The most important thing that a dealership can do is connect with the customer and build lasting relationships. It’s vital to keep that in mind when partnering with a vendor. These partnerships will reflect on your business, and influence your ability to sell cars.

So, how do dealerships pick vendors that help them connect meaningfully with their consumers and ensure a strong ROI? The two issues are intrinsic. If you’re not finding the right partner, the customer will sense the disconnect, and it will impact the bottom line. Everyone knows how hard it is to choose a company to help you outsource solutions for your dealership, based solely on online reviews, and the degree of trust that should be put toward those online reviews, testimonials, and ratings, which aren’t always reliable. There is a lot to sift through, and much of this can be inconsistent.

A few ground rules are helpful to make sure you find the most meaningful partnership that can help give favorable short-term sales results and establish long-term customer relationships, which can lead to a recurring ROI. This means that you might want to stay away from a`la carte programs. Stick to something that can help build business through longevity, and subsequently make vehicle buyers feel valued.

Don’t Base Your Decision on Price Alone

You get what you pay for. As a dealership in search of a vendor, imagine how you want to be perceived by customers. It’s likely that if you pay less money for a particular vendor, then it will impact the consumer experience. That might work temporarily to move vehicles, but if you want sustainable relationships with your customers, and to increase ROI consistently over time, it might be more beneficial to find a vendor you can partner with into the future.

That’s not to say you can’t find reasonably priced vendors that have great products, but be sure to put the product first, and the price second. Choosing to pay a vendor less to save a few bucks can now be the make-or-break decision for your ROI. Look for intangibles they might provide that can fortify the customer experience. We all want to save money, but spending more can sometimes increase your revenue because the customer will identify the quality they are paying for.

Networking Is a Valuable Resource

Don’t be afraid to talk to other people in the industry, even if they are potential competitors. They have gone through the same experience. Those other dealerships can be valuable resources on the reputation of a vendor’s product or service and help you make the right choice. Getting information from someone who essentially does what you do, and the experiences they have, is a much better testimonial than hearing it from someone trying to sell you a product.

This involves networking, and one of the best ways to do this is at in-person trade shows, or by joining industry related online social groups. If you are looking for a specific product or service solution, ask others who they use and why. What products improve the customer experience and engagement with consumers? Do they feel like the vendor is a partner, or a company that they just pay every month? Has the ROI been what they expected?

You can also achieve some of this due diligence by seeing what others report about the vendor online. Word of mouth and personal accounts are the most accurate. If a peer takes the time to speak with you about a vendor, they will be frank about their experience and the cost-reward benefits of the services offered.

Training and Follow Up Are Important Priorities

The amount of training you and your team need for a product or service is going to depend on what is being provided.

The best way to measure whether or not the training is valuable, despite the amount of time spent on it, is how seamlessly you and your team learn about the product or service and apply it, and how effectively it will be related to the customer.

Some vendor solutions you’re paying for might take more time to learn than others, which is fine, but no amount of training is going to make up for the ease of translating the new solutions into a positive customer experience if it’s not a good product.

Make Sure You Like Who You’re Working With

Finally, and this might seem obvious, but don’t take for granted how much you get along with your main contact person and how that is going to impact your overall vendor relationship.

We might deal with a lot of individuals in our daily life that we don’t get along with. Sometimes you’re going to have to do business with someone you might not like and don’t have a choice in the matter.

But you are in control of picking a vendor. Make sure you like interacting with them, or your attitude of frustration will be obvious to your shoppers. Remember that the people buying cars are who you need to care about first, so try to choose a potential vendor that can enhance the customer experience.