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Never Settle

If your days are anything like mine, they are full of family and friends, co-workers and colleagues, complaints and praises, piles and piles of things that pass for information, endless interruptions, changed priorities and utmost emergencies.

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If your days are anything like mine, they are full of family and friends, co-workers and colleagues, complaints and praises, piles and piles of things that pass for information, endless interruptions, changed priorities and utmost emergencies.

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Through it all, we have to keep our eye on the ball – our customers and what they need. Even with all of the high-tech tools at our disposal, we don’t have time to devote to those things or people who keep us from meeting our business goals.

We need our fast food fast, our convenience store to be convenient, our cleaner to get the spots out, our magazines to provide valuable information, and all of our hundreds of other “vendors” to perform as expected.

But when these suppliers fail us, we often find ourselves in a bind. And time being what it is, we either live with it or make a change.

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We often hear complaints from dealers about their vendor reps – whether it’s tires, equipment, copier paper or the coffee guy. They rarely see the rep, or the rep is long on small talk and short on knowledge. Or how they love a good lunch but are out to lunch when it comes to understanding the dealer’s business, let alone the products or the industry.

The excuses we hear are endless, but instead of making the tough decision, these dealers choose not to change. We’ll hear the complaints, but do they complain up-channel to their suppliers? And, if they do, do their suppliers hear them?

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Then there is the opposite side of the rep coin, a rep like Ted Ondocsin. Who knows if his customers ever call up-channel to say what a great job he does? But Ted got an earful from his customers and colleagues during the recent Kumho Tire USA Dealer Sales Meeting in Cancun. He got a rousing standing ovation when he was tapped as Kumho’s Salesman of the Year.

I’ve been to a lot of tire company dealer meetings, but I have never seen a tire company rep so honored in front of customers before. More unbelieveable was the heartfelt depth of the ovation Ted received.

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After the event, I sat down to pick his brain on what makes him different. First, there is something special about Ted. He was born into this industry, the grandson of Ralph McCreary, who founded one of this country’s greatest tire companies – McCreary Tire & Rubber. Ralph firmly believed: “There are no shortcuts in this business; the only way to do it right is to pound the ground.”

Ted learned that lesson well. He believes in the basics of blocking and tackling, doing all the little things well because it makes the big things that much easier. Most of all, he believes in integrity.

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“I don’t try to reinvent the wheel; I just try to be honest. I try to approach dealers with an attitude of how I can help them, not how they can help me.”

Ted also knows how to allocate his time. “You have to spend a lot of time with the smaller dealers,” he said. “If I want to sell a huge volume of tires, I know where to do that. I want to sell dealers. They keep this industry moving.”

Refreshing? Certainly. And I know Ted isn’t the only outstanding salesman out there.

Still, too many people who represent their companies forget how easy it is for customers to go away and how hard it really is to get them back. Consider this: Consumers have an unbelievable array of choices in every product category. If one offends them in some way, they simply move on to the next without a care in the world. If they don’t like the service at one shop, off they go to the next.

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Suppliers of all kinds forget that their customers have other options, as well. There are a lot of them out there, and many of them are anxious to get their foot in the door.

But too many of you insist on “settling” or “sharing the wealth” with suppliers that haven’t earned that right. By not insisting on better, you give your approval to – and even pay for – substandard support, products and/or delivery.

Whether it’s your tire supplier, your insurance agent or the guy who sells you coffee, you have the right to expect more than an unproductive relationship. Your business depends on these companies and these people. If they aren’t helping to improve your business, maybe it’s time for some cold, hard reality.

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But, don’t forget the guys, like Ted, who are out there working for you every day. Like Ted, they too are deserving of a standing ovation.

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