By Sid Chadwick, Chadwick Consulting, Inc.
“The Manufacturer who can recognize the difference between Distributors and Brokers --- can grow the relationships.”……John Loftis, Previous President, The Innovative Group
There are “Distributors” (sometimes a.k.a. “ Resellers” ….and “Brokers”) …who pay their bills within Terms…….and who have earned their customers’ loyalty…!
“Though we live and operate in an increasingly technical world, business is still conducted…and sustained….. through relationships.”
That statement can …and should…include…. the Distributor’s manufacturing supplier(s)…!
Across the landscape, somewhat by default on the part of commercial print organizations, I see “Distributors” gaining in the amount of commercial print work they “manage” ---they “coordinate”….for their customers.
Part of the background trending picture is that as Buyer organizations downsized…. their work requirements for their Buyers --- often increased --- and shortened in time allowed …. for accomplishment.
Distributors tend to be (a) “Supplier Rich” --- and from experience…(b) choose the “best suppliers”; (c) tend to distinguish themselves through successfully coordinating complex projects …from multiple suppliers --- for their Buyers. (Too many commercial print organizations only want… “what fits us”….focusing on internal issues, rather than their customer’s needs.)
In a “previous life”, I served multiple members of NBFA, National Business Forms Association, later known as DMIA (Document Management Industry Assoc), and today --- known as PSDA --- “Print Services and Distribution Association”. Theirs is an ongoing organization working to promote the value of high, ethical practices, standards, and working relationships…..between its Distributor and Manufacturing members.
Distributors accomplish their successful customer relationships through learning their customers needs and frustrations, and then serving and coordinating their customers’ ongoing needs…successfully. Part of their growing success is from the commercial printer, who (too often) does not have “boots on the ground” --- with a passion to learn their customer, to serve --- and to accomplish.
As a manufacturer, how often do you invite your Distributor customers for a Plant Tour, that is not rushed, but rather --- engaging for meeting key personnel, and detailing --- not so obvious capabilities?
You can expect to hear from them, “I didn’t know you did that?”
Recognizing that Distributors “lower your sales costs”, do you ever invite your Distributor customers to participate in a Sales Education Meeting, asking them to prepare for your Sales & Manufacturing Team:
- How they select their best manufacturing suppliers?
- Do they choose the lowest price from their suppliers?
- What would cause them to not use a manufacturing supplier, again?
- What types of “educational information” would they find most useful for developing more business, to bring to you?
- What areas of expertise would they like to learn from your organization?
- Do they have customer relationships where it makes more sense for you to invoice their customer, and pay them a commission, rather than invoice the Distributor?
- How do they see your organization’s strengths, and weaknesses?
Market conditions are such that if manufacturers don’t up-their-game re. proactive, meaningful customer contact (e.g., through ongoing education & training of “Inside Sales Reps and Project Managers”)….. and “Needed Services for… our Customers”….this trend can be expected to continue.
The irony of this picture is that today’s Distributor ….wants that long-term manufacturer working relationship.
“The greatest moments of your life are the most difficult…that’s the only time you learn….”…………Mandy Patinkin, 60 Minutes Interview