Really?? The Rant Continues!
I recently penned a commentary on a few things that have had me scratching my head asking ...Really?? This struck a nerve with our audience and was the most opened FreePromoTips e-newsletter we have had in recent years. If you missed this article, you can find it here. Our personal and professional lives are filled with ...Really?? moments.
This first ...Really?? article touched on my occasional frustrations working with suppliers. While distributors love to rant about suppliers, it should be noted that suppliers can be equally as frustrated with distributors. At the heart of the issue is effective communication and having a mutual respect for the roles we each play in the business process. We can both make mistakes and drop balls, but it is how we pick them up that makes the difference in the end.
In this Rant, I'm going to share one more ...Really?? experience and a "real world" example of how the supplier/distributor relationship can work. It seems logical to me that we all work together to generate profitable, positive business relationships. Does that make sense to you? A future Rant will address communication from the supplier perspective and the multi-line rep perspective.
Recently, I had the opportunity to do a nice little slam-dunk job for a city department. Because of the relationship I had established, it was a "give us as many pens as we can get for $2,000.00" deal, which is their no-bid threshold.
I chose to give the business to a supplier that I had a relationship with. I had ordered samples via ground shipping and set up an appointment with the client, unaware that this was somewhat of a rush for them. They selected a blue pen and I started the ball rolling to speed the order along. I emailed the supplier letting them know the PO and art would be forthcoming the next business day, casually mentioning that I pray they had 2,800 of these blue pens. In the ensuing flurry of emails back and forth about the order, the one e-mail letting me know they are out of blue unfortunately never got to me.
Regardless of the e-mail issue, when it became known that pen was not available in blue, the supplier suggested I see if the client wanted the pen in black. People who request blue pens usually want blue pens, and this client was no different. They didn't want black, they wanted blue. Abruptly, the client just went with another distributor for these pens.
I've been doing this a long time and always analyze when things go wrong. In this case not only did I lose an easy order, I also lost my "go to" positioning with this City department. In addition to losing a $2,000.00 order, I also potentially have lost thousands of dollars in other business. Just as we have many suppliers to choose from, my client had many distributors to choose from. And from now on, it may very well not be me as their first call.
It pains me that this happened and I recognize how I failed in the process as well. I should have asked about an in-hands date for the pens and been more specific in my request as well as ask about stock with the supplier. If this supplier didn't have that pen in blue, although it was fine to suggest black, it would have been great to immediately respond with other pen options in their line that they had in stock, in blue.
Another "real world" experience I had with a supplier was remarkably different. At a regional trade show I met Grethe Adams, president of Southern Plus in Georgia. She feels it's important to build relationships at these events, as do I. We hit it off and I could see that this was the type of supplier I would enjoy working with. Even with our proximity difference, with me being in California, I soon after chose to give an order for camp chairs to Southern Plus.
We were doing a large quantity of a less expensive camp chair for my client's few hundred employees. For executives, we chose a smaller quantity of a nicer premium chair. The higher-end chairs were on back order and were to be shipped to a different location.
In the rush to meet deadline, one thing we didn't clarify was the shipping costs for the two orders. We knew shipping would be high as these were good size freight shipments. The second, smaller shipment was quoted at about $350.00. There was no discussion about freight costs on the first, larger order. In the client's mind and mine, we were thinking the first order of chairs that were in route cost $350.00 to ship. The problem was that freight cost for the first order was $1,000.00. Whoops! My client would be OK with the $1,000.00 shipping cost for the first order, if he knew it was $1,000.00.
Realizing this was potentially a problem, I discussed this with Grethe. We decided to do some nice rolling cooler bags for him with his logo as a thank you gift and to help compensate for the confusion. Fortunately, I have a great relationship with my client and he is business savvy enough to understand the shipping expenses are part of the cost of doing business. He very much did appreciate the "gift" cooler bags. It helped me to turn a negative into a positive with my client and enabled me to strengthen the relationship between Southern Plus and my distributor company.
My point in relaying these ...Really?? experiences are that we all have a chance to turn lemons into lemonade with quick thinking and extra effort. Being quick to offer a solution will help make a bad situation better, or head off a problem before it takes root. This is the responsibility of both us as a distributors and suppliers.
I invite you to take advantage of these upcoming FREE SuccessTracks Education Sessions:
Thursday June 27th at 10:00 AM PST, Jeff Tobe from Coloring Outside the Lines will talk about Recreating the Customer Experience. Jeff is brought to you by Maple Ridge Farms and Vernon. Register now for these exclusive sessions! Click here for the registration links.
Jeff Solomon, MAS is affiliated with a Top 10 distributor company. The FreePromoTips.com website and e-newsletters he publishes are packed with beneficial information and exclusive FREE offers from a few forward-thinking supplier companies. Don't miss out on what's happening! Opt in to receive their e-newsletters! LIKE their page on Facebook and follow them on twitter.