Promotional Products Suppliers Selling Direct... What Can You Do?
A spirited discussion is going on in a LinkedIn email forum that I subscribe to about a few promotional products suppliers who sell direct and may be trying to steal your customers. This is a hot topic in our industry and one that may be troubling you. Here are my thoughts and some recommendations.
I've been part of the promotional products industry for more than 25 years. There have always been a small group of suppliers who sell direct and a few that may even go after your accounts by enclosing literature in the orders that are shipped, or contacting them directly; however, I believe these are the exception. Most suppliers don't have the sales force or capabilities to service the accounts they way you do, nor do they want to alienate their loyal distributor sales force.
What can you do about those few bad eggs? I'm a big believer of having a preferred list and trying to limit your sales to a few key suppliers in each of the top selling categories. When you do that you'll enjoy better service, have a stronger understanding of the supplier's line of products and you may even qualify for better pricing. Of course, there are times when you have to work outside of your core supplier group, but in that case go with a supplier that has a high industry rating and a strong recommendation from your peers. Attend industry trade shows and get to know your top suppliers. Develop a mutually beneficial relationship and your business will thrive.
Distinguish your distributorship by focusing on fresh ideas, outstanding service and knowledge of your customer's industry and challenges. Look for suppliers who provide case histories, ideas and great customer service support to help you sell more, sell better and sell faster.