Generally speaking, in the hardwood lumber industry, relationships mean everything! The act of buying and selling lumber usually happens with suppliers and companies you know, trust and depend on. That is why we find it is important for us to constantly be focused on developing strong, long lasting relationships.
One way to do that is by trying to become a more valuable business resource for our customers.
From our experience, we have found that these 5 tips can sometimes help us be a more valuable resource to our customers. Maybe some of them will work for you.
- Share information about the industry. Many times, you will have access to deeper knowledge of the industry you specialize in than your customers. Therefore, anytime you can offer current market insights or industry best practices for the way your products and services are used you can be a resource. Consider sharing information such as current supply & demand conditions, new product releases, new industry trends, competitor news, etc. This might require you to become a student of the industry but it will be well worth it!
- Seek to understand their business not just product use. For most people your relationship with your customers is based on the products you provided them. However, try to delve deeper than that. Develop your relationship to where you gain a better understanding of your customers business objectives. Seek to understand their corporate goals, vision, mission and challenges. In many instances, if you can better understand their business you will find you might be able to offer them suggestions or ideas that help their business in areas outside what your product or service addresses.
- Be an introduction maker. You probably know people in the community and in the industry. When possible offer to help your customers build relationships with key contacts in your network. Doing so demonstrates your interest in being a trusted resource to your customer.
- Contact customers just because. Don’t be the person who only contacts your customer when you need something. Create a proactive communication schedule and contact your customers on a regular basis.When you do resist the temptation to “try to make a sale”. Consider contacting your customers just to build rapport, learn something new about their business or just to see what is on their mind. You might find you can become a valued informational resource for them.
- Offer your resources. Your company probably has subject matter experts within it. Why not offer to share? We find that offering to share our experiences and expertise in a particular area of interest with our customers helps advance our relationship from a supplier to a resource.
Have you focused on being a better resource for your customers in the past? What has worked for you. Let us know!