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This issue features an in-depth look at the Equipment Dealers Assn.’s 2016 Dealer-Manufacturer Relations Survey report. Dealers provided a record number of responses this year, both in the number of dealers who responded and the individual ratings given.

Each dealer has their own reasons why they took the time to rate their manufacturers, but, generally, the trend seems clear: You want manufacturers to know what they’re doing right and, probably more importantly, what they’re doing wrong.

Now that you have had your chance to speak, are you ready to hear how others might rate you? Several dealers from our advisory board shared their thoughts about what they consider the most important metric for how manufacturers would rate them — and for how customers would rate them.

Sales performance is the obvious choice in terms of how manufacturers would rate dealers. However, you do have some leverage. Consider these thoughts from Doug Nord of Nord Outdoor Power, Bloomington, Ill.: “Sales for any organization are going to be critical to its survival and market share. With that being said, there are market conditions and startup periods that both parties need to understand will affect sales.”

He offers this take on how to improve your relationship with manufacturers. “I believe, in most cases, having two brands makes for a better relationship. When a manufacturer knows you don’t have another choice or competitor for them within your dealership, they have demands that create stress in the relationship because they know you have no other options,” Nord says.

“We think we know what manufacturers and customers value most, but what if we’re wrong…”

In terms of how customers might rate you, the consensus is again straightforward: Overall satisfaction. And, Tim Berman of Big Red’s Equipment, Granbury, Texas, says dealers need to think in terms of two months after the sale, not just when customers first take delivery. “Service after the sale, especially in the 6-8 weeks following the sale, could make or break whether the customer ever comes back,” Berman says.

Take this discussion a step further. We think we know what manufacturers and customers value most, but if we’re wrong, we’re wasting time and ruining relationships. Do your own informal survey and ask manufacturers and customers about what they consider to be the most important thing they need from you as a vendor partner and an equipment partner.

If you phrase it right, you won’t be putting them on the spot by asking them to grade you, but giving them the opportunity to tell you what they need most. You do this all day long when you’re qualifying customers and matching them with the right equipment. Do the same to match what they need from a dealership with what you offer.

The exercise might validate that you’re already emphasizing the right priorities at your dealership. Or, you might uncover some nuances that you’re missing or some areas that you’re forgetting entirely. Brent VanderPol of Brim Tractor, Mt. Vernon, Wash., says it’s really about overall commitment and sums it up this way, “They want to know their best interest is being watched out for.”

That’s the bottom line. Regardless of what you do to be a good partner with your manufacturers or your customers, if they don’t feel like you’re putting them first, your relationships, and their perceptions of your dealership, will be lacking.


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