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I am too often asked for my opinion on which manufacturer a business should choose. I say “too often” because it’s always difficult for me to frame an answer to this question. Unless I’m consulting for a company, I am hesitant to offer specific names because I know it would make someone upset.
I do however feel strongly that choosing a manufacturer deserves serious contemplation; and probably for reasons that may not seem obviously apparent.
If you make the right choice, you can expect your profits to increase. The wrong choice helps the manufacturer to sell additional products, while doing little for you.
Your selection criteria should be carefully crafted and clearly spelled out prior to meeting with anyone. Then, you need to utilize these guidelines when you make your decision. Do not allow unimportant factors you didn’t bother to write down to sway your final decision. That’s what can lead to the partnership benefiting the manufacturer more than your company.
Price: Price should never be the primary reason to choose a manufacturer. Don’t misunderstand, price is an important consideration. But it isn’t the most important.
Price reductions require little thought on the part of the manufacturer. They offer only temporary benefits and will go away if the manufacturer isn’t making enough money.
Sometimes the price cut means lower product quality or careless management, and it almost never helps you long-term. And there is no guarantee that your competitors will not get the same lower price.
Manufacturer-sponsored trips: I know, I know. Trips are fun. I planned and directed some of the most fabulous dealer trips ever to places like Rome, Paris, Lisbon, Vienna, Tahiti, Fiji, Maui and more. But that was another time in another market. Trips are still enjoyable, but they only last about a week and do little to help your business or profits.
Innovative quality: The manufacturer’s products must be high quality and have innovative functions. After all, your reputation is on the line. If the quality and value are not there, no price is low enough to make it worth your while. Low price and other incentives soon be forgotten, but your reputation is precious and can be damaged just trying to make a few additional sales. And once your good name is damaged, it is not easily repaired.
Real business support: The next criteria should be the business support that the manufacturer offers you. The economy is booming, and people are in a mood to buy. But booming business also increases low-balling competitors seeking those same consumers.
Seek manufacturers that offer programs to help you grow your business. The best ones will understand that their own success depends on yours. Look for ones that offer training not just on selling their products, but on selling all the products and services you offer.
Staffing and warranty: Along with reasonable warranty programs, the manufacturer should have a highly trained staff to assure prompt and professional service. Can they offer high-level support to your sales teams? Do they just drop by to simply glad-hand or bring coffee and doughnuts (not that coffee and doughnuts are a bad thing), or do they bring quality information and training to help you increase sales and profits?
Trips: OK, OK. They are nice, and they are fun. They can be a factor, but it should be the last factor. They may be best viewed as a tie-breaker.
So then, which manufacturer should you choose? It might not be one that hits on everything you’re looking for, as those are rare jewels in any industry. But you should be able to find some with proven business acumen that are willing to invest in you and your business with valuable training and expertise. When you find one, the benefits will be mutual and you’ll both be rewarded with higher sales.
Remember: Don’t sell your future success for a few discounted bucks. Get something valuable in return.
Mario Rossetti has been in business for more than 35 years as a business owner, business consultant and as a director of sales and marketing for international companies. Now, as the founder of Rossetti Enterprises, he offers sales and management training and is a fixture at pool and spa trade shows. To sign up for his free e-newsletter of tips and sales advice, click here.
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