It seems manufacturers are spending more time and money bringing new dealers aboard. They have to replace dealers who got knocked overboard by the stormy economy and drowned. They need new dealers to make up for ones that jumped ship. Manufacturers are also searching high and low for new dealers in unchartered territories – where they have never had dealer representation. Bringing a new dealer onboard can be a risky proposition and all due diligence should be taken.

New dealers must meet the same criteria as always. In addition to credit review, appropriate caution should be taken to ensure the new dealer will deal honestly with the public, represent the manufacturer well, install product properly, is aware of laws pertaining to our industry and will abide by them. This is not just following a good moral compass, it is also good business.

So, how is your company addressing the performance of new dealers after you bring them onboard? Do you teach them to swim or just hope they don’t sink when they get wet? How much effort do you put into giving your new dealers the best opportunity to succeed?

Last month, 18 new dealers attended a two day training seminar at the facilities of a manufacturer whose products I distribute. Business owners, secretaries, salespeople and installers learned alongside one another. There was a full agenda.

Day One started with the basics – Introductions and a plant tour followed by a comprehensive overview of each product in the line. Engineers explained the individual products’ design and construction. Marketing staff explained the consumer benefits of product features. Questions from all corners were answered.

The afternoon of the first day featured a concentrated hands-on installation training session. Sales personnel, secretarial staff and owners learned key terminology and critical responsibilities involved in installation. Even the most seasoned installers learned new procedures to improve performance. The value of additional training was explained and an invitation for further training was extended.

Day Two was devoted to management. The morning was spent on marketing strategy, co-op authorization, availability of display samples and marketing materials. For the afternoon this manufacturer enlisted a colleague of mine and me to share some of our work processes with new dealers, answer their questions and address their concerns. It was an afternoon well spent for me and will admit I learned a few things while teaching….

First of all, I learned from analyzing what I do. Secondly, I learned from my colleague. Finally, I learned from these new dealers. Their questions were insightful. Our answers gave me pause to consider my tactics.

Since this seminar, I have received thanks from the dealers who attended. They’ve kept me posted on successes and failures. We celebrate victories and commiserate over defeats. Who knows where these relationships will lead over time?

This seminar gave participants a chance to learn from the manufacturer and experienced colleagues. It gave everyone a chance to meet the company’s top executives, administrators, support staff and each other. We shared histories and predicted the future.

For the cost of midmorning coffee, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner at a local restaurant this manufacturer gave these new dealers a better chance to succeed. They showed they were committed to partnering with them to achieve success.

Considering the high cost and risk associated with finding a new dealer and bringing them on board, teaching them to swim seems like a smart investment.

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