What Does A Dealer In the Outdoor Power Equipment Industry Expect?
Ideal Computer Systems sat down with Rod Schutzman for an eye-opening interview with a successful OPE dealer that gives insight into what manufacturer reps’ clients really think of them- and why.
Rod is the owner and general manager of Midway Outdoor Equipment in Hiawatha, Iowa. He has been in this industry basically all his life but has been involved with managing his business since about 1986.
Ideal: What upcoming changes do you see for the industry?
Rod: There are a lot of changes going on in the industry. There’s more competition, I don’t know that that’s really new, but it’s more prevalent now because of shrinking margins. Business owners have to really concentrate on the service end to generate more service dollars, generate more parts business, and maybe become a little less dependent on whole goods sales and be very competitive in whole good sales.
Other changes I see in the industry are utilizing more and more of the new technology, the types of things that Ideal is offering in their business management systems in terms of generating reports, and just having the tools necessary to manage the business.
Ideal: As a dealer, how many different reps do you work with?
Rod: There’s basically one for almost every manufacturer, plus additional parts suppliers. There are probably 10-12 that we primarily deal with on a regular basis.
Ideal: By regular basis, what do you mean by that? On average, how often do you meet or talk with these reps?
Rod: That varies, most of them every 30-90 days.
Ideal: We had a conversation recently in which you mentioned that reps tend to fall into one of three categories: nuisance, friend, or ally. Describe each one. How does each one differ from the other?
Rod: A nuisance would be someone who comes in and wants to talk about everything except business, who doesn’t know the answers to questions or doesn’t at least try to find the answers and doesn’t follow up. They don’t add much value; they simply come in and take up time.
A friend is someone you like and enjoy spending time with but may still not be the most helpful in terms of representing a line or helping you in business in general.
An ally is involved in our business, they help us grow our business, help us manage our inventory, and assist with a lot of different issues. The people who do those things are going to be a lot more successful with dealers.
The other thing that’s really important that a successful rep does is to call ahead, to be respectful of my time, and let us know that he’s going to be coming in at least a day or two in advance. Or if he’s running late give us a phone call and let us know. I think that sometimes they forget that being in a retail environment we have to manage our time to handle business operations and it’s not convenient to have someone drop in unexpectedly.
There may be specific problems or questions I have and I haven’t had a chance to gather those thoughts for our meeting.
In my mind, one of the main duties of reps is to make sure that we have the latest promotional programs. It’s important because if a dealer carries multiple lines it can become very confusing to keep up to date with the latest programs, promotional pricing, and retail financing because those programs tend to change almost monthly.
During our busiest months, if a rep is physically here it’s very nice to have them set up some equipment, fill in our missing spots on the floor, and make sure that our price tags and hang tags are current.
It’s a good idea for the rep to check our stock levels and help us identify as a supplier to us if they have issues or problems as far as their stocks or supplies. Help us manage our inventory, especially if there’s a supply problem. Also, if we’ve got some old stock that we’re having problems moving help us move it.
Reps can help with problems in sales, invoicing from suppliers, warranty, or service issues. The reps won’t always have those answers, but if they can at least get us to the right people and then follow up to make sure that they were resolved. They are our main point of contact and it’s easier for them to follow up than anyone else.
Ideal: If you could give reps one piece of advice, what would it be?
Rod: Well that would be a two-part answer for me. Value my time and follow up.