Why Business-to-Business Relationships Start With Your Distributor
Strong business-to-business relationships are essential for any business to succeed, especially those in the carpet cleaning industry. And one of the most important business relationships carpet cleaning business owners should build is with a distributor—one well versed in all aspects of carpet cleaning.
Why is it crucial?
Most carpet cleaners are busy working every day, and invariably, they are busy looking for new ways to build their businesses every day also. This means they have little time to concentrate on researching new cleaning supplies, products, and technologies that could make their jobs easier, produce higher-quality cleaning results, and reduce operating costs.
Identifying potential solutions for carpet cleaning business owners is one key strength of a knowledgeable distributor. Plus, something more: a trusted distributor gets to know your business challenges. This means they have your back; they are on your side, helping you succeed.
Difficult ‘by design’
I experienced this myself many years ago. Although I was not a carpet cleaner, I did have three contract cleaning companies over a 25-year period. One of our largest accounts was a design firm.
Like many design firms, they installed architectural features in their office with little regard as to how they would be cleaned. This design firm installed dual brass doors at their building entrance. Undoubtedly an impressive feature, cleaning these doors and removing spots and stains on them was an ongoing—and costly—challenge.
My janitorial distributor was aware of this situation. Unexpectedly, he called me one day to inform me of a new product that he claimed did wonders in cleaning brass and was surprisingly cost-effective. I had never heard of it but, taking his word for it, I purchased the new brass cleaner. He was right. That product—and that distributor—saved me a lot of time and money and kept this client happy. I learned from that experience just how valuable a good distributor can be.
So, with this in mind, how do carpet cleaners find a good distributor—and how should they work with them? To answer these questions, we turned to Michael Wilson, Vice President of AFFLINK, a distributor-member organization with distributors throughout the country.
Q: Michael, what’s the best way to find a distributor well-versed in carpet cleaning?
Business owners need someone that specializes in carpet cleaning. The key words in this question are “well-versed.” Often, carpet cleaners will be working with distributors that sell a wide range of cleaning supplies, with carpet cleaning products being just one category in their product line. There is just too much science involved with these [carpet cleaning] products. Start the process by asking your peers who they work with. Certainly, most mid-sized to larger carpet cleaning companies do work with distributors.
Q: With these recommendations in mind, what’s the next step?
Meet these people in person. Telephone calls, zoom calls, and emails are ineffective ways to start such important relationships. Schedule time for face-to-face meetings until you find someone to work with.
Q: What types of questions should you ask in these face-to-face meetings?
Of course, you need to find out how much they know about carpet cleaning. If they are not knowledgeable about carpet cleaning, they will tell you. If they are, they will tell you that as well. Ask to see the products they are marketing and ask them why they are marketing those products. A quality distribution company will do its due diligence. They know working with quality manufacturers with effective, competitively priced products will make their job easier and keep you and their other customers happy.
Q: How should carpet cleaners build on these relationships?
Keep communication open. It’s essential in any business-to-business relationship but imperative when working with a distributor. You must keep them up-to-date with your business and discuss any challenges you are having. And by the way, those challenges do not necessarily have to be about carpet cleaning products or equipment. If, for example, you are having problems finding and keeping workers, discuss it with them. A good distributor will have their ear to the ground and may be able to offer some worthy suggestions.
Q: Some distributors offer seminars and training programs. Should carpet cleaners attend these?
Without question. Attending helps build your relationship with distributors, and these programs can help you run your business. Plus, it shows your support for the distributor. Participating tells them you care enough about them and their training programs to be involved. On top of this, these programs can be excellent networking opportunities.
Q: Finally, is there a time when you should change distributors?
If the distributor is serving you well, there should be little reason to make a change. However, there can be legitimate reasons for making a change. For instance, the last couple of years have been difficult for many smaller distribution houses. If a distributor is having financial trouble, their service levels may be impacted, they may not have the products you need or have purchased in the past, or their inventory may be sporadic. In such cases, it may be wise to jump ship.
Also, if your carpet cleaning business grows beyond your community, it may be wise to look for a distributor that is part of a national network. This way, they can serve you in different cities and states. Plus, a national network purchases products in bulk for the entire network of distributors. This can be a significant cost saving.
For more than 20 years, Robert Kravitz and his firm, AlturaSolutions Communications, have been collaborating with people and organizations, helping them become and then excel as Thought Leaders in their respective industries. He can be reached on LinkedIn.