How dealers ‘toe the line’ of managing similar brands

By |  July 14, 2021
Photo: P&Q Staff

While some equipment brands may be easier to sell than others, Road Machinery & Supplies Andy Schwandt says dealers must do their homework to ensure they’re holding up their end of the bargain with both customers and manufacturers. Photo: P&Q Staff

Whether a dealer represents three brands or 30, the manufacturer behind each brand generally maintains high expectations for the sales and service of their equipment.

Sometimes, though, a dealer does not live up to a manufacturer’s expectations. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but Ohio Cat’s Chris Harris says it sometimes occurs because a manufacturer’s expectations were unrealistic to begin with.

“The one thing that disappoints me that I see from some manufacturers is loading a dealer up,” says Harris, con/agg manager at Ohio Cat. “They load you up with several million dollars’ worth of equipment, and after a few years you may still have a crusher or screen in stock that just doesn’t sell in your area. The manufacturer views you as a failure and says they’re going to [switch dealers]. Then, you wind up with $3 million in equipment that you can’t move.”

To Harris, some of the most successful manufacturer-dealer partnerships develop when manufacturers and dealers collectively recognize how much equipment – and what kind of equipment – a market will realistically bear.

Dealers, of course, must stock at least some equipment, as that helps manufacturers plan for the year to come. But there is a point for every dealer that will yield no return, Harris argues.

“That’s why you see every year there’s a new dealer selling certain brands,” he says. “I know what’s happening: [The manufacturer] got them to buy a crusher and two screens, and they couldn’t move them. Or, when they didn’t rent them, it didn’t work out.”

Other scenarios

Dealers can also encounter conflict with manufacturers when they represent similar equipment lines. Equipment lines are continuously evolving, creating potential issues when a new line surfaces from one manufacturer that’s competitive to a line from another manufacturer that the dealer already represents.

Those aren’t the easiest circumstances to navigate.

“Certainly, there are some lines that we carry in different geographies that can present conflict,” says Andy Schwandt, vice president of sales and marketing at Road Machinery & Supplies. “But we try to serve every manufacturer that we can given the customer’s situation.”

Schwandt believes equipment dealers owe as much to the manufacturers they represent.

“It’s part of that dealer-manufacturer relationship,” Schwandt says. “They’ve signed up for us to represent them, and we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to represent their products.”

While some brands may be easier to sell than others, Schwandt stresses that dealers must do their homework to ensure they’re holding up their end of the bargain.

“We have to make customers aware of what we have to offer,” Schwandt says. “We do that by educating ourselves through product training, and we have regularly scheduled marketing meetings with manufacturers. We have a marketing calendar we follow to make sure we’re promoting all we offer.”

Ultimately, Harris says a dealer’s sales should come down to what’s best for the customer – and not necessarily what’s convenient for a dealer to unload into the market.

“We look at everything from an application standpoint,” Harris says. “We don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole.”

Ohio Cat, for instance, offers portable crushing and screening equipment from IRock, Lippmann and Screen Machine. Each brand has its strengths, Harris says, and it’s Ohio Cat’s job to identify which strengths match customer needs.

“Where we probably get some pushback is obviously there are things Lippmann makes that cross over with IRock, and things IRock makes that cross over with Screen Machine,” Harris says. “So we try to make the best of every manufacturer and build a solid system.”

According to Harris, dealers should also be cognizant of how they characterize competitive brands to customers. Dealers, after all, never know when a competitive brand may come calling with an opportunity.

“You want to be very open and honest and sell on the positive aspects of your equipment,” Harris says. “ I think that helps you maintain a good relationship with manufacturers.”

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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