Getting the Most Out of Your Vendor Relations

Nov. 20, 2018
When trying to secure additional services from vendors, it’s helpful to explain the mutual benefits of such a business exchange. Here's how to get the most out of vendor relations.

Over his 18 years in the auto industry, Sam Sexton has gained an appreciation for the natural back and forth that takes place when purchasing equipment for his collision center. Negotiation is an art form, and Sexton, the director at Sewell Collision Center Dallas, has gotten good at it.

He forges relationships with vendors, and negotiates as low of a price as possible. And, he doesn’t stop there.

“When you’re making a purchase,” Sexton advises, “don’t just look at the price of the deal. Look at what the whole package is bringing to the table.

“If you want something in addition to the equipment you’re buying … typically, when [vendors] are giving you the proposal, that’s the best time to ask.”

Sexton knows that by requesting “value-added services” from vendors, he can often secure training for his staff from paint manufacturers, or glass racks from a glass company, or roll-around tire racks from a wheel vendor. He also knows that if he never asks for value-added services, he could essentially cost his facility “tens of thousands” of dollars each year in unnecessary spending for training, consultation, or equipment.

Requesting value-added services, in essence, is all about helping your facility garner the most bang for its buck.

“You’re spending $35,000–$40,000 on a spot welder, and you don’t ask for training on how to use it?” Sexton says. “I guarantee you [that vendor] would be more than happy to give you some training on it.”

Sexton—who leads a successful facility that boasts an average monthly car count of around 450—explains the keys to securing every possible value-added service from vendors.

Try to Negotiate. 

Sexton always tries to keep in mind who holds the hammer when negotiating equipment purchases.

When you consider that many major equipment vendors have invested heavily in recent years in bulking up their training and consultation wings, it only makes sense that they’re probably eager to put those elements of their business to use. Similarly, Sexton has noticed that vendors tend to be willing to offer value-added services if they feel it’s a necessary element to close a sale.

“You have all the leverage when you’re negotiating,” he says. “Say you’re buying a new tire balancer; just ask, ‘What’s my support on this thing? What’s the warranty? What other functions can you provide me when I’m purchasing this?’ That typically leads to a conversation, and training usually comes up.”

Be Complimentary.

If you’re trying to tap into every resource a vendor can make available—or get better prices on parts like clips, fasteners, or hand tools— it often pays to appeal to vendors’ ego. It can help a body shop manager’s cause if they simply sit down with a vendor and ask them to share their knowledge, along with the perspective they’ve gleaned from traveling from shop to shop.

“I like to sit down and talk to them and ask, ‘What’s new out there?’” Sexton says of vendors. “And that fosters a conversation. … Because we get in our boxes sometimes and don’t really look outside these walls. There’s a lot of things happening that you may not know about, and the only way to know is to ask.

“I had an experience where I went to a BMW store, [and] it changed my paint job completely, and it was just because I saw it being done a different way.”

Explain the Mutual Benefits.

It’s important to keep in mind that vendors have much to gain from offering value-added services. For example, an equipment vendor might have liability concerns if it doesn’t provide training to body shop customers regarding equipment like welders.

“Also, retention is a big part of it,” Sexton adds with regard to vendors. “They want to maintain these relationships. And, if you can foster that relationship by offering some consulting services … that’s a huge, huge deal.”

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