These guys are your lifeline, or so you think.
How experienced is the guy you’re talking to? Frequently they know how to craft a deal and the numbers associated, but they’re challenged when it comes to SPL, rigging, truck pack, or how many processors will be needed (if any).
They rely on their contacts and resources inside of the manufacturer for this information and experience. I’ll get to that.
Manufacturers are highly dependent on their sales force and channels. It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to “go direct” in an effort to establish solid control over sales and the required communications. This also necessitates the obligatory costs of employing and maintaining the staff and the associated overhead.
Some manufacturers establish this structure in foreign countries to clearly present themselves in full force and presence. There is a lot of common sense associated with this structure.
The more prevalent organizational structure has sales reps and distributors, in order to both reduce costs and to have a regional presence that understands local business dynamics. There are some exceptional ones out there who are committed to your best interests, and who provide staffing that can clearly address your needs. They will be your day and night resource.
Also find out the key people at the manufacturer. Have your rep or distributor introduce you to them. Communicate with the company’s product manager and head of engineering. These pathways allow you to get what you need if your sales contact is unable to help or if you’re in an “I can’t get an answer” moment.
This is a broad, multi-definitional topic. Everyone needs support at one time or another, but it’s a subjective term. In a perfect world there would be a team of people on duty “24/7” via phone and internet to answer questions and help solve issues.
Providing this resource to end users is a Herculean task and not practically viable. Several years of downsizing and restructuring has also reduced these resources in many cases.
Given that, what you need to evaluate is “What does your potential provider offer you in real time?” The heart of the issue is the connection between your company liaison and their engineering department.
The internal structure of the company will dictate your immediate access to answers and support. If your contact is knowledgeable in the company’s technical properties, then you’re going to be well serviced. This is not uncommon, but also not the norm.
What probably is happening are a stream of exchanges between your contact and the engineering staff. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But what is of practical consideration is the rapidity of those exchanges. Frequently, companies have established an internal group that is tasked with support. Not service, but support.
Well executed, this contact can become the best resource for you, the user. In your research and conversations, ask about the support organization. Does it exist? Who are they? What are their resources and group makeup?
It’s common for companies to have one or more product managers. Typically, these individuals oversee new products from development into production, and know all the issues inside out. They can be responsible for the company’s entire product offerings or just a quadrant of it.
Knowing who the product manager in the company is and having access at critical times is important. Client-focused companies incorporate this aspect of client contact into this person’s job description. They’re commonly at trade shows and product demos. Seek them out. This is a killer way to stitch together your relationship. You won’t regret it.