To sway come-and-go customers and set them on the path to becoming long-term partners, distributors have to do what big-box retailers and e-commerce giants can’t do.

For Holland, that comes down to process improvements that increase efficiency for the client.

“Everybody can sell product, and most everybody can sell nationally recognized brands,” he says. “So look for that opportunity that takes away from the product and price, and try to solve an issue for them. Maybe they have an inventory issue. They’re growing and they’ve run out of space, so they need two or three deliveries a week, because they don’t have the space for once-a-week orders. Or maybe they’re simply stuck in the mind-set of doing something the old way, and we come in with a new piece of equipment or technology that provides a better result.”

All too often distributors wait for the customer to come to them with a problem. Instead, sales experts advise distributors to adopt a more proactive approach to prove their worth and strengthen their connection with the client — whether it’s a transactional customer or a key account.
“Taking a customer’s order will never be impressive,” says Pancero. “If a customer asks you to do something, and you did it for them, that will never be impressive. Impressive service is when you do something that surprises the customer; something that goes above and beyond what they expected.”

Pancero provides the following example: “If you walk into the customer and say, ‘I was in the restroom at your offices, and I noticed you’re using a very inefficient paper towel system that wastes paper. Will you let me do some research for you on improving your paper towel dispensers?’ That’s being an initiator. So bring them ideas, and show them how you can improve their business.”

According to Pancero, being an initiator, rather than simply responding to your customers, is a major theme in selling today. To become more of an initiator, he suggests organizing a day of research at the customer’s facility.

“Go to your customer and tell them you want to make sure they’re getting the full value of what they’re already buying from you,” he says. “Tell them you want to do a day of research and talk to everyone that uses, handles and orders the products they buy from you to find out how you can be more effective. Doing something proactive or extra for the customer is a key competitive advantage today.”

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