Getting Intimate With Your Customers

No, relax, it’s not what you think. This is about getting so close to your customers that you have a clear and concise understanding of what they need from a great supplier!.

Too often we feel as if all that matters to our customers is price and yes, sometimes delivery but for the most part, price.

Some of our customers will tell us things like, “All of our suppliers are the same, you all do a pretty good job, so we don’t have to spend time doing differential analysis  of all of you, so we just go with the best price, and we feel good about that.”

Really? Is that all we have? Is that all we are to our customers? A blob of vendors, all the same, delivering the same product all the time all pretty good so our success is based on price and maybe who buys the best lunches or belongs to the best country club?

Is the words of the inimitable Peggy Lee, “is that all there is?”

I absolutely refuse to buy this! I find this kind of thinking abhorrent and refuse to settle for this kind of reasoning.

Here is what you can do to make your customers so enamored of you that they will find  their accounting department tooth and nail to pay extra for your services and products.

Create a co-company partnership. Create a peer to peer relationship between your team and their team.  Ask permission to bring your team to visit their facility to learn not only their needs but what it will take to make their jobs easier and more productive. Here is an example: have your shipping person visit with their receiving person to find out how your product is received. Learning what your customer does with your product when it arrives will teach your shipping team how to better meet your customers’ needs. Once your person sees how the product is received he can ask the receiver how he can make his job easier and then implement those ideas into his shipping process. The same can apply to all levels of both companies. Engineers to engineers, quality to quality, accounting to accounting, sales to sales and even sales to purchasing.

Get everyone working together to make sure that both companies are completely in sync to the point where they operate as one cooperative and productive unit.

Years ago, when I was a regional sales manager I was part of several programs that were based on this idea.  Some of you remember the old Digital Equipment ship to stock program which was very similar to what I am proposing.

In fact, I am sure that some of you are already  involved in similar programs with your customers currently. And I am sure that you can testify that this kind of thinking works!

Of course, you are going to have to convince your customers this is a good idea. I know that some customers are going to push back. But that’s okay. The most important thing to do is to find that one customer who is open minded enough to give it a shot.

Maybe you have to start with a teaser. Maybe have your shipping person meet with their receiving person. And then after the customer witnesses improvements, the benefits that came out of that, she will be more willing to allow representatives from both quality departments to meet and so on to the point of before you know it you’re off to the races.

Once you have a successful  track record doing this, your other customers, at least the more visionary ones will fall in line.

And finally, once you have established this kind of “intimacy” with your customers they will be hard pressed to let price still be their determining factor in vendor selection and order placement. Not to mention the fact that their company will not be filled with your advocates insisting that they want to use your products, your services and your company. It’s only common sense.