A scale balances the word "value" against the dollar symbol

Did your parents give you the sage advice, “You get what you pay for?” Maybe it’s time you pass that along to your customers, too. Value-added services — the way many distributors achieve differentiation — should really be a new source of revenue generation. 

What services do you consider value-added? Do you provide training and certification programs to your customers’ frontline workers? Of course. If you don’t help ensure they are properly trained, the products you sell them won’t perform as promised and it is unlikely that you’ll repeat that sale next month or next season. And you do it for free, because you’ve always done it that way.

If you are like most distributors, value-added services don’t stop there. Sales reps or certified trainers help clients become more productive in proper hard floor care, carpet cleaning, restroom care and infection control. You spend time with customers when they get new equipment. You assist management teams with workloading, equipment audits or quality inspection software — and the services that then go along with those. You occasionally play superman (or woman) to cover for someone’s poor planning by making emergency product deliveries. And nine times out of 10, your sales team does all of this without specifically charging the customer.

How about all you’ve invested lately in upgrading technology so you can provide your customers with state-of-the-art digital experiences? If you are now offering e-commerce, vendor-managed inventory, electronic data interchange, reporting and more, there is certainly a cost to your company for providing those services. Dispenser installs, training charts, samples, demos … the list goes on and, quite frequently, the customer simply expects it for free. 

Now, wait a minute. Don’t you think the services you bundle with products are valuable? I know they are and it’s time your customers knew it, too. What if you quantified all of the above? Surely there is a dollar amount that can be attributed to them. What if you set up each item in your ERP systems and line itemed it along with the toilet tissue, bubble wrap and soap? Better yet, what if you actually charged the customer for them? 

I get it. This is not a super novel idea. You’ve all seen it mentioned before. But who has implemented it across the board? I know of a few who have done it well. 

I also understand that it’s unnerving to go from free to a fee-based model. But, if you are not willing to charge customers yet, at least line item and report the value to customers. It is a best practice to put every quantifiable value-add on your customer invoices with an amount, and, if necessary, cross it out and make it no charge for those customers who value your partnership with them. Let customers see how “valuable” you truly are. 

Tina Serio Saunders, I.C.E., MBA, ACT is president of SonicTrain, LLC, creators of The Arena gamification platform, and director of marketing and innovation at Nichols. She is an industry leader in marketing technologies and has led development on numerous sales tools. She has provided training, strategic management consulting and marketing implementation around the country. Her insight comes from over 20 years industry management experience. You may contact her at 419-297-0822 or tina@sonictrain.com.