How to Become a Trusted Supplier Partner
For most, entering a new market with your product or service is intimidating, regardless of how much confidence you have in your offering. There are often long-standing relationships between owner/operators and existing vendor/suppliers that you will have to compete with, and to get a shot with a new customer, you will have to work diligently. Expecting results overnight will undoubtedly yield nothing but frustration for both you and your prospective customer. The road to becoming a trusted supplier partner is often a long one, but rewarding without question. By reflecting on my experiences with the Triangle Apartment Association over the past few years, I’ve outlined a formula that I firmly believe will lead to supplier success in our industry.
Do Your Research
When attempting to penetrate a market, some preliminary research should always be step number one. This endeavor should include learning about your customer’s needs, discovering existing competitors, and analyzing opportunities within the market. By completing this research, you will minimize your learning curve and increase the likelihood of targeting the correct customers for your product or service. Additionally, every community has different needs. Tailoring your offering (and your sales pitch) to those needs will be crucial for your long-term success with customers.
Establish Scope and Expectations
When clear expectations are consistently established, and expectations consistently match outcomes, client/customer relationships flourish.
In my experience, I have found this to be the single most important conversation to have with each customer prior to delivering a product or service. By effectively communicating the scope of work (or reasonable expectations for a product), you are able to eliminate ambiguity in the outcome. Consistently matching expectations with results is the pathway to earning trust with customers. Conversely, failing to deliver expected results is the fast-track to losing your customer’s trust. When clear expectations are consistently established, and expectations consistently match outcomes, client/customer relationships flourish.
“You Get Out What You Put In”
In a business sense, this is similar to the idea of “return on investment”. The larger the investment you make in your customers, trade associations, or colleagues, the larger the return will be for your business. This does not mean to treat every interaction as transactional, but rather to imply that long-lasting, fruitful relationships are born from sincere investments of resources (namely time, effort, and energy). Focus on your inputs into the market you seek to penetrate and trust that the outputs will come in due time.
Without Exception, Do the Right Thing
This final guideline, albeit a bit broad, is equally as important for success in business as it is in life. For the sake of simplicity, this can most easily be defined as acting with integrity at all times. I’ll add that this can also be characterized by keeping a Say to Do ratio of 1 to 1. If you say that you will do something (meet a deadline, deliver a result, etc.), ensure that you follow through on that promise. Establishing yourself as someone that can be counted upon will inevitably lead to success. Remember; the road to becoming a trusted supplier partner is a lengthy one, and compromising long-term goals for short-term gains will ultimately result in frustration for all parties involved. By taking the virtuous route, without exception, you will build a strong relationship with your customers that stands the test of time.
The Triangle multifamily housing market is a diverse one, and there are a multitude of highly successful vendors/suppliers in our community. By no estimation am I indicating that the guidelines above are the only path to success. Instead, I’ve attempted to outline some actions that I’ve found beneficial (often through trial and error), in the hopes that others can benefit from my learning experiences. In summation: Do some research, have proactive conversations, volunteer your time, and do the right thing. The rest (becoming a trusted supplier partner), will take care of itself.
This article was written by Carson Woodell with Southern Outdoor Restoration, as a part of the XCEL Committee's goal to provide regular, educational, posts for TAA's blog.