The Often-Precarious Relationship Between Vendors and Dealers:
The automotive industry is one of the fastest-paced industries to date, yet despite our drive to gain the next competitive advantage, we are still behind the times. The rate of technological change is staggering, especially in this post-Covid landscape. While the industry will undoubtedly feel the effects of these changes for generations, the immediate concern is the dealer’s struggle to keep up with that pace.
This juxtaposition describes one of the biggest problems facing our industry today. Without the interconnectivity of API the technology adoption we are experiencing is not measured with the dealership-level application. There are so many changes in so many different areas of our industry that it can be overwhelming and challenging to implement.
In my days as a vendor consultant, signing up dealers was the easy part. Decision-makers were very willing to give new platforms a shot. The shiny new gadget would be the topic of conversation in morning meetings, luncheons, and cubicle chit-chat. Kick-off and onboarding would always go well. Trainers would swoop in. Success managers would introduce themselves via email. Everyone would shake hands and celebrate their newfound partnership.
Fast forward three to six months:
Seemingly without warning, those same dealerships would put in cancellations. Again, vendor reps would come for a visit—this time to investigate what went wrong—and, too often, would reach the same repetitive conclusion. Without readily available representatives offering guidance, dealers were not fully utilizing the products for which they were paying.
“It’s not you; it’s me.”
Let’s be direct for a moment—it is not the dealership’s job to know the ins and outs of your product. They have their own business to run, and your product should enhance and ease that business’s running. You cannot successfully introduce a tool into any company’s day-to-day without weeks and months of hands-on support. Achieving genuine buy-in comes from implementing dealer-wide policies, procedures, and structures built with the vendor’s help.
Our motto at DTVMS is: “We don’t sell digital marketing; we inspect it.” We use partners that we have vetted through countless hours of in-person, on-the-ground experience. We can say, with confidence, that these companies offer solutions that show results. However, we must remember that even the solutions we have tirelessly vetted are still just tools. Incorrectly used, these tools will never drive a nail into a wall. Furthermore, without fully understanding their purpose, these tools may offer more harm than help.
In recent audits, we at DTVMS have discovered that dealers, on average, have seventeen platforms open at any time: CRM, DMS, Carfax, Vauto, Instant Messenger, OEM certification portals, customer-facing websites, company-facing websites, vendors, vendors, and more vendors. That is A LOT.
We would like to see fewer solutions. Dealers do not need shinier tools; they need to put the tools they have to work. Instead of allowing frustration to entice you into a new gadget, why not take the time to master the one in front of you? Dealers should ask themselves: Are we taking the time to overcome resistance, encourage adoption, and illustrate accountability in the programs we invest in?
In It for the Long-Haul
DTVMS would like to see a transformation of “vendors” into trusted advisors who work hand-in-hand with dealers to ensure mutual success. Too often do vendors take credit for the positive and lay blame for the negative.
“Look how many sales we can attribute to our platform!”
“You aren’t seeing the numbers we promised because no one is logging in to the portal.”
Vendors should ask themselves: After investing their time and money into us, did we ensure they were ready and capable of full buy-in?
The long-lasting dealer-vendor relationships are based on that cooperation. Vendors achieve ‘trusted advisor status through active participation with their dealer partners: customer success managers are readily available via cellphone: and employees on both sides are knowledgeable, personable, and available. These relationships last years and illustrate the consistent issue these revolving door situations have; vendors disregard their responsibility to manage success.
Again, let me say this publicly, it is not the responsibility of any dealership to be an expert at your solution. They already committed to you when they began paying a monthly fee, allowing you to train their staff and hold their employees accountable. It is not their job to become professionals at your tool. And, let’s face it, a dealer’s success will never rest on your singular digital solution, but the success of your solution may rest on a single dealer.