At the September 2017 Digital Dealer Conference, a dealer panel was clear: vendors need to step up their game. Dealers are done with relentless call tactics and inept talk tracks. Recently, a Florida dealer told me, “vendors seem to stalk me daily and I avoid 20 phone calls a day from somebody with the ‘better solution’ trying to ‘just take 15 minutes of my time.’ If I took every call, I wouldn’t get anything done for my business.”
On average a single rooftop may have between 80-100 vendors to serve that one location. And there are many vendors to choose from. In the website hosting space alone, there are over 500 providers. In Finance & Insurance there are more than 1400 vendors. So how does a product or service break through? Most dealers either visit a conference, attend a Dealer 20 group or ask their buddies in the biz. As a vendor it can be difficult to get a dealer to meet, especially if you have an untried program or a new technology.
Reps get additional pressure from their own companies, too! Most vendor salespeople have dealer visit requirements set by their company’s management team. Sales is a numbers game, right? If I pound the phone, email every day, visit often, surely a sale will occur! Most dealers do not like being treated this way, however. I never liked this game either, because relationships were important to me and the first rule in developing a client relationship is don’t be annoying. On the other hand, some rep’s commission plans might be created to drive these behaviors. Some providers pay their sales people on new business only (no residuals or upsell payouts) which is why, once a dealer buys, the rep is rarely seen again.
Here’s my advice to vendors if you want to get a dealer interested, and stay interested, in your product or service.
- Secure an appointment. I know this can be hard. The key is to find out how your dealer makes their appointments (if they do at all). Perhaps there is an admin or another manager who can help. Search out the friendly voice. And once you get the appointment, don’t get mad if the dealer can’t make the assigned time! A dealer’s day is busy and filled with unexpected events (a car falls off the lift, an employee is fired, an auditor shows up, a customer gets sick in the showroom). But please stop the cold calling or dropping in. It’s rarely convenient and even rarer resulting in a sale.
- When you get a dealer on the phone immediately identify yourself and ask if it’s a good time to chat. He may not have recognized your number or thought you were a customer which is why he picked up your call, but it’s a courtesy of getting to the point right away that will be remembered.
- Voicemail and Email. Yes, a rep can check off a Salesforce box that you communicated this way but most dealers will tell you that both their voicemail and email are too full to be paid attention to. Using these tools are best when either requested or permitted by the dealer. I find text is a good way to communicate as long as it’s not abused. Again, ask for permission.
- It’s wise to purchase the upgrade on LinkedIn and use it to connect with dealers. It’s permission-based and if you keep your profile updated it allows the dealer to see that you are a professional. Speaking of being a professional, get a subscription to any, and all, automotive industry publications.
- THE most important way to connect with a dealer. Having a reference from another dealer is a positive way to introduce your credentials. It takes a little work, but it’s effective. Make sure the referral is someone your prospect knows and respects.
- The take-away is dead and causes disruption. Telling a dealer that their competition across the street has bought your product or pointing out the dealer looks bad on the internet might seem an effective way to get an appointment or a conversation-starter, but in my experience, it irritates rather than inspires. It might be better to start with a question around service satisfaction but make sure your service programs have a good reputation and be ready to prove it. If they are a current customer, request time by suggesting you want to go over their bill or to make a service call. Avoid trying to sell anything if this type of meeting occurs.
- When your phone rings and it’s a dealer, take the call rather than letting it go to voicemail. Only exception is when you are with another dealer. Then call back as soon as you can. My dealers were so grateful and appreciative when I picked up their call. They need answers right away. If you enjoy problem solving this is a great way to distinguish yourself from others.
- The Big Presentation Day! Over prepare, practice, and be early. Know the influencers and key personnel who the dealer trusts to help them make good decisions. Focus on exactly how your product has helped solved real-life problems that affect your dealer. Don’t waste your dealer’s time prattling on about something they are not interested in. So, if you haven’t done your homework on what’s important to the dealer, you’ve blown it. Second chances don’t occur often and if they do, a lot of time has passed or new management is in place.
- Product knowledge is tricky. If you are a new rep there is a good chance your dealer will know more than you do! Find out what they like and don’t like. See if you can bring a product manager along with you. If you are a well-versed rep provide user-group experiences.
- Follow-up is permission-based as well. Badgering your dealer with “are you ready?” every week is not a good method. If the dealer gets quiet and/or unresponsive, they are either vetting other vendors, have bought from someone else or they are not ready to move forward. Give them the space they need. My methodology included asking the dealer how he wanted me to handle follow-up at the end of a meeting or presentation.
- Mondays & end of the month. The day after the weekend is usually a busy day for a store. They are finishing up their weekend sales and it’s usually not a good time. End of the month is sacrosanct. Most dealer’s business occurs during this time and it’s a momentum that shouldn’t be interrupted. Vendors should achieve their targets earlier in the month when dealers have more time to listen.
- After the sale. Depending on how your organization is setup, I think it’s important to see if the dealer is happy (or unhappy) with their decision. Dealers have many choices and with the advent of 30-day outs, they can make changes quickly. I was rarely turned down for an appointment to discuss results.
Selling to dealers can be a rewarding career. You learn skill sets that can help you in all areas of your life (patience, tolerance, ingenuity, etc.). I have worked for some great companies and even better managers. My best bosses and I would talk for hours on strategies that were going to help our customers. We never failed to be successful when we thought about our customers first and what was important to them.
Culled from https://vendordbauto.com/blog/