As a PR professional, my primary goal is to assist my clients in achieving the most exposure possible and build top-of-mind brand awareness among their potential customers. To help better understand how to best position my clients for success, I did a little research on how dealers perceive vendors and their practices.
I reached out to Bobbie Herron, Digital Sales and Marketing Manager for the Garber Automotive Group. Herron was recently named to Automotive News’ “Retail 40 under 40” list and she was kind enough to share a few things with me that vendors do to irritate her, causing them to potentially lose her business.
Herron responded with what irritates her, along with some best practice tips on how vendors can better approach dealers as follows:
- “I’m a very progressive person and willing to try new solutions if I feel that they will benefit the stores in my group. One of the things that irritates me is when a vendor asks me to participate in a beta test of their product and then wants to charge me for it. In my opinion, I’m doing them a favor. They are getting access to my data and getting feedback from me as a user, which assists them in fine-tuning their product. This is very valuable data for them to have and for them to try and charge me for it is ridiculous.”
- “When a vendor reaches out to me trying to solicit their product or service, my first piece of advice is to back off with the constant calling and e-mailing. Most vendors don’t provide me with any useful information in these communications. I either get a generic voicemail or an obvious e-mail template that offers me no reason to return their call. The best way for a vendor to earn my business is to learn about me and my stores before they contact me. Give me a reason why their product is a good fit, with examples and data specific to my group. Most of the time, it is obvious that I’m simply on a list and have been placed on a CRM cycle. That drives me nuts. If a vendor doesn’t care enough to take time to learn about me, and can’t provide me with a thoughtful and logical argument for why their service will help my group, then they won’t get my attention.”
- “Vendors who approach me with over-the-top claims and promises might as well stop. I know this business very well. If you think you will earn my business by making outlandish claims that are impossible to achieve, you’re wrong.”
- “When I get calls from vendors that actually do get through to me, have managed to get my attention, then cannot answer my questions, they’re done. If you’re going to try and sell me something, at least know your product and enough about the automotive industry to give me practical examples.”
- “The fastest death sentence a vendor can achieve is by overstepping a hierarchy. I understand that the obvious assumption most vendors make is that they need to contact either the General Manager or Dealer to speak with a decision maker. The fact is that there are many stores in which an Internet Director, e-Commerce Director, or Digital Marketing Manager are the actual decision makers. Make an effort to know who the decision makers are. There’s nothing I hate more than being called into one of my General Manager’s offices to be confronted with a vendor who managed to skip over me. They’re only going to throw the vendor back to me. Even worse is when I walk into a meeting in which a vendor proceeds to criticize and blast all of the things we’re already doing in an effort to prove how much their product or service will improve our existing marketing.”
Herron didn’t stop there, however. She also had some valuable advice for her existing vendors as to the three things they do that make her question their partnership:
- “One of my biggest pet peeves is a vendor who never reaches out to me. I feel like once they got my business, they stopped caring. They should be reaching out to me regularly; if only to check in with me and see if I have any questions. Many vendors don’t do this very simple thing and then wonder why the dealer cancels their service. Maybe if they had ensured that the dealer knew how to use their product properly, and were using it to its fullest potential, they wouldn’t have lost a client.”
- “Many vendors, especially at the start of the relationship, will automatically advise me to change my process to whatever process their best clients are using, without taking the time to learn my existing process. Rather than trying to transform everything we do immediately, they should take the time to see how their product or service can fit in with what we are already doing. I’m not opposed to changing processes if they will help my stores sell more vehicles, but don’t come in with guns blazing and shoot down everything we’re already doing before even knowing what those things are.”
- “Last, but not least; when one of our existing vendors makes additions or changes to products or services we are already using without notifying me. One of the first things I do at each conference I attend is visit the booth of every vendor we use. I have them give me a product demo as if I were a prospect, rather than an existing customer. By doing this, there have been many times where I have learned of new features or services that I already had, but didn’t know about.”
Taking the time to listen to feedback from a dealer can help all of us vendors better evaluate practices so as to offer our clients a first class experience; from prospecting to customer service. Dealers share stories about companies and products in the same ways that consumers do about dealerships. Every employee and customer touch point shapes a company’s personality. Knowing what irritates potential and existing clients is the first step to earning and keeping business. To your success!