The Value of a Good Dealer

Jim Huebner
20 September, 2021

I don’t typically make much conversation on the plane. It’s not that I’m not interested in other people, it’s just the whole process of air travel can be taxing, especially if you’ve done it multiple days in a row. So, when I boarded a plane headed for Manchester, NH, a while ago, I was ready to put the headphones on, crank up the music, pull out the most recent issue of Forbes… and check out.

Fortunately, I had forgotten my headphones.
I say “fortunately” because Bob and his wife sat down next to me. It turned out, Bob is the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur – literally a nugget-of-wisdom-filled, high energy guy who had more ideas, advice, and encouragement than our 2-hour flight even allowed.

He had opened one tire store in 1971. By the time he had sold his company in 2009, Bob had built his enterprise to 47 stores across New England. He survived and thrived competing against the big box stores, Goodyear and Firestone stores, and even auto dealerships selling tires.

Shrewd, yes, but more impressive was his incredible focus on customer service. Bob understood the lifetime value of a customer, so he worried less about the final sale price and more about taking care of the customer along the road.

Because we work with manufacturers AND their dealer networks, I couldn’t help but wonder how valuable a dealer like Bob must have been to the tire manufacturers who sold to him. Considering a formula of Longevity x Annual Sales x Profit Margin, Bob had to have been a goldmine for his suppliers, while mining his own gold along the way.

So, how do you keep a guy like Bob on your good side? How do you keep him happy and wanting to sell even more of your products?

Well, there is no perfect answer, but here is one thought that Bob threw in, as well a few of my own…

  • Bob said the craziest thing one of his suppliers did was drop their incentive trip program. It worked like this: If you sold X amount of tires, you qualified for an all-expense-paid trip to an exotic resort with other qualifying dealers. He said these trips really helped cement relationships and after they were dropped to “save money”, the relationships and their sales were never the same.
  • A strong co-operative advertising program not only makes a statement to your dealers that you’re in this together, but it’s also an extremely cost-effective way for you BOTH to build your brands.
  • Differentiate your brand in a way that’s relevant to the end consumer and then advertise this difference to the world. Nothing keeps them coming back for more than giving your dealers’ customers something that’s really different from all of the others.
  • When dealers order products and parts from you, make the ordering process as easy as possible. Often times, the easiest manufacturer to do business with is the one who wins.
  • Help them market your products with customizable marketing materials, sales literature, online tools, PPC programs – anything that makes it easier to promote themselves AND your products… instead of the competition.