February '20

Issue link: https://nbm.uberflip.com/i/1203735

Contents of this Issue


Page 92 of 104

86 • RV PRO • February 2020 rv-pro.com future successes. I am sure Russ would hasten to add that he hasn't always fol- lowed his own advice. Some of the best lessons we learn are hard won! It's a Two-Way Street The first relationship – the one between the dealer and the manufacturer – has been a mixed bag. Think about a dealer who has been a loyal and effective advocate for a product line. Then consider the times when the man- ufacturer sets up a dealer selling an identical product sold under a different brand in the same market area. Sure, it may have been a different brand and even a different manu- facturer's representative, but the dealer still sees red. (Red ink, that is.) Having made the investment in inven- tory, the dealer sees lower margins and slower sales due to the placement of distracting "clone" product in the same market. Contrast that with a manufacturer that meets the inventory needs of the part- ner-dealer so the market is met with the right product at the right time. Surely you can recall a brand with the longstanding dealer who earned the right to be consid- ered as the premier source for a consumer to purchase a particular product. Good Reputations Are Created by Consistent, Positive Experiences On the other hand, there are compa- nies that support both the dealer and the customer. Tiffin comes to mind. Every time that brand comes up in my conversations over the past quarter cen- tury, the sentiment is one of respect and appreciation. What's even more unusual is knowing that the compliments come from both dealers and customers. Bob Tiffin, his sons and the entire company, deserve all the credit they have so richly earned down there in Red Bay, Ala. We Need to Support Each Other in All Areas of Business There's another relationship that is largely neglected in our industry. It's long been my opinion that the manufacturers have a wrong-headed idea regarding the identity of the customer, as they have fallen into the rhythm of placing inven- tory on the dealer's lot. I believe it is with little regard to the ultimate end user customer. This attitude is manifested in a lack of regard for units after they leave the man- ufacturing plant. Dealers are loaded with too much inventory in a "package deal." Then, when it exhibits "lot rot" in the form of rusted steps or fading color, it's a struggle to get a warranty claim paid. The end-user customer is, for the most part, transparent to the manufacturer. Instead, product is built more to appeal to the dealers than to end customers. There's a related question: Why do dealers support a substandard brand and the people who champion it with what I would call sharp business practices? Of course, the motivator is money. Dealers see a product on a nearby deal- er's lot and are fearful they may lose some deals. So, they engage with a closely matching product they might not have considered carrying. The reputation of the rep or the brand may not be the best, but it seems to make business sense to carry the line in order to compete. Manufacturers wouldn't be able to park clone products on lots if dealers didn't buy them. Good Relationships Require Trust I mentioned it earlier, so let's look at that idea of trust. Trust has so much to do with someone's performance matching what they proposed. On the street level, it could be char- acterized by not making promises you aren't going to keep. Harry Sandler, a former customer of mine, had a reputa- tion for being brusque and outspoken. Even rude. But there was no doubt where he stood or what he intended. He said to me once, "A good understanding makes a good relationship." Wise words! Let your "yes" be "yes" and your "no" be "no." Trust is a key component in loyalty. Because of research by Fred Reichheld and others, we understand that loyalty means better business. It's proven that a loyal cus- tomer will spend more money and have higher gross profits. The acquisition costs are taken to a very low level. It just doesn't take nearly the amount of advertising to attract a referral as it does to bring in a new customer. That's true at any level. Trust Must Be Earned Trust in a relationship is something that must be earned. We learn to trust a rela- tionship when it is consistent. We come to trust that relationship at the point we can lean on or lean into it and can depend on the outcome. And trust can be destroyed so very quickly. A good relationship is built on many consistent events and can be destroyed by one careless act. Relationships are formed in significant associations and become existing connec- tions. Those connections are richer and more fruitful when trust exists. It's easier to make spot decisions when you know how your business partner will react. A good relationship is truly empowering.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

view archives of RV PRO - February '20