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Tips for successful supplier meetings

05/06/2010

I’m sure that most, if not all, distributors have meetings with suppliers on a regular basis. In my opinion, it’s a great way to build relationships and learn how to sell their products. I had a lunch meeting with a supplier today and we were talking about the overall perception of supplier meetings and how some distributors dread them.

Why, you might ask? Picture this… a supplier comes walking into your office wheeling a piece of luggage that could easily fit enough stuff for a year-long stay in Antarctica and if you’re like me, as they are unpacking every product in their catalog, all you can see is the phone calls and emails stacking up because it’s easily going to take at least an hour and a half to get through all of these items.

The supplier that I met with today told me point-blank that when he walks into a client meeting that he is dragging the suitcase BUT the first thing he tells his clients is, “my presentation lasts 14 minutes because I respect your time. However, if you would like me to stay longer and answer additional questions or go over specific products, i’d be happy to do that.” The key to this is two-fold: #1) he respects their time and #2) he gives them a choice to have him stay longer therefore if they ask him to stay, then it’s on their terms. Voila – your meeting just went from something that’s dreaded to something that everybody is happy to be attending!

If you’re a supplier and you’re reading this before you start sending hate mail, please remember what I said earlier. I’m a fan of supplier meetings. But, I think the key to any successful meeting is that each party must be respectful of the other’s time and even if you have an agenda you want to cover, remember that the ultimate reason you’re there is to help and educate the other person so be flexible if your agenda needs to change. If you keep those two key points in mind, your meeting is sure to be successful and build lasting relationships!

On the flip side of the coin, we’d love to hear from suppliers… what can distributors do to make these meetings mutually beneficial?

P.s. Distributors – these same rules apply to end user meetings!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 05/07/2010 4:26 pm

    I’m curious … how much can be accomplished in 14 minutes? Does that constitute building a relationship? According to your comments, you went to lunch with this supplier … was this a “fast-food” event?

    My point is … 14 minutes does not lend itself to a meaningful sharing of information or necessarily a respect of either person’s time. It tells me that the supplier doesn’t value his own time and is readily admitting that he may actually be wasting yours. Yes, he is asking for additional time, but why wasn’t this discussed at the point of original contact?

    Unfortunately, there are too many time wasters calling on distributors and those bad calls have made it difficult for distributors to embrace those that may bring value to meetings. As a multi-line rep I have confidence in the material and information I plan on sharing and I believe my time also has a value. The nature of the sales call should be discussed in detail at the onset of scheduling to avoid wasting anyone’s time.

    As for watching the over-stuffed luggage being wheeled in and dreading the outcome, knowing you’ll be missing calls and e-mails … that’s exactly why we utilize Mobile Showrooms. We don’t disrupt your office, we can’t possibly carry everything that may be of interest and we don’t want you taking calls while we’re there. We’ve made an investment to better serve you and our suppliers … we can’t do either effectively in 14 minutes.

    As for tips to better meetings … plan them more effeciently when the appointment is made. Ask some “why” questions right then, find out the benefits of meeting and provide a reasonable amount of time to meet if you determine there is a value in doing so. Respecting time is a two-way street and we both gain or lose the exact same amount depending on the outcome of our meeting.

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