The role of the locksmith distributor has changed greatly in the last 30-plus years, since I entered the locksmith trade in the late 1960s. Back then, most locksmith distributors were mainly interested in doing local and regional business. When I or a local locksmith would call an order in to...
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Product Catalogs ? Does the distributor have their own catalog? If so, how easy is it to use? Is the catalog available on a CD? Online?
Other ? Several other things will determine how useful a distributor is to your business. Do they offer private/restricted keyways from various manufacturers? By providing a restricted keyway available only to them, the distributor ensures that you will come back to them for additional product. It?s the same idea you use to sell it to your customer, to get the repeat business!
Warehouse Location ? Is the warehouse location in your geographic area? If it?s not physically close to you, is it within one shipping day for standard ground shipments? As long as you can receive the product the next day without paying extra charges, does it matter?
Will Call Location ? A will call counter can be an asset and a liability. While it is handy to ?run over and pick something up? when it?s absolutely necessary, it can become a time-wasting habit. If you visit will call frequently, how often have you called in an order to be picked up and not gotten there until the next day? In that case, if the order had originally been shipped out, wouldn?t you have it the next day anyway?
Branch Locations ? When a distributor has one location, anything not kept in stock must be ordered. When there are multiple branches, each branch will focus on the inventory that moves best in their region. Any shortages or outs can usually be transferred or shipped from an alternate branch. A nationwide inventory means that you can better meet the needs of your customer.
Inside Sales ? A good inside sales person should be knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. If a good salesperson can?t help you, he or she will know how to get you connected with someone who can. .
Outside Sales ? Does an outside salesperson call on you? The role of an outside salesperson is to be a liaison between the company and the customer. They should represent the company to you and represent you to the company. They should visit regularly and keep you informed about new products, special sales and promotions. They (or a company representative) should also be willing to meet you on a job site to give their input or advice on product application and be willing go to bat for you when there is a problem. They can also bring in the factory representative when you present a potential business customer with an access control solution.
Customer Service ? Other than placing an order, when you have a question or need a copy of an older invoice, you might deal with a customer service representative. How do they respond to you? Are your needs met in a timely manner? Are they polite and friendly?
Warehouse ? The warehouse crew pulls your order, packs it and ships it out. If they don?t keep their warehouse in order, you?ll get the wrong items. An efficient warehouse will minimize mistakes and correct problems quickly.
Credit ? Are your invoices and statements accurate? Are they easy to read and understand? Items returned for credit must go through a pre-defined process but it shouldn?t take forever. If your business grows, you may need to increase your credit line. If you get a little behind, will they work with you? The best way to work with any credit department is to keep the lines of communication open. If you have a payment problem, contact them first; don?t try to hide from them or ignore their calls.
IT ? More than ever, the Information Technology department of a distributor is important to you. Issues such as online ordering programs, online catalogs, dialup and broadband internet connection problems and more can run smoothly with their help.
POLICIES & PROCEDURES
Business Hours ? Are they open early enough to meet your needs? Do they stay open late enough? Some locksmith distributors open at 7 a.m., some at 9 a.m. If you have to stand around waiting for them to open, take another look at your alternatives.
Same Day Shipments ? Does your distributor ship the order out the same day it was called in? By what time? If an order is called in at 3 p.m., will it still ship? What about 5 p.m.? Find a distributor that works with your schedule.
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Locksmith distributors answers questions about the present and future of their industry.