Best Practices, Operations, V4I1

The Builder-Retailer The Relationship

One key for finding a dealer is that they have a legitimate place to display sheds.

The shed industry is built on foundations—relationships among suppliers, builders, and dealers working toward common goals. But for many builders, striking a deal with a new shed retailer can be a risky proposition.

For most shed builders, sales depend on making the product visible, so high-visibility lots are critical. It doesn’t matter whether those lots are also selling cars, managing garden centers, or supplying lumber, ample land to display a reasonable inventory is key.

But builders differ in how they work with dealers: Who retains ownership? Who handles customer problems? Who takes on responsibility for marketing? One thing the builders surveyed for this
article have in common is an agreement that dealers should be reliable people with sales knowhow.

QUALITIES OF RELIABLE DEALERS

While some shed builders seek numerous qualifiers before working with a new dealer— including providing a recent credit and business history—William Downs, CEO and president of Atlas Backyard Sheds in Tyler, Texas, thinks building a good relationship is simpler than that.

“We look to find someone that has a legitimate place to display them, then we meet with the people and make sure that we find them creditable,” Downs says. “We don’t necessarily run their credit, but I do meet with them to make sure I like the people and that they can take good care of the customers that they’ll be dealing with.”

But Downs admits that this approach can have its challenges. In fact, he notes that finding qualified people, people who will be available to customers and responsible for promoting the brand, can
be hard to find.

“You have people who are out representing you to sell your product, and if they’re not there—say they leave the place unattended for three or four days—if somebody does have a problem, by the time it gets back to you, you already have a person who is upset,” Downs points out. “You need to work with people who are quality people, who are serious about being in business, and not somebody who is trying to do this just to make a couple extra bucks.”

Given this challenge, other shed builders need a more lasting commitment from dealers to protect themselves in the event of relationship problems.

For Adam Kontis, president of Fox County Sheds in Brickerville, Pennsylvania, that means looking for more solid evidence of a dealer’s serious commitment. His dealers are required to purchase
several sheds to display, although the company offers assistance to those dealers who qualify.

“They have to be a reputable business, that’s one of the main things,” Kontis says. For new dealers, he continues, “They have to be willing to put the investment into setting up a lot, buying inventory and buying the trucks that are needed to deliver, and so forth.”

While a head for business is an important qualifier for these builders, many shed builders with successful dealer networks find success in providing strong resources that help their dealers close their sales.

VARYING LEVELS OF DEALER SUPPORT

It’s in builders’ best interests to support shed retailers however possible, as more sales for one is good for all. That support, however, comes in different ways.

“We offer a full dealer support package tool to all our new dealers and all our existing builders,” Kontis explains. Marketing support is a big part of this support package. “We provide them with all
the photographs and blurbs they need to do their brochures and their online presence, as well as warranties, and so on.”

At Atlas, dealer support comes primarily in the form of sales training.

“I do not offer marketing,” Downs says. Instead, “We offer training and we offer any kind of support that we can.”

That training is geared toward helping teach each dealer to become better salespeople. As Downs points out, “The more they sell, the more beneficial it is to us.”

Companies such as BLI Rentals in Emporia, Kansas, focus their one-on-one shed dealer sales training on learning how to utilize the online tools the company has made available to simplify the
sales process for field salespeople. Meanwhile Woodtex in Franklin, Tennessee, puts its support focus on helping dealers create a stellar customer experience. As the company puts it, that experience starts before sales with a dedicated marketing team that is able to provide close attention to dealers’ needs.

Sales depend on making the sheds visible

SOLVING PROBLEMS TOGETHER

Still other shed builders focus their dealer training on understanding how the sheds are built, in order to be able to answer most any question that comes their way. But when those questions are about how to solve a problem or address a warranty issue, the builders are generally the final line of defense—no matter whose brand is on the shed.

Each of these builders structure their dealer arrangements differently. Kontis requires dealers to purchase his sheds directly, but notes that some dealers keep the Fox County brand while others emphasize their name on the product. Downs retains ownership of the sheds on dealer lots and puts those products out on consignment. But in the end, the builder’s reputation is at risk when a shed has a problem— although because the dealer typically serves as the connection between supplier and end-user, the way they handle problems matters.

“I would expect the customer to go to the dealer [with questions], but then they will get the information and send it to us and we’ll get it taken care of,” Downs explains of Atlas’ process.

For Kontis, the solution may depend on the size of, and distance from, the problem.

“It all depends on where the dealer is located,” he says. “If they’re near our facility, then yes, we try to take care of [problems] and cooperate with our dealers. But if the dealer is 10 hours away,
you’re not going to send somebody up there to fix a screw. At that point, we’ll supply them with the parts.”

But as Kontis points out, “Most of the time we don’t hear from the dealers anyway— they just take care of things.”

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