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Create Relationships with Your Distributor

Wendy Marvin Utilizing Distributors
August 16, 2021 at 2:00 p.m.

RCS Influencer Wendy Marvin says that when you develop a two-way relationship with your distributor and foster it during good times, the bad times become easier. 

While it would be easy to expect someone we purchase from to do FOR us, I would counter the question of how contractors can utilize distributors better to say – it’s not how you can “utilize” your distributor better, but rather how about, how do you create a better relationship with your distributor, giving you more things to utilize? 

Technically this is a life philosophy. What happens at a restaurant when your order is messed up? Do you have empathy for the server – understanding that they may have nothing to do with the issue? Or do you berate and belittle them, demanding that your issue is solved. In roofing, we have a lot of moving parts to coordinate. What happens when a distributer delivery is late or the order isn’t fully correct? Do you try to work out a win-win solution? Or do you berate, yell and demand? When you approach difficulties in business from the standpoint of “everyone is doing the best they can” life changes. 

 We have a robust relationship with our distributor. They do nice things for us frequently. We thank them to show we’re partners. For example, at Christmas, we send the warehouse team a huge basket full of snacks – to thank them for taking care of us throughout the year. Issues are still addressed, but more from a standpoint of “this impacted us and we’re not happy, but how to we help to not have this happen again.” See the difference?

 Many people in business believe that a sales transaction is an excuse for a one-way relationship. They sell us stuff (and deliver it in most cases), and we pay them for it. For some companies, that translates to the distributor “owing” them something. Our company doesn’t think like this. We believe any transaction relationship is an opportunity to forge relationships. We’re always looking for an ally, creating a win-win relationship in these instances. 

When you develop a two-way relationship with your distributor and foster that relationship during good times, the bad times become easier. COVID has brought us all unprecedented challenges. An ally is more likely to show up with help, sharing information you may have not known. How great would it be to know what products may be out of stock in the future?

 Here are just a few things your distributor can do for you (but they don’t HAVE to).  They can:

  • Broker information and transactions with the manufacturers – need a particular color and California is the only place it lives? - particularly beneficial during pandemics and other unprecedented times. 
  • Assist you in staying connected to vendor representatives. Pandemic jobs are being vacated and filled constantly. Again, beneficial to understand what’s coming, maybe even before it’s announced. 
  • Recommend good and trusted subcontractor when you’ve jumped into new ventures (like siding or windows). Dodging bad subs is a gift. How much could your company save?
  • Assist with material moving or delivering loads onto roofs. 
  • Provide industry information giving you and your company the opportunity to plan and pivot, not just react.
  • Make extra efforts on your behalf when issues arise that are out of all of your control. 

 Here are the things that could dissuade distributors from wanting to go the extra mile for you:

  • Acting like they owe you something because you do business with them.
  • Demanding they do things for you, or demanding they give you the rewards you “deserve.” 
  • Treating them poorly when a mistake is made on their part.
  • Thinking of the relationship you have one way – meaning you always benefit and they always lose. 

 Some people behave differently when they are in a position of “power.” A purchase transaction is technically a position of power – you can take your business elsewhere. Business can drastically change when you see these “power” positions as opportunities to forge true and lasting relationships. Remember the Golden Rule? Living life or running business from this position feels better. It brings opportunities you may have missed otherwise. It also brings support when the world turns upside down. 

This mindset change can also greatly benefit your customer relationships. Think of that as tractional and you’re missing the opportunity to forge a network of people all willing to be your business advocate when someone asks for a referral. 

The small business issues faced of late are daunting. We’re all swimming in jello right now. If you’ve done the work I outlined above, businesses will be more than willing to assist you in navigating these uncharted waters. They will see this as their opportunity to put deposits into your relationship account. They will see this as a way to earn even more of your business in the future. 

And often, the differences made by this support, can make your job easier, helping to keep the doors open. 

Wendy Marvin is CEO of Matrix Roofing. See her full bio here.

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