How many of you are completely ignored by your vendor reps unless they are trying to upsell you on new solutions? Does it seem like they just ask you to spend more $ next month rather than helping you maximize the solution you have in place for this month?

I know this behavior is rampant in the automotive industry because I have been guilty of the same tactic myself. I spent a tremendous amount of time selling with very little time focused on customer service...until 2014. That’s how long it took me to learn that customer service is paramount to the churn of constantly signing new dealerships to the latest and greatest shiny new things.

Veteran sales reps trained me to sign new dealers every month. “Go out and hunt” was the mantra. Forget about the dealers I had signed the month before. Just let the account managers handle customer service...and everything else. A quick review on social media proves how wrong that idea is for vendor sales reps in the automotive retail space. For the majority of sales reps, there seem to be only three outcomes: 1. Become a babysitter of sales reps (some call this position a sales manager, but let’s be real), or 2. Switch companies every few years, or 3. Switch industries. None of those options interested me and I knew there had to be a better way.

That’s when I committed to using my time and my experience to help dealerships get better. I was no longer interested in chasing transactional sales every month and being part of that majority. I vowed I would no longer sell anything. What this meant to me was that in approaching car dealerships I would only bring solutions that I truly believed provided value. And I would help them in every way possible to maximize the value of that solution.

I was determined to find vendors in the automotive industry that aligned with my goal of helping dealerships get better and become more successful. I asked dealers which vendors they liked, as well as who was really helping them. I did research on Facebook, LinkedIn, DrivingSales, Industry Groups etc. and was really happy to find there are a lot of great vendors out there that genuinely want to help dealerships.

Jason Girdner with TECOBI is an obvious example. He built a solution for dealerships to directly engage with people on activelt on Facebook who see ads for cars.

Ujj Nath is another great example of an entrepreneur who built a solution to make it easier for dealerships to connect and directly engage with people. He started myKaarma after a bad Service Department visit at his local Honda store because he knew there had to be a better way to communicate and pay when he dropped off his car for scheduled maintenance.

I was in John Hamlin’s office one afternoon when he took a call from a dealer trying to spend money on a last minute campaign at the end of the month. 99% of Vendors would have taken the money. John knew it was a bad idea for the Dealer, and told him to save his money until next month when they could put together a campaign that he knew would help him sell cars rather than pushing out a campaign that had no strategy- and at the last minute- just to get it out and hope it worked.

Unfortunately for car dealerships, for every TECOBI, Hamlin and myKaarma, there are hundreds of vendors that only exist because they know Dealerships have huge ad budgets. They know that if they make their presentation shiny enough and show it to enough Dealers, they will sell enough of their shiny new thing to make a profit.

Some vendors spend a lot of time creating the perfect presentation, but then take the easy way out when creating the product or service. They create a one-size-fits-all template that can be replicated in as many dealerships as their salespeople can sign. They provide dealerships with support using account management departments staffed with low paid, overworked, entry-level employees with no real-world experience. All of their resources go to increasing their own sales and reducing internal costs, while none go to actually helping the Dealership get better.

The goal of these companies is clear – acquisition. They really aren't the least bit interested in helping the dealers become more successful. They are interested in how many Dealers they have to sign with recurring monthly revenue so they can get big enough to sell to a larger company and cash out. If they were really interested in helping the Dealership become more successful, they would provide extraordinary customer service.

There was a period of time when I worked with a vendor that tried to provide extraordinary customer service. We had an account management team, plus an entirely separate team devoted to making sure the dealers were successful using our products. It was based around this Jack Welch quote, “One thing we have discovered with certainty is that anything we do that makes the customer more successful inevitably results in a financial return for us”.

The vendor made the investment in the new department to help dealerships become more successful. The team would not directly produce revenue, but if it provided the inevitable results of higher dealership retention, that would satisfy the financial return the company desired. The team made sure the dealers didn’t forget about us. They scheduled weekly calls, made recommendations, reviewed results, and helped the dealers as much as they could from a remote location. After a year or so, the evidence was in – dealers weren’t any better, dealership retention remained the same, the departments did not produce revenue, and they were converted into an inside sales team.

Looking back, the idea wasn’t wrong. The jobs and tasks the employees performed were wrong. It was really just an account management department with a different name. It's the same as most account management departments today. The employees come into an office, sit at their desk in a cubicle and call dealers on the phone. Anyone who has worked in an office setting knows this means they only work 4-5 hours per day. They spend no time in dealerships. They spend no time learning. So what are they really bringing to the table when they call dealers? Certainly not extraordinary customer service.

To provide extraordinary customer service, vendors really have to want to help dealers get better, as well as be willing to immerse themselves in the same environment as the dealers they serve. This means actually spending working hours in a dealership using their own product right alongside the dealership employees. This means taking time every single day to learn and educate themselves on the automotive industry and how they can use their products to help dealers become more successful. That's what it takes, so that is what I do now.

I spent all day Monday this week in a dealership. I walked the lot, found attractive inventory and helped them find the right vehicles for their new Ads on Facebook. I researched their market to better target the people most likely to click those ads. I made sure the salespeople knew how to use the software, including updated features like video texting. I made sure the salespeople were following a process to help them schedule the most appointments from their leads. I actually used the software all day to show them how to get the most out of their investment with me. I know this happens with some other vendors now, but imagine if it was more widespread and all of your vendors operated this way…

If you work in a dealership, next time you talk to your vendor reps, ask them…

  • How much time do you spend educating yourself on the automotive industry?
  • When was the last time your company provided you with education or training?
  • When was the last time you visited a Dealership to see your solution used in real time?
  • Do you use your own solution?

And finally, if you are a salesperson, ask yourself…

  • Are you spending more time selling or serving?
  • What are you doing every day to learn more about your customers?
  • Are you providing extraordinary customer service?

Click the TEXT US button in the bottom right corner of the page and check out how TECOBI provides dealerships with extraordinary customer service. And we will help YOU sell some cars, too!