Get a good rep!

AUTHOR: Inavate

Our correspondent considers those dealers who do not value their supply chain relationship. Suppliers – who wants to see them?

All dealers should be seeing their major suppliers regularly. The manufacturer or distributor is a key element of the supply chain and can be your best friend or your worst nightmare. How they appear to you is very much down to how you treat them.

So, exactly what can a supplier’s rep bring to you? Well, lots actually. Just about everything from product updates and special offers on demo or end of line stock, to those all important sales leads and staff training.

By valuing the supply chain relationship, the dealer can use it to their benefit. The suppliers can keep you up to date on the latest products, demonstrate USPs that will help you sell product and undertake technical training to assist in system integration and installation design.

When something goes wrong, the rep is there to provide support and back up. Turning up with a manufacturer’s rep when there is a problem shows relationship ‘up the chain’ to the client and demonstrates that the dealer is doing something to resolve the problem.

However, the manufacturer's rep isn’t someone to constantly beat up over price and try to score some extra discount out of when you already have a deal in the bag and have given away all the profit in discount. If you are in a competitive bid situation and are promoting one manufacturer against the competition who have an alternative offering, then it is in the interest of the manufacturer to work with you to try and land the deal. But the rep isn’t there to try and score against when you already have the order.

Then we come to sales leads. If a manufacturer offers you a sales lead then ensure you follow it up. The initial lead could also offer a lot more then just a projector or plasma screen. Stands, screens, installation – all are out there with any lead but it is down to the dealer to follow the lead up promptly and diligently. And don’t switch sell – if you get a lead for a certain brand of product, don’t then go and sell something else to that prospect. All you do by switch selling is sour the relationship between yourselves and the manufacturer/distributor making it less likely that you will get future sales leads from that source. That hurts the dealer in both the short and long term, after all, the manufacturer has plenty of dealers to give the leads to. If you don’t follow the leads up, don’t expect to get any more.

Manufacturer’s reps also have much to do in order to build the relationship with their dealers. Those reps need to be able to sell to both the dealer and their end user customers when they are invited out on joint visits. They also need to be able to keep quiet when there is a big deal on the go in order to protect the dealer that has set it up.

Many manufacturers need to improve the sales skills of their sales team to match those of the dealers and ensure that their sales team has sufficient technical knowledge to answer the everyday questions that arise from dealers. Being a good salesperson but being unable to answer even the most basic technical questions does manufacturer’s reps reputation no good at all.

But I don’t have time to see the rep say all the dealers. Well, that’s a shame as no doubt the rep will give details of the special offers on products and sales leads to your competitors. I’m not suggesting that you should have tea and buns with every rep twice a week, but make sure you see them perhaps every quarter and don’t be afraid to call them in to assist you in winning a project. After all – that’s their job.

When you have a war to fight and your enemy has bows and arrows, the best friend you have is the rep selling machine guns and ammunition. Sadly, many dealers don’t realise that.