If our current economic slump teaches us anything, it reminds us of the need to train our customers about some basic industry truths. And one truth that is easy to forget in good times is that there will eventually be a serious economic downturn (hard times), followed by an eventual upturn!

Why should you take the time and spend the money to train your customers/dealers about such things? Because their success is so closely linked to your success! And the more you can help to keep their business on an even keel, the more your business will stay on an even keel - with fewer bankruptcy losses.

Of course, training doesn’t have to be a formal thing (such as in an annual dealer meeting); some of the most successful supply houses with field salespeople use them to keep their dealers well informed about industry trends and to offer suggestions.

But there are also some industry business experts you can hire to put on seminars at your dealer meetings. And although this may cost a bit more than you want to pay in a slow market, the effect they can have is to turn your customers (and business) around.

What type of reminding do your dealers need to survive? Well, new construction is a wonderful market in good times, but when hard times come, that’s the first market to feel the pinch. Yet all HVACR wholesalers love the people in the new-construction business because they move a lot of boxes. And it’s too easy for contractors and their suppliers to get addicted to doing just new construction in a prolonged “up” market.

I can immediately think of a contractor that I knew several years ago (we’ll call him Roy), who was a very successful new-construction specialist. He didn’t have much of a service department because he had few warranty calls, and he wasn’t in the service business. His secret (which I’ll tell you) is that his people weren’t trained technicians, so they just installed systems correctly and used the system factory holding charge (they didn’t make any “adjustments”).

Why, Roy didn’t even offer extended service agreements to his hundreds of new-construction customers. He just let that hugely lucrative portion of the business - which others would have paid top dollar for - slip away.

I don’t know how well Roy’s business is doing today, but I know that if he didn’t open up a serious service business, he’s probably hurting. Because when times get bad, the only business left is in service and replacements.

I realize that this article has probably arrived a bit too late for some, but it’s just a gentle reminder that dealer training is not an expense. It’s what your business must do to survive!