Even when customers present cost comparisons for comparable products, it’s best for distributors to stay firm on price, says Charles Moody, president of Solutex in Sterling, Va.

He says he has steered away from providing steep discounts to customers by proving that competitors don’t always come out on top when comparing apples-to-apples.

For example, Moody points to “nominal gauging” (an indication of varying product weight) and “cheater sheets” of toilet tissue and paper towels, as examples of how competitors mislead customers with lower prices. Moody also shines a light on longer delivery cycles, shipping costs and chemical concentration to help customers see the differences. Then he reiterates his value.

“A lot of times what appears to be less in price is not the case,” says Moody. “I never want them to buy from me because I am the cheapest guy. We want a little bit of the decision to be based upon how well we do our job and service. A lot of distributors sell lower out of fear.”

Oldvader says his company places emphasis on their valued-added
services, such as next-day delivery, product training and no-minimum orders, to deflect price objections. 

“I compete with a lot of online companies, but we are local and available to customers,” he says. “Personal service is huge.” 

There are a lot of ways to get around price, of course — a salesperson’s personality, a strong customer relationship and history, for example.  

According to a 2012 study by American Express, 3 out of 4 consumers say they have spent more money  — about 13 percent, more — with a company because of a history of positive customer experiences.

In fact, when customers look back on their experiences with a distributor, Reilly says they rarely put price at the top of their list. Instead they focus on how the sales rep was able to help boost their bottom line, or provide products and services that positively benefited their organization. At the end of the day, that’s what distributors should strive for, Reilly says.

“I see customers that want to do with business with me,” continues Reilly. “I don’t have the lowest price, but I get to retain sales and use that benefit to increase sales. I can apply that to another area, or another plant to help them save money. Then you take those stories into new accounts.”

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