It’s A.D. versus the distributor this month! What? Am I questioning my own brothers and sisters in the industry? Yes…sort of. At least I want to bring up some things dealers might be wondering about.
First, what are the dealers’ biggest gripes? Since I have never been a dealer, I can only imagine. One might be the way distributors load them up with products. Another might be the lack of good communication. A third might be shipping issues. And one other could be that the dealer never sees anyone from the distributor. Did I nail them? How about if we take them on individually?
Overloaded with products
A distributor has an obligation to the manufacturer to sell stuff. The manufacturer might have set unrealistic goals for the distributor. So to whom will the distributor sell all that inventory? You…and him…and her. There should be a kind of trade-off though. You, Mr. or Mrs. Dealer, want exclusive areas of responsibility, but you won’t buy the amount of inventory it requires to do so. And you, Mr. or Mrs. Distributor, want to sign up a dealer on every corner because you think that’s the way to sell the stuff your factory made you buy. Well, I have some pretty high-level news for you. Whether, as a distributor, you have a dealer on every corner or every 6 miles, you aren’t going to sell more. There are only so many dealers to add before you saturate the market. So spread the love with the ones you love. Or better yet, as Stephen Stills would say, “Love the one you’re with.” Think of selling to fewer dealers, help them advertise, and you might just sell more.
Lack of quality communication
Those who say we don’t communicate as well as we should are correct. Distributors could do a better job telling you changes with the products you sell, why we can’t ship fast, or when we backorder something. But, most importantly, we should listen to you, the dealer. There are several ways, Mr. or Mrs. Distributor, that we can communicate more effectively. If you have a dealer portal, a newsletter, a territory manager, an e-mail, or a way to communicate on your website, then I suggest you use it to tell the dealer what they crave to know. I hear dealers say “I wouldn’t have gotten mad if I would have known.” Maybe…maybe not.
Whether pulling the wrong parts from the warehouse, shipping days late, not packing parts correctly, or anything else, shipping issues can hurt a company’s bottom line. There are damaged reputations for distributors and dealers when one of those occurs. So, how can the distributor fix them? I believe there are a few ways. First, make sure you have quality control. If you don’t have a program to catch errors, you’ll need to double check your orders before they are packed. It will slow you down and be expensive, but how can it be more expensive than a mis-shipped part? And, last, you have to have good quality control with your receiving department. That could mean certifying your suppliers so you can trust that they’ll send the right parts. It also means checking the parts in correctly and locating them on the shelf correctly. If you want to fix errors, make sure there aren’t parts with similar numbers next to each other. The last I checked, we aren’t paying the warehouse employee to know the difference between a blade and a spindle, we are paying them to ship the right part in a timely manner.
Getting the distributor’s attention
And finally, the dreaded “I never see anyone from your company” claim. Depending on the size and potential of your dealership, this may be what you are experiencing (small guy trying to get big guy’s attention). So how do you get them to stop by? Call them and request it – it is a pretty simple task. The distributor may not drop what they are doing right away to see you, but they will be by soon. Most territory managers have more dealers than they can physically visit. If they have a commission plan, they may be seeing those that can make them the most money. Sadly, you may not be one of them. My suggestion is to find a way to buy as much as you can from the distributor you like. It will certainly get their attention. Stop buying from multiple distributors if you can. Have one invoice, one shipping program. It will make your life easier and get the attention of those you seek.
Keep your minds and blades sharp. You can agree or disagree with me by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll write back. Or if you are into the Twitter thing, tweet me @opemagad.