Proving Your Worth as a HVAC Distributor
What are your services worth? Several incidents recently forced me to confront this question as I reviewed precisely what services I provide. I suspect that many of us rely on a collection of handy general observations and a reliable elevator speech when circumstances require us to explain. But can you provide an itemized record that proves you’re worth what you think you are worth?
Recently in our industry, I discovered a supplier that was trying to influence contractors to buy their line. Their approach was to reach wholesalers who, in the trickle-down approach, would seemingly influence their contractors. After some advertising efforts and presumably other approaches, they concluded their attempts weren’t working. The typical wholesaler response appeared to be, “When they ask for it, we’ll carry your line.” This supplier is now considering a role reversal. They are contemplating trying to influence contractors directly under the assumption, I presume, that if a product enthuses them, they will turn to a wholesaler for fulfillment.
Will this new approach work? Who knows? However, even considering this bypass of the wholesaler causes me concern. It suggests that both the supplier and the wholesalers they approached had not expressed or delivered the sharply honed advantages they each bring to their working relationship. Yes, they both could give the elevator speech about their general roles, but I’m suggesting something different — I suspect they failed to demonstrate their specific contributions during this effort.
I turned to my personal assistant, the Internet, for some guidance. My Google search, “Why Should Suppliers Use Wholesalers,” turned up a superb, 10-point explanation of what wholesalers do for their suppliers (http://bit.ly/1skYXNZ). The excellent one-pager, unfortunately, dealt with the floral industry.
Then I searched: “Why Should HVAC Suppliers Use Wholesalers?” I was surprised at the dearth of examples and found nothing approaching the specificity the florists offered. (I only looked at the first page and, ironically, found the florist example, again, on my HVAC search. I also noticed that they combine both names of the channel in their title: Wholesale Florist and Florist Suppliers Association.)
How can this be? There is an enormous amount of information that covers the relationship between supplier and wholesaler relationships. Where’s the crystal-clear, unambiguous “this is what we do for manufacturers” from wholesalers? I have said this numerous times. In public relations, we tend to focus on the outgoing message AND audience. But internal PR can be just as important. You must remind everyone — in this instance, suppliers — why they do business with you. It doesn't have to be boastful or filled with braggadocio. But do it you must, and it is a reminder that bears repeating.
I suspect that several reasons are influential factors for any wholesaler who fails to create an explanation of how they contribute to a supplier’s business. One is inertia. If you have a customer with whom things are working smoothly, you invariably have more pressing day-to-day matters that require your attention. It’s the “I’ll get to it” rationale. Second, it takes effort. As I’ve noted, most of us don’t keep a running tab about how well we perform with specific examples that prove it. However, having that list is far more meaningful when a problem arises. It’s also a checklist for yourself. If you say you do all these “things,” isn’t it better to realize that you’re not doing something (or doing it as well as you promised) before the supplier brings it to your attention?
I would conclude that a fact sheet — or, better yet, a white paper that outlines the specific value that wholesalers provide to suppliers (along the lines of the florists’ example) — is overdue. HARDI has an excellent one-pager describing what it does for wholesalers. Providing one to suppliers is a reasonable suggestion. Publish a new white paper every five years (updating for changes) and you’ll have a vibrant manifesto that substantiates your worth.
And if your company already has that one-pager (or more), pass it along to me. I’ll make it the subject of another column.