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My goal for this discussion is to open communication between dealers and vendors on how to properly approach the dealer and stand apart from all the other vendors walking in or calling. This will help us in a few areas. For dealers you can make it work for you so we don't keep bothering you and for vendors we make better use of our time and are more understanding of dealers needs and wants.

I have found an approach that works for me and I would like to tell you about it. First, a little about myself. I spent over 8 years in the dealership most as an Internet Manager or Director of multiple stores. I was very ignorant to a lot of things and blew off vendors left and right. It was so frustrating because I could never get anything done and everyone's product was the best and I couldn't afford not to have it. I have spent the last 3 years selling to dealers as a district manager with and a sales executive with contact at once. What I am about to share with you, you may or may not agree with but I am going to go back and put my dealer hat on as well and show you the views of a vendor. I am blunt and to the point but your car guys and girls so you probably won't get your feelings hurt.

My method used to be sell sell sell close close close. I was pretty good at it but got a lot of frustrated responses from dealers and wasn't building a great reputation. So I stepped back and said "would I have listened to me back in the day?" The answer was "probably not." I have a smooth and charismatic approach that may have kept me on the phone but ultimately I would have been doing 10 different things while I was talking resulting in wasting both of our time. Wow that was weird being two people at once.

As a vendor I have the pleasure of meeting some of the best of the best. When I see covers of automotive magazines I tell my wife I just talked to him/her the other day they are cool and this is why they are so special or I can't believe they actually got on a cover :). The point of this statement is maybe the hidden gem of this business is to network so we can evolve. Maybe the networking isn't the networking you are thinking. Not on social networking sites but maybe the guy that can help you is the guy that is calling you to pitch you something. He/she speaks to people just like you and gathers advice and gets why the best dealers are successful while you sit in your cube and continue the same tactics. Are you asking your smart sounding vendors what they are hearing or what are the successful dealers doing right now? Probably not because I have spoke to many of you and maybe 1 or 2 have asked this. You say my rep doesn't know anything. Maybe, but people think that about myself also and I have 8 years in the car business and 3 selling to them and I own my own Online Marketing and Web Design company. So maybe I know a little something or maybe I am just an idiot. Trust me I believe you speak to enough idiots on a daily basis. The problem is we all want to put our product as the solution to all your problems and that is not the case. As vendors we also need to understand not everyone is going to "get it" nor want our products. Every product is not for every dealer. I actually suggested to a dealer that they go to one of my competitors because they do what you are looking for and suggested that if she had questions about what they were telling her to call me.

I now take the open source approach. I call and discuss the internet department with the dealer. What are you doing? Whats working? Whats not? Have you tried this or that? Well, I am with Contact At Once and I can highly recommend our product being an x Internet Director I can appreciate your position and I will make sure you are successful if you trust me enough to help you with this. This usually does not result in a first call sell but it also doesn't result in cancellations within the first 30 days either or an immediate "no". So are other vendors doing this? Maybe, but I get a lot less resistance and build a great amount of friends in the business. People buy from people they like, heard that before?

As a vendor I can say this about what I have learned, be respectful of dealers time, and the fact that they work crazy hours and are away from their family and may be going through a hard time. They are people that field calls left and right and they need to know you care and not just want to sell something. Are you making the business better or are you just another guy offering your pitch while not allowing the dealer to speak. Listen, slow down do your homework make more meaningful calls and find solutions and believe in your product. If you don't you are selling the wrong product and dealers will sniff you out quickly.

I have a genuine concern about the car business because I am the car business. I get a high when I am sitting behind a desk while a sales manager is desking deals on a busy day. I only want the best for you and to help the business.

So what are your thoughts, concerns, frustrations? This is a valid topic I think needs to be addressed.

Maybe we bridge a gap between the dealer and their intelligent vendors.

Tags: dealers, relationship, sales, seo, vendors

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Replies to This ADM Discussion

Ryan, as someone who has been on both sides of the arena, I can honestly say that it can be tiring talking to vendors who have the "magic keys" to the kingdom of all dealership woes. I have spoken to some intelligent vendors who are passionate about their products and services they render, but in actuality the products never seemed to fit what my dealership situation needed. When I had a vendor call me I always remained polite but took a firm stance that we were not on the same page. The magic "bullet" for some is not always what is needed for others. If you want to truly assist a dealer, the "need" far outweighs the vendors "want" to close now. It's a relationship that if cultivated properly can provide a huge insight from a dealers perspective. They have little time for nonsense due to the pressures of doing business. There is nothing more aggravating than to have a vendor pushing their product with no sense of what is needed. As a dealership manager, I never had time for the magic genie. I wanted hard proof and results.

As a vendor like you, I have met some very intelligent and driving forces in this business. I have also met some arrogant and closed minded people that are still living in the dark ages. I am passionate about training, but that doesn't mean a dealership will agree with my training products. Before I take their time, I ensure they have all the hard facts as to what I provide, then I listen to their wants and needs. If my products and services will fit the perimeters, we begin a relationship. If not, I make a call once a month to see how they're doing and if there is any way I can help serve them. I stay in touch to be in touch. It pays huge dividends in the long term.

In closing, like any business there are good and bad choices to be made for both sides. A dealer "should" be open to products and services their vendors offer. If a vendor is offering a "magic bullet" and never delivers, it makes it that much harder for a new vendor to offer something new. Relationships are everything. Having empathy is a good place to start.
Hi Ryan,

As one "car guy" turned "vendor representative" to another I can relate to your experiences on both sides of the presentation. Everything that you shared with us is spot on, so the best thing that I can contribute is my support and a few observations that might compliment yours as well as the equally wise comments in the reply by our shared friend Ray.

First, car guys are people too! The same relationship based selling processes that work in the retail sector between car dealers and their customers work in the vendor vertical as well - but better because car dealers have a legitimate need for help in today's troubled economy! Transparency is another effective technique to earn a dealer's trust and business - in that order. Empathy for the dealer's needs suggests that you understand that their time is money and the faster you address their problems rather than trying to sell them something the sooner they will buy it - or more correctly, buy you!

Second, you are correct - people like to do business with people that they like. The question then becomes how do you get them to like you from inside a selling cycle? Well, it can be done but since your time is money as well maybe the better investment of your time is to make friends that happen to be in the car business. The same logic that you applied as a dealer to listen and learn from the vendors that called you works for vendors like you who are wise enough to listen and learn from dealers before they presume to sell them something!

Networking with other vendors that are in a non-competing vertical opens up shared relationships and resources that prove the formula that 2+2 can equal 5 if you add the right "Two!" One way to extend your spheres of influence, (friends), is by meeting fellow vendors and even dealer decision makers in real world venues - like the NADA Convention coming up next February 11-13, the 7th Digital Dealer Conference coming up November 1-3 in Nashvile, the J.D. Powers Conference coming this October - and in the virtual world by networking within Ralph Paglia's ADM or other auto industry focused social networking / resource sites like my AdAgencyOnline.Net or Jared Hamilton's http://www.DrivingSales.Com or Jeff Kershner's or EveryCarListed.Com's :Network of Networkers" - - that is supported by all of the above!

Relationships that are earned in these venues last a lot longer than any sales contract. I have learned to only do business with my friends so I need to make as many as possible. Once you earn a reputation as the "go to guy" for anything that your friends need in regards to selling/service products and services in the auto industry you will be spending your time answering sales calls vs. making them. After all, what are friends for!
I second your motion on reputation Phil. You will no longer be making calls, but taking them.
I have resisted commenting on this discussion, because it is just too close to a lot of nerves for me... I worked for dealerships and served as a dealer principal, general manager and in other roles where I was making buying decisions for the first 15 years of my career... Then, I became a consultant and often times found myself advising dealers on what they needed to purchase and which suppliers would be the best to source from... Then, my consulting company was purchased by Reynolds and Reynolds and I received more and more training on how to sell to dealers... Then I went back to work for a dealership in a role where I was the primary decision maker for what seemed like hundreds of products and services... Now, I am back working for a supplier again, ADP Dealer Services... So, to say I have seen both sides, receiving the "pitch" and delivering the "Value Propositions" is more than accurate, it is "welcome to my world".

A couple of key concepts I recommend to everyone include the realization that there can be differences from one sales executive to another in their execution of sales process segments such as "Approach", "Discovery", "Needs Analysis", "Proposal", "Presentation", "Negotiation" and "Closing". Other considerations include "Solo Selling" versus "Team Selling"... And then there is the often maligned but highly productive strategy made popular by IBM known as "Consultative Selling". My personal preference is for a Consultative Selling approach, whether I am a dealer or a supplier. The problem with consultative sales strategies is that they are expensive for the supplier company and do not scale very well when ramping up a high volume sales campaign.

Although my experience with dealers when working as a supplier has been overwhelmingly positive, the nature of my personality and style is polarizing enough that I have been rejected, and even thrown out of a few dealerships. But considering I have been inside over 1,000 car dealerships, getting tossed out rarely enough to count them on one hand is more a badge of honor than something I am embarrassed about. My point is that if an individual is passionate and enthusiastic about the message they are delivering to dealers, they should be ready to get a strong adverse reaction on rare occasions. But, in the spirit of lessons learned, my advice is to be sure to find out who a corrupt manager is related to before you report that manager's corruption to the dealer (or parent).

One of the most counter-productive and bullshit prone marketing and sales strategies I have seen over the years is the use of dealer referrals and product references. Sure, it is nice to see that other dealers have been successful with a product, but one thing i know for sure about this tactic, especially from when i worked at Courtesy Chevrolet, is that many dealers use their endorsements as a cost reduction strategy. And, who can blame them... When you want a solution for your dealership and the supplier offers a reduced cost in exchange for your endorsement... Well, if it wasn't a good solution, you would not be using it in the first place, right? Anyways, in my opinion dealers should be as wary of endorsements, or even dealers reporting negatively on a supplier, so that they are aware that these opinions, endorsements and reference are most often times far from objective and unbiased. Let me cite a personal example... When I went to work for Courtesy Chevrolet, I wanted nothing to do with the dealership's BZ Results Digital Marketing System which included several web sites, lead management tools, data extraction and both SEO and search advertising services. I tried and tried to convince the dealer to renegotiate the contract. I purchased Reynolds, Cobalt and Fresh Start supplied web sites outside of the BZ contract... Much of my opinion was formed when I worked for Reynolds Web Solutions and competed with many of our former employees who went to work for BZ Results... As time went on, I learned to work with the BZ Results team and if truth be told, they became my "Go To" supplier for a lot of my digital marketing needs. As much as I believed in my former employer's web sites from Reynolds Web Solutions, it was just too hard for even an insider like me to get them to execute my requests in a manner that allowed me to achieve my strategic objectives.

Probably the best sales process I saw while working at Courtesy was when Sean Porcar from Jumpstart Automotive Media would spend hour after hour in the dealership watching, observing and taking notes. People started to think he worked for me. When I signed a $12,000 a month Digital Advertising contract with Jumpstart, not only did I believe it was a good investment, I also knew that the salesperson understood my dealership's marketing strategies and most importantly... I knew that Sean Porcar could be trusted.

Which brings me to the final point I will make within this comment... TRUST is an essential ingredient when selling any type of product or service to dealers. In my experience, dealers do not demand, nor do they expect perfection, but they do not want to deal with any supplier they cannot trust. How do you earn trust? Usually it is something that cannot be accomplished in a short period of time. However, trust does not necessarily require face to face interaction. For two years I dealt with Dawson Bruton at BZ results and he repeatedly demonstrated that i could not only trust him, but that he would take initiative and action to benefit my dealership without being asked to do so. This, to me, is the ultimate expression of partnership from a supplier... When a supplier's employees take proactive action and execute tasks on behalf of the dealership without being prompted by somebody at the dealership. When a dealer knows that he can trust the employees of a supplier to act as an extension of his or her own team at the dealership, that's when the trust and true partnering yields the greatest results for both suppliers and dealers.
Thanks guys for the insight it is much appreciated.
Hello again Ryan,

Shorter response.

1. Do your homework prior to contacting dealership.
2. Always contact / keep decision maker (owner) in the loop on your efforts.
3. Never (unless expressly invited) approach a dealer in the last few days of the month... or the first few either.
4. Always know your products cold... Have knowledge of your competition's strengths and weaknesses.
5. Never put down the competition.
6. Never relate ROI to the number of cars sold to pay for it.
7. Always stay professional (dress, language, appearance, integrity) regardless of dealer reaction.
8. Always bring something of value to the dealer on each communication.
9. Never assume the dealer does not "get it"... They just may have a better solution that they are not in a hurry to share.
10. No one sells them all. Focus on the dealers that can benefit most from your products.

Hope some or all of these help.

Good Selling... DTG
Good stuff...Thanks David. I do understand about the not calling on the last couple days but I can't shut business down for a week and not make calls. Historically my best week is the first week of the month. Historically my best days are the first 3 business days of the month. Stuck there....
11. Never say Never! Did not mean to suggest that you take that time off...

(My experience follows) Ideally, cold calling, drop ins and demos would would be completed between the 3rd and the 27th of any given month... with closing calls / closing visits in that remaining period as necessary... (adjust February accordingly). More than a few deals have been lost before they got started as a result of "bothering" decision makers during this crucial period of their month.


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