Holding Back

How to give customers more by selling them less.

Should you sell something to a business customer just because they wantit--even though you know what they're asking for may not be the best way tomeet their needs? Absolutely not, says John Broer, director of StrictlySpeaking, a corporate training and consulting firm in Sylvania, Ohio. "We haveto 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 morecooperative 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'ssavvy suppliers not only get to know their customers, but take the time toeducate them on how to get the most out of their products and services.

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

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