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[NADA Series] Evaluating Vendors in the Automotive Industry

  • February 19, 2023
12 min read
[NADA Series] Evaluating Vendors in the Automotive Industry

Ilana Shabtay, Fullpath
VP of Marketing

Kate Lumsden, Walser Automotive Group
Director of Marketing

Ashley Cavazos, Walser Automotive Group
Director of Digital Performance

Kate Lumsden is the Director of Marketing at Walser Automotive Group. She has over 13 years of experience using brand management, data-driven marketing strategies, creative direction, and design to drive measurable brand equity and customer loyalty through both digital and traditional mediums. Before joining Walser, Kate was a Marketing Manager and Graphic Designer at Morrie’s Automotive Group.

Ashley Cavazos is the Director of Digital Performance at Walser Automotive Group. She has a long history in the automotive industry, having started as a temporary receptionist in a Texas Ford dealership. Ashley was a recipient of the 2022 Automotive News 40 Under 40 award. Before joining Walser in 2019, Ashley was the Marketing Communications Manager at Morrie’s Automotive Group.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Kate and Ashley share why they attended the NADA conference
  • Tips for assessing vendors at industry events
  • The future of the automotive space in 2023
  • How the commission-based pay structure affects salespeople in dealerships

In this episode…

Conferences provide great opportunities for industry experts to meet and connect. Attendees can assess their competitors, learn business trends, build relationships, and identify future growth opportunities.

Events in the automotive space allow dealers and vendors to share their expertise and knowledge to help move the industry forward. Kate Lumsden and Ashley Cavazos attended this year’s NADA conference to connect with vendors, acquire new digital marketing strategies, and initiate future collaborations. So how can you evaluate and acquire business partnerships?

In this episode of the InsideAuto Podcast, Ilana Shabtay interviews Kate Lumsden and Ashley Cavazos from Walser Automotive Group about their strategies for assessing business partnerships. They also discuss the future of the automotive space and how the commission-based pay structure affects salespeople.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by AutoLeadStar, a company that helps car dealerships engage quality customers on the web and convert them into car buyers.

Co-founded by Aharon Horwitz, Yishai Goldstein, and Eliav Moshe, AutoLeadStar’s state-of-the-art software automates a dealership’s entire marketing funnel and provides around-the-clock service for dealers.

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:03

Welcome to InsideAuto Podcast where we feature everyone and anyone you’d want to talk to you in and out of the automotive industry.

Ilana Shabtay 0:14

Ilana Shabtay here, InsideAuto Podcast I’m here with the women of Walser. We have Kate Lumsden and Ashley Cavazos. Awesome. I love that name. How’s the show going?

Ashley Cavazos 0:26

It’s going great. Um, yesterday was exciting. We were at the women’s brunch or breakfast,

Ilana Shabtay 0:33

And you got an award.

Ashley Cavazos 0:34

I got an award, the 40 under 40 Automotive News.

Ilana Shabtay 0:37


Ashley Cavazos 0:38

Thank you. It was I didn’t eat all day until I spoke until what was it? Like three o’clock? And then I was like, Alright, I need some food. And give me a drink. Yeah. But it was great. It was a great day yesterday.

Ilana Shabtay 0:50

Yeah. Well, that’s a huge achievement. Congratulations. Yeah. So and how and how is the Expo Hall? We just opened up here.

Kate Lumsden 0:57

Yeah, it’s great. So far. Yeah, just opened up. Huge, huge expo hall. I’ve been here many years. But I think this is probably one of the largest ones I’ve seen to date. So we’re just getting started with some of our incumbent vendors and checking out a few new ones. So it’s always exciting to see what people do they pull out all the stops with these booths. They’re insane.

Ilana Shabtay 1:20

Yeah, we like to go the humble route. Yeah. What what what are you looking for specifically? Or are you just shopping? And seeing what’s out there just to learn what’s new? Or is there something specific that you’re really focusing on?

Kate Lumsden 1:34

I wouldn’t say there’s anything specific. And I don’t, we’d like to see what’s going on out there yet. We’d like to see what the innovation really is like, what’s new? Because you know, things look a little shiny at these shows. But do they really work? And you know, what are current vendors doing to keep moving forward and innovating and things like that? So,

Ilana Shabtay 1:53

but how do you like, do you feel like you have a good way to assess that when you go from booth to booth talking to vendors? Like I don’t know, Director of visual performance, like how do you how do you you’re looking at all these things, everything can look really good. But then how are you going to assess it? Is it like you have to just kind of trust it? Or do you have a specific process that you feel like helps you decide if it’s the right move?

Ashley Cavazos 2:15

Yeah. So typically, what we do is, you know, we’re walking the floor, today’s the first day of the expo hall. So the buzz is high, everybody’s like, got their energy up. So we start kind of figuring out what does everybody have going on? Yeah, then we typically do our follow ups on Saturday and Sunday. And that’s kind of when if I see something I’m pulling Kaden, right, so something that’s different than probably most automotive groups, they have an internet director, that’s typically marketing and digital. But that’s one of the great things about what we have with our partnership, is Kate is the director of marketing. I’m the Director of Digital performance. So we really have to stay close to what we’re doing and the traffic that she’s driving to the stores I need to understand. And vice versa. She needs to know what I’m doing with that traffic when she gets it to the stores. So typically, that’s what we’ll do well walk the floor, find something that looks really cool. Get the other person’s mind. Usually we’re not deciding at nada. But one of the other great things is you have all of your vendors out here, right? So you can talk to them and go like, Hey, I’m talking to this product. I want to understand how do you work with it? Right, right, the integration look like recoding auto Leafstar. I mean, that’s

Ilana Shabtay 3:21

what makes it so special, though, because you’re constantly thinking about how can I integrate and consolidate and make sure all my people are talking to each other so that I’m not creating a mess you’re leading in that space for? Well, you don’t

Ashley Cavazos 3:33

want the especially your people in the stores, right? Like, how many tabs do we have open to go through all of our products, why salespeople, my managers, my GMs can go into almost a one stop shop, then make life easier for them make sure that we’re talking together and integrating together. And that sense? I don’t know if you have anything yet. No,

Kate Lumsden 3:52

I mean, as well, it’s the same kind of scenario like I, I’d rather simplify for all parties, it’s tools we’re using, but it’s also like we’re gonna have our accounting department less people, we have to pay, like bake it into the same tool. And then everything can talk to each other, just like our tools build on each other without a lead star. I mean, that data stays in one place. We can use it for a lot of powerful things. And then the other part of it is just developing a really good like BS meter. Like, I don’t know, like, I know that he’s very good thing to have here. Yeah, you develop that over time. Night Out like Yeah, yeah, you know, integrate with that person know what he does,

Ilana Shabtay 4:28

like, you just brush it off, or do you challenge them?

Kate Lumsden 4:31

I’ll challenge them. That’s it depends like but for him, it depends on the vendor. If I really want to understand their tool, I’ll push them because I want to know what it’s capable of. But if they’re clearly out of their depth, I just kind of move on with my day. So yeah,

Ilana Shabtay 4:45

it’s good advice.

Ashley Cavazos 4:46

Are they a badge scanner? Or are they like, you know, what, what’s, what are we doing here?

Ilana Shabtay 4:51

Yeah, interesting. Okay, so let’s wrap with what you think. We’re gonna see an automotive this year. It doesn’t have to be about marketing specifically, it could Be about inventory or anything that you really feel would be the predictions for this year.

Kate Lumsden 5:04

That’s such a broad question. It’s gonna be an interesting year. I mean, there’s a lot of concern around where the markets going inventory levels, the economy. So there’s interest rates. Yeah, yeah, exactly. So I think a lot of dealers are looking at their overall cost and understanding how we can manage it and be efficient. We’ve always done that at Walser. So frankly, I’m not as worried as some might be, because we were on a really lean operation, we don’t, you know, we’re not responsible in any area. So I think, you know, it’ll be less of a challenge for us. But I think at a broader scale a lot of people are going to be looking at is this vendor worth it really delving into the data and saying, you know, this, I want to keep this tool or I don’t want to keep that tool. So anything that can help us be more efficient is going to do well. And then they’re gonna have to reassess. So it’s a little scary for vendors on that side of it, too. So yeah, step up your game and make sure that you can prove your value. Yeah.

Ilana Shabtay 6:02

So great. Any other insight? I

Ashley Cavazos 6:04

mean, I think, for me, on the operational side of it is, it’s been kind of easy for us the past two to three years, right in the dream for automotive dealers. Right, literally. So you have salespeople, depending on your turnover rate, you have salespeople that have been doing this post pandemic, yeah, they don’t truly understand what selling cars is, it’s been a lot of order taking. So that’s something for me is my huge undertaking this year is revamping our digital and our showroom process, within one point of contact, that’s not changing, but just how are we responding to our customers? What does that experience look like for them? And are we meeting them where they are? And are salespeople being efficient with it as well? So

Ilana Shabtay 6:47

yeah, I mean, you could be one price one person, but you still need to get that person in the door and choose your brand. And I think I think you’re absolutely right, the past year or two years has been a breeze for automotive. And so it’s going back to the roots of how do we build brand loyalty? How do we stay competitive? How do we make sure that customers are choosing us? So I would love to see that, you know, in 2023, how that’s going to change?

Ashley Cavazos 7:09

Yeah, yeah, it’s gonna be an interesting time. It’s interesting for salespeople. Yeah, as well, depending on your model. We’re fortunate. Whereas a lot of these dealerships who are still in that commission based pay plan, grossest, have taken a huge dip. Yeah, so salespeople are hurting in that aspect. But we are salary based, and our salespeople are not paid?

Ilana Shabtay 7:32

Actually, yeah, I was just I just had the honor of Dave Warren CDJR on the podcast remotely, not at the show. And he was saying that his salespeople are gonna get a huge cut because of the commission structure. And he’s like, I don’t even know how to prepare for that, because I’m gonna have people complaining about how much money they’re making, because they were making triple of what they might make this year. Yeah. So yeah, you’re at a huge advantage with that.

Ashley Cavazos 7:56

I almost would want to challenge dealerships, because they’re probably one. I agree with that. I do. Yeah. I mean, why are we paying still on commission, it’s still we want to change the industry. We want people to be customer centric, but when you’re worried about grosses, and I’m probably gonna ruffle a lot of feathers. But you can still make a good living on a salary based non commission Pay Plan. It also just affects culture, right?

Ilana Shabtay 8:19

You’ll get people that aren’t hustling or that it just cuts out bad deals or bad culture. So I think that’s also it will just lead to success in other ways. Yeah. You guys are just killing it. So thank you so much for joining us. Yeah. InsideAuto Podcast. Awesome.

Outro 8:39

Thanks for listening to InsideAuto Podcast. Check out our other episodes with top entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

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