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Relationships. Some are simple, some are complicated. Some drive you crazy and some bring you peace. Most of us have a relationship in common: the factory relationship.

At the dealership level, the factory can at times seem like Zeus on Olympus. Perhaps if we pray enough, do enough good deeds, and make enough sacrifices, we will be blessed. The blessing may be additional inventory, help on a problem, or even a simple call or note of appreciation for a job well done.

At other times, the factory can seem like an overpowered government entity that can audit you at a moment’s notice and make your life a living hell.

I feel there are some general rules that can be applied to the dealer/factory relationship. As you read this, bear in mind we are talking about one-on-one interactions. The NADA and dealer advisory panels have their own work to do. So let’s discuss three ways to improve our relationships with our factory reps.

1. Get to Know Them.

As with any new relationship, you must ask questions and give answers to get to know each other and establish boundaries and expectations. Maybe they would like to grab lunch or dinner. Maybe you don’t like surprise visits. Maybe there is damage from the last relationship that needs to be repaired.

Is this person a factory employee? Yes, but they’re still a person, same as you, and this is a relationship business.

2. Seek Guidance.

One of the best ways to make people feel good about themselves is to seek their opinion or ask for help. They will feel empowered, and who knows? You may get some great advice!

To improve your results, be genuine and think big. They may have access to DMV registrations. They may be able to share competitive numbers or winning strategies from other dealers. You never know unless you ask.

3. Play Ball.

Work to hit your numbers. Take time to talk with your reps. Take their surveys. Attend their functions. Be polite and gracious. Again, this is how life should be lived anyway. Rarely is rudeness or abruptness the best approach. A spirited debate is healthy as all get out. Just don’t be a jerk.

We all work in the same business and we all have a job to do. Factory reps chose the path that led to a low-risk, steady-income, 9-to-5 job. Chances are they are not as passionate as the daredevils who read this magazine, and that’s OK. Think of it this way: In warrior times, some people fought the battles and someone else had to make the swords, shields, and armor.

Well, in this business, we are the warriors. And like Apollo Creed told Rocky Balboa, “See, we’re born with a killer instinct that you can’t turn off and on like, like some radio. We have to be right in the middle of the action, ’cause we’re the warriors. And without some — some challenge, without some damn war to fight, then the warrior may as well be dead, Stallion.”

We all have a job to do. The work our factory reps do is important. It serves a purpose and, hopefully, brings fulfillment to their lives. Be kind, open-minded and willing to work to build the relationship. Until next we meet, stay true to your vision. 

Jason Heard is the general sales manager at Lee’s Summit (Mo.) Honda. He is a 20-year industry veteran with extensive sales and sales management experience. Contact him at [email protected].