Supplier Surprise

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A Distributor Asks: I had a meeting with a newer contact at an established client. This person was new to the role of business line marketing manager, so we were discussing additional opportunities to work together. I knew that her department did Lucite® awards and that there could be an opportunity for our company, since we have been doing Lucite for other departments as well as for other clients. The client was open to it but said it would have to be down the road as they had just signed a contract with a supplier for the year. The name was one that rang a bell for me. When I returned to the office, I looked up the name and confirmed that it was a promotional product supplier that we have used. I contacted them and received the explanation that the supplier did not sell direct to the end user but they did have a division that did. Is that different? Should that matter to me as a distributor? In some years we did $100,000 in business with this supplier and now they are my competitor. What would you do?

If a supplier has a division that sells direct, then they are a distributor’s competitor to watch. There is not much you can do after the fact. The question to ask is, how did this supplier-distributor get to this client? Maybe distributors need to market their businesses more proactively and be a step ahead.

Gloria Lafont
President/Owner
Action Marketing Co.
UPIC: A656637

There are multiple Lucite award manufacturers. It’s time to find one of the many who are trustworthy. Reporting this supplier on an industry scorecard and executing a proactive outreach to Lucite clients are appropriate actions.

Kevin McHargue
Director of Business Development
PromoPlacement, Inc.
UPIC: P629267

We do not do business with folks that do business directly with the clients in our industry. On occasion a client has asked for something that I had to get from another vendor, and that is when I might find a vendor that will go directly to the client.

So many steps are taken to ensure that all is invisible when we do our orders with most PPAI companies, and then to have one actually tell me that they do business with the clients? I am not in the habit of competing with myself for business. Why would it be necessary to go to all the expense and time to have a PPAI number, or an ASI number, or a SAGE number if anyone can go right around you and get the same pricing? It wouldn’t. I also hesitate to provide companies with logos to do presentations; I prefer to do that in-house. That way if the client doesn’t purchase that item, the vendor won’t be either giving the company’s name and logo to someone in their circle that will go after your client, or going after them on their own.

Business can be nasty. It can be tasteless. So you have to protect your interests. We use only the top companies and they must have a five-star rating. I think this protects our interests. But then again, you will always have someone trying to go around the company or individual who really worked hard for the account.

If someone will do this for you (meaning they’ll give you leads), then they will do it to you. Simple as it seems, it is up to all of us to police those situations.

Debi Hendrix
Vice President
Graphics Network, Inc
Although annoyed upfront with the information presented, I would merely turn the tables on your client and ask what they might do if one of their competitors was doing this to them. Remain calm and further explain your identification with their firm for all these years and ask what you might do to assist them in their new capacity. Be frank, yet calm. Maybe ask another longtime, trusted confidant/friend in this firm about your relationship with them and how to secure more business with the new decision maker. Again, remain calm, and don’t ever complain to someone who can’t help you. Reach out with pride and professionalism 24/7.

Gary M. Murphy, CAS
President
IMAGE WEST
UPIC: IMAG0007
I would devote my valuable time, energy and resources to developing mutually beneficial relationships with people I trust and enjoy doing business with. Trying to change the behavior of others, whether they are unethical or just uncooperative, is frustrating and futile. Put them in the rear-view mirror where they belong and focus on the future.

David J. Hawes, MAS+
Brand Architect
Geiger
UPIC: Geiger

 

With so much duplication in our industry, my suggestion is start searching for a suitable, alternative supplier. Get spec samples made with the buyer’s name for show and tell. She will not throw away that sample! If there’s no acceptable alternative, then live with it. Life’s too short to stress over things you can’t change.

Harry Parish
President
Harry A. Parrish & Associates
UPIC: HAPASSOC
New Question:

A Distributor Asks: We are in the midst of planning our annual end-user showcase and were wondering if anyone has some interesting twists or ideas to make it more appealing to our clients. We currently ask our best suppliers to exhibit, and we don’t charge the suppliers; also, we provide lunch for everyone—attendees and suppliers. We try to have it at a venue that is centrally located, has good parking and easy access. Our goal is to increase the number of vendors and attendees 25 percent each year and at the same time offer something unique to clients. Although we have had great success in the past, we are always looking for ways to improve and get better attendance. I would love to hear what others have been successful with. Email Question@ppai.org with your answer.
Deadline: July 22

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