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"We can't sell the cars for you, but we can help get you more opportunities."
I've heard that line dozens of times from many different vendors. I've actually said it myself at times over the last two decades on the vendor side of the automotive industry. Today, I'm here to tell you that it's not true. We really can and should help you sell more cars, and not just in an indirect way.
No, I'm not suggesting that a vendor should be flying over to the dealership and taking ups on Saturdays, but here's the reality of modern automotive sales: the sales process starts before they ever hit your lot. The concept that everything leading up to them driving on the lot is "research" and that the sale itself starts when they shake hands with the salesperson is an antiquated notion.
We all know that car shoppers buy cars from people and dealerships that they like and trust. Before they call, fill out a lead form, or make the choice to drive to see you, they're already being sold on the dealership and the people from whom they will be buying. The consumer mentality has changed because of the internet.
They aren't just researching when they go online. With many products outside of automotive (and in some cases within automotive), they are completing all or part of the transaction online. They no longer need to go to the dealership to get a price, get a value for their trade, secure financing, learn the options for warranties, determine their monthly payment, or learn about the available trim level options. They can get a relatively accurate idea about all of these things before you ever hear from them. More people today are going through a good chunk of the buying process before they visit the lot.
In essence, they are completing much of the sales process on their own. Since we influence that portion, we have now become part of the sales process.
A proper vendor mentality takes all of this into account. We were in a meeting with one of our department managers this morning discussing this very topic. He is relatively young and completely understood what we were saying. It was natural to him. He grew up in a world where most things can be accomplished through a computer or smartphone, so grasping the concept that the sale starts with our activities for our clients made instant sense to him.
It's us, the older generation, that has trouble grasping this sometimes. We grew up in a world where the sales process started at first contact, not before. This paradigm shift is extremely important to understand and unfortunately most vendors and many dealers are still viewing it incorrectly.
We, the vendors, can and should help you sell more cars. The KPIs we measure are important: traffic, leads, reach, exposure... all great stuff. However, the only KPI that truly guides our success and the success of our clients is sales.