It's A Match

Holding Back

How to give customers more by selling them less.

Should you sell something to a business customer just because they want it--even though you know what they're asking for may not be the best way to meet their needs? Absolutely not, says John Broer, director of Strictly Speaking, a corporate training and consulting firm in Sylvania, Ohio. "We have to put the customer's agenda before our own," he says. "The old school of `Shove it out the door at all costs' is being replaced by a more cooperative philosophy of `This is what you need, and when you need more, we've built the kind of relationship that you'll come back to me.'"

This idea is especially important for businesses that supply retailers. Today's savvy suppliers not only get to know their customers, but take the time to educate them on how to get the most out of their products and services.

Suppliers can increase customer loyalty among retailers by doing such things as assisting with inventory management, helping customers identify their consumption patterns to reduce spoilage and avoid having excess cash tied up in inventory, providing training on proper storage and handling, offering sales and marketing advice, and participating in joint promotions.

But it all begins with educating the customer about your willingness to do these things. "You have to find innovative ways to differentiate yourself," Broer says. "Vendors need to make a concerted effort to help their customers be more effective. Building a strong relationship with the customer and creating a mutual reliance makes for long-term business and effective growth."

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This article was originally published in the May 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: It's A Match.

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