You know the feeling– that giddiness you experience when you think about your future together. The daydreams about the things you’ll do and places you’ll go. Your nervousness that other people won’t like them as much as you do. The apprehension that it is too good to be true, and you’re bound to be disappointed. The hope that this is the one, and that you’re destined for a great future together. That maybe this vendor really is everything you’ve hoped for.
The beginning of a relationship with a vendor is very similar to that of a new romance. You try not to let your imagination run too wild, but you can’t help but feel an excitement about this new person, or company, in your life.
But like with any relationship, beginning to work with a vendor can be nerve-racking. After all, you are about to invest a lot in them, and you aren’t sure if it is going to be successful, or if you are potentially making a mistake. All you can think about is the disappointed look on your GM’s face when it doesn’t work out.
To combat these nerves, many dealers have a set of questions that they ask every single vendor before even entering a serious conversation with them. These might include:
- How much does your product cost?
- What types of success have other dealerships like mine seen with your product?
- Can I back out at any time?
- What is the onboarding process like?
Those are the easy questions. Just like you have these questions prepared for every vendor, every vendor has prepared answers to them. This type of discussion has become a part of the standard give and take between dealer and potential vendor partner.
In order to be sure that vendors aren’t simply giving canned sales pitches, dealers like to (and should) push them to answer some more difficult questions. These types of questions could include:
How often can I expect to hear from you once I am on board?
- Will I be assigned a dedicated account manager?
- What type of reporting do you provide?
- What metrics do you track, and how do you provide me with this information?
- Is the tool optimized for mobile?
In our romance example, these are all the types of questions that get answered on dates one through five. But actually starting to work with a new vendor is a lot more of a commitment than a few dates in coffee shops– it’s a real investment! On top of the cost of the product, staff needs to be trained, other tools need to be tweaked, and new systems might need to be put in place. Before you take the plunge and sign on the dotted line with a new vendor, make them answer some tougher questions. By getting as much information from the get-go, you’ll set yourself up for the best chances of success.
- How do you ensure that we are getting the very best results? This question applies to all vendors, no matter what they do. You should demand the same type of focus and drive to improve from your vendors that you do from your staff. A/B testing is one way in which your dealership might try to optimize your marketing tactics. For example, you send the same email with two different subject lines to see which one gets a higher open-rate. The reason why you conduct these types of tests is to ensure that you are doing as well as you can– after all, why should you be satisfied if you could be doing better? If there is room to improve, you want to be taking advantage.
In the same way, your vendors should be transparent in how they A/B test their products and processes. If a vendor seems to adopt a “set it and forget it” type of attitude, you might be wary to move forward with them. Your sales process cannot function optimally if your CRM could be improved. Your website is not fully optimized if one of your tools is not working as well as it could. Asking a vendor how they A/B test, and if they are willing to tweak their product in order to do so, can help you understand if the company is truly invested in your success, or simply looking to close more sales.
- What do you do when something doesn’t seem to be working? No one likes to think about it, but it is possible that your dealership will adopt a new strategy or tool and things just don’t work. You’re not getting more leads. Your new phone follow-up strategy isn’t working. You’re not finding the product easy to use, and your staff complains that it is not helping them. The problems could go on and on. It is important to ask a vendor what type of process they have in place for this type of situation. How long do they try something before deciding to change tactics? Do they have a backup plan? How flexible are they? This question relates to the standard “How easy is it for me to back out,” but demands the vendor actually give information about how they run their business, and not just an escape plan.
- What is your product roadmap? How will I be involved in that process? You don’t want to work with a static company. After all, new technology is being rolled out in every sector all the time, and you want to know that your tools and partners are as well. In order to feel like you are getting the most out of a vendor, and will continue to do so, you need to know that they are interested and invested in releasing new features and updates, to stay not only up-to-date but ahead of the curve. Ask them what you can expect to see down the line, and what they are working on right now. They might not give you all of the details about their upcoming releases, but you can get a good sense of whether or not the company is growing and progressing.
You might also want to ask the vendor how they involve their current clients in the design and release of new features. Some companies reach out to their partners to beta test a new feature, and provide feedback, to ensure that the people who will actually use it also think it is a new and useful idea. Becoming a “beta partner” is an excellent way to stay up-to-date on the latest technology and play a real role in the development of auto tech. You can also ask how the company deals with major updates– do they automatically apply to all clients? What if you are not interested? How do they plan to process feedback about the change? It might feel like you are “jumping the gun” by asking these questions before signing with a vendor, but it’s just this type of question that will give you a real sense of the company and what you can expect down the line.
- What can I do to get even more from your product? This one can really help you determine how the vendor approaches their clients. Every company you work with should serve as a partner. You are both invested in your success and should be looking for every opportunity to improve. By asking what types of actions you can take in order to get the most of their product, you can see a few things. First, you can make sure that the account manager actually understands your dealership and is not simply repeating a standard pitch. Further, this question can help you determine the degree to which the vendor views you as a partner, or simply a client. If they respond with “Oh nothing, we’ll take it from here,” you should follow-up to ensure that they will continue to work with you even after you sign up.
For some, entering into a relationship with a vendor feels like an even bigger commitment than moving forward with a love interest. There is money on the line, GMs and owners are impatient, and you are going to invest time and energy into making this work. You know your dealership better than anyone, and only you know what you’d really like to see from a vendor. So, think of questions you can ask to get a feel for the company, their product, and how they approach their clients. Sit down with your team to find out what they’d be interested in knowing from a potential vendor so that nothing falls through the cracks. This way, you can feel that they’ve answered even your toughest questions, and you can enter into this relationship as confidently as possible.
Author: Chaya David
As Customer Engagement Manager at AutoLeadStar, Chaya works to increase client satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. With many years of experience in communications, education, and client services, she understands user needs and constantly works to translate that into the best possible digital experience. EMAIL: email@example.com.