“Give me a good price on that paint today and I’ll buy more paint from you tomorrow.”
Ahhh, hypocrisy.I love listening to a paint contractor complain about a new customer that wants a really good price because they have lots of friends that need a painter or have more projects possibly in the future. The good old dangling a carrot on a stick negotiating tool.
Yet this same contractor will employ the same method of persuasion when negotiating their cost of paint from their supplier. The other day I was in my local paint store and there was a contractor at the counter wanting a better price on his paint. He reasoned that he was going to be really busy this upcoming exterior season and therefore his pricing should be adjusted to reflect that not yet existent volume. I am surprised the manager behind the counter didn’t roll his eyes. I laughed to myself thinking how many times he must have heard that before.
Why in the world should a paint store provide preferential pricing to a contractor that hasn’t proven their buying power and loyalty to that store?
Your paint store can be one of the most valuable resources in your business. They can provide product knowledge and expertise, assistance with estimating quantities, colour advice, delivery of products and REFERRALS. Not to mention the endless coffee, donuts, t-shirts and other perks most stores provide to their contractors. But those things and preferential pricing are earned.
At Warline, our relationship with our paint suppliers is essential for our success in business. I have had the owner of our Benjamin Moore store personally visit a very demanding customer, in her home, to discuss her concerns over paint colour and lighting issues. He provided reassurance and confidence to her and today she is a repeat customer and a good source of referrals for us. We drive 20 minutes out of our way to deal with this particular store – that is how much we value the service and value we get from Zulie and his staff.
We do enough business with our main paint suppliers to regularly get calls and attractive offers by other suppliers that want our business and volume. In these tough economic times when every penny counts, it can be tempting to take these offers. We don’t though.
Our relationship with our paint suppliers is about more than just pricing. It is about an owner or sales rep that knows his stuff, a staff at each store that is helpful and professional, a company that is interested in helping us grow our business because they get that it is good for them too, a product that delivers on performance and an entire organization that stands behind their products and their contractors. It’s way more than just a good price on a gallon of paint. It’s a like-minded business operating on the same set of principles that we run our own business on.
So if you are reading this and thinking “wow, my paint store doesn’t do that for me” maybe you need to ask yourself why.
A good store, with good staff understands that your success means their success. But they also are dealing with a ton of paint contractors every day so it makes sense that they are going to focus on contractors that they have relationships with. I spoke with some store managers and owners and here are their tips for getting more out of your paint store:
- Become a regular. Get to know the staff in a store by finding out their names, chatting with them and developing friendships. The more they get to know you and understand your business, the more they can help you.
- Ask them for advice. What it says on the can is one thing. Store owners hear all the feedback on application and durability. Good and bad. These guys have a wealth of knowledge that could be the difference between profit and loss on a job. One store owner I spoke with said “there is no such thing as asking too many questions. Often the problem is that not enough questions were asked”.
- Call your order in ahead of time and let them know when you are picking it up. Not only does this help the store prioritize their orders, it means when you come in, you aren’t wasting extra time. Especially during the morning rush. Your paint store wants to give you the best service possible so help them do that. And if your order isn’t quite ready when you get there, relax and have a coffee.
- Buy your sundries at your local store instead of at the big box store where they are slightly cheaper. Talk to your manager about getting better pricing on some of your regularly purchased items first. They often have more room for discounts on supply items.
- Pay your bill on time. Simple. But if you get stiffed on a job or run into a cash flow problem go in and talk to the manager and make arrangements to make small installments to pay off the account. Most stores will go out of their way to help you if ask. Avoiding the store, not taking their calls and buying your paint elsewhere while you have an outstanding account with them does nothing to build trust.
- Follow-up on referrals from the store promptly and professionally. When a store provides a customer with a referral it is a direct reflection on them so make sure you are treating the customer with the same consideration you would any good referral. Last year we did an estimate that was a direct referral from our paint store. When we got there, another painter was already there doing an estimate (the homeowner had asked for two referrals). This other painter was quoting the job using a different store’s brand of paint, because it was cheaper. Talk about a lack of appreciation and loyalty.
- Show your appreciation. Did the store give you a good referral? Did they rush a job that you forgot to call in? Thank them. Relationships are a two way street so think about reciprocating the perks you regularly are enjoying. Maybe bring in pizza and pop to your store for lunch one day or hand out a couple of gift certificates for a local restaurant as a thank you for that referral.
It doesn’t matter if it is an independent retailer, a small regional company with branch stores or a large publicly owned conglomerate. The more business you do with them, the better your pricing and service gets. The more you give, the more you get.
Your paint store feels the same way about pricing as you do. Giving discounts based on a loose promise of future business rarely pans out. We don’t get the free trip to Hawaii before we earn the travel miles. Car insurance rates only go down after showing years of safe driving. It is no different when it comes to doing business with paint suppliers. Walking in the door and asking for a discount because you are wearing painter whites isn’t going to get you much, but you might get a cup of coffee.