<p><strong>Tools that digitize and mobilize appraisals save precious time for staff and customers. </strong><em>Photo by MikesPhotos via Pixabay</em></p>

In most dealerships, inventory management is a reactive process. A vehicle becomes available and someone decides whether it's a good choice for your lot. But margins are shrinking and new-car sales are plateauing. Today’s most successful dealers are leaving reactive inventory management behind and taking a proactive approach.

By actively seeking out new inventory and streamlining the appraisal process for staff and customers, proactive dealers create new efficiencies in sourcing. Let’s borrow three of their best habits.

1. Source Smarter.

Too many dealers overlook their best source of pre-owned inventory: their existing customers.

To best take advantage of existing customer inventory, sales and service must be connected, and dealership software can be a great facilitator. Your CRM, when integrated with an inventory management solution, can provide real-time inbound service appointment alerts. This enables dealers to make timely offers on customers’ vehicles.

Connecting your CRM and inventory management solution also helps inform smarter selling decisions. You can tie active leads in the CRM to individual vehicles in your pricing screens. When it is time to reprice, you have a clear picture of the customers you already know are interested in that vehicle. This eliminates the need for staff to try to remember (or guess).

2. Streamline Your Workflow.

Data double entry is a big problem in many dealerships, and inventory management systems are often a part of that problem. Far too frequently, inventory management systems live on an island, completely disconnected from the CRM, among other components.

Software integration is critical. Without it, staff are forced to reenter customer appraisal information that has already been entered into another software platform, unnecessarily sucking up valuable time.

On top of that, data double entry introduces the possibility for costly errors. When a salesperson enters a customer into the system using his nickname, “Jim,” but a manager enters him using his legal name, “James,” you’re left with two records — and duplicate follow-ups — for the same person.

3. Appraise With Customers in Mind.

Proactive dealers know that, when it comes to providing customers with a good experience, every step counts — including appraisals. You must stay connected and transparent with each customer during appraisals, and technology can play a key role in making that happen.

Mobile technology, in particular, can enable a better appraisal experience for customers. With the mobile functionality of some CRMs, salespeople can receive push notifications on the status of appraisals in real time. Equipping staff to stay by their customer’s side throughout the process will improve the experience for both parties.

Mo Zahabi is the senior director of product consulting at VinSolutions, a Cox Automotive brand.