This is the final installment of “Building Relationships.” Over the last five issues, we have discussed multiple ways for you to get involved with your dealers to allow them to get more out of their HVACR businesses, which in turn keeps your dealer base strong and profitable for you. In each article, we have emphasized the important role you and your territory managers play in taking your dealer to a higher level. A few parting thoughts are in order.
All of the programs or business methods we have suggested will improve the tone of your business and that of your dealers. However, good ideas offer no value to you or your customers without an implementation plan and a positive attitude. Your plan should include focus groups, dealer development programs, developing your territory managers and placing them in consulting roles with your dealers, and perhaps most importantly, mentoring and coaching your dealers.
Focus Groups Provide Direction
Take some time to explore what is available to help your dealers and encourage them to participate. Sponsor focus group meetings to discuss meeting topics and ask your dealers what programs they believe will benefit them the most. Your equipment manufacturers as well as local and national trade associations may be a good source for speakers regarding important and timely subjects. Be sure to concentrate on business management skills. While technical training is vital to the success of your dealers, business training is paramount. Soft skills training will give your contractor-customers' employees a grip on the importance of keeping customers satisfied.
Offer Dealer Development Programs
Involving your dealers in an advertising campaign is important, but ad campaigns only make the phone ring. What your dealers do once the phone rings is critical to their success. Sponsor meetings to bring in speakers who have a message to tell and a product to offer. Those meetings may be about how to price for profit, the importance of a phone system with an on-hold message, an easy-to-start, easy-to-use service agreement program and the value of implementing flat-rate pricing in service. The importance of exposing your dealers to business management skills will undoubtedly make your dealers much more ready to handle their customers professionally when your ad campaigns bring business to their doors.
Territory Business Consultants
Take a close look at the role your territory managers play in the success of your dealers. If your territory managers' (TMs) only role is to sell and ship big boxes, they offer little value to your customers. Position your company to maintain a strong dealer base by training your TMs to become business consultants. Provide them with the skill-set to be the go-to guy or gal on whom your dealers rely for everything about their HVACR business.
Become a Business Coach
Your dealers have their hands full trying to stay on top of the day-to-day challenges in their HVACR businesses. Consequently, your role and relationship with your dealers are more important now than ever before. Become a source of knowledge not only on the technical side but also on the business side for your dealers. Consider your territory managers as territory business consultants, and consider yourself as your dealers' mentor. If you play your role properly in your dealer relationships, your customers will never need to ask for your advice, it will always be right in front of them. Call them regularly; don't depend on your sales staff to maintain the relationships that you have established. Schedule business coaching sessions where you stay involved in an advisory role on a regular one-on-one basis or through conference calls with your dealer network.
Become a Cheerleader
Everyone likes to hear an “Atta Boy” every now and then. Call your dealers to let them know you're watching their success. Give your TMs the acknowledgement they deserve when they go above and beyond for your dealers. Be a positive force in your business and maintain a positive outlook. It's contagious!
Be an Innovator
Someone once said that the best way to predict the future is to create it! The best way to create a great future is to find great people looking to do a great job.
When you build relationships where everybody wins, the great people find you, and the rest falls into place.
Jim D'Amico and Ken Cederquist are partners in Profit Strategies, a provider of retail pricing systems for service and installation for the HVACR and plumbing trades. Jim is a former HVACR contractor and is available at [email protected] or 800/353-4393. Ken is a former distributor and is available at [email protected] or 800/808-4586. Their main office line is 888/229-4100. www.ProfitStrategies.net.