The Sales Vault


Sales Challenges: How to Become ‘Vendor of the Year’

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Bill Farquharson

This article was published on November 6, 2023 on Printing Impressions website.

I have a secret to share. It’s something I have never told anyone, and I thought hard before confessing it in Printing Impressions. I mean, if I tell you and it happens, does that mean it wouldn’t have had I kept my mouth shut? Or, maybe I’m jinxing myself. But, in the end, only because it’s a great idea for a post, I’m sharing this heretofore unspoken thought:

I want to be someone’s Vendor of the Year.

The idea first came to me as I sat through an awards ceremony at a franchise conference. Top salespeople and leading franchise stores were called up on stage, handed a nice crystal award, stopped for a photo, and ushered back to their seats. When it came time to hand out the Vendor of the Year, I got thinking about it: Why them? I mean, what exactly did they do? How did they qualify? Mind you, I wasn’t jealous; it’s just that I was curious to know the qualifications necessary for me to be the one up there next time.

Or maybe it should be you. Wait … actually, yes, it absolutely should be you. In fact, it should be all of us. It seems to me every sales rep should strive for this honor with every account all the time. It means you are truly doing your job to the best of your ability. But without that list of Vendor of the Year requirements, how do we reach such lofty goals?

I gave it some thought and here’s what I came up with:

Bring exceptional value.
First and foremost, you need to do more than just fill an order, check a box, and move on. The entire experience needs to be OMG-worthy. Make it so the customer can’t believe what a great deal they are getting for the price. Educate on what’s behind the completed order with a plant tour.

Over-communicate to the point where a client never has to call and ask about a job’s status.
Treat every customer like they are your No. 1. Shoot for ecstatic. You’ve heard the axiom, under-promise and over-deliver, right? Top vendors excel at that second part. They come up with ways to create a “Dang, I’m sure glad I buy from you” moment.

Perform well-above their expectations.
A franchise group hired me to deliver their keynote at an upcoming sales conference. I replied, “I’d be happy to do a second presentation or hold a small group discussion while I am there.” And why not? I’m there anyway. I also offered to record and deliver a promotional video to help drive attendance at their event.

Sure, I could have simply fulfilled the contract and they’d be happy. But “happy” customers don’t hand out Vendor of the Year awards. Ecstatic customers do. So, do more than is expected.

If it ain’t broke, break it.
Most often, printers are brought in at the “quote” stage of the job. A purchase requisition becomes a purchase order, and an order is placed. Your job is to learn the story behind the printed piece. Ask questions and learn everything that happens from the time it arrives in receiving to the time it is shipped with a product, gets sent to a customer, or its purpose has been fulfilled.

Become a Solutions Provider
Why? So you can come up with a better idea. This not only moves you up to the “conceptual” stage of the job, it demonstrates your ongoing desire to be more than just a supplier of print. You want to be a supplier of solutions. In fact, it is the best way for an incumbent vendor to stay the incumbent vendor. Do not sit back on your heels and wait for reorders. Get creative. Be innovative. Constantly fire off “What if?” ideas to your existing customer base. It doesn’t matter if they are all winners.

In fact — spoiler alert — they won’t be. The idea might suck, but it still tells a client, “I am working for your business and not taking it for granted.” I recently contacted a client and offered to hold a private workshop on time management for his customers. He can make it a reward for special clients. He rejected it, but I still made my point: I am looking for ways to maximize this relationship.

Go where they’re going — Care about the future of your clients.
You need to fully understand who your clients are, what they do, and especially where they are going. Study their market. Read their website. Google their trends. On-time deliveries and competitive prices will get you noticed, but you won’t make it to the winner’s circle until you embrace a customer in a 360-degree-manner.

Imagine the impact of writing the CEO a letter: “I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about hospitals like yours opening standalone emergency rooms on busy street corners. If this is in your future, I can help you make it profitable.” Your goal is to find out either where the customer is going or where they could go, get there first, and set up shop. Believe me, you will get noticed, and that is a big step toward Vendor of the Year status.

“Nice job, self”…
The client gives you an impossible deadline to meet. You hit it, but as luck would have it, a snowstorm of biblical proportion hits on the due date and your driver is stuck. So, with no other options to get it there on time, you hook up the sled dogs and make it happen. Sure, you’ll get a thank you from some receiving flunky named Lou, but no one else will know about your heroics. It’s “above and beyond” actions like this that gets you the top award.

That’s where this tip comes in handy. Send your client a message and CC everyone you can think of, thanking them for the order and for the chance to be of service. Wait, you thank THEM??? Yes! Send this: “Thank you for the opportunity to deliver on our promise of top customer service. Your tight deadline was met by our outstanding production staff in time for me to drop it off personally. This is why you buy from us and I want you to know we are grateful for the business and for the challenge it presented.”

There. Now you’ve alerted the top brass about the miracle you just pulled off. You’ll want to start clearing your calendar and ironing your Sunday best. You are on your way.

Looking back at this article, you will see keywords like “Anticipate” and “Initiate” and “Innovate.” These are all actions taken only by the best of the best who are willing to do more than simply fulfill an order. They strive for better instead of acceptable.

A good vendor delivers a quality product on time and at a competitive price, and there is nothing wrong with that. But good vendors don’t stand apart. Good vendors don’t have crystal awards on their shelf. Only great vendors do.

Every order. Every customer. All the time.

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