If You Really Want My Business??? Based Upon a True Story … Part 1 of 2

By Lyle Hill

“Lyle,” the very well-dressed gentleman sitting across from me began, “I just don’t understand why you’re not buying more of our products. Are we not the lowest priced supplier in the marketplace today?”

“Yes, Dan,” I responded, “you are the lowest priced supplier out there today.”

“And do we not offer the fastest delivery among our competitors, also?” he continued.

“Yes, you do. I can’t argue with you there.”

“Okay then, Lyle, why are we not getting more of your business? You’re a very good-sized operation and yet we see very few orders from you. I’ve talked with my sales and marketing guys and they tell me they’re calling on your people regularly. What’s it gonna take to see some business?”

I had only met Dan a couple of times before … at trade shows … and I had come to believe that he was a decent person. As the CEO of his very large, multi-branch operation, I had some level of respect for him without really knowing him personally. Maybe I sympathized a little more than usual because, like Dan, there had been times when it didn’t make sense to me why a given customer wasn’t doing business with us. It was certainly frustrating to me in those situations so I could understand Dan’s frustration with us.

“So I’m here today to find out what the problem is and how I can fix it. You tell me what it’s going to take to get some of your business and I’ll get it done. We’ve been aggressively calling on you guys for five years and the bottom line is … we really want your business.”

“Well, Dan,” I began, “I appreciate you coming in today and I’m sure you have many better things to do than fly into Chicago in the middle of winter to visit with me. So I met with our team this morning to determine what keeps us from giving you more business. We actually listed out the pros and cons in preparation for this meeting. We also included three branch managers on a conference call to get their input.”

“That’s great. Did you reach a conclusion?”

“We did, Dan. We concluded that you really don’t want to do business with us because you’ve been made aware of these problems, but have done nothing to remedy them. As an aside, everyone agreed that you have good prices and great delivery. But it’s kinda downhill from there.”

“Okay. So tell me what we’re doing wrong and I am going to fix it. Because, as I said, we really do want your business.”

“You asked for it, Dan, so here it comes. First and most important of all to us is quality. We haven’t got the time or energy to deal with mis-fabricated orders. Of the companies doing what you do … your competitors … your quality is the poorest. If your stuff can’t be used, what difference does it make what your price was?”

“Keep going, Lyle”

“You need to give us someone competent to deal with when it comes to pricing, follow-up, problem-solving and all the other little essential things that need to get done in a timely manner and done right the first time. Your sales reps are good with the free lunches and ball tickets, but they don’t know anything about the products. Train ’em before you turn ’em loose.”

“Anything else, Lyle?” he asked as he squirmed a bit in his seat.

“Two more things. Communication. We ask questions and nobody has answers— about lead times, product options, inventory, delivery dates. It’s hard to deal with your guys. Now, one of my favorites—your accounting people, in particular your credit and collection team.”

“Even them, Lyle?”

“Yes, Dan. Even them. We have been cut off twice for past due payments because your accounting people either didn’t apply our payments correctly or because we hadn’t paid for materials that had been rejected and returned. Even now I think we’re on COD only with you.”

“I had no idea, Lyle.”

“Dan, the only time we use you is when you have something that nobody else has in stock. And the one thing you do have is a very large and diverse inventory.”

“Okay, Lyle. I think I get the picture. Would it be right to assume then that if we correct the things you believe are our problems, we would see a lot more of your business?”

“Absolutely, because as we both agree, price and delivery is not the problem. We’d love to do business with you but not until we can have some assurance that the problems are going to be resolved, especially the quality control matters.”

“Lyle, I am going to come back to you in 90 days and ask you to try out the new and improved supplier you have asked us to become. I am going to hold you to your commitment to give us more of your work. A lot more. Do we have a deal?”

“Yes we do, Dan.” … To be continued.

Lyle Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. He also serves as president of Glass.com®, an information portal and job generation company for the glass industry. Hill has more than 40 years’ experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com

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