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You can also establish value in the information area by passing along key referrals. Suppose a customer mentions that he’s got a problem in an area your company doesn’t handle -- but you know that the problem has been addressed successfully by another customer of yours, who works in a different industry. Pass along the person’s telephone number! When you have the facts someone needs, you are no longer considered “just a salesperson”. You are a resource!

DISTRIBUTION

This value area has to do with the way you ship your products and deliver your services. Many of the people you deal with will be eager to hear how you can help them get products delivered against a tight deadline, ship items for less money than someone else would charge, or attain both objectives. Accordingly, you need to know what kinds of strengths your organization will bring to the relationship when it comes to distribution.

Helping your customers beat their competitors to the punch is a great way to help them to attain a competitive advantage. Reducing the costs associated with shipping fees can be an important part of improving profitability or reducing expenditures. Lowering shipping costs for a customer may be as simple as consolidating multiple shipments for maximum cost efficiency.

Look at order verification and tracking as part of the distribution value offering, too. Do you provide instant updates on where a particular order stands in terms of delivery? Customers need up-to-date information to make the best decisions. If you inconvenience them without the good information they need to make plans, you will quickly become an “unfriendly” supplier!

SYSTEMS

The next value area has to do with systems -- the information tools you already have in place within your organization, and that you may be able to be put to use on a given customer’s behalf. Your organization probably already has an information management system of some kind. How can it be better put to use for select prospects and customers? Identify your strengths as an information resource so that you can present it at the appropriate point in time. What do you offer that a competitor doesn’t?

A good example of adding value in this area is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). Manufacturers use this to monitor inventory levels at customer warehouse sites to streamline operations and automatically trigger re-order requests. Electronic ordering also reduces the time and expense associated with creating manual purchase orders.

Nowadays, banks use such systems to add value by allowing consumers to pay bills electronically (thereby reducing costs and increasing productivity). Some brokerage firms (such as Charles Schwab) now offer their customers on-line trading, and charge less per trade on-line than they do for phone transactions.


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September 2004