TUSCALOOSA, AL—Jan/San and other distributors need to know exactly what their customers and potential customers are looking for in a supplier. And it may be far more important for the customer than many distributors realize.
According to James Morgan, who has written extensively on purchasing and distribution issues, "For a surprising number of procurement organizations, suppliers (distributors) have become their secret competitive weapon, their hidden resource, [and] their competitive edge."
So what are some of the things customers should look for in a distributor? According to Michael Wilson, vice president of marketing for AFFLINK, a leading sales and marketing organization, the following are some of the most important:
Commitment to quality. Without offering quality products, there is no way a distributor can get to first base with a client.
Cost competitive. Competitive pricing is a huge factor, "but customers, especially large customers, are often willing to pay more for a higher quality product, a Greener product, or one that results in improved worker productivity."
Communication. While email has become the communication mode of operation, customers also want a distributor that can be reached quickly and responds promptly; difficulty reaching a distributor when an issue has to be dealt with can become a deal breaker.
Access to knowledge. With hundreds of product offerings in every product category, it has become virtually impossible for distributors to know which products are most effective and will address the needs of each client. However, distributors with access to web-based analytical tools or "dashboard" systems can compare similar products based on cost, effectiveness, environmental considerations, etc., allowing both the distributor and customer to make thought-based purchasing decisions.
Perks. Customers truly appreciate distributors who make themselves available for after-hours training or inventory support.
Reliable delivery. According to one purchasing agent, reliable delivery is at the top of what we expect from our suppliers. "[But] delivery doesn't have to be instantaneous...it just needs to get there when they promised it would be."
AFFLINK (www.afflink.com) is the global leader in supply chain optimization, providing clients with innovative process and procurement solutions to drive efficiencies in today's leading businesses. The eLev8 system helps organizations uncover never-before-seen opportunities and quantify their value to enhance their overall image, promote a healthy workplace, decrease total costs, increase productivity, and satisfy Green and sustainability objectives.