Suppliers are critical to profits in the powersports market; many of them are very much at the heart of our dealership’s processes and activities. It has become increasingly important to effectively manage the relationships we have with them as a part of our overall business strategy. I’ve learned the good, the bad and the ugly of what to look for when building a strong business relationship with my vendors, especially when it comes to technology.
Let’s face it, becoming a more efficient dealership means implementing better tech. If you’re like me, you think you’re already driving a fully-loaded smooth-running machine. I had just come off my most profitable year when I took a hard look at PSXDigital’s A.I.-based CXM platform, for example. Its automated sales and marketing processes pulled back the curtain on missed opportunities I would have denied we even had before. It has allowed us to become better than our best — far better.
But change is hard. It’s takes guts. It takes grit. That’s why only the most successful stores embrace it. Commitment and preparation from the dealer and top management down the pipeline will make the switch flow smoother.
Remember your why: Whether the reason was based on cost or because you’re looking for a better relationship with a different vendor, having a clear understanding of the purpose of the end technology will advance staff interest to properly engage the tool, serve more customers and drive profitable growth.
Manage expectations: Often, the problem and the inefficiency are related. Technology exists to either solve a problem or help to do a job more efficiently, but it’s not a silver bullet. It’s important to understand what a tool’s power and potential will do and what it won’t do for your store. Find vendor partners with the very best technology on the market, that align with what you want to accomplish, and partner with them on all fronts to execute your store successfully.
Set goals: Clearly define the results you expect from your platform investment. Ask yourself – and your vendor, “what should we expect?” Then look for reasonable and specific answers.
Champion smooth onboarding: It may seem obvious that the ultimate goal of investing in new technology is smooth implementation. Complete buy-in is critical at this stage. Imposing change on your team they haven’t accepted will fail. I see my role and that of my top management team as decision-making investors in new dealership technology evolve into that of accountability coaches and mentors. Make sure everyone is on board with the benefits and value that adoption provides the dealership and its customers. If I don’t help my people succeed during the transition, they won’t.
Support training: Take advantage of training tools and services provided by your new vendor and encourage employees to be patient while the kinks are worked out. It won’t be long before you’ll reap the benefits of making the switch.
I’ve been through enough installs both in my previous automotive stores and in powersports to spot a train wreck before it happens. When vetting vendors, ask the tough questions (they shouldn’t be that tough to answer):
- Is it easy to use?
- How long does it take for a new employee to get up to speed?
- What level of training and support is available to my staff 24/7?
- Does it give me real-time and actionable data?
- Can I access the system from any device?
My final advice is to look for partnerships that give you full control and access to your information, transparency into what they are doing with your data, full platform integration and no hassle with no contracts.
First and foremost, look for a vendor that has built their technology specific to our industry. “For dealers, by dealers,” is more than a cliché. They should be taking dealer feedback with the ability to innovate at a rapid pace on the daily.
Shout out to PSXDigital CXMAi, CDK Lightspeed, Spader, NPA and Cycle Trader for being among those vendors I can call partners vested in a winning strategy for success. Relationships are created. Technology is built. Make sure you have the best of both.
Ryan Gentry is the president at Edge Performance Sports in Ontario, OR.