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Don’t Hear Vendor Presentations On Short Notice; Restrict Them To Specific Days

Solicitations can overrun a dealership’s management if you don’t funnel them to 1 to 2 days each month. BY DAVID LEWIS

Anyone who operates a business understands the concept of time equals money. Just as we measure the cost and value of our products and services using a cost-benefit analysis, it is important to understand how much time is spent on any process, to ensure we don’t waste profits along with time.

Effective time management is essential for anyone who expects to be successful in his or her business or in life in general. Marketing and economics expert Louis E. Boone was aware of how difficult this can be at times, when he once quipped, “I am definitely going to take a course on time management – just as soon as I can work it into my schedule.” It’s a joke with a serious side to those of us who sometimes find ourselves planning our day with interruptions included.

Why am I so focused on the time management topic? Think about how many vendors come to your average dealership (often unannounced) every month. TV and radio station ad reps. Representatives of billboard and direct mail marketing companies. Salespeople for manufacturers of petroleum products and for tool distributors. Janitorial services. Printers. Lighting installers. Even vendors that fill helium balloons.

Unless dealers and their managers really organize in a disciplined way the process for dealing with vendors, they may find themselves turning away businesses offering something they really need, simply because they were too time-stressed.

Vendor Solicitation Day Really Works

At my company, this actually became a matter of critical importance that needed to be addressed. Thankfully, we eventually found a solution that has made a tremendous difference. Once or twice a month, we hold what is in effect a Vendor Solicitation Day. We have scheduled appointments to hear what vendors have to offer, and we calendar those presentations in a way that keeps them out of the way of the most important business flow.

We usually set aside two hours, which lets us hear from as many as eight vendors. The structure has been tremendously beneficial for our company, and incorporating this approach into your dealership can do the same.

From the outset, it is important to put one person in charge of setting appointments for vendors on the designated day. This can be one particular administrative assistant, to whom all merchants will be referred when they phone or show up unannounced. Practically anyone at your dealership can handle this job, but the process must be consistent and followed correctly if you are to get a handle around vendor management. Everyone in the dealership (not just the managers) must be aware of how the process works and have his or her schedule organized to accommodate it in a precise and effective manner.

Cut Them Off At 15 Minutes

Each vendor is given exactly 15 minutes to make an initial presentation to a panel composed of managers from the various departments in our company. The vendors are notified beforehand that our management will not make any decision that day about buying their product or service, and warned that they must keep their presentation under 15 minutes if they want to be considered.

This way, when a particular vendor’s presentation time rolls around, our team will be totally focused on its product or service presentation and not moving another salesperson in or out of the room. It is important to inform each vendor, politely but firmly, that at 15 minutes they must be finished or will be asked to make way for the next scheduled presentation.

As soon as all vendors for that day have made their pitches, our management team sits down to discuss all of the products and services presented while they are fresh in our minds. We summon back any vendor in which we’re interested, to give a more thorough presentation on another day. After that follow-up presentation, our team typically makes a final decision on whether to buy the product or service.

Follow A No-Exceptions Policy

At our company, this has proved to be an extremely effective approach to manage a large number of vendor solicitations and give each proper consideration. Any salesperson who shows up at our office unannounced is informed firmly that he or she will have to wait for a designated vendor day, and no one will meet with them that day or take their materials. In addition to helping us effectively manage what could turn out to be a schedule-killer for our managers, it also has motivated vendors to focus their sales pitches for a 15-minute time slot.

In any industry, professionals are challenged with time management. They have to find the best solution for handling every aspect of making a profit and growing the business. There certainly are times when executives and managers must make immediate decisions. However, when it comes to the most important issues, the more organized they are the more likely they will be to make the right decision.

It’s A Way Of Juggling Priorities

Managing how and when sales presentations are delivered to your dealership is one critical way of getting and staying organized that is well worth the time and effort. It fortifies the old Chinese proverb that says, “One cannot manage too many affairs. Like pumpkins in the water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other.”

On a busy sales day, that certainly is the way dealers, GMs and sales managers feel when they are trying to keep the business running. Often, we have to sacrifice one “pumpkin” in an effort to save another. However, it does not have to be this way as we deal with different opportunities and challenges that come our way. We may find out we let the most valuable pumpkins get away while trying to save others that proved to be less valuable in the end.

When it comes to managing vendor solicitations, this can be a costly mistake that could be easily avoided by scheduling a regular Vendor Solicitation Day once or twice a month and organizing the presentation of various products and services that come our way in the daily process of building our business and servicing our customers.

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David Lewis
David Lewis
David’s firm is a national training and consulting business that specializes in the retail automotive industry. He also is the author of four industry-related books, “The Secrets of Inspirational Selling,” “The Leadership Factor,” “Understanding Your Customer” and “The Common Mistakes Automotive Salespeople Make.” Visit his website at www.DavidLewis.com.

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