Many Manufacturers Are Willing To Throw Their So-Called Partners Under The Bus In Order To Win A Project

This is excerpted from Michael Silva's excellent comment in the How Much Information Do I Have To Give To A Manufacturer? (Resales Application) discussion:

My experience is that while that most manufacturers call their dealers "partners", only a small number actually consider them as such. The remainder treat their dealers simply as customers, and could care less about what they do or who they sell to as long as the purchase orders keep coming in.

As a consultant, I have been surprised at how quickly many manufacturers are willing to throw their so-called partners under the bus in order to win a project. Is the partner who represents a product in a given area not acceptable to the client? "No, problem, which integrator would you like us to make a dealer?" is the response from many manufacturers.

For manufacturers who do truly treat their dealers as partners, it is understandable that they would want to know a little more about the company's operation and business model before they make them a dealer. In a way, it is a little like investing in a business or hiring an employee - you want to do a little due diligence before you enter into the relationship.


Usually depends on if the dealer/partner created the opportunity or the manufacturer. Sometimes this is the best way to get into a dealer you have been trying to work with.

What is a reasonable expectation of loyalty from the manufacturer? Should they refuse to sell to the customer if the customer doesn't want to use the existing, appointed dealer?

The manufacturer has limited leverage, and maybe no direct input into the operations and reputation of their dealers. If a dealer chooses to hire ex-convicts and techs that don't believe in taking showers, why should the manufacturer's chances go down with the ship?

I'm not saying this is right or honorable, just really naive to think it would work differently.

On the flip side, would an integrator refuse to sell a customer who is biased against their flagship manufacturer? [Well except maybe Avigilon dealers. :) ]

Answer: No way. The integrator would go back, remove all of that gear from the proposal, and find the closest alternative to pitch instead. Then they'd justify it by citing 'loyalty to the customer'.

'Loyalty' is a vapor. No matter where it is claimed.

It's rare, but I have seen manufacturers stand behind their integrators and turn away jobs. One notable case was a large high-technology company I worked with that insisted that the access control manufacturer sell directly to them rather than through an integrator. This was a high-profile client with several large campuses and the deal was worth a large sum of money.

The president of one of the access control manufacturers attended the finalist interviews. When he heard the client's request, he declined and stated: "We don't change our business strategy to win a single job- if you want to use our product, you will have to work through our local dealer, XYZ Company". His company was effectively out of the running once he made this statement. I had to respect his willingness to stick to his position even it meant missing out on a large sale.

My big concern when a manufacturer gives an integrator a product line just to win one project is support. This could be the one and only job that the integrator uses the product on, and his ability to properly support something he doesn't regularly work with can be a challenge.

"My big concern when a manufacturer gives an integrator a product line just to win one project is support. This could be the one and only job that the integrator uses the product on, and his ability to properly support something he doesn't regularly work with can be a challenge."

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on how this relates to the bigger integrators that have access to everything (Siemens, JCI, Convergint, Tyco). It seems they are quick to remember who their "partners" are when a spec comes out. They certainly don't have people in every branch that are certified and knowledgable in every product line they have access to.

I have had mixed results with the bigger national integrators. In many cases, the branch in one city will be excellent while the branch in another city will be not so good. You often see cases where one branch will be a "Milestone" house while another will be an "Genetec" house. If you happen to have a project where the product specified is the one preferred by the branch, you will probably be alright. However, if the branch doesn't regularly use the specified product, you could have a problem.

I had one particularly disasterous project a few years back where one of the big national companies won a large project that included a specific brand of access control system. The guy who bid the job assumed that he could get the product because one of his company's other offices was using it. As it turned out, they had access to the product only in a specific market segment (federal government) and couldn't buy it for other projects. The company ended up having to source the product from a local authorized dealer, who had bid the job and lost and was still angry about it.

Our specifications typically include requirements that the technicians doing the installation be trained and certified in the major product lines that have been specified, and ask that proof of this be submitted in the proposal response. However, in certain jobs, the security systems contractor could be a subcontractor of a subcontractor, and you often lose control of the process.

I didn't see that you had broken this out as a new thread. I'll repost my comment under this one:

As a consultant, I have been surprised at how quickly many manufacturers are willing to throw their so-called partners under the bus in order to win a project.

Honestly, I've seen everyone throw each other under the bus at various times. I can't count the number of times a dealer has performed a sub-par install and then tried to blame me/my product for inferior performance. This is a "small" industry, but there are still LOTS of people at all levels, statistically speaking you get some high-level people, a lot of every-day good folks, and some number of shady operators in any given segment (manufactuer, consultant, rep firm, distributor, integrator, end-user).

To address your segment directly, I see a lot of consultants who will not make any specific recommendations (for a named product) but will instead "hide" behind an A&E spec "The product should do X, Y and Z. It should be manufactured in zip code 12345, it should be painted a lovely shade of chartruese and the packaging material should use biodegradable corn-starch in a pink color." But they won't just come out and say "You should use Fancy-Cam product for this application". That gives them the ability to side-step a lot of direct accountability under the guise of providing a general recommendation.

I've seen a similar situation where a lead was provided to us (an integrator) by a distributor for an access product, but it was an extremely poor fit for the size of the project. The problem was, this distributor didn't carry an access product that could fit the scope. We ended up walking away, rather than utilize a higher-end product line that we carry.

I know the distributor gave the lead to another company, which I understand, but always felt that they did a disservice to the end-user. I never did ask how things went, but I can't imagine they went well (if it ever even sold).