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: 813


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Comment by Tom Gorham on March 28, 2012 at 8:24pm

Thanks John, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Comment by John Hockinson on March 28, 2012 at 6:40pm

you couldn't have said it any better Tom

Comment by Tom Gorham on March 20, 2012 at 10:18am

Thanks Bill and Steve - In my opinion, the term "Car Guy" is not detrimental; in fact it shows an understanding of dealership needs and requirements.  But it doesn't go farther than that when you are talking about marketing specialties in the industry such as Digital Marketing, SEO/SEM, Social Media, landing pages, conversion, videos, etc.

You guys are great and I always look forward to your visits.  Bill, I like your ideas stated below.

Comment by Steve Davern on March 20, 2012 at 7:53am

Great post! I'm glad I passed the test and have a happy customer. Like any job, there is that fine line between doing your job and not doing your job. You never want to push too far but it is easy to fall into that trap when you feel you need to close the business. It's a bit of a catch-22 sometimes.

I think "car guy" gets used in funny ways sometimes. My vision of a car guy is a person who grew up loving cars and has a professional position in the car business. I actaully think most of the car guys are in the service department. Vendors might like to use the term to express their understanding of the car business but I would feel funny calling myself a car guy.

Thanks Tom! I will print your post and share it with our sales staff.

Sell lots of cras!


Comment by Bill Jenkins on March 20, 2012 at 7:12am

Thanks for your kind words Tom.

And by the way, the phrase “I’m a car guy” has now been completely stricken from my vocabulary! Your point on that is interesting. I must agree that what the Dealer should care about from the digital marketing vendor is how well the vendor knows his/her own wares.

I’d take this a step further and offer to @Patric Timmermans that in addition to being respectful and knowledgeable, when selling to a Dealer we should demonstrate we have the Dealer’s best interest in mind as the top priority. With a few exceptions, Tom being one, Dealer employees cannot master the complexities of the Internet marketing channel. They must trust their vendors to do right by them.

But, how can a vendor truly have the Dealer’s best interest in mind when the vendor’s primary relationship with the Dealer is carried by a sales person who emphasizes selling over helping? I think this part of the Automotive Digital Marketing industry is not working very well. I suggest Dealers should be wary.

My advice to Dealers: don’t put all your digital marketing eggs into one vendor’s basket. Divide it up, and challenge each vendor to help you hold the others accountable. This can provide useful checks and balances while our still-nascent ADM industry is learning how to measure and communicate results.

Comment by Tom Gorham on March 19, 2012 at 7:31pm

@Patrick Timmermans - I wouldn't presume to suggest to people how to sell except to say, "Be respectful and knowledgeable about your product or service."  We are constantly preaching these things to dealers; it's fair that vendors hear the same thing, don't you agree? Thank you! ;-)

Comment by Patric Timmermans on March 19, 2012 at 7:19pm

Tom, I hope this excellent article proves to be a good learning moment for all sales people out there, including my own colleagues. As a marketer, can I suggest a topic for your next article "From the Trenches - Digital Vendor - How to market your wares?". I'd love to hear your opinion on what's relevant and what not. Would you have time for a call to discuss? I promise not to try to sell you our products, at least not during this call ;-)

Comment by Tom Gorham on March 19, 2012 at 6:33pm

@Tim Rulapaugh - I do both and get 'em all.  I knew you understood me immediately. 

@Bill Jenkins - I have a good relationship with you and your company.  I have to say that the reason is how you approach your potential customers.  You pulled me in with your professionalism and expertise.  You showed me where our strengths and weaknesses were, in a non-judgemental way, and how you could strengthen the areas where we were weak.  You are a valued friend and supporter of my dealership.

@Aaron, I'm so glad to hear that.  Thank you!

Comment by Aaron Hassen on March 19, 2012 at 9:19am

Tom, representing a vendor, I want to tell you that your post was very well received

dealer chat

Comment by Bill Jenkins on March 19, 2012 at 9:05am

This was helpful, Tom. As a vendor I much prefer face to face interactions, and so the temptation to resort to traditional "cold calling" is strong. But for the reasons you point out that can handicap the relationship before it even gets started.  I'm always looking for ways to initiate relationships with Dealers in non-selling situations.

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