What drives your decision to favor one product line over another or to work with one distributor more than another?
There are several factors I can think of that will affect your decision: pricing/margin, geography and shipping times, product quality and performance, brand reputation and consumer awareness, and ease of integration.
One of the biggest drivers behind the products that we carry is the people behind them. At times, I have chosen to work with one product over another because I connect better with its rep firm. I have changed product lines along with my reps (if they drop a line and pick up another, I am fairly likely to do so as well.) So much of our business depends on relationships — with our clients, builders, architects, designers, our staff, and other integrators, so doesn’t it make sense that relationships should also be a key factor in our vendor relations and decisions?
While I have many friends and colleagues who go for the best of breed product or the highest margin, I find that focusing on the relationships and people I will work with has led to much of our success. There are so many benefits to building close ties with people and not products:
1.Service: Just as we will unconsciously (and let’s be honest, often consciously) go out of our way to help a client who we like, sales staff and reps will often go the extra mile to help dealers that they like as well, be it a call to tech support or an RMA or a rush on an order to make an install date
2.Opportunities: It feels like we get more than our fair share of leads from our closest reps and manufacturers
3.Information: I have built true friendships in the industry, and it is often during informal conversations or just hanging out that I find out about new products coming down the pipeline or features being added, well before they are announced
4.Access: We are often invited to meetings, dinners and events with senior leadership at large manufacturer partners. This access helps with all three items above, and it becomes a vicious cycle.
Additionally, when companies build close, personal ties with dealers, they benefit as well. As a species, it is normal to be much more loyal to your friends than to your acquaintances, and this is no exception. We are much more likely to forgive a late product shipment, getting a bad item or other issues with someone we know well and trust. Additionally, when we have these great bonds, we are less likely to be lured away by someone with the latest and greatest tech, or a slightly lower price. The relationship is valuable as well. In this day and age of Amazon, price-shopping and online ordering, it is good to have an individual that you can rely on to take care of you and who you can show loyalty toward.
I believe that companies that hire order-takers and not relationship builders are doing themselves and their customers a disservice. It doesn’t take much to switch away from an order taker if someone comes along with a slightly better mousetrap or a better price or free shipping. This philosophy drives our vendor relationships on everything from our control system of choice to our speakers and receivers to the distributor we use for accessory product. These relationships matter to us and the fact that these partners see the value in hiring good people who support the channel and take care of their dealers and aren’t just order-takers is important to us and has helped to make us into the company we are today.