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Fostering Dealer Relationships That Are Mutually Beneficial

Every time I would hear the owner of a national manufacturer talk about his resentment for his dealers I’d cringe. Of course, dealer relationships are complex and sometimes one sided. But for many businesses, dealer relationships are a critical lifeline to sustainable growth and market share. 

Manufacturer / dealer relationships do not need to be adversarial and they do not need to be one sided.

Dealer relationships can be made to work equally for both parties.

Here’s how. 

Formalize the Dealer Relationships with an Eye Toward Creating Close Allies

When treated as true partners, dealers can provide actionable insight (market intelligence, customer information), become valuable problem solvers, deliver top-notch service to end users that reflect on your brand, and even contribute to innovative product design. Creating a strategy that cultivates deep-relationship partners is more than just developing a frequent communication program. It means finding ways to provide deeper value that can not only solidify existing relationships but also successfully onboard new dealers. 

Foster Two-way Communication 

Consistent communication directed at dealers keeps you top of mind. But few brands have programs that prompt feedback from dealers. Why is that? Often it’s because the dealer relationship is managed solely at the sales level. Elevating the dealer relationship strategy to senior or mid-level management helps deepen the relationship. 

Creating a dealer advisory board can be one way to elevate the relationship and gain insight into critical industry, customer, and product issues. If you have an open line you may not be able to take this step in a way that brings competitive dealers together in a shared forum but alternative ways of creating a dealer advisory board do exist and are worth considering.

Dealer surveys are another means of creating two-way communication. An annual dealer survey can measure performance but also identify potential opportunities. Before launching a dealer survey initiative, be sure you have a mechanism for dispersing the results internally to the appropriate person or department and are prepared to follow up on whatever issues, needs, or opportunities surface. Failure to follow up on dealer input can be more damaging to your brand and relationship than just failing to communicate. 

Help Solidify the End User Relationship 

A common complaint of manufacturers about the dealer dynamic: We provide the leads … and often we have no idea what happened to the job or how the customer felt about the product and installation. 

That’s frustrating. It also limits growth. Without end user feedback, neither you nor the dealer are in a position to upsell or cultivate the relationship over time because you lack the insight into what needs the end user might have. 

Consider an end user survey on behalf of the dealer so as to avoid giving the impression that you are seeking to replace the dealer. Surveys can be sent at least one month after installation, and the dealer contact should be copied to provide transparency. Responses should then be provided to the dealer in a timely manner. 

Close the Loop 

You can also use surveys and direct mailers to remain top of mind with end users so the dealer can identify additional opportunities. It’s far more cost effective to generate new opportunities with satisfied customers than it is to drum up entirely new projects. 

We recommend a two-prong post-sale follow up process that sends a mailer to the dealer after project installation is completed. A simple “How did we perform” format can start an important dialog. A mailer is also sent to the end user – with total transparency to the dealer – that asks how the dealer performed. 

Help with Prospecting, Nurturing and Closing 

If a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profits by 25% or more, how much can you gain by helping dealers secure new appointments, nurture warm and cool leads, and close sales? 

In our experience, an audience, industry, and geography-specific 24/7/365 lead gen model can provide a steady stream of leads that your team can assess and pass to dealers. When applied consistently, digital strategies can yield lead gen increases as much as 288%*. 

Maybe dealers expect leads. What they don’t expect is your assistance in helping to nurture leads. Consider offering an automated lead nurturing program that markets consistently to cool and warm leads, moves prospects through the funnel, and includes “triggers” that notify your dealer and your team when a lead has progressed to the point of being ready for personal contact. This requires transparency between your team and your dealer in order to establish trust, but the payoff can be huge for both parties. 

 

*Wavelength Case Study

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