Relationship opportunities come to us all the time with parents, children, friends, business associates and even the casual stranger we meet and connect with. Every interaction with another, offers us a chance to be in a relationship. We spend 30% of our working day building a significant proportion of our relationships from our business experiences. Typically we focus on our employees and customers spending a significant amount of time nurturing these key relationships. What about our parts distributors? Every service company is dependent on parts distributors. You need them as much as they need you and when you find a good one, treat them right to keep them working for you. Work as hard on building good distributor relationships as you do building a good relationship with your employees and customers. Parts distributors are essential to your business’s good health and growth.
How good parts distributors can impact your company:
- Service Level: Distributors’ level of service can positively or negatively affect the quality of your service. Having the right part at the right time can make the difference between selling or losing a repair and the customer choosing to buy new.
- Timeliness: Timely deliveries are crucial to how customers view your reliability. A quick turnaround can become key to minimizing your inventory, which in turn translates to less risk of inventory obsolescence and lower cash outlays. It’s also key to your customers’ satisfaction, your reputation and your ultimately getting a referral.
- Accuracy: It’s not good enough to have a part to you in record time, it has to be the right part and in useable condition.
- Competitiveness: Parts suppliers can give you an advantage on your competition based on their pricing, flexibility, quality and reliability.
- Innovation: Suppliers can make major contributions to your efficiency and processes with on-line ordering, parts look-ups and the relationships they have with the major OEMs.
- Co-operative: It’s often said that rules are made to be broken. Polices and procedures are in place to ensure efficiency but sometimes in a pinch a good parts distributor will to go above and beyond to get that rabbit out of the hat.
It’s OK to Have High Expectations
Parts distributors are essential to all appliance service businesses but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have high expectations of them, just be fair. State your level of service needs clearly. Hold your parts distributors to their word on level of supply and fulfillment. Make sure they stay competitive with random price checks but don’t nickel and dime them. There are times you need to replace a parts distributor because you have outgrown them or they can’t preform to your expectations. Before dropping a parts supplier, however, be sure to try to communicate your needs and concerns to them so that they can modify their processes (bend the rules) and deliver on your needs. Also it’s not always wise to rely on just one supplier. If that supplier has staffing, supply issues or policies you can’t adhere to, you don’t want to be in position where you’d be affected. So keep a secondary distributor in the works – and don’t be embarrassed to tell your key distributor you’re doing so.
How to Be the Best Customer
You don’t have to buy the most parts to be the best customer to a parts distributor. Let’s assume, that you are a customer that a distributor out there wants. In order to be a best customer to your parts distributor, here are a few things you should do:
- Always pay on time. There is a reason this is listed first; It’s the most important rule. Parts distributors offer wholesale accounts payment terms of 30 days. You can negotiate for longer terms on special large orders before you place an order, but once the order is placed, don’t renege or attempt to change the terms. If you can’t pay on time, call your distributor and tell them why and when you will pay.
- Provide adequate lead-time. Give distributors appropriate time to source & process your orders. Place orders well before cut offs when possible each day.
- Place sensible orders. When you order the same part two or more times in a month maybe you should consider adding that item to your truck stock and ordering in quantity to reduce your distributors’ processing costs.
- Return on time. Return unwanted & unused parts as soon as you know you don’t want them. Let’s face it; nobody wants five-year-old parts back, not even you.
- Stay current on warranty credits. Stay on top of any warranty parts submissions and reconciliations. Going back in old records takes time and is annoying.
- Personalize the relationship. Visit your parts distributors branch in person regularly when able. Get to know the people that process your orders. Put a face to a name. Invite them to your office parties and picnics when possible. If a parts distributor is a far distance from your office check and see if they’ll be attending annual conventions and make a point of meeting them in person at the convention.
- Share information. Keep your parts distributors aware of what’s going on in your company. Tell them about changes in key personnel, new customers, special promotions and so on. Many times you’ll find that key parts distributors can help you find new customers.
It’s simple, you need them and they need you. Building good relationships with your parts distributor is not a complicated process. Be communicative, treat them fairly, set high expectations (coupled with loyalty) and pay them on time. It’s that simple.