THE SHOP

March '21

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44 THE SHOP MARCH 2021 I f you have never partnered with car dealers before, it may seem like a daunting task to get work from them. We see these large buildings, some- times with hundreds of employees working in different departments, and it seems like they have a process for almost everything. So, how can your shop earn business from these large companies or, if you are already working with them, earn more? UNDERSTAND THE DEALERSHIP Dealerships are usually broken up into three main departments: Sales, Service and Parts. Each of these entities runs their department as a separate company. It is important to note that each of these departments usually treats the others like separate customers instead of sister companies like they really are. They may all ultimately report to the same general manager or owner, but very rarely do they work together as a team. This is good to know, as you will need to build a relationship with each depart- ment separately, as you see fit. You will not be able to have a relationship with one of these departments and automati- cally gain business from the other two. Also, there may be additional depart- ments that, again, act as separate entities. These can include a used car department that makes its own decisions on which vendors or suppliers to use, or a body shop that operates independently. All of this proves that you need to build relationships with each and every depart- ment at each and every dealership. START SOMEWHERE So, how and where do you begin to build relationships inside these dealerships? First, decide what you most want to sell or offer. Is it a product/service that would be more suited for the sales department, the parts department or the service department? You may, in fact, have multiple products that would be beneficial to different departments, but start by focusing on just one or two. Begin by introducing yourself to the department manager. Give your sales pitch and then make sure you introduce yourself to other members of that depart- ment as well. I have found that many times it is not the manager that "gets you in the door"—instead, it may be one of these other employees who remembers some- thing you offered or said and gives you a call. Now a relationship has started. So, don't be quick to leave a depart- ment after meeting with the manager— strike up conversations with others as well to help spread your message. GET APPROVED In order to be set up as a vendor for some dealerships, you will need to give them some information and get on file with their accounting depart- ment. Usually, you don't get to this point without one of the departments asking for your company to be registered as an approved vendor. Take this step seriously, because the fine people in accounting can make your life much easier or much, much harder. Play by their rules and give them all the information they need, even if you find it unnecessary. This way, you can create an easy conduit to send invoices and, more importantly, get those invoices paid. START SELLING Once you are set up as an approved vendor, share your status with all of the other departments. Let them know that you have been approved and are ready to do business. This is where the real work begins. Again, treat these departments like individual companies and begin building relation- ships with each of them, so that if there is any crossover between departments you can benefit. Visit regularly and follow up on even the smallest leads while being a problem- solver, even in cases that may seem irrel- evant. These small-but-critical solutions may be the very thing that takes you from an approved vendor to the status of pre- ferred vendor. JOSH POULSON is the principal of Auto Additions in Columbus, O h i o , w h i c h wa s n a m e d Restyler of the Year, 2012-'13. Auto Additions offers a com- plete line of product upgrades including 12-volt and appearance packages with a specific focus on the dealership seg- ment. Josh is chair-elect of the SEMA PRO council and was named 2015-'16 Person of the Year at the 2015 SEMA Show. 44 THE SHOP MARCH 2021 Four easy steps to establishing dealer relationships. Foot In the Door By Josh Poulson Dealerships are usually broken up into three main departments: Sales, Service and Parts. Each of these entities runs their depart- ment as a separate company.

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