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I wish that this was going to be a story about baseball. I really do. Unfortunately, it's a story about education and the art of the sales pitch as it pertains to vendors on the various automotive networks.

It is important to understand that every vendor in our industry has a responsibility. This is a tough business. Those of us who have been on the other side at the dealership level receiving pitches from vendors know that they come hard and they come often. It's part of the game. This is one of the most competitive industries out there from both perspectives - dealers competing against other dealers and vendors competiting to earn their business.

The internet in general and these networks, blogs, and webinars in particular are the tools we need to succeed at both levels. For dealers, it's an opportunity to learn ways to improve business, harness best practices, and bounce ideas against others in the industry. For vendors, it's a chance to hear what dealers think about certain topics, what they want out of products, and to what degree they want assistance versus direct help.

These venues are for mutual education. They're for dialogue. They're for ideas. They're not the place to pitch your products.

Some would say that education is worthless if it doesn't yield increased business at the vendor level. That's a different argument altogether, but I can tell you this much with a certainty...

If you help dealers by giving them tips, techniques, strategies, and advice that helps them with their business, they will be more inclined to look to you when they need your services.

It works. I see it every day. I don't have to pitch my social product to get calls and emails from dealers wanting to know how I can help. I simply post information as it comes to me that can help dealers succeed with or without my help. Some will do nothing with the information. Some will take it and apply it themselves. Some will take it and inquire about ways I can make it easier or do it for them.

As I said, it's the responsibility of every vendor in this industry to take the knowledge that they gain from their bird's eye view of things and translate it into ways that can help in the trenches at the dealership. The market is too questionable and the competition level is too high for anyone to hold their cards too close to the vest. It doesn't help the industry. It doesn't help dealers.

It doesn't help you.

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Sleazy Salesperson

This is a rant so I’m going to keep it short and not so sweet. There’s a trend in the automotive industry towards putting out really, really bad webinars. It hits really close to home because I absolutely love them, have been doing them for three years now, and get really annoyed when other professionals in the industry use them as pitch sessions.

In essence, it’s giving one of the most important components of pushing the automotive industry forward a bad name.

Let’s go back a few years. There was a time when many would consider the automotive industry to be behind the times when it came to internet marketing. Things have changed in the last several years and now there are shining examples at every level, from individual salesperson all the way up to the OEMs, where ours is an industry of trendsetters instead of being behind on the times.

I believe that webinars have played an extremely important role in this change and I’m proud to have been a part of it. However, I’ve been listening to some webinars lately that are really light on the educational components and heavy on the pitch. This needs to stop.

Here’s how a webinar should work. A company should pick out an important topic in which they have an expertise. They craft a webinar and use the opening to tell the audience who they are. This should be short – no need for 3-5 minutes (or more in some cases) of “here’s what I do for dealers” or “here’s what we’re selling today.” Then, the education begins. At the end of the webinar or even some time in the middle, ask if there are those in the audience who would like to learn more about your services. Again, make this quick – 1 minute max.

The concept is this – webinars should be 95% educational. We know why we do them. The intention is to stir up business. However, it’s not designed to be a pitch, at least it shouldn’t be. A peer once told me that he educates because he believes that 50% will do nothing with the information, 25% will do it themselves, and 25% will ask for help. If you go through and show dealers how they can help themselves, they’ll have a choice. Give them an opportunity to make the choice. If they choose to inquire about your services, that’s great! If not and they take the information you give them to make their dealership better on its own, that’s great, too!

Education at every level, whether it’s webinars, speaking at conferences, writing blog posts, putting out white papers, or whatever you do to educate the automotive industry, it should be with the understanding that you’re establishing yourself and your company as willing to help and possessing the skills to make a difference. If they want a pitch, they can ask for one.

Here’s the thing: if you’re doing your educating right, there will be people inquiring about your services. If you force them to waste their time listening to a pitch when they came to be educated, you’re not helping the industry, the dealers, or yourself.

Sorry for the rant. I don’t do it often, but when I do, it’s for good reason.

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