As a distributor, your reputation is deeply tied to your performance at every interaction with your customer. Every order or project can potentially redefine your value and effectiveness with your contractor or end user.
Being a distributor, you are often managing six to 10 (or more) product lines and different vendors for each product on every project, often juggling 10 to 30 projects at various stages of completion at any given time. It is easily possible for you to be responsible for managing 300 orders with various manufacturers on any given day. Even in a perfect world, the job of the door and hardware distributor is extremely demanding. (Kudos to you in these roles!) Every good distributor has a style, a philosophy, or a way of doing business that has gotten them to where they are now. When asked, “Why do customers do business with you?” most respond with words like “service,” “dependability,” and “relationships.” Regardless of what that reason is, these ideals strongly play into your operating practices and therefore your business persona and reputation. With your reputation on the line with every order, great distributors must have great vendors to be successful.
So what steps can you take to ensure that your vendor partners will help protect and enhance your business reputation and help you in your difficult role as a distributor?
Philosophical alignment – Your vendors operating practices and values need to match your operating practices and values. To accurately gauge, consider your alignment in these areas:
- Importance of keeping commitments
- Method of handling questions and issues
- Ability to “make things happen” as needed
- Speed of response on quotes, orders, returned phone calls, etc.
- Process of order fulfillment- partnership approach or simply ship what is ordered
- Communication throughout the ordering/project process
- Availability and quality of technical support
The more closely your suppliers match your business principles, the clearer your customers will perceive your unique value. Additionaly, the closer your values align with your vendors’ (and customers’), the easier it will be for you to do business together.
Ease of doing business – Does dealing with this person/ company cost you more time or save you time? Here are some critical things to consider about vendors and your valuable time:
- Will they accept an order in your standard format?
- Can you call and quickly speak with a knowledgeable person when needed?
- Do they quickly acknowledge or ask questions upon receipt of your order?
- Do you quickly receive a confirmed price and ship date?
- Will you have to follow up to ensure that material is shipped on time?
- Are you required to review (and take responsibility for) order acknowledgements?
- Do they send shipping acknowledgements with carrier and tracking information?
- Can you order and move on to your next task, or will you have to mark your calendar to follow up to make sure the details of your order are correct?
With the demanding schedule, you are looking for all the help you can get.
Price – Does your final price equal the value perceived? As a good distributor, you must always balance the costs of delivering the current project on a budget while doing what is required to bring the project in on time to keep you and your contractor looking good. Your next order usually depends on a happy contractor/customer
A good vendor will do things like review your orders to make sure you get what you really need, combine orders to save freight costs, and offer a wide array of products so that you can get more items from a single-source manufacturer to reduce shipping costs. As Warren Buffet puts it, “Price is what you pay/ Value is what you get.”
About the Author:
Steve Adams is Vice President of Sales with HMF Express, LLC and a 30-year industry professional. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To share your tips and product knowledge with the community, tweet to @HMFExpress or find HMF Express on Facebook.