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Contractor’s Corner: The Distributor-Contractor Relationship

By Stan Walerczyk

This column for the Contractors’ Corner is looking at how relationships between distributors and contractors can be built, maintained, and if necessary, repaired.

People in general want to know and feel that they can depend on somebody to take care of them. This is especially important when people are stressed in any of many ways. If that sounds like psych talk, that may be due to getting a degree in that 40 years ago.

When I worked for a contractor, and I did not have time or energy to do a lot of product research and get the best pricing, terms, and shipping, it was good to know that I could rely on one distributor, who had my back. Even if pricing was not always the best, it was always competitive.

I still remember one instance, when I needed narrow U-bend T8 lamps. This one distributor told me that the lamps he carried really were not that good, and he recommended a competitor distributor, which carried better lamps from a different manufacturer. Even if this one distributor did not make this one sale, I knew I could trust him to take care of me, and I gave him a ton of business after that.

Another distributor really helped me with a remote project. I could not make her understand what I needed on the phone, so she drove to the job site right away. She saw what I needed, and told me that she did not have it in stock, but could a rush delivery within two days, which worked for me.

What can really help contractors are extended payment terms. Sometimes the end-customer will not pay contractors a sufficient amount of money until the project is completed. So distributors, who are willing to provide 60 or 90 day terms can be greatly appreciated by contractors, even if the pricing is a little higher to cover that.

A big relationship builder is free group vacations or other events to contractors, who do a good amount of business with a distributor. This can also allow for the distributors and contractors to really get to know each other if the contractors want that. There should not be any pressure. At these group vacations or other events various contractors from the same or different locations can talk and learn from each other.

On the other hand there are some distributor sales people, who are mainly order takers, and it is difficult to build a relationship with them.

Good distributors can maintain good relationships with contractors with periodic phone calls, emails and personal visits. But it is important with contractors being so busy some times, that distributors do not bug them too much.

Sometimes relationships go south and need to be repaired. Although some distributor sales people may not even be aware of reduced sales from a certain contractor, good sales people are aware of that, and they can contact that contractor and check if business is slow or if the contractor is buying from other distributors. If the former, the sales person could try to help getting those contractors more business, such as notifying them of upcoming projects. If the latter, the sales person could ask what he or she can do to deserve the contractor’s business.

So distributors, who work very hard to build and maintain good relationships with contractors, can usually mend those relationships, because of the established foundation.

Good relationship between a distributor and contractor benefits both. This type of a relationship can be considered a partnership, not just buyer and seller.

As mentioned before and will be continued to be mentioned, I would greatly appreciate feedback and input from any contractor or distributor, which would make this column more interactive. My email is stan@lightingwizards.com.

Stan Walerczyk, LC, CLEP, HCLC

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