A few months ago, one of my fellow guest posters in this space shared the struggle that he was having because, after a long-term partnership, he was forced to make a change in vendors. His words made me think through the emotions that he must be feeling.

The reasons for making these types of changes are numerous. From a manufacturer going out of business, to a reduction in quality, to a lack of support and even just a change in philosophies, making a change in suppliers is something that no dealer I know looks forward to.

There’s the logistical considerations around salesperson samples and showroom displays. There’s the re-training that has to take place for a dealer’s sales team, production department and administrative folks. Then there’s the human element as relationships developed along the way can go so much deeper than a business partnership.

While the decision to make a change can be a difficult one, what comes next can be even more stressful.

As I thought further about this business owner’s peril, I tried to put myself in his shoes. If I owned a door and window business and had a long-term agreement with a supplier that had to end, what process would I use to choose a new vendor?

You may remember a while back we talked about the Circle of Life in our business. In essence, the point was that concentrating on doing three things over and over each and every day can virtually guarantee success for a door and window business owner: Get/make leads, make sales, and install a great product and get paid.

Any good vendor should be doing the things necessary to support you in those three areas.

So, if you find yourself in this situation, here are some questions to ask/think about when it comes to evaluating a new vendor partner from the standpoint of programs, partnership and product.

    • Does your potential partner have a program and mechanisms in place to turn researchers into potential free leads from their website? Today, homeowners are doing up to 60 percent of their research BEFORE reaching out to a salesperson. Part of that research includes the product itself. A good partner is looking to capture those researchers by optimizing for search terms that someone in this phase might be looking for, and once they get to the vendor’s site, offering something designed to get them into a marketing funnel (like an eBook, etc.). These are the highest-quality leads because they’re not just looking for a generic replacement window or entry door, but are looking for yours.
    • Does your supplier offer more than just technical product training? It’s one thing to be able to talk about how the product is designed, but quite another to be able to talk about how to effectively position the product in the home to create the best opportunity for the sale. A truer partnership is created when your vendors sales representatives are former retail guys and can “walk the walk” and relate to you and your sales team.
    • Does your vendor partner offer a product, or products, that truly define the word “value?” Let’s face it, everyone says that their product is the best. But, if homeowners that have purchased that product have great things to say about it, you’ve moved the buying cycle forward by offering that product. Plus, if the homeowner isn’t happy with the product, your reputation and pocketbook will suffer. Act like a homeowner that knows very little about windows or doors and enter this in the search bar: “replacement window (or entry door) forum.” What you’ll find here are questions that consumers have and responses based on the experiences that homeowners that have purchased these have had. The manufacturers that you see listed over and over might be a good place to start.

Making a change is hard, but there are logical steps that you can take to make your next relationship a great one.

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