Pop Quiz: Agent or Partner?
Pop Quiz: Agent or Partner?

Are you an agent, a partner, or both? Before you answer, please complete this multiple-choice quiz: An agent is …

  1. just a vendor
  2. just a product salesperson
  3. an indispensable part of a dealer’s operation
  4. clueless

Before we check your answer, here’s an old lesson in marketing. In “The Marketing Mode” (1969) and “The Marketing Imagination” (1983), Prof. Theodore Levitt of the Harvard Business School set out to discover why people buy products. In both books, he quoted advertising expert Leo McGinneva, who said, “People spend their money not for goods and services, but to get the value satisfactions they believe are bestowed by what they are buying. They buy quarter-inch holes, not quarter-inch drills.”

The value your dealers see in you are not based on numbers alone. Let’s take a look at two ways agents make themselves invaluable to their clients.

1. Improving Vehicle Sales

As a trainer, I work with agencies of all size. Regardless of whether it’s a one-man show or a multistate operation, there are some common traits that separate highly successful agents from their mediocre competitors. The one that stands out for me is focus. You show me the agent’s primary focus and I’ll tell you how they answered the quiz.

Any agent can show a dealer numbers and compare service contract penetration rates. Typically, those agents are shown the door when a prettier reinsurance program comes along. Even if they visited the dealer often and sincerely meant well, their relationship is short-term.

Success is understanding that the questions are the answers. Simply put, the agents who uncover the dealer’s top priority — and then work with the dealer to formulate a plan to achieve maximum results — become true partners. So, if you had to guess, what is your dealer clients’ No. 1 priority?

  1. Make sure the agent’s products are sold.
  2. Beat his buddy dealer’s PVR.
  3. Sell and deliver vehicles.
  4. He doesn’t have one. He’s clueless.

Let’s say you’re the best agent on the planet. You sign a dealer and begin working with the F&I manager. Because you’re so good, the manager is soon at 50% penetration every month with every product. Now, what would happen if you took your focus away from your products and turned it toward the dealer and their desires?

The next logical department is the showroom. So let’s say you come up with some tips and training to work with the sales team and they pay off with 10 extra units the first month. Based on the aforementioned penetration rate, that’s five more sales for each of the F&I products you represent. What would that mean? To you, maybe a little, maybe a lot. But what do you think it would mean to the dealer? Well, he won’t be thanking you for the extra tire-and-wheel income. You’ll be a standout agent for helping sell more vehicles.

2. Cutting Costs

Another way to improve your value proposition is to help your dealers save money. Let’s say the dealer is using what I call a “celebrity” product — a desking tool, for example, that comes with robust software and an in-store training session with a “celebrity”-endorsed trainer. You soon learn that the tool, while somewhat effective, is costly.

In your travels, you discover that another client has a similar desking tool, but it also comes with a fully compliant menu and even has a CRM. Oh, and it comes with live, in-dealership training hosted by a top industry trainer. Best of all, it could save the dealer thousands. What would you do with that information?

Bear in mind that you don’t get paid anything just because your dealers use this software. Heck, you don’t even represent it. But what would the dealer think if you were able to save them thousands each and every month? Wouldn’t it be easier to recommend training for the finance manager with the money saved? Couldn’t the dealer pay for training for the sales team with the savings? And again, who does the dealer believe has a sincere interest in their success? What do you think that would do for you when the next agent comes along with a prettier brochure?

Remember, you’ll never convince a dealer to fear losing your products. But if your focus is right and you really partner with your dealers, you can make them fear losing you.