Distributors often say that one of their strengths is that they're close to their customers, that they understand what their customers need and how to help their customers do business better and more effectively. But, according to Dirk Beveridge, "to some degree we're fooling ourselves."
Beveridge, author of Innovate!: How Successful Distributors Lead Change in Disruptive Times, recently spoke with me for the latest MDM Executive Briefing, available now.
"Close to the customer" yesterday meant visiting the customer once a week, for example, and checking to see if they had any questions or needed a new catalog, Beveridge says. And for a long time that was enough.
"It built a great business, it built a great lifestyle," he says. But it's not enough for the future.
To succeed in the future, your business plan has to include a way to lead your customer to a "better future for which they are prepared," Beveridge says, "and willing and capable to reward you."
This means taking steps to truly understand your customers' needs – even if they are unarticulated. It requires being present at their place of business from open to close to see what happens at every stage to recognize those unarticulated needs.
"And the only way we're going to be able to do that is if we get out there, proactively, strategically, with purpose and intent, to truly listen, observe and feel what those customers' true and changing needs are," Beveridge says.
Listen to the entire interview with Beveridge here.