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Contractor Uses Word of Mouth, Not Websites, to Get New Work

By Jim Williams

Dave Gilson from Tera-Byte Technologies, Inc. goes into detail about relationships and how he installs new technology for his customers, but he uses word of mouth to get work, not websites, or other new technology.

“Not that I don’t like technology, I use it every day,” says Gilson. “I also occasionally shop online. The key word there is ‘shop’. That’s the main reason we have chosen to not publish a web site. If the customer is out shopping, they are generally looking for a price. I know I do when I shop online. We don’t want our customer to make the decision to use our services based solely upon price. We want them to understand there is a relationship there and we also believe we will provide the best services to the customer for their dollar spent. If the relationship is based on price, they usually don’t survive over time.”

Here are the rest of Gilson’s thoughts about relationships and doing business:

tED: What are the ways that distributors can better explain the cost savings/labor savings on new products?

Gilson: Distributors are in the business of selling parts and can understand the cost savings on products. I believe distributors could establish loyal relationships with contractors if they would take the time to better understand the labor savings part and be able to pass that information along to the contractor. Currently my best resource of finding out the labor savings is through the manufacture and manufacture reps. I know these same people meet with the distributors but the passing of the information as to how the product works or how it installs that saves labor in the field doesn’t get passed down through distribution as well as it could.

tED: How often are contractors telling distributors about products that they like or dislike? Do they feel like that information is then passed on to the companies that make the products, and their voices are being heard?

Gilson: If there is a product that I have issues with, telling the distributor seems to only work as good as the relationship I have with that distributor. Going directly to the manufacture rep seems to get better results. Even if you have a great relationship with the distributor, all they typically will do is get you in contact with the manufacture rep anyway. There is also the problem of the “exclusive line” of products that some distributors have. If you have issue with a product that is their exclusive line, they don’t seem to be very concerned as it’s the brand they are going to sell regardless.

tED: Do the contractors know the difference between product line extensions (for example, a manufacturer has a wrench that has a better grip) and a real innovation (a whole new way to pull wire from a coil on a job site). Do they realize that when distributors or manufacturers are making a big deal about a small change? How do you react?

Gilson: I think that for the most part contractors do know the difference. It’s whether they care or not seems to be based upon if it affects their day-to-day business or not. Unfortunately contractors get caught up in the fast pace of doing business and some times don’t pay attention to the change or take the time to think how it impacts business until it does impact business. At that point most contractors will complain about the change they never heard about or vaguely remember something about (unless it impacts them positively in which case you typically never hear anything) and then react to the change.

tED: Do contractors feel like they are getting the information they need to be on the cutting edge of any and all new products that are being revealed? What can distributors do better about getting that information out there?

Gilson: I think they do a good job overall. With the various types of technology available today, they can get the information out quickly, inexpensively, and with not too much effort. The issue I see is the follow up. Distributors know what type of products their contractors buy from them and if they would follow up with those contractors that the particular new product applies to, they would probably sell more. This goes back to the fast pace of business and not necessarily taking the time as a contractor to look over the new product information rather than discard it.

tED: What is the best way to demonstrate a new product to a contractor? E-mail a video? Pay a visit to the office and bring lunch and the product?

Gilson: I personally like getting some introduction to the product (E-mail or video) and then the ability to see and touch the product if I have any interest in it. One of my distributors does a great job at bringing different manufactures in to the local branch office for me to be able to accomplish the touch and see of the products.

tED: Do contractors really price shop on the internet before going to the distributors to actually buy something?

Gilson: I think every contractor does some form of price checking. It may be there is a new product you have not purchased before and want to know a basic idea of the cost or what it may retail for. I would also say there are times that contractors want to see if the relationship with the distributor is a good one and a part of that would be to check if that the pricing is in line. If the contractor is strictly looking for the cheapest price and doesn’t take into account the other parts of the contractor/distributor relationship, the distributor probably should not put much effort into the relationship with that contractor as the contractor has shown what is most important to them, price.

tED: Do you have a story where you can talk about how a distributor really went the extra mile, and as a result, you will be loyal forever?

Gilson: I actually have a story that did just the opposite. I had a great relationship with a major electrical distributor purchasing over 90% of product while I was working for another company before starting my own business. The distributor decided that my new business was not a good fit for the person I had the relationship with and passed my account to another within their branch. The person I had worked with and I tried to convince them that it was our relationship that was the key and should be left alone to no avail.

Over the next few years I would get a phone call from someone new telling me that they were now my new account manager and yet never meeting face to face. I don’t know the number of account reps I have had since with this distributor, but I can tell you the amount of business they now earn is less than 2% of my annual purchases as a result of how the handled my account. Loyalty – it’s only as good as the relationship.

Tera-Byte Technologies, Inc. is located just west of Portland in Aloha, Oregon. Gilson started the company in October 2003. He has less than ten employees. Tera-Byte Technologies, Inc. offers limited energy (low voltage) services to customers which includes: voice & data wiring, networking, wireless access point installations, fiber optics, telephone entry, access entry (card reader/keypad), fire alarm design/install/service, CCTV camera systems, burglar alarm, audio/video, and nurse call service.

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