Contracting Profits' sister publication, Sanitary Maintenance, recently surveyed building service contractors to find out their expectations of distributors and I was a little surprised by the results. An overwhelming majority said that a good product price was most important when choosing a distributor.

I understand that in today's economy businesses are analyzing every dollar they spend and paying less for products is an easy way to save money now. But I expected more BSCs to answer that value-added services would be more influential than price (only 18 percent answered value-adds vs. 52 percent for product price). Extras such as employee training, product storage and emergency service can help save money in the long run. Some things, like passing on new sales leads can even make BSCs money in the future. But there's a catch: to access these services, BSCs will probably have to pay higher prices for products.

Few distributors will offer
to help BSCs if all they
care about is paying
bottom-dollar for products

To me it's a fair tradeoff, especially considering that contractors are looking for resources to lean on during this tough economy. According to the survey, 73 percent of respondents indicated this recession will make them more likely to work closely with their distributor.

Distributors are a great resource for BSCs to tap into, regardless of the economy, but few vendors will be willing to answer the call for help if all you care about is paying bottom-dollar for products. Instead of asking your supplier how much a product costs, ask how they can help you with green cleaning, safety issues, certification or a host of other issues.