The Important Question To Ask Dealer Software Vendors? Hint:Not DMS Integration

The Core Question?

If you draw concentric circles around your dealership accounting office you will probably find several software packages attaching themselves to your DMS. Everything from inventory managers, compliance software to CRM’s and service schedulers.

Each supplier probably had a booth at NADA where they showed off their bells and whistles and colorful graphs and functionality. We all get sort of mesmerized by the experience, taken by the flashiness and chrome.

Dealer Software is too complex

DEALER SOFTWARE IS TOO COMPLEX:
This is an actual training slide from a software vendor. I hid the brand to avoid the embarrassment for the company in question, but you know who you are.

As the long time Director of Variable Op’s for a large dealer group in Upstate New York,  I used to look forward to returning to the group to show of the latest and greatest software that could “revolutionize” our dealer group. Usually very early on in that meeting someone will ask , “does this integrate with our DMS?” I would say that is one of the least important questions early on. What dealers need to start asking is “How often are those shiny features actually used?”

We founded Dealer Simplified after sitting through three dealership website meetings. In one case I was shown a really cool bar that allowed customers to track searches. It looked great and was presented as a “Killer Feature” of their website. When I asked, “how much is it actually used by customers?” the salesperson actually gasped and stood there for a moment like a deer in the head lights. I pushed and finally he said 1-2% of the time.

I realized right then and there, Shiny Features are much different from Usable Features. The core question is, why are we always focused on the shiny bells and whistles instead of the features that make us money.

Lets take CRM for example, vendors love to show how you can make lists of customers to call and fancy reports showing our failing salespeople. The programmers that designed these features never sold a car in their life. Reports don’t sell a thing, until the salesperson learns to love his/her CRM.

In CRM the real questions are:

  • How does it help me retain customers?
  • Will my sales team use it and why?
  • How does it identify potential clients?
  • Can I speak to a satisfied 50 year old salesperson using this CRM every day?

In my opinion, the evolution of dealership software is not to add more bells and whistles or better DMS integration but to remove unused features and work towards higher utilization.

Utilization Through Ongoing training.

I really believe that software utilization comes through training. I think dealers spent way too much time showing their sales team every bell and whistle of the new software package they’re trying to launch. In my training classes I focus only on the items that salespeople and sales managers are going to use. Especially early on.

The key is to have multiple meetings over multiple months, because the sales people and managers have no idea what questions to ask until they use the software for a period of time. They also should have the cell phone number to the software vendor so they can ask questions on the fly as they are using the dealership software.

Require Quarterly Training Revisits as Part of the Contract:

One of  the least mentioned and most important lessons I have learned with software vendors is to require in their contract that they revisit and retrain your team at least once a quarter. Again it is my believe that ongoing training is an essential part of software utilization.

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