Brian Peters, who runs Peters Supply in Elmira, N.Y., says the strength of a buying group should not be measured in the discounts it provides in products, but in the buying group services it offers to facilitate top-line growth over time.

For example, the buying group Peters Supply belongs to provides an online modeling tool in which the distributor’s field representatives can plug in variables specific to their clients. The tool then produces a line of solutions based on those variables.

“We are able to align our clients’ universal business needs with products and solutions,” Peters says. The tool “lets us dig through data so we are able to align a solution with a client’s business needs.”

Another advantage lies in technology, says Peters. Certain buying group services include the IT infrastructure needed for major online catalog initiatives with major suppliers.  

“Clients can have more of a B to C buying experience versus what a lot of distributors that try to go at it alone have. So the IT side is pretty critical,” Peters says.

Buying groups’ immense size allows distributors to penetrate market sectors that individual suppliers wouldn’t have access to on their own. For example, Peters’ firm is part of a buying group that is involved in every major healthcare GPO that exists. This allows access to acute and non-acute care clients throughout his area.

Thanks to this buying group, Peters also has access to the U.S. General Services Administration contract schedules.

“There is big talk in our industry right now that the federal government is looking to potentially decrease the number of distributors that have access to these (schedules),” Peters says.

Along with access to potential customers, buying group services also provide distributors with the expertise needed to land an account. Sales reps at Peters Supply can utilize an inside call service to connect potential clients with business development managers. The managers are chosen based upon their expertise rather than geography.

“It has true industry segment field reps to assist us. For example, this week we have an industrial field rep in town making calls with our reps, and on our behalf, into large industrial accounts within the region to help us grow business,” Peters says.

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