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What May Mean for Independent Distributors

Tip: Approach Customers the Way They Want to Be Approached

May 23, 2012

These days, there are many ways a distributor can meet their customers’ needs: will-call, delivery, e-commerce, phone, fax, catalogs and more. With more options than ever, how do you decide which model fits your customer base best? It’s simple. Ask. In an article on Interline Brands, not long after it acquired American Sanitary (AmSan) a few years back, Bill Sanford, then the president of the MRO distributor, said it’s key to “approach a customer the way the customer wants to be approached.”

At the time, Interline had two MRO catalogs that met most of what apartment communities needed. But that customer also requires a field sales rep and trucks for delivery. Because of that, Interline is able to charge a premium for the higher service levels.

Another customer might not have a maintenance manager on site, and so telesales and direct mail is more effective – not a high-touch method.

This idea speaks to Jonathan Byrnes’ (recently featured in the MDM Webcast Selling for Profit, now available on DVD) contention that we need to get out of a “one-size-fits-all” mindset with customers. Base how you serve customers on the relationships you have with them. This will help you build a more profitable supply chain, and allow you to provide services to customers who are willing to pay for them and leave the services to those customers who don’t want or need them.

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