When I wanted to open my own home improvement business, I was advised to find a supplier that really understands this industry.
It was good advice, and I did.
That supplier — let’s call it Supplier A — sold me windows and siding as well as coil stock, J-channel, gutters, downspouts, and all manner of accessories.
That’s just the beginning.
Supplier A set me up with bankers and finance guys, connected me with the right insurance people, helped me get state licensing, let me open a credit account, afforded me co-op discounts on volume purchases, and helped me find installers — installers are big time.
Supplier A helped me grow.
But it did more. Supplier A brought in different manufacturers’ reps to train me and my people. It provided assistance with marketing, selling, financing, installation, and customer service. If a supplier can help you do those five things, you’ll succeed.
The Two Crucial Givebacks
So what does a supplier want for all this? Two things: The first is on-time payment. The supplier wants its money and wants to be paid on the agreed upon schedule.
I found out how crucial this is when I went over the deadline on the 30-day payment period. The whole attitude changed overnight. The supplier was still cordial, but I could tell the difference. I knew I had to get that straightened out immediately. And I did.
The second thing is loyalty. Loyalty matters — almost as much as paying on time. I found that out when I succumbed to the flirtations of a competitor. Call him Supplier B.
Supplier B had lower prices but nowhere near the level of customer service. B took me out to dinner and bad-mouthed Supplier A. “Why are you still buying from them? You know our prices are cheaper,” Supplier B said.
And B’s prices were cheaper, by 20% to 30%. But Supplier B offered nowhere near the same level of customer service or executive access. Soon after that dinner I casually mentioned to Supplier A that I was buying from his competitor. I swear he would have come across the desk and choked me. It took a while to wiggle my way back into his good graces.
I Can’t Promise You Anything
Here’s what I found out: You pay a little more and you get a lot more. This was especially true when it came to installation. As far as Supplier B was concerned, when I had problems with installation, B couldn’t help me. That supplier was interested in being at the lowest price and in making sure that I got the materials I had ordered. Once I had sold the job and ordered the materials, B’s interest waned.
For example, say I sold a job and needed to find a crew to install it. Supplier A would say: “We’ll call so-and-so and you can meet him here at my office,” and then followed up by making sure the job got installed properly.
Supplier B would say: “I can give you a couple of names, but I can’t promise you anything.” When you work out the logic of that sentence, I can’t promise you anything means I am promising you nothing. And nothing is what you often get.
Or say I had a problem getting a customer financed at a 640 credit score. Supplier B: “Have you talked to so-and-so at such-and-such?” versus Supplier A: “Who are you talking to and where? OK, let me make a call.”
I’m not saying that one company is necessarily better than the other. But the quality of the experience was on two different levels; it’s two different ways to do business.
—Grant Winstead operates the Success Sales System That Never Fails, designed to help home improvement owners and salespeople close at higher rates and “put more profits in your pocket.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703.728.4966.