Automotive Digital Marketing

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From the Trenches - Digital Vendor – How do you sell your wares?

In the dealership, we are often besieged with vendors… today they are most often Digital Marketers of some kind. 

Dealers are very busy people.  Their time is at a premium.  Smart dealers have gatekeepers who can weed out the wheat from the chafe. However many vendors have tried to find ways around the gatekeeper to go directly to the dealer by bypassing the receptionist or calling the owner or GM directly.  Bad idea….


First I want to divulge, as an Internet Sales & Marketing Manager, I am a gatekeeper.  So I am biased.  But I am a source of good advice as well.  When you bypass me, the owner or GM will almost always refer you to me and be resentful that you took up his/her time.


First and foremost, I work for a dealer and I know a bit about digital marketing.  Don’t assume I’m ignorant and don’t talk down to me.  I just might know more than you about your own “expertise”.


Do not go to our website and submit a lead in order to introduce yourself.  You are deleted and removed from future consideration immediately.  Leads are business.  Don’t interfere in that.


When you do talk to me, be an expert in what you are selling.  You often start by telling me you are a car guy.  Are you a car guy or an expert in YOUR FIELD?  I don’t care if you’ve done literally EVERY job in a dealership.  If you were a great General Manager, why are you selling Social Media?  Are you a social expert?


Often, I am shocked to ask questions and be answered with the words, “I’m just a sales rep; we have experts who can answer those questions.”  That’s right, you’re a car guy.  You know little about the product or service you’re selling.  If I know enough to ask the question, you should have an answer that makes sense. Goodbye!


As you know, OUR customers expect us to be able to answer questions about our product.  We expect the same from our vendors.


If I’m not interested, don’t ask me “Don’t you want to sell more cars?” That is the most insane question I have ever heard.  I want to say, “No, I’m only here to have fun and get a paycheck!”  I have priorities, you know… all designed to sell more cars.  Yours is obviously low on my list.


If I say it doesn’t fit my budget right now, understand that’s true.  I’m not going to remove a perfectly good vendor and replace it with an unknown.  You obviously have not struck me with a phenomenal idea that made me want to replace a good vendor I already employ.


This is the car business.  We are very competitive.  Know your competitors and why you are better than them.  You should be as competitive as we are.


Finally, know the line between follow-up and harassment.  As Internet Managers, we learn not to cross that line no matter how aggressive and persistent we are.


This is a field of endeavor I love.  I enjoy talking to anyone who understands it and sometimes get too loquacious in the process.  Approach me with results and a vision and respect, and you might make it past the gatekeeper with a good recommendation.


Written by Tom Gorham

Editor, From The Trenches

Automotive Digital Marketing

Professional Community

Views: 816


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Comment by Tom Hawkins on March 17, 2012 at 8:12am

Tom...your dealer is lucky to have you.  Thanks for the nice post.  God Bless you and your business.

Comment by Tom Gorham on March 17, 2012 at 7:57am

@ Larry Bruce - I love inbound marketing.  And you do extremely well at it.  That's why you are so well-known and respected.

To all - I have vendors I listen to and respect immensely.  I ask their advice all the time.  I welcome to my door anytime.  They actually have become friends.  And many of them can go directly to the owner's office as well.

As for seeing the forest for the trees... that's what I get paid for.  And I DO value the fact that many vendors have dealership experience.  I just don't consider that as their sole qualification for what they're selling. 

I meet great vendors all the time and I meet just as many hacks.  I only ask that they know their product and can explain why it is better than competing products without resorting to tactics that imply I am stupid if I don't agree with them. 

I understood this article might rankle a few vendors, but it was not a put-down to those vendors who approach their craft with professionalsim.

Comment by Stan Sher on March 17, 2012 at 7:17am

lol...I am a vendor.  However, I keep that in mind when calling on dealers because I understand how they think and act.  I remember how I was operating at the dealer level and that is why I can relate 100% to the dealer.  I am not the vendor rep that goes in there with no clue.  I sold cars and managed.  The same goes for Rob.  We know how to approach dealers because we were dealers. 

Comment by Rob Fontano on March 17, 2012 at 7:01am

Somebody wake Stan and tell him he's a vendor. There are some valid points made here and I have now seen both sides of the "gate". The "pop in" always annoyed me and I could never see myself doing it, no matter how many purple footballs I had in my arms. Most internet managers are busy juggling multiple tasks and have to vet who they dedicate their time too. 

Bert has some very good points. I have learned quite a bit from educated vendors. I have always said that the vendors I was most loyal to were the ones that I learned from. When budget talks came around and the "person" came to mind with as much value as the product, they were less likely to get the axe.

Internet managers can sometime have trouble seeing the forest for the trees, myself included. We are tied to a budget and most of us are not anxious to change for the sake of change, but there are new innovations everyday and there are some "real car guys" more importantly very successful "Internet Managers" that moved into the field of selling digital solutions to dealers because they enjoy it.

I enjoy interacting with dealers and internet managers without being tied to one store after so many years. I look forward to the challenging questions and the theory conversations. Ken and Tom are two very talented and experienced internet directors, but please remember that you are in the top 10% in the country. It may not do all internet managers justice to raise the draw bridge when a vendors calls.

Stan, Just kidding, but I couldn't resist.

Comment by Larry Bruce on March 17, 2012 at 6:55am

Very good post Tom. The dealer side of me agrees with you completely. I have gotten all of the clients I have today from pure In-Bound Marketing, writing blog posts, twitter & Facebook, and referrals.  

I was told by one of my great friends Allan Hall, GM / DP of Ron Carter Autoland a log time ago.

"If I need something I know where to go get it."

It was at that point I realized that you really never sell dealers anything you, convince them that you are the right partner to provide them what they need or want. 

Thanks for stepping up with good constructive criticism. Have a great weekend Tom. 

Comment by Bert Martin on March 17, 2012 at 5:49am


Understanding the need for time management, I now understand after over 30 years in this great business that I should have taken a little more time and patience and listened to a few of those "awful sales reps" or "vendors" who might have provided valuable education.

Remember the same six letters in the word LISTEN or in the word SILENT....

Good luck and continued success locking the gate.

Comment by Tom Gorham on March 17, 2012 at 5:04am

Thank you for the comments. 

Ralph, I agree. I understand that really technical questions sometimes need clarification from a technician.  Sometimes sales staff are asked questions about cars as if they're mechanics and must say, "I'll find out."  But it is required that they have knowledge about their product.

Jae, you are always welcome.  In fact, once a relationship has been established with someone, they are always welcome!  Are you talking about chocolate covered mints????

@Ken Beam, one look at your videos and we know you are a very busy person!

Comment by Jae Chang on March 16, 2012 at 10:19pm


I'm going to stop by to share an incredible solution with you!! 

Great read Mr. Gorham.  

btw...I will stop by for laugh next week and bring some mints.

Comment by Thomas A. Kelly on March 16, 2012 at 10:04pm

Good post Tom....I like the cartoon also. Thanks.

Comment by Ken Beam on March 16, 2012 at 8:34pm

"Dealers are very busy people.  Their time is at a premium">>>>> AMEN Tom! Excellent Thread!~

**** I have tossed more than one vendor out the door in my time!~ lol......... The only way I`ll see any vendor nowadays is purely by appointment.....period. I`m way too busy for someone just to drop by at their will to "Bullshit with Ken"........... After doing this for 24 years, there isn`t a whole lot that I haven`t seen nor heard......... Soooooooooooo if you`re "peddlin`" something, you had better be on your "game" if I do take an appointment. Again, great topic Tom. 

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