As I pass my 10 year anniversary as a manufacturers representatives, I reflect on all of the knowledge I have gained over the decade! I have concluded that, the Kitchen & Bath Industry is at a cross roads with its representation strategies, tactics and overall thinking!
This blog speaks to both the Kitchen & Bath Dealers, Sales Managers and Representatives!
- I have long maintained that Kitchen & Bath dealers and business people have underutilized the representatives, mostly because they see them as “Useless unless I have a problem”. (Old School)
- Smart Kitchen & Bath Dealers & Business people, use the representatives as a sounding board for their local market area ex: How is the overall market compared to my perspective? Am I not designing or selling enough of ( Modern, Transitional or Whatever Trends are out their because I am tunnel visioned) (21st Century Representation)
- My representative , prices and sells me a product based on their perceptions of what I need, the issue is he never asked me what I need beyond price and started yammering on about his product, left a catalog and credit application and did 1 hour of training and left. I never see them unless I call! ( Old School)
- My representative, took the time to ask me about my business, client base and short term and long term goals. Then he did some price comparisons to see if there was a gap, or replacement value. Gave me a list of other dealers across his territory to call and ask about his factories customer service and overall performance. Once we decided to take on the line, he highlighted some product and design features that he thought might be good for my business, left the catalog to preview before a scheduled 3 hour in depth discussion about the line. Then he helped me fill out the credit application, reviewed it and submitted it for me. ( 21 Century Representation)
- My representative came in, brought doughnuts and coffee for a 1 1/2 training in our showroom with the staff. Of course we had to take phone calls, Half of us got interrupted and we missed a critical point of procedures and our first job we had a cost overrun because of it. I have not seen the representative since. (Old School)
- My representative schedules two training days for us to choose from, we come into his Selection Center/Office) where we can see the product, his powerful training is all day, we leave fully aware of procedures, the lines “gotcha’s” are well known, in addition we learned how to sell the design features of his line to our customers. Not only that, but we had a nice day with other dealers across the territory. It was also fun networking with other dealers who have had the line longer. He has quarterly training’s. ( 21st Century Representation)
- My representative comes in only when he has new brochures, new door style to sell/give me, other than that I never see them, unless I call! ( Old School)
- My representative has a newsletter that I see every month, telling me who is number one, two and three in the territory! A design or selling feature that I might not be aware of, and the training and event schedule at his selection center and office! ( 21st Century Representation)
Am I making my point here, I have been that old school rep, so I believe that makes me in a great position to change and update my representation to the 21st Century! This reminds me of when I updated my retail Kitchen & Bath business, not only was I more profitable, I had a hell of a lot more fun!!!
Manufactures need to pay attention and poll their reps customers quarterly, be aggressive on customer service from the representative. It after all is your relationship to. The relationship to the representative is critical, but it is only as deep as the customer service they are providing. Poor customer service from the representative leaves the dealer open to “stealing” from another representative! I have seen it and done it!
Is your representative putting his own money, capital and resources ( Other than time) into your product? A more equitable partnership ( Longer than 30 days) will make the right representative eager to put his own money into the project. I have seen to many rep groups with good sales in one product, add a competitive product! The original manufacturer is then afraid to confront the issue because they might loose sales, guess what they are going to loose the sales anyway-why? The representatives are not going to devote the time in the original product they once had, plus the training/customer service will go down and leaving their dealers open to “stealing into another reps product line”
Ok, I have droned on enough..something to think about.. Join me in the 21st Century, as I am glad I finally got here! 🙂