Here's a list of things which leading commercial dealers are doing to make their contractor customers' lives easier.
Understand your business. Vendors will become more of a resource for you when they take steps to better understand your business. This means they will take the time to get to know you better and learn what your business goals are.
Vendors should also become involved in the industry. This could include state, regional and national equipment dealer associations, along with various manufacturers' dealer boards. But it also includes state landscape associations, and even national associations like PLANET. Dealers who want to better understand your business will want to better understand the landscape industry in general.
Proactively present solutions. Along with your business goals, product preferences and other needs, vendors should keep track of your purchasing and service history, preferably storing the information in some kind of database. They'll periodically tap into this information in order to present solutions to you.
Solutions might include:
- Advice on when to upgrade certain pieces of your equipment fleet
- Information on special offers, such as sales promotions or unique financing
- Service reminders
- Education on new or alternative products that can help you better accomplish your goals and make more money
- Education on new products that can help you expand your business
Many dealers have actually taken on new product lines because their landscape contractor customers had expressed a need. So be sure to let your dealers know what you want to buy from them—which includes everything from mulch and fertilizer to specialty equipment you simply might want to rent from time to time.
Equipment uptime. Most dealers understand that time is money to a contractor. This is why equipment uptime is critically important. And that's why good dealers put systems in place to make sure their contractor customers are taken care of. Examples include:
- Offering priority service to a contractor who bought the piece of equipment from their dealership.
- Providing loaners when same-day service cannot be accomplished. In some instances, you have to "pay" for the loaner by having previously purchased an extended service plan or by spending a certain amount of money with the dealership each year.
- Providing a separate, contractors-only parts counter so busy contractors don't have to wait in line behind confused homeowners
In more rare instances, some of the larger commercially focused dealers take it even further. Some offer workshops on preventive equipment maintenance. Some will send a technician into the field when one of their best contractor customers has a piece of equipment go down on a jobsite. Some work closely with contractors to help them manage their parts inventories, even delivering parts to the contractors' facilities.
The goal is to strengthen your relationship
Good dealers provide these types of perks because they want to earn your business. They want to be more than just a place where you go to buy product. They want to be your partner. When one of your vendors delivers on all three counts, you have a vendor you should build a relationship with.
Good vendors who "make the grade" should be viewed—and treated—as members of your team. Communicate with them often, openly and honestly. Discuss ways you can help each other.
Maintain good relations by paying your bills promptly. And speaking of paying, it's OK to negotiate a fair price in the normal order of business. But when determining what is fair, think about all of those ways the vendor goes the extra mile for you. Get the scorecard out that you're now using to evaluate your vendors. If a vendor is doing a great job in helping you to manage and grow your business, that vendor doesn't deserve to get bludgeoned to death on price. In the grand scheme of things, saving a hundred bucks is not worth damaging a good relationship with a good vendor.