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My Best Interests

Bill makes the case for why dealers need to be their own advocates.

“Look, man…you’re gonna’ love working with me. I’ve got your best interest in mind.” Just hearing the rep’s words made me cringe. I knew that his sentence had been cut short…it should have ended in, “…so long as your best interest sells an endless number of my machines.” The truth is, I really like a lot of our manufacturers’ reps, and I want nothing more than to be able to believe them when they say they’re “looking out for me.” However, when the fit hits the shan, well…I’m making the interest payments on the floorplan, not them. But, let’s pretend that I could believe everything one particular rep has told me and see where I’d be:

When I initially bought a fellow dealer’s line, I had looked at the numbers many times. He had done well for a small-town, single line guy, and I’d known him forever. And, though we were competitors, we were still friends, which is the way it should work. We’d shared tales of success and woe over the years, and unlike some of my competitors, when he said his sales were good or bad, I could always believe him. Because we had that friendship, when he was ready to say good night to the industry, I was the only guy he called. But most importantly, he gave me some good insight into the line, the rep and what I was getting into.

As we structured a deal, and I put together a forecast based on my friend’s historic data, I was immediately concerned about selling through the excessive inventory that my friend had collected. He explained that the line based your future incentives on the volume of your annual order. They didn’t seem to be very concerned about how many of last year’s machines were still on your floor. However, my initial phone conversation with the rep certainly led me to believe that he was on my side. What was it he said? “I’ve got your best interest in mind.” Yeah, perhaps my friend was mistaken…obviously this rep was going to be looking out for me.

Not long after acquiring the line, I realized that there was a strange propensity for odd occurrences related to the brand. You know, those things that are not specifically listed as warrantable problems — mainly because they’re so weird, nobody would ever think to plan for them. My first call to the rep about such a matter was very promising: “Yeah, that can happen,” he said. “Just call me with anything like that, and I’ll get you lined out personally. I’ve always got your best interest in mind.” What a great guy, I thought. Oddly, every time I’ve called him with these problems, they’ve ended up not being covered by the manufacturer, and I’ve eaten the cost of repair, but I’m sure that’s not his fault. After all, he’s got my best interest in mind.

My rep has also been historically generous with dinner. Thinking back on it, even though I’ve got several lines, I’ve never been treated to dinner so often as I am with this rep. What a great guy. It’s nice, because as a coincidence, there has always been an order deadline close within days of our dinners. Wonderful how that’s just happened to work out. It’s also fortunate that he was there in person all of those times, to explain to me just why I should take the allocation, which has always seemed to be nearly twice the number I was comfortable with.

Recently, you may have noticed that the market has entered this…well, whatever it is that we’re calling it this week. Maybe you’ve also felt what my rep recently referred to as a “slight stumble” in sales. I called it an ass-kicking like a loud-mouthed nerd in a high school locker room. As always, he was “looking out for my best interests” and was so confident that I would sell through the allocation numbers, that if he was wrong, all I had to do was call him. He said he’d make the extras go away. What a guy.

When I reminded him early last week of that conversation, he immediately told me that he was going to make a couple of calls and he’d call me back shortly. That was 10 days ago and counting. I’ve since left many messages on his cell phone and sent him an awful lot of emails. However, I’ve yet to hear back. I’m starting to get concerned that he’s been in an accident, or maybe fallen ill? I mean, I’m sure the “best interest” he’s had in mind isn’t my fast-accumulating floor plan interest from all those excess machines…is it?

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