13 Questions a Dealer Will Ask Before They Carry Your Brand

13 Questions a Dealer Will Ask Before They Carry Your Brand

Imagine you’re a small manufacturer new to the US market. You’ve met with your leadership team, and you’ve decided that the quickest route to market is to establish relationships with dealers across the country so they will carry the product line, promote the brand, and sell your various models. 

What are the questions a dealer might ask you as they vet your opportunity? And which of these questions should you answer before you call on your first dealer?

For insight, I asked former Tadano executive and crane industry veteran Ingo Schiller, who helped me come up with these. 

  1. Do our customers need it?
  2. Is there a market for it? 
  3. Can we make money on it? 
  4. Does it cannibalize any of the products we already sell?
  5. Will it fit with the rest of our products? 
  6. Will it give us an advantage? 
  7. Do we have the staff to sell it? 
  8. Does anyone else sell it? 
  9. What sort of support will their marketing team give us?
  10. Will they allocate marketing dollars to us?
  11. Is the brand high-end? 
  12. Will selling this brand give us additional opportunities in adjacent markets? 
  13. Will selling this brand allow us to acquire additional customers? 

So which questions should you answer first?

You probably know where I’m going here, but the reality is that you should answer every single one of these questions before you call on your first dealer. 

This is because the answer to every single one of these questions—if you’re doing it correctly, that is—will be answered when you create your brand strategy. 

Each of these answers informs and affects the way you position your brand in the market, to say nothing of how it looks, how it sounds, and how it’s viewed when it’s inevitably compared to other products in the category. 

Good brands understand the basics—market size, what they do, who they do it for—but great brands understand precisely what their dealers want, which is a clear path to profitability and a brand to believe in. 

It’s really that simple. 

If you’re a manufacturer who’s approaching a dealer, especially if your market is still relatively untested, then having a thoughtful approach and a high-end brand gives dealers a reason to say yes, even if there are some unknowns to contend with. 

Your verbal and visual identities, product photography, and website all need to convey the right feeling, because that feeling, that thing that you can’t actually put your finger on—that thing that propels you to buy a YETI over an Igloo or a Ford over a Chevy or a Carhartt over a Dickie—is more powerful that almost anything else.

Yes, the quality needs to be there. Yes, you have to stand behind your product. And yes, you have to have unmatched support and customer service—but those are all table stakes these days, the requirements for doing business.  

Great equipment manufacturers, no matter how big or how small, understand that investing in their brand in the same way they invest in engineering and innovation is how to keep people talking about their products while continually winning additional market share. 

Great brands have always mattered. But with an almost endless amount of competitors in nearly every space, great brands matter now more than ever. 

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