A perk about being A.D. is the awesome notes I get from you, the dealers. This article is prompted by Ralph in the great state of ______, a reader and a dealer. Ralph brought up a great point, and I will attempt to do him justice with his opinion. The first word, actually the 62nd, is “loyalty.” All this time, I thought most relationships between the distributor and the dealer were one sided with the distributor trying to win the dealer over. But thanks to my new friend, Ralph, that isn’t always the case. Ralph went through a distributor cancellation, and he wasn’t happy about it. He liked this distributor because they were there for him when he needed them.
Loyalty can be to a product, person, company, church, restaurant or family member. I want to talk about product loyalty. A typical new product progression is develop the product, introduce it, market it, and find the right place to sell it. Everyone lives happily ever after. However, things happen along the way that might curtail that excitement: a drought, a new competitor, a few dealers going away, or a bad sales year. What happens next is up to the manufacturer and the distributor. Sure, a dealer can cancel a line, but that doesn’t happen as much as someone else cancelling them. Ralph’s point to me is when a distributor is cancelled, there are a lot of underlying factors the manufacturer, in this case, forgets about. Contrary to some people’s belief, dealers really do like certain distributors because they are a part of the dealer’s business. All of a sudden, the distributor that helped the dealer is now out of that particular line. What about parts, what about the programs and payment plans, and what about the previous successes? Please tell me it’s not that easy to forget those things.
Do you think manufacturers understand the burden that’s placed on your dealership when you have to “start over” with a new distributor? Maybe they do, but that is where loyalty should come in. One of my favorite lines is, “People that think they know everything are aggravating to those of us that do!” Every dealer has a relationship and a certain comfort level with a product line. Now Mr. Manufacturer, take that away. It’s okay to take a line from a distributor, but I think Ralph and I are suggesting that you consider the repercussions. When changing, be sure the new distributor understands programs, has the inventory, intellectual property, and more. That makes for a clean getaway, and allows your dealers to have a seamless transition. Make sure all the territory managers and customer service people are proficient with the new line. Too many times you cancel a distributor, sign and new one, then train later. Starting right now, train first, cancel second. Make sure the technical support team knows how to troubleshoot your line and how to fill out a warranty claim form. Again, train first, cancel second.
Let’s finish with loyalty to your customer. I get it; you expect your customer will always be your customer. How much say do you have in that? A whole bunch actually.
Here is a real-life example that happened the day I wrote this article: my Internet, cable, and phone bill went up $50 a month. I can’t tell you why (yet), but I can tell you I’ll give the current company a chance to fix it before I go somewhere else. I looked online and saw their competition can save me $80 a month! Instead of switching right away, yes, I’m giving my current provider a chance to fix it. I can hear you saying “A.D., are you an idiot? Take the money, no one is that loyal anymore!” But wait, did you just say no one is that loyal anymore? Are you really saying it’s okay for your customers to go elsewhere because no one is that loyal anymore? Is it okay for your distributor (who you like) to be cancelled? Ponder that for a moment. How can you survive if you believe that? How could you ever be mad at a manufacturer for cancelling your favorite distributor if you feel that way? It all comes back full circle, doesn’t it? We believe in loyalty only if it revolves around us. Don’t take your customers for granted, because they may make a switch to someone else as soon as they get a reason. Be loyal to them, and they will be loyal to you.
Thanks again, Ralph; you brought up a good point, and I hope our manufacturing friends are reading. Remember to keep your blades and mind sharp. You can e-mail me at OPEMAGAD@gmail.com (I do reply to every note). You can tweet me at @OPEMAGAD, but have no clue what to do when it arrives!