6-The-Dealers-Council-Cartoon - Mfg SoftwareNow that you’ve rebuilt and prepped your manufacturer pricing program for the cloud, theres only main question left…

How Do You Get Dealers to Use Your Pricing Program?

Over the past 16 years, we’ve seen adoption challenges in all different forms. Some of them are easy to solve, others are extremely thorny.

Many manufacturers fall victim to the dangerous assumption that because of their size or brand recognition, they control the dealer. The reality is that dealers are independently owned and operated. They can be influenced by a manufacturer, but they cannot be controlled.

Getting your manufacturer pricing program adopted requires dealer process expertise, flexible software architecture and a proven ability to increase your dealer’s bottom line.

Here’s my top 10 challenges with adoption. These items should be thoroughly discussed by your team – otherwise your pricing program may be dead in the water. Or, worse yet, you’ll only get a handful of dealers to use it, leaving upper management looking at low adoption, more feature requests or, in the worst of situations, a significant write-off.

  1. Support. Who will the dealers call with tech support issues? Is the dealer experiencing a problem in your software or a problem in the user’s environment. Your software vendor is probably skilled at creating code…but what about support and troubleshooting issues? And who pays for all that research time?
  2. Documentation & Training. I know, I know. It’s on the web, so it’s intuitive by its very nature. Whether you like it or not, dealers still want their hands held. That means good documentation, complete with training videos so your users can quickly learn your program. Don’t forget that as new features are introduced, this documentation takes on a life of its own. It will need to be maintained or it will become obsolete in a few months.
  3. Who will market to the dealer? Somebody has to soften the blow by getting the word out there, generating excitement and couching your pricing program in the right light so dealers prioritize the transition. That means lots of communication and lots of marketing material highlighting the value. “If you build it, they will come” may sound cool from the movies, but that’s a strategy that pretty much guarantees a field of nightmares — not dreams.
  4. Who sells it? Dealers don’t just adopt from your email and newsletters, they need to chat with someone. They need to feel comfortable that you’re behind the solution, that you’ll support the solution over the long term and that you’ll be there to help when issues arise. Remember, in the cabinet industry, dealers think software rarely works, always creates issues at the most inopportune time, and rarely delivers on what is promised — and that’s referring to their perception of professional software companies.Their perception of cabinet manufacturers building software is even worse.
  5. The larger dealer challenge. More sophisticated operations typically move more volume. Note the word “sophisticated”. Most of these dealers have operations that have been tweaked over the past decade combined with a myriad of integrated systems. For example, how and when will your system be used when these dealers use GreatPlains, MAS 90/200, Activant, Falcon, QuickBooks, Peachtree, JDEdwards, Timberline, RFMS, Spruce, and all the other custom accounting systems out there – all of which have integrated purchasing functions and processes to follow? You’re certainly not expecting these dealers to create a new process and hire new staff just to purchase your line are you?
  6. The mom and pop challenge. Your smaller dealers are less sophisticated. Some of them have PC’s from the dinosaur age. Even with a web-based solution, how will you get them to buy in to the web so they can take advantage of the new world? Who will explain this (I mean sell this) to them?
  7. Rollout. Implementing software in many locations requires a well planned rollout strategy and a team who can quickly triage issues (and trust me, there will always be issues). That means strong rollout management, a clear product owner and processes to quickly resolve issues so the rollout doesn’t become delayed and lose momentum.
  8. Dealer business process nuances. Every dealer does things a little bit differently. Most manufacturers fall into the trap of designing a pricing program that only has a handful of “optimized” ways to work for everyone. This is the kiss of death in the business software world. Dealers will require your pricing program to conform to the way they do business. Someone on your staff needs to be dedicated to handling the barrage of change requests for must-have features on gaps you didn’t anticipate.
  9. What’s in it for me? In the famous words of the manufacturers in this industry, the dealers will ask the same thing. Why would a dealer change – what’s the benefit to them? If you haven’t answered this question, be prepared to pay them to change in the form of some sort of subsidy – and even then it might not be enough. Just remember, if you have to pay them to use it, don’t fall into the trap of structuring it as a one time payment for the transition only. You’ll need some sort of recurring subsidy to keep the dealer happy. Otherwise, you’ll damage dealer loyalty which will destroy any benefit your pricing program was going to deliver.
  10. The whole or just a part? If your pricing program is not a whole solution for the dealer, you’re going to have a serious uphill battle. This means your pricing program needs to offer features that work for other parts of their business (yes, this means for their other brands too). If you think your sales staff can sell ice cubes to Eskimos, think again. These are cabinet dealers – the toughest of the tough. They’ve earned their badges in the school of hard knocks. If you try to convince a dealer to implement a partial solution for their business, they’ll eat you alive – bones and all.

If you have any questions or comments, or just need to get your kitchen quoting and bidding project back on track, please call us. We’ll do whatever we can to help guide you.