The Stihl dealer network is arguably the most important aspect of their business model. It’s the concept of having a brand specialist there to support you during the sale and for you to work with on your maintenance and repairs throughout the life of your tool.
That’s fine for the older generations – they like that kind of thing. But this is an age where we research and buy online. With Millennials driving online sales even harder, does it mean that Stihl has to evolve its dealer network to meet them?
I sat down with Bjoern Fischer, President of Stihl to talk about the future of the Stihl Dealer Network.
Pros Will Continue to Rely on their Local Dealer
I remember when we did our battery-powered string trimmer shootout and brought in some Pros to get their opinions. Stihl wasn’t in first place. One of our guys that runs several crews looked at the lineup and confidently said Stihl was the only one he’d choose. Why?
The Stihl dealer network. His local dealer would make the sales end easy and provide all the service he needed. It was an established relationship and he knew that he didn’t have to worry about it.
Pros know that sooner or later, every tool is going to need service. Since Stihl takes the guesswork out of the equation, it means less downtime. Knowing what to expect on the service end of the sale is gold for a crew that has to keep productivity rolling.
Stihl Dealer Network vs Internet Sales
Over a beer, which is a great way to discuss anything with a German company, Bjoern explains that the Stihl dealer network isn’t a handicap, but a strength in this Amazonian Age of internet sales.
Take a young adult just getting started with their first home. As you acquire products to maintain your home, it’s very price-driven. It’s likely you’ll make that first purchase based on a combination of the best price and at least reasonable online reviews even though you know there are higher quality products available.
That string trimmer or blower will work fine for a year or two, but the lack of performance or quality will take its toll. As you have more available income, you can afford to step up – perhaps to something you pick up from one of the big box stores.
It might not be your first or second purchase, but as your career evolves, Sithl believes their combination of building quality products and offering outstanding service after the sale will bring you to one of their dealers.
What Bjoern is talking about in this example is how a person matures. It’s not a process of turning into your grandparents, it’s the process of realizing that having higher quality products and service is desirable and cost-effective over a long-term view.
It’s similar to the late-model Camry your parents let you keep when you got your first job. It gets you where you need to go, but it will eventually show its age. You might not be in a place to buy a Mercedes next, but you take the next step up until you it eventually makes sense for where you are in life.
The Bottom Line
Stihl’s outlook on the future is as solid as ever. We heard story after story of the way their production in the US is expanding rather than contracting. The US market is the largest for the brand, and there’s no indication that Internet sales are slowing down the strength of the Stihl dealer network.