Dealer-Vendor Relationships: What Works, What Doesn't

David Bitton of Supreme Security Systems on the value of a good business relationship for your alarm company


David Bitton, VP, COO of Supreme Security Systems, spoke with SIW recently to discuss the relationship between dealer/installer/integrator companies and their vendors. From supporting the small guys to what a business relationship means, Bitton gives SIW the inside scoop on how manufacturer-dealer relationships work.

Surprisingly enough, even in this age of "ROI" and heightened costs of doing business, Bitton says that when it comes down to choosing a product to sell and install, it's really not about price, but still about the service and the relationship.

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SIW: In a price-driven world, how has the concept of vendor-dealer relationships changed?

Bitton: We have had personal relationships since back in the day, with companies that would even build products for our specs. The industry has changed in that regard and you don't get that kind of customization level anymore.

SIW: How important is creating relationships with smaller vendors?

Bitton: [As a member of the Security Network of America (SNA)] we try to make a point of patronizing as many independent vendors as possible. Because of channel conflicts, we try to deal with independents when we can. With the large companies, acquisitions have left fewer independents. Even if they [the largest multinational corporations] say they have no plans to be in our business, they've just left off the word "yet." They have so much capital that they could be in our business in our very short time. As a large regional, we have the power to keep the independents going.

SIW: Acquisitions can sometimes affect a culture shift within a company. From the dealer perspective, what's the worst case scenario when this happens? Can you give us an example from your experience?

Bitton: We were dealer-direct with a company. They were acquired and things were OK. But then that company [that bought the company we were dealer-direct with] was bought up by a large multinational, and unfortunately, the relationship was not the same, and eventually we ended up buying from one of their competitors.

Customer service [from the previous company] deteriorated. The product was really about the same. When they became a line in a corporate statement, the drive to serve their customers disappeared. We don't readily jump from manufacturer to manufacturer. To move to another manufacturer really takes a lot of work but sometimes we have to move.

SIW: What are the top factors that would encourage your company to create a long-term relationship with a manufacturer?

Bitton: Customer service, training, response and technical support.

SIW: Not price?

Bitton: No. Reliability, feature set and pricing are all about the same. Really it's about the company and the support behind it. Well, that and any distributor that that gets me Yankee tickets gets my business.

SIW: Tell us more about the importance of customer service in terms of creating a long-term dealer-manufacturer relationship.

Bitton: I need the same level of service that I provide to my customer. You've heard the expression "garbage in, garbage out"? I'm going to provide a certain level to my customer, and I need that from my vendor or distributor and up the chain to the manufacturer. If I don't provide good service from all the way up the chain, I can't provide that to my customers.