Having been a Dealer before my current position running one of the world’s largest Dealership programs for Heartland and Global Payments, I’ve given a great deal of thought to what the perfect Dealer program looks like.
It’s fascinating to think that Dealers unintentionally become their own worst enemies. But who could blame them for trying to create a better program for themselves? For trying to protect themselves from past crimes of greedy manufacturers, or aiming to think more brilliantly than everyone else attempting to do the same?
Maybe this is dating myself, but in over 25 years in the channel I’ve seen it all, and it typically doesn’t end well. Dealers follow the latest, craziest trends or end up creating their own — standing up for what they deem “greener pastures.” Manufacturers with great Dealer channels ruin them by not changing with the times, and often push their Dealers to the brink of bankruptcy. The bottom line is when times are good, the status quo is fine. When times get tough, everyone behaves irrationally.
As I mentioned, I have given a great deal of thought to what Dealers should look for when selecting what programs they join and which products they sell. I’ve broken this thought process down into the following helpful categories:
Keen Focus– Before a Dealership decides what products and programs to focus on, they should know what verticals they want to serve and why. For instance: if you used to run liquor stores, that may be the right place to start. How many people will you need; who will sell, implement and support? How will you run the business? Most Dealerships start small and fail because of a lack of focus and/or capitalization, especially if jumping into a recurring revenue model.
Specific Demographics – Who will you serve? For example: all liquor stores within a 250-mile radius. Remember that if you are supporting businesses remotely as a Dealer, your value will drop because you’ll be fighting competitors with very sophisticated help desks.
High-Quality Products– When I was a Dealer, I always considered myself as a franchisee. Think about it: if you resell something as a Dealer, you represent that brand. That’s why it’s imperative you only sell products you believe in; you don’t want to end up losing deals because a business owner “loves you but hates the product.” If it’s easier for them to tell you it’s not you when they fire you, then so be it. But the reality is that you and the products you represent are one and the same in the business owner’s mind.
The Company You Keep – It would be cool if products were a thing that just happened. But as you know, behind every product is a company made up of people. It doesn't really matter how great the people alone or products alone are unless the people and the products are equally right for what your Dealership needs. This may be the trickiest part for a Dealer, because much like a spouse, the evidence of the right choice is longevity and happiness (which you won’t be able to 100% prove for sometime). Dealer contracts are like prenups: if the marriage doesn’t work, it’s going to cause pain no matter what. Pick wisely, and you’ll only have to do it once.
Your Motivation – If you become a Dealer simply to help businesses thrive, you have a great chance of thriving yourself. Our industry loves to talk about the race to the bottom, bundling services so some products appear free, or even making it seem like their products are made by people who truly understand them because they can relate to them. Look for a company that genuinely and transparently helps you serve your business owners.