You know as well as we do that you’re not just buying a roll-off trailer. Or a stationary compactor. Or a front-load plastic dumpster. You’re buying into a relationship. And, like any relationship, a vendor can help you feel supported or—after the check has cleared and you’ve encountered issues—they can leave you feeling as though they’re “just not that into you.”
Well, that’s not a partnership.
And, a partnership with your waste equipment vendor is critically important—especially if you’re just starting out. A strong partner can not only help you plot out an equipment acquisition plan that makes sense for your business, but also offer advice on everything from regulatory compliance to marketing your waste management services.
And, for some, strong relationships may deepen as your small start-up grows, you compete well, and then sell to one of the big national operations for your well-earned payday—and, then, with a full understanding of the equipment, you choose to become a distributor. (That’s been the case for some of our customers.)
So, how do you identify a true business partner that will be in it—with you—for the long haul?
We’ll help you ask probing questions, identify red flags—and construct a path for separating the wheat from the chaff.
Identify a list of promising waste equipment vendors
If you know people in the industry, start there. After all, they’re folks you know and trust. So, find out who they trust—and who they don’t. It’s a small world. Word gets around.
Then, “hit the Googles,” as they say. Search for waste equipment manufacturers and check each company’s Google Reviews. These third-party reviews can help you weed out the bad actors. See a string of complaints about equipment failures and terrible service? That’s your cue to move along.
One thing to keep in mind: You’re looking for the overwhelming consensus of a brand—take dramatic outliers with a grain of salt. Sometimes disgruntled former employees will issue bad ratings as a digital middle finger, unethical competitors will play dirty, and unhappy customers will leave reviews on the wrong brand’s page—and requests to have those reviews addressed can go unanswered by the search engine giant.
Assess vendors for insightful, respectful, responsive communication
We’ve all experienced it. Place a call to a sales line and connect with a rep in a flash. Call a customer support line to that same vendor, however, and sit on hold for an age—sometimes never connecting or getting a return call. That’s not okay.
A valued partner will be there for you—especially when you encounter issues. Even the highest quality equipment on the market will need a replacement part from time-to-time, after all, and if you can’t get a response from your vendor, that downtime will cost you business.
So, give the vendors on your shortlist a call and assess service, as well as product options.
Did you feel heard? Did they actually listen to your unique business needs and share your best options? Or, did they seem rushed and push what appeared to be a boilerplate sales pitch?
Did the vendor ask how much space you have available for your compactor to ensure it actually fits? Did they walk you through the structural differences between front and rear-load plastic dumpsters to ensure your hauler can manage your waste?
Before you close the deal, be sure to ask what kind of maintenance you’ll need to do to keep your new equipment in tip-top shape. And, if you have questions that extend beyond the equipment, ask them, too. Questions, like, how you might approach a balance between new and used equipment purchases to grow your business quickly within your budget constraints. See if they’re willing to step up with a helpful tip that doesn’t connect directly to a sale.
Another thing to keep in mind: Did they badmouth their competitors or did they focus on the quality they deliver? Because vendors who trash-talk the competition are also more inclined to treat their customers disrespectfully when they cease to represent a quick, easy buck. This is about company culture. What’s the tone they set?
Then, pay attention to your gut.
Get a list of references—and call them
If you get a good feeling from the vendor, be sure to ask for a list of references. And, not just any references, but references for businesses that look like yours—whether you’re a rural, midwest start-up or a suburban waste management company with a long client list and strong reputation.
When you reach out, again, be sure to ask about their service experience. Have they ever called their manufacturer to address an issue? If so, how did they feel they were treated? Did they need a replacement part—and, if so, how long did it take to arrive?
Be sure, as well, to ask how the vendor has advised them in ways that have contributed to their business growth, in ways that weren’t necessarily directly related to their product purchase. Have they pointed them to a trusted vinyl decal vendor to raise their brand visibility? Did they share insight into the kinds of permits they might need to get their roll-off business off-the-ground? You won’t get this value-added insight from everyone—and it can make a marked impact on the growth of your business.
Of course, any smart vendor won’t knowingly send you to an unhappy customer, but you may be able to uncover some insight here that separates the equipment providers from the true business partners.
And, true business partners can make all the difference.