What I’ve Learned as a Vendor About Vendors

Nicole Marcellino

Have you ever experienced a relationship with a vendor that went south because they failed to deliver on their word? Where they spend more time peddling excuses than making things right? I just recently went through a vendor break-up. Asking myself, why do we allow bad vendors to continuously make the same mistakes? More so, why do we continue to work with vendors that just don’t care? Knowing full well that these are largely the same vendors who boast “dealer badges” at automotive events. Is this a flex? Or is this the realization that there’s a big problem within the industry that has only gotten worse?

We all make mistakes, and I admit that myself below, but there are recurring mistakes vendors make that just don’t cut it. And in the next four articles, I am going to dig into the concerning industry trends. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The sections are titled:

  • What I’ve learned as a vendor, About Vendors (part 1)
  • What I’ve learned as a vendor, About Dealers (part 2)
  • What I’ve learned as a vendor, About Customers (dealers’ customers – part 3)
  • What I’ve learned as a vendor, About Products (part 4)

Now, before we get into the good, the bad, and the ugly – let’s preface this with the fact that I did sell cars and held all traditional front-end positions in a store. They consisted of Internet Sales, F&I, New Car Manager, Used Car Manager, General Sales Manager, and General Manager. In that order. I’ve worked at both import and domestic stores, in high-volume and Highline arenas. I was an above-average General Manager/Executive Manager over the last five years of my retail career on paper but admit I mostly did it wrong for that entire time. I would do things 100% differently today if I was to become a General Manager again. I was blessed with a strong team at each of my stores, amazing ownership, and great OEM partners. I also had spectacular vendors that helped me along the way as I was VERY green.

So, without further ado, shall we?

About Vendors, part 1:

  • Most automotive vendors/consultants would rather lose a customer than work with another automotive vendor for the good of a mutual client. Zero collaboration. Or, if there is any collaboration it is “finger-pointing” to the 9th degree. A good vendor will work towards a mutually beneficial solution.
  • Most automotive vendors/consultants have no significant retail automotive lineage, if any. Or worse, some that do have automotive experience – those in positions of influence – didn’t cut it on the dealer level and are now training sales consultants. Having a deep understanding (with the good, the bad and the ugly) will only offer more success.
  • Most automotive vendors/consultants make it up as they go, or just plain lie. Recently I witnessed one of the best sales consultants that ever worked for me become a vendor. They were horrible with CRM, desking, and follow up but if someone was in front of them, they were magical. They’re now a CRM vendor preaching how important CRM is and how they can’t believe how horrible dealers are with CRM. Really?
  • Far too many vendors can’t use their own product in a forward environment, i.e., a dealership.
  • If you wear a Dealer Badge at a convention, you’re a failure. This isn’t cool. If you’re willing to lie about where you work to save a few dollars, what else are you willing to do?
  • There really are some automotive “Steve Jobs” out there but they need a strong second in command to both translate and transact.
  • Reality, consultants, vendors, and “gurus” talk about education and learning but are actually referring to a 45-minute session or a weekend retreat without sustenance – other than partying and drinking. Also known as bad decisions.
  • Reality, most vendors/consultants are looking for a different “gig” because they don’t call them jobs and refuse to look at it as a career. I can literally provide email after email of a multitude of “gurus” that have come to one of my four companies over the years secretly looking for a job. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this outwardly but where I take issue is when they’re blatantly dishonest about it. If you don’t eat, sleep and breathe that which you do, don’t pretend to. It’s bad form.
  • Reality, the 80/20 Rule as it pertains to vendors/consultants is 80% are worthless and 20% are worthwhile.
  • Reality, a fake Rolex doesn’t mean you’re successful.
  • Reality, a real Rolex doesn’t mean you know your stuff.
  • Reality, being trendy and wearing ill-fitting outfits doesn’t mean you’re a professional.
  • Reality, dealer staff turned vendors without proper credentials are simply hucksters.
  • Reality, if you were unsuccessful as a dealer then you’re insignificant as a vendor.

Some of the above are ugly – but we can’t expect a forward change if we continue to accept bad behavior. It’s time vendors are held accountable for their work.

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