Manufacturer Considerations, Part 2: Who Comes First?

Last time, in discussing manufacturer considerations, we covered important questions to ask about potential equipment vendors, regarding identifying real decision makers, and the ability of the company to be flexible in meeting your needs. This post, we’re taking a look at not just the potential vendor’s flexibility in ability, but also in attitude.

Your key question in this area of doing due diligence is: Who comes first in your potential relationship—you or the vendor?

Manufacturer Considerations: Relational or Transaction-Based?

Obviously, every vendor will have certain strengths and limitations, and it’s your job in vetting them to find out what those are. After all, it’s a well-established fact that the most successful business relationships are those built and nurtured for the long-term. It only makes sense, really. People are predisposed to do business with those they know, like and trust, and it takes time to develop all three of those relationship facets. That kind of bond isn’t built overnight, or over the course of a single transaction.

So it’s the vendor that puts you, the customer, in front that will likely be your best choice to sustain such a long-term relationship. Clearly, it should always be the needs of the customer that drives every business relationship. In other words:

  • Does the vendor appear to exist because they like selling a certain product or service, and then hope to sell that to you as they envision it?
  • Or do they like dealing in a certain realm of service and seek out the products to sell that will best fulfill that mission for their customers?

In that vein, a specific question to ask is whether the manufacturer offers free field demonstrations, so you can see the equipment perform in YOUR real-world environment, rather than just a controlled factory environment. If not, you need to ask why.

Manufacturer Considerations: Convenience and Confidence…But For Whom?

Are they simply not set up for such demonstrations? If that’s the case, they’re missing a key component of good salesmanship, and probably aren’t as serious about their business as they should be. Sure, this kind of service costs them money in labor, energy and other resources; but if they’re not willing to make that investment, one must question their commitment to their success.

Or perhaps they’re simply not confident that their product(s) will perform as promised in an uncontrolled environment. Given that nearly every situation you’ll encounter in this industry takes place in the very definition of uncontrolled environments, that’s a real red flag. If it pops up when you ask about field demos, your best bet is to run, not walk, in the opposite direction.

Manufacturer Considerations: Service After The Sale: Retrofits

We talked last time about vendors offering service after the sale in terms of maintenance and repair. That’s a fairly common concern that most potential buyers will ask. But what about support long after the sale?

  • If you find yourself happy with the vendor’s offerings but a little short on budget, are they open to working with you?
  • Does the manufacturer offer retrofits and certified, pre-owned equipment, or do they only want to sell you new products?

Toyota, the car maker, learned long ago that planned obsolescence as a manufacturing policy is anathema to Americans, despite our tendency to be a disposable society.

In a country whose history includes a long tenure of the Big Three automakers, whose long-lived products practically defined the driving experience of an entire nation, Toyota learned that it needed to build cars that last, and then stand behind them. So they launched their Certified, Pre-Owned program, and it has carried their sales through every recession and down economy since.

Manufacturers of such durable goods as CCTV inspection equipment and vehicles face much the same expectations. Contractors don’t want to have to give up on an Old Faithful vehicle, even when the inspection systems age out or they really just want to move up to some newer technology. Vendors need to be able to offer a halfway option between limping along with legacy equipment or having to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for a full, brand new system.

That’s where the smart ones offer retrofits and pre-owned options. After all, if they can’t stand behind equipment they made themselves, even if it’s got a few miles on it, who can? Those who put their customer first seek proven ways of making their equipment accessible to buyers at every level. Refurbished units or retrofitting new equipment into existing vehicles is a great way to do that.

These are a few of the ways potential vendors can build in an attitude of flexibility in working with you, along with their ability to deliver.

Next time: Final manufacturer considerations.

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