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The relationship between a contractor and manufacturer is a two-way street

Randy Chaffee - The relationship between a contractor and manufacturer is a two-way street
December 28, 2023 at 2:00 p.m.

MCS Influencer Randy Chaffee says the goal of manufacturers is to help build and grow the industry to make it profitable for everybody.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Multimedia Manager Megan Ellsworth and Owner of Source One Marketing, Randy Chaffee. You can listen to the interview or read the transcript below.

Megan Ellsworth: Hello everyone. My name is Megan Ellsworth here at metalcoffeeshop.com, and I am back again for a influencer response today with Randy Chaffee. Hi Randy. How are you?

Randy Chaffee: Megan? I'm well, as always in you.

Megan Ellsworth: I'm doing good. Excited to-

Randy Chaffee: Great.

Megan Ellsworth: ...hear what you have to say. As always, you have great insights. So, this month's question is how can contractors grow stronger relationships with manufacturers in distribution and why should they?

Randy Chaffee: That's a great question. I was thrilled when I ... or excited, thrilled might be a strong word. Christmas is coming, so I'm saving thrilled for other things. But I think it's a great subject because having been a manufacturer's rep and running an agency for four plus decades, I really enjoy working with distributors, dealers, and then their customers, which would be the contractor.

And I think it's really vitally important that they work back with us. And that's a two-way street. And I think the first, and probably the foremost thing I would suggest to any contractors is to remember that we're not just, well, I would hope none of us are, just sales guys. Put some air quotes. We're not just looking to sell some product or some services regardless of whether you need it or not.

Most of us, especially as lifers that's been doing this a long time, this is our life. This is what we do and our goal is to help build the industry, to help grow the industry and to make it profitable for everybody. Because I think we understand that it's only going to be beneficial and profitable to us if it's beneficial and profitable to every step down the line, if you will. And so, there really is an interest level on most ... I don't want to speak for everybody, but everybody I run into in this industry as reps, as manufacturers, agents or company sales, whatever the case may be, the sales guy. We care about building that relationship with you at whatever level.

And so, I think it's important that the contractor isn't afraid to reach back out to us, to build that relationship with us, to talk about things that he's concerned about. What can we help you with? Even if we don't sell you directly, in my case, I don't sell contractors direct, but that doesn't mean that I can't be a valuable service in the planning stages, budgeting stages, just what about the warranty? What do we do in this situation? Have you ever run into this? So, we are a valuable source that they can use.

Megan Ellsworth: Absolutely. Yeah, I couldn't have said it better. And how do you think contractors can start building that relationship?

Randy Chaffee: I think one of the first things is at their suppliers' open house events at their suppliers' trade shows that they may have the local trade shows, the local distributor show and national trade shows, the regional trade shows, association events, whether it's the METALCONs, or the National Frame Builders Association, the Rollforming Show, the Midwest Roofing Contractors, you could go on ... and RCAT, you could go on and on and on and on.

When you attend those things, don't just use that as an opportunity to get out of town and have a burger and a brewski or two of the buddies, which is a good thing. But use that time to really walk up to the booth, start that relationship. Who's my rep? I mean, I'm a contractor. I buy from ... name it, brand X and, "Who's my rep? Is he here? Is he available? God, I'd love to meet him," and start that conversation, exchange cards, exchange LinkedIn, exchange ... and really start that communication back and forth.

I think it's key there, Megan. I really enjoy the social concept of how we market ourselves today. And it's more about just throwing stuff out and geez, look at this great thought I had. Or I'm having a cabernet by the fire this evening, or whatever. I think it's important to develop those relationships early and often, not just out of the blue. And let me back up. As a contractor, if you just call me out of the blue and introduce yourself, I'm still going to help you the best I can. But it does go a lot further if, "Hey, this is Bill. We met down, I don't know if you remember, at Nashville, at the Nashville Frame Builders Association Show last year." "Oh yeah, yeah. How you doing?" "Good."

If we started that relationship, we followed each other a little bit on social media. We've done whatever we've done. There's already more of a connection. And I don't care who you are, as much as you want to help people, you're always going to help people or you've become friends with or you have a relationship with. You just are, that's human nature. And so, I think that the starting of that should be well before you need something, right?

Megan Ellsworth: Oh, yes.

Randy Chaffee: Because you never know when that'll be. So, I think that it's all about ... and it's that engaging and what you do, the morning that we are doing this whenever this comes out, but I did a post talking about engaging versus existing, right?

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah.

Randy Chaffee: I think if you engage in your industry as opposed to just existing, you'll get to know, you'll naturally open yourself up to these people and it's just going to put you in a position to really be able to get that help, to search out the help, to know who to call.

If we become industry friends, you call me. Maybe I don't have the answer to what you're looking for. Maybe that's a little out of my range of breadth of product. Maybe it's out of my range of expertise, but there's probably a pretty good chance I know somebody that might be able to help you, right?

And so, I think those are the valuable things is don't wait until you just need help. Develop that up early and understand you're not a nuisance to us. If you are a nuisance to one of your reps, then you got a problem there, I think, because we really appreciate that feedback and we like to know what you think as a contractor. We really do. Because the best ideas, the best products, the best improvements that get made, come from the field.

I mean, I've been doing this four plus decades, and I think I know some stuff, but I don't install any of this every day. I'm not taking it out of the box, and I'm not trying to put this on a roof every day.

So, you tell me what you're running into. And, "Man, Randy, if you guys would just do this and make this little tweak," I can't promise you that it'll get done. I can't promise you that there's not reasons why as a manufacturer, we can't or won't do it. But what I can tell you is I can get an audience with taking that information back, and if you tell me this and 12 other people tell me this, and every one of us for this manufacturer starts bringing that, all of a sudden we go, "Maybe we do need to look at that."

So, that's how changes to the positive get affected. So, you can have more effect than you think, maybe because I know as a contractor, you go to trade shows especially, thousands of exhibitors there. "Yeah, you don't listen to me or care what I have to say." Yeah, we do. We really do.

And it may not seem like it because it's busy, a lot going on, but that information, that feedback is really important. So, use us. I mean, in a good way, we're there to help. That would be the thing.

Megan Ellsworth: Absolutely. Wow. Well said. What great advice. I hope everyone out there is taking notes. I feel like I say that every time we meet, you just have such great insights.

Randy Chaffee: It's because I'm old and been around forever.

Megan Ellsworth: Well, not that old.

Randy Chaffee: I'm older than you think, but very kind.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah. Thank you so much for chatting with me and for this great advice. I hope everyone out there listening goes to Randy Chaffey's directory on metalcoffeeshop.com to learn more. And you can get ahold of him there. Randy, happy holidays. Thank you so much.

Randy Chaffee: You as well. Enjoy, and we'll chat next month of all something brilliant again, I'm sure.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, we'll see you in the new year. How about that?

Randy Chaffee: You got it. Let's do it. Let's do it next year. I'm done this year. Let's do it next year.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, we're done. Awesome.

Randy Chaffee: As always, thanks for all you guys do.

Megan Ellsworth: Thank you.

Randy Chaffee: Cheers.

Randy Chaffee is the Owner and CEO of Source One Marketing, LLC. See his full bio here.



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