Quality Not Quantity-Developing A Dealer Base


Some of the things I have learned over the years as a dealer rep is that having hundreds of dealers on your sheet doesn’t make for the best payday.  In fact, depending on your incentive goals having too many dealers can keep you from hitting your monthly incentive plan.  This doesn’t always hold true, but all of the indirect lenders I have worked for in the past, goals were set on dealer penetration and volume.   With that in mind, when I start working on a new dealer base in a territory, I have never been one to just jump right on the wagon of any dealership.  I go talk to them of course, see who I am going to be competing with and discuss with them how we could fit into their business. 

I am pretty upfront with dealerships and I generally lay it out to them with full transparency on the program I am selling.  I don’t make promises I can’t keep either.  You can make your program sound like it’s the best thing since sliced bread but the dealer knows there is a catch somewhere.  They know the program or company has to have some weak links and I always let them know what they are from the get go.  You should know what the weak links are yourself by discussing with your buyer or underwriter.   If the dealer feels that they could use you and you could get at least 4 or 5 deals a month (depending on the goals), then proceed with discussing the set up process.  I also discuss any new dealer set ups with my underwriter.  The underwriter may know the particular dealership in some form or fashion and can give you insight on whether they are worth setting up.

There are many “diamonds in the rough” type dealerships as well.  Those dealerships that are off the beaten path that don’t have a lot of lender competition I tend to  jump on those quick.  The reason behind this is those are the one’s that could send me 10-15 deals a month just because the big players don’t pay any attention to them.  These are the franchise stores that are in the small towns, these are the dealers that need you as a lender and they want what you are selling.  These are the dealers that aren’t eat up with credit unions galore.   Whether it’s sub-prime or prime you are selling, these guys like the fact that you came into their store and you wanted to go over your program with them.  They tell me that they haven’t seen a rep in over a year.  As soon as I hear that I know that there is something there because if there wasn’t their doors would have been closed a long time ago. 

I start off by asking a few pointed questions..

1.   How many cars new/used they sell a month. 

2.  What’s the average mark up on the units

3.  Who is their typical customer

4.   Are they floor planned

5.   Are they on Dealer Track/Route One

6.  How do they think my program will fit their business

These are just a few questions and there are plenty more, but these are the one’s that most interest me and enables me to decide if I want this dealer on my portfolio.

The bigger dealers that want to sign with me that I  set up, I do my job right (meaning talk to them weekly in some way).  I give them 90 days to produce.  I set specific goals for them and I hold them to it.  I hound them to death if I have too but if they don’t produce after we have bent over backwards,  frontwards and sideways then I pull the plug. 

We as reps are no different than dealers.  We have to meet our goals just like they do and they will understand if you have to cut the cord.  You can revisit them at a later date and see if things have changed, such as finance managers, sales managers etc…but if nothing changes then move on and find the one that will help you make money.  It’s better to figure this out quickly then have hundreds of stores on your portfolio that your manager is screaming about why you aren’t getting business from them. 

Cold calling can be a daunting task and I realize everyone has their own style when it comes to seeing new stores, but I don’t waste my time calling ahead and scheduling appointments.  I have never been one to do it that way.  I like walking in to a new store unannounced.  It’s my style I suppose but it’s always worked for me, so why do extra work if I don’t have too.  You have to figure out what works for you but I like the element of surprise.  I like coming in and producing a program that I believe in and I am confident that I can get them to believe in as well.  I am not pushy, just aggressive but I also am able to read a finance manager or sales manager.  You can tell if they aren’t engaging.  If they don’t look up at you and meet your eyes then you haven’t gotten their attention with your program..yet.  That doesn’t mean give up, just move through the dealership and smile, speak to everyone who meets your eyes and be genuine.  Shake their hand and tell them who you are and who you work for, 9 times out of 10 you will peak someone’s interest and they will want to hear what you have to say or lead you to the person that they know will want to hear your program.

These are just a few more tips you could use on your path to building your territory..Build the relationship and they will come.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Feel free to comment, ask questions or just say shut up already.


Donna Weir

copyrights reserved…Published Date:  April 1, 2016

One thought on “Quality Not Quantity-Developing A Dealer Base

  1. Well I’m everything you described to be careful of, that’s my role lol.
    I’m upfront, I don’t promise the world but I do promise w/whatever I comeback with I tried a 100% so they know they have someone who will go to the matt for them but also understand that I represent my bank at all times.


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