to switch their voice tone from empathy to conviction as appropriate.

Also, the words we use either increase or diminish our influence.

Do you use phrases such as, “I have to go check”, “That’s not my job”, “I don’t handle that” or “I don’t know?” If so, please stop! These phrases diminish your perceived higher authority.

They have to be replaced with phrases that increase your perceived authority: “I can do that”, “That’s my area of expertise”, “I know exactly what to do”, and “I’m responsible to do that for you”. These phrases can immediately influence your customers in a positive way.

Ask yourself: “How can I change my voice tone and my words to increase my Higher Authority influence?

receptionish4.  Assigned Authority – With my experience, you’re in good hands!

Higher Authority can be passed on from one person to another, assuming the first person has credibility of their own. If you rank the front of the store in order of perceived authority (lowest to highest) it would probably go like this: receptionist, salesperson, finance, sales manager, GSM, GM, and Dealer. A dealership can practice transferring authority from one person to the next.

For example, what could the receptionist say to elevate the salesperson she is about to transfer the customer to? Here is an example of using 11 statements that a receptionist can use to add assigned authority.

Here’s elevation #1 when the receptionist answers: “Thank you for calling ABC Motors, ranked #1 in customer service, how may I direct your call?”

The customer responds, “I’d like to speak to someone in sales.”

Here’s elevation #2 and #3 to establish her authority.

Receptionist: “My pleasure! My name is Anita; I’ve been with this company for 7 years and I am happy to assist you.”

And here are higher authority elevations #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11 by the receptionist:

“Our professional sales team is ranked number 1 for customer satisfaction out of 55 dealerships in a 5 state region, and you are going to be in great hands. I’ll transfer you now to one of our award winning certified sales advisors.”

This is how an additional 10 seconds can create 11 elevations of a store’s perceived authority.

Ask yourself: “How can my team assist each other and the dealership in elevating our authority?”

5.  Assumed Authority – What do you mean, “You don’t know”?

ladySome people just assume that a person in a specialized field should or would know more and they have power to get things done. This is called assumed authority. Customers who give a sales consultant assumed authority can become frustrated when the consultant responds to their questions with, “I’ll have to go check.”

Since assumption of expertise or power are often given to us by customers, it’s critically important that we do not diminish it.

I teach sales people to “act as if.” Act as if your customer was going to buy today. Act as if they believed you were an expert. Act as if you had the authority to make the deal.

I am not saying you should lie. I am saying you should carry yourself with confidence and be mindful of the language you use. Many customers don’t know how ignorant and incompetent you are until you open your mouth and tell them!

Ask yourself: “How can I maintain my assumed authority?

6.  Experience – My experience tells me …

Another way in which Higher Authority is gained is through experience. Imagine boarding a flight and hearing this from a pilot: “Hi everyone, this is my first time flying a plane with people in it. I hope it goes well!” What would it do to your confidence that your flight will be uneventful?


Professional sales people can increase their perceived higher authority by mastering their trade. Management of a dealership can increase their store’s higher authority by taking measures to decrease staff turnover. These steps will help positively influence your customers because people trust people with experience.

As a new salesperson, I was told to tell customers that I was new. Looking back, I see that it wasn’t good advice because it decreased my Higher Authority with customers. I discovered that many customers wanted to work with people who have a track record.

So instead of saying I was new, I began telling my customers about my previous experience of helping people, solving problems, and getting the job done. This is called borrowing (assigned) authority.

If you are new and don’t have any life experiences you can draw from, borrow from the credibility and experience of your dealership and your management team. Talk in terms of “we.” For example, you could say, “You came to the right dealership. We have been helping customers like you for 47 years.”

Ask yourself: “Am I sharing my experience to increase my Higher Authority?

The principle of Higher Authority is a powerful influencer. Use these 6 methods to increase your influence.


  1. Mohit Whabi on December 14, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Great post! I have recently been working to improve on number 3)words/tonality!

  2. Steven Bishop on August 5, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Great read I use some of these currently. I will work on the rest .

  3. Doug hillyard on August 6, 2017 at 6:34 am

    Great post! Great read!
    Reading the content in sellchology should be made a requirement just to be able to work at a dealership. Or at the very least be a requirement as part of all sales training
    Doug Hillyard
    Fairfield Honda

  4. Damon Eleuterius on August 10, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    Excellent stuff, especially for someone with limited experience. 1, 2, & 6 I can control now. 3 – 5 needs improvement.
    Thank you for this!

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