In this final entry in our Due Diligence series, we take a look at the importance of dealers and distributors in both the equipment purchase and service processes. Some contractors prefer to buy direct from the factory, and that has its advantages. But over the long haul, many find that developing a relationship with a local or regional dealer or distributor the preferable option. Let’s explore the advantages of that scenario, and the questions you need to be asking to ensure you get the most out of such a relationship:
When you deal with the distributor, are they making sure you get into the best unit for your needs, or for their bottom line? This will be apparent in the kinds of questions they ask you. You want to feel that they really understand your needs, by really listening to the answers you give.
Make sure they use a consultative approach to selling. They should be asking as many questions as you are, as you tell them about your equipment feature and performance requirements. It may be that what you think you need and what you actually need are different. Only a seasoned, experienced representative will understand this and be able to ask the right questions to figure that out, and consequently lead you in the right direction toward equipment that will actually help you accomplish your goals in the field.
If the person you’re speaking with at the dealer or distributor doesn’t seem to know the answer to some of your questions, are they willing to admit this and find out from the right person? Or do they seem more interested in appearing to have all the answers?
You can’t afford to sacrifice getting the right product to their ego or pride. If you don’t feel satisfied with the answers you receive, find a way to politely ask for a second opinion. This purchase is too large and important not to make the right one the first time.
Does Staff Inspire Confidence?
Do a little homework before you even approach the dealer/distributor, to find out if its staff is fairly stable, or that they have high turnover. The latter could indicate a poorly managed company that may not treat its people well. This could mean you may end up dealing with a constantly changing assortment of representatives. Such a situation won’t inspire comfort or confidence in you…and probably shouldn’t. As the customer, you should expect to come first, not behind a line of internal management issues.
After The Sale
Lastly, you’ll want to find out if the distributor has the capacity (and willingness) to provide a reasonable amount of after-sale service. After all, the initial transaction is a one-time thing, but ownership of the product will hopefully go on for quite a few years. You want this extension of the relationship to be convenient and satisfactory, not fraught with stress.
Can the dealer service the equipment nearby, or will they need to send it back to the factory, perhaps far away? The latter doesn’t always mean a bad deal for you: In fact, sometimes factory refurbishment is the best possible option for keeping your equipment operating at peak condition and warranty compliant. But when that happens, does your dealer offer loaner equipment to keep you productive while yours is in the shop?
How do they handle communications while they have your equipment? Will they be proactive in letting you know when you can come pick it up, or will you have to babysit the process with several phone calls? What’s their track record on delivery as promised? When they say they’ll have it ready, will it be? Managing your expectations at this point is one of their most important jobs, and you need to know that their information is reliable. Otherwise, frustration can set in, and create a lack of confidence in the dealer. No one wants that, so do your due diligence with this end of the deal, and everyone should end up happy.
We hope you’ve found this Due Diligence series helpful, and that you’ve learned something of value that will help you get a handle on the process, the next time you need to make a major capital investment in your pipeline inspection or other professional equipment.