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WQP: GE offers water treatment dealers a variety of training programs. Can you tell our readers about the different programs you offer?
Tom Leunig: GE’s training programs took off several years ago when we began working closer with independent water treatment dealers. We would hear dealers say that they could sell a lot more products if they had more sales and marketing support, such as sales literature and presentation books. This eventually expanded to requests for sales training programs, financing options, website creation, promotional materials and more. We then started the GE Platinum Dealer Network (PDN), which was the first program for independent dealers to join and share resources. The PDN offers dealers a “franchise a la carte” where they can select programs and services to grow their business.
We also saw a need for independent dealers to provide their customers with financing options, which can assist dealers in closing more sales and kicking up their selling price. GE became the first component manufacturer to offer independent dealers financing options. We offer two new financing programs. One is the GE Money program, which allows dealers to offer consumers revolving credit with a PDN AquaVantage credit card with a line of credit up to $10,000. The card has both the consumer’s name and the dealer’s name, so the consumer can purchase other goods and services from their water treatment dealer.
The second program is with Aqua Finance, Inc. (AFI) which offers both revolving and fixed-term consumer credit options. AFI offers programs to Platinum Dealers in the U.S. and Canada. We think it is critical that dealers have a financing program they can offer to their consumers.
GE Platinum Dealers have access to special financing options such as six months of “same-as-cash” financing. This is similar to financing offered when buying furniture or appliances: if you want to make a large purchase, you get six months to pay it off without interest and before payments start. These programs give people more options and help dealers close more sales on the spot.
WQP: What kind of feedback have you received from participating dealers?
Leunig: Dealers like having access to the programs, being part of a network of fellow dealers, and using the GE brand. We’re getting some requests now to finance floor planning. Dealers ask us to make an arrangement so they can buy six or more water systems at one time and not pay for them until they’re sold, similar to how car dealers work. This is just one new avenue that we’re exploring. We’re also looking at processing rental payments, so dealers can put out rentals and run the monthly payments through our programs—saving them the hassle of running the paperwork for the monthly billing.
Another initiative we’ve launched is GE’s program to help dealers set up and maintain websites. The program is run through Allen’s Web Design, a company in Arizona that we discovered a year ago. GE created this platform for independent dealers so they could avoid the expense and pitfalls of creating a website themselves. Dealers can contact Allen’s Web Design and get a website for their dealership using some of our templates. If you’re in this marketplace and don’t have a website, you’re really lacking credibility. Even if people never go to your website, if they see that you have one you will look like a substantial, modern, effective business. It also keeps the dealership open at all times. Customers can go on the website, look at products and services and contact the dealer immediately 24/7.
WQP: What is the difference between the GE Platinum Dealer Network (PDN) and the Avantapure Dealer Network?
Leunig: The PDN is for all independent dealers who sell GE brand products through our OEM suppliers. They have been trained at GE Dealer Expo seminars and utilize GE branding. The AvantaPure Dealer Network is made up of dealers who market a proprietary product line in a protected territory. Both groups have access to the PDN resources. There are several branded programs available to dealers and they can all become GE Platinum Dealers.
WQP: GE has developed Dealer Expo seminars. What type of training do you offer at these seminars and what’s new for 2007?
Leunig: The Dealer Expo seminars are the main training resource for independent dealers. GE initiated this concept four years ago. There are more than 26 Dealer Expos currently scheduled throughout the U.S. and Canada and more are added all the time. New for 2007 are Dealer Expos sponsored by the leading OEMs in the industry. Dealer Expos are designed for dealer management, sales personnel and service techs. They feature hands-on training, sales techniques and a lead-in to all aspects of the GE PDN. The Dealer Expo seminars are open to any dealer and then they can decide if they want to join the PDN.