Distributors are always looking for ways to distinguish themselves from the competition. Offering services such as delivery and training have become an integral part of most distributor offerings. But how do you know if your services really are setting your company apart from those competitors and truly meeting the needs of your customers?
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Unless you're engaging with all departments in your customer's organization, you may not be, according to Bill Hodgdon in this article from the MDM archives. In Develop Services to Sell, Hodgdon wrote:
"Every distributor thinks its services are better than those of its competitors and that its customers are producing better operating results. But the only way to know for sure is to learn the actual operating results of satisfied customers. ... A good industrial distributor always has excellent knowledge of the needs of Purchasing, Engineering, and Maintenance, but usually is lacking knowledge of Operations and Sales because the distributor's salespeople are not spending time with the managers of these departments."
Developing a cross-departmental plan within your own organization can help facilitate your understanding of and relationships in your customer's organization, as well, according to Jonathan Byrnes, author of Islands of Profit in a Sea of Red Ink.
"In the companies that have done a great job with developing key accounts, they bring in the operations people early because operations people work with their counterparts and determine how to make the whole supply chain more efficient. And that’s a mechanism that will increase sales by 35 percent to 40 percent even in your highest penetrated accounts," Byrnes says.