Are Your Vendors on Your Side?

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At the time of Dealer Talk’s inception, I was privileged to become a student of the business and learn from some fantastic people in the automotive space. I was learning at such an accelerated pace, and I had a strong desire to share that knowledge with others.

Naturally, a podcast seemed the perfect fit. My learning grew exponentially with the endeavor. Now, four years in, I have enjoyed the opportunity to distribute my conversations to so many incredible people.

As many of you have heard, I am not a fan of the word “vendor” as it does not encompass the full scope of responsibility afforded to our companies. We should consider ourselves trusted advisors and act accordingly by providing more value than our offer. As dealer-partners, we see more than any single dealership. We experience a greater breadth of the industry than most salespeople will ever know. It is, in my opinion, incumbent to offer our knowledge to those around us. Perhaps this stance is because of the podcast. Perhaps it is because of where I am in my career. Perhaps it is both.

Either way, my view of this industry, of recent, has become more centered upon the belief that we as a community of automotive sales professionals must offer more to one another than a pitch. As I try to stay ahead of trends and potential solutions, I encounter all walks of life and all forms of business. Occasionally I still run into companies that are not on the up and up. Companies that don’t care about partnering with dealers and are so focused on their bottom line that they are willing to do things that are not in the best interest of their clients.

I will never understand why a company would force a dealership to use their product past the point of value.

Sure, that used to happen quite frequently in our industry. “Vendors” would jump at the chance to lock dealerships into unreasonable contracts—some going as far as expecting 30-year commitments!

Sadly, as I work within the dealer-partner space and am offered numerous demos of products, I see that this practice still exists. We need to be paying attention to this.

Just this year, I ran into a situation with one such company. A company that had, for all intents and purposes, seemed to be as legitimate and forthright as they come. They were not, and that is not something we can tolerate in the industry any longer.

I’m not one to regularly bash companies, but I am committed to this industry. If I find situations where I can save even one dealer from being negatively impacted, I feel it is my responsibility to do so.

Watch your contracts. Communicate with one another before signing contracts. Make sure that the companies you are working with are not ‘speaking out of both sides of their mouth’ and that their motivation is your success and not their bottom line. 

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of taking their agreement at face value. I erroneously anticipated that this specific company would honor the restrictions we had agreed upon at the beginning of our negotiations.

It is not acceptable for a company to take advantage of their clients. We all agree on this. If one’s product does not offer the value anticipated, then why would we want to force that relationship? 

I certainly am not the first, nor will I be the last, to get into a bad deal, but I cannot believe I am the only one who has recently experienced these issues. I must believe that, of late, more dealers out there have been taken advantage of. We have spoken in the past on being wary of the enticing new opportunities all around us, again I say take pause and re-look at the documents about to be signed. Make sure you know what you are committing to.

Yes, the automotive industry seems a lucrative space with a low cost of entry. Dealers are willing to try new products they see potential value in and are ready to bet on those products with their wallets. That, my friends, should be respected as a privilege. Yes, it is easy to get into the space, but one must earn the right to that business every month. This is one of the reasons DT Vendor Management Solution exists—to manage the revolving dealership door.

I urge you to put your value on your services. If your product truly offers the quality, you say it does, then you will have loyal dealers for years to come, and if the time comes to part ways, do so with the time-held honor of shaking hands and leaving as friends. Allow your company an open door for future opportunities. Do not let your bottom line undermine your relationships with the clients with whom you aim to do business.  

Herb Anderson/Charity Ann