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From: Jared Hamilton
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Bryan Armstrong

Bryan Armstrong e-Commerce Director

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Choosing a Vendor:Exercise Jurisprudence;Accept Responsibility

It’s Tuesday and for those of you who subscribe to my posts here or follow me on twitter: @bryancarguy, you probably know that this is my favorite day to post new content. Additionally, not all Tuesdays are created equal, I tend to alternate outlining a best practice or a more technical/process driven post every other week and on the “odd” week, like today, I tend to be more opinionated, musing and observational. Today is that day and quite frankly, I enjoy these the most. So bear with me and please read on and tell me what you think,

                I have in the past vilified some vendors while extolling the virtues of other’s and though I will continue to try and bring to you products and services that are worthy of consideration while pushing others to step up their game, I have perhaps laid to much blame on the wrong doorstep.

                You see, at the end of the day it is I who is responsible for my choices. Just as there are certain units in every brand that will demand a premium, so it is with the products and services we as dealers subscribe to. I am a businessman and a car guy first and foremost, yet if a service provider doesn’t live up to their hype, is it their fault or mine? I’ve found it is painfully obvious it’s mine. There are in the realm of vendor solutions those that can and should demand a premium for their services either for their proprietary products or exemplary customer service and true partnership attitudes. Others are purchased because of price point and the fact that they, like their myriad of competitors, can provide an adequate service that is simpler for me to outsource than do in house.

                Every day in the retail world we as “car peeps” sell the same model to different customers for varying price points and think nothing of it. Obviously the well-informed, prepared buyer simply negotiates better, knows my competition and what they are willing to do and we as a business make a determination to conduct a transaction or not.

                I’ve come to believe that it is no different in any other product medium, whether it is the lawn mower I recently purchased from Home Depot and two days later found in the Sunday paper the next model up on sale at Sears, or in deciding on an inventory posting provider for my dealership. I was only upset with myself in the first instance so why should I put blame at the foot of the vendor in the second? The reality is both were my decision.

                I guess the ultimate point of this post is I’ve found a few simple steps can avoid aggravation, needless signings and cancellations and establish greater partnerships.

A.) Clearly define your needs and expectations

B.) Search first within your current providers to avoid needless duplication

C.) Look at their reviews, especially those here on DrivingSales which I know strives to be objective and unbiased and won’t allow a Vendor to post a rating (excluding Haywood of course) J

D.) Look at their web presence. I.E. does the S.E.O. firm you’re looking at control their own search results?

E.) Ask who their main competitor is and why

F.) Talk to their tech support. Do they support all that their sales department purports?

G.) Ask around! Not just the “pocket referrals” of the vendor but on your FB, Twitter and on DrivingSales discussion boards

H.) After a thorough evaluation, talk to your DMS and CRM companies. Does the solution integrate well? A stand-alone product will never be as effective as an integrated one.

I.) No long-term contracts! 1 year with a 30 day right to cancel after 90 days is, I believe, fair to all.

J.) Set standards for reporting and reviews. A product that is on top now could be surpassed at anytime (think MySpace vs. Facebook)

K.) Communicate establish beforehand the frequency, method and who your “go to” person will be and their immediate supervisor.

If after having done all your homework it is still a desired choice, negotiate but don’t play the “I’m still looking at __________ game” unless you really are. We don’t like that approach when our customer’s play it on us, so allow a fair profit for a reasonable expectation. After all, I would prefer the Companies I partner with are financially healthy enough to benefit me for years to come.

Any other good advice or steps would definitely be appreciated!   

Hunter Swift
Bryan, Great post. One thing to add: You should take time to see the actual product in action. Don’t rely on just a demo or a demo site. Find out who uses it and go see it in action.
Charles Gomes
Great post, this is one reason I like this site!! Thanks Bryan for sharing!
Bryan Armstrong
Hunter- Great point, I've actually done that and had others do it as well. Oftentimes solutions have a "personality" to them that may not merge well with your own. Charles- Thank you! It's nice to know SOMEONE has read my ramblings! ;)

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