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Helping Your Dealers Starts with Understanding Their Business

Heavy equipment and truck dealers manage a lot of competing priorities: Staffing, sales and marketing, evolving technology, and dealing with market forces. Brands often want to help, but many run into an obstacle that prevents them from making a difference. They just don’t understand the dealer’s business from the dealer’s perspective.

Understanding that perspective means getting inside the day-to-day lives of dealers. It means understanding how they manage time, their decision-making process, and their priorities. Most brands don’t make this investment, and that’s a mistake. It’s an investment that lets brands mine a rich vein of knowledge and reap the rewards.

Brands who buy into this should start by identifying who they’re trying to help within the dealer organization. Each player has their own daily challenges which get in the way of thinking about how they can help build a brand (as opposed to building their own business–a far more important priority). Once you understand the personnel within the dealer and have a clear idea of your objective is relevant to them, the next step is to involve the dealers in developing a solution. In most cases, the dealer knows your customer better than you do.

We’ve all heard the stories of dealers that don’t make use of the resources that brands make available. And brands are always quick to turn the dealer into the role of the ungrateful children who don’t appreciate all the work their parents do to make their life so easy. But like many oversimplified stories, we thought it might be incomplete. So, in an effort to provide some clarity, we conducted some research among 150 truck and equipment dealers across North America. The results were surprising. And not positive for brands.

Only 41% of dealers surveyed thought that manufacturer brands understood their businesses.

As you ponder rationalizations for that statistic, let’s talk about what it means. First, even if it’s an overstatement from dealers, it tells us a lot about how they view their relationships with brands. Changing perceptions is time-consuming and difficult. An e-card that says “we heart our dealers” and won’t let you check it off your list.

There are two places where we see brands trip up in their relationships with dealers.

First, brands don’t want to give up any control to the dealer. There’s a fear that dealers will misuse that power, so brands build in so many requirements that dealers will turn away from the barriers to entry.

Second, brands assume that they are the center of a dealer’s universe. Dealers have a lot on their plate and there may not be room for your brand. They view their dealership as the brand that needs promoting. You may be their primary product, but they don’t work for you. And they often have dozens of brands that they sell—each thinking they should be the dealer’s top priority.

There is good news here.  There’s an opportunity for brands that can genuinely partner with their dealers. Become instrumental to a dealer’s operation—not just a product that they sell—and sales will follow.

If you’d like to review the results of our 2019 Dealer Survey, we’d be happy to share them. Just send a note to [email protected].

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